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In 240 B.C., Eratosthenes knew the Earth was round and proceeded to measure its circumference. Airplane pilots ever since have used “great circle routes” for long-distance flights to save time and fuel—along with careful consideration of the wind flowing around the Earth.
Introduce (or re-introduce) your students to Eratosthenes, then show them how student pilots graph “wind triangles” to visualize the effect of wind on a flight. In the process, we’ll discuss geometry, trigonometry, mathematics—and some history—in a lively, practical way.
All you need is a protractor, a ruler, and a blank piece of paper for each student. [Templates for creating your own paper or cardstock protractors and rulers are included in case you don’t have those items handy in your classroom.]
When we graph three items of information:
1. True Course (or Track),
2. Wind Direction and Speed, and
3. The Airplane’s Airspeed;
We can determine :
5. Wind-Correction Angle, and
6. True (wind-corrected) Heading.
Then it is possible to calculate the en route time of a flight.
We'll obtain the “magnetic variation” for the flight route from an aeronautical chart (illustrated in the slideshow) that will be added to or subtracted from the true heading, as appropriate, to give us the magnetic heading.
Along the way, your students will learn about the two “North Poles” (and “South Poles”) and why a flight that departs Chicago, Illinois, USA for Beijing, China flies northwest instead of west for the first couple of thousand miles.
The slideshow concludes with an examination of Amelia Earhart’s navigation log for her 18-hour flight from Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, California in 1935.
A 12-question quiz is included in both PDF and (editable) Microsoft Word formats.
The slideshow is provided in PowerPoint Show format, only, because certain graphic elements (the protractors) do not display properly in the PDF format.
I hope you and your students enjoy using this unit!
BGI (Basic Ground Instructor) and
Instrument-Rated Private Pilot
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