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Earth Transportation Science

Magnetic Pole Shift Affects Tampa Airport 317

RFSSystems writes "I thought this was an amazing and rather rare phenomenon and wanted to share. 'The airport has closed its primary runway until Jan. 13 to repaint the numeric designators at each end and change taxiway signage to account for the shift in location of the Earth's magnetic north pole.' It appears that the shifting poles have begun to affect air travel in a somewhat modest way. Could this also be the explanation for the falling/dead birds this week?" I hope the gradualists are right, but scenarios for rapid magnetic pole shift are fun to think about.
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Magnetic Pole Shift Affects Tampa Airport

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  • by WuphonsReach ( 684551 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:58PM (#34782552)
    I am astounded they would be orienting runways according to the magnetic poles and not the "true" cardinal directions.

    Maybe because a magnetic compass will (almost) always work when the more advanced instruments don't?

    How do you propose that pilots figure out what the "true" cardinal direction is as they approach the airport? While working through their landing checklist, monitoring other air traffic, weather, and everything else that has to happen before the wheels touch down?

    I guarantee they don't have time to do a star-sighting.
  • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:45PM (#34785556) Journal


    The regulations are there for a very good reason. Every airplane needs a magnetic compass on board, because in all the years of using magnetic compasses, they aren't known for running out of batteries or needing to be rebooted at a critical moment or failing because a programmer fucked up and you just crossed time zones. Electronics can easily accommodate using mag north, magnetics cannot as easily accommodate using true north. So we use the system the simplest system can accommodate easily, and the more complex systems that are MORE than capable of adjusting for it do so.

    Hobbyist planes are where professional pilots learn to fly, and most of them start out using a magnetic compass as their primary directional instrument (or at least use that as input to set a a directional gyroscope that's easier to read). That way, when the pro pilot is up there and the instrument panel suddenly goes dead in a puff of smoke, there's no reason to write off the lives of the passengers on board. The pilot knows where he's going, and this is due in part to the simple instruments that are on board, and in part to the fact that he's prepared in case this happens.

    You learn to fly using shit that don't break, then you get to play with the fancy doodads later, but you never forget how to use the shit that don't break. People's lives depend on that.

  • by Stuarticus ( 1205322 ) on Friday January 07, 2011 @09:05AM (#34789778)
    You must work for apple.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"