Aircraft Compass Systems (Part Two)

Dip Errors

The Earth’s magnetic field runs parallel to its surface only at the Magnetic Equator, which is the point halfway between the Magnetic North and South Poles. As you move away from the Magnetic Equator towards the magnetic poles, the angle created by the vertical pull of the Earth’s magnetic field in relation to the Earth’s surface increases gradually. This angle is known as the dip angle. The dip angle increases in a downward direction as you move towards the Magnetic North Pole and increases in an upward direction as you move towards the Magnetic South Pole.

 

If the compass needle were mounted so that it could pivot freely in three dimensions, it would align itself with the magnetic field, pointing up or down at the dip angle in the direction of local Magnetic North. Because the dip angle is of no navigational interest, the compass is made so that it can rotate only in the horizontal plane. This is done by lowering the center of gravity below the pivot point and making the assembly heavy enough that the vertical component of the magnetic force is too weak to tilt it significantly out of the horizontal plane. The compass can then work effectively at all latitudes without specific compensation for dip. However, close to the magnetic poles, the horizontal component of the Earth’s field is too small to align the compass which makes the compass unusable for navigation. Because of this constraint, the compass only indicates correctly if the card is horizontal. Once tilted out of the horizontal plane, it will be affected by the vertical component of the Earth’s field which leads to the following discussions on northerly and southerly turning errors.

Northerly Turning Errors

The center of gravity of the float assembly is located lower than the pivotal point. As the aircraft turns, the force that results from the magnetic dip causes the float assembly to swing in the same direction that the float turns. The result is a false northerly turn indication. Because of this lead of the compass card, or float assembly, a northerly turn should be stopped prior to arrival at the desired heading. This compass error is amplified with the proximity to either magnetic pole. One rule of thumb to correct for this leading error is to stop the turn 15 degrees plus half of the latitude (i.e., if the aircraft is being operated in a position near 40 degrees latitude, the turn should be stopped 15+20=35 degrees prior to the desired heading). [Figure 8-36A]

Figure 8-36. Northerly and southerly turning errors.

Figure 8-36. Northerly and southerly turning errors. [click image to enlarge]

Southerly Turning Errors

When turning in a southerly direction, the forces are such that the compass float assembly lags rather than leads. The result is a false southerly turn indication. The compass card, or float assembly, should be allowed to pass the desired heading prior to stopping the turn. As with the northerly error, this error is amplified with the proximity to either magnetic pole. To correct this lagging error, the aircraft should be allowed to pass the desired heading prior to stopping the turn. The same rule of 15 degrees plus half of the latitude applies here (i.e., if the aircraft is being operated in a position near 30 degrees latitude, the turn should be stopped 15+15+30 degrees after passing the desired heading). [Figure 8-36B]

Acceleration Error

The magnetic dip and the forces of inertia cause magnetic compass errors when accelerating and decelerating on easterly and westerly headings. Because of the penduloustype mounting, the aft end of the compass card is tilted upward when accelerating and downward when decelerating during changes of airspeed. When accelerating on either an easterly or westerly heading, the error appears as a turn indication toward north. When decelerating on either of these headings, the compass indicates a turn toward south. A mnemonic, or memory jogger, for the effect of acceleration error is the word “ANDS” (Acceleration- North/Deceleration-South) may help you to remember the acceleration error. [Figure 8-37] Acceleration causes an indication toward north; deceleration causes an indication toward south.

Figure 8-37. The effects of acceleration error

Figure 8-37. The effects of acceleration error. [click image to enlarge]

Oscillation Error

Oscillation is a combination of all of the errors previously mentioned and results in fluctuation of the compass card in relation to the actual heading direction of the aircraft. When setting the gyroscopic heading indicator to agree with the magnetic compass, use the average indication between the swings.

 

The Vertical Card Magnetic Compass

The vertical card magnetic compass eliminates some of the errors and confusion encountered with the magnetic compass. The dial of this compass is graduated with letters representing the cardinal directions, numbers every 30°, and tick marks every 5°. The dial is rotated by a set of gears from the shaft-mounted magnet, and the nose of the symbolic aircraft on the instrument glass represents the lubber line for reading the heading of the aircraft from the dial. [Figure 8-38]

Figure 8-38. Vertical card magnetic compass.

Figure 8-38. Vertical card magnetic compass.

Lags or Leads

When starting a turn from a northerly heading, the compass lags behind the turn. When starting a turn from a southerly heading, the compass leads the turn.

Eddy Current Damping

In the case of a vertical card magnetic compass, flux from the oscillating permanent magnet produces eddy currents in a damping disk or cup. The magnetic flux produced by the eddy currents opposes the flux from the permanent magnet and decreases the oscillations.