departure headings

This is a great site! I comes in very handy!!
I live near an airport (KCGF) and they have altered their arrival and departure routine as of late. I am going to talk to the manager and need some information from the good people on the discussion forum.
How are departure headings determined? Planes are now, in general, departing to the S.W. and arriving from the N.E. This is a big change in that in the last 20 years the planes, in general, have done just the opposite. Also on departures aircraft seem to be nudging closer to a residential area. How is the compass heading on departure determined and can it be measured?

By wind direction and intensity.

Generally speaking it’s preferred to take off and land into the wind.

Why do I get the feeling that 1shmoe is one of those people who moved near an airport and then is going to complain when the noise gets loud?

By the way, aircraft using magnetic headings instead of true north headings. Thus, over time, the headings will change.

No, I have lived near that airport for 22 years and have had very few problems. They have been good neighbors. Recently they hired a new manager and have talked of expansion. I have also noticed the change in the arrival and departure routine. I just want to educate myself. Sorry if I sounded stupid.

Here’s the latest departure and arrival instructions for KCGF.

Do they typically receive a compass heading? Is that determined by the pilot or by people managing the airport? How rigid and exact are the instructions and the maneuvers? With jets is it computer controlled these days or is it in the hands of the pilot? I’m sure that they aren’t told to fly towards the red barn and take a right.

When the control tower is open, it will give pilots instructions on which direction and runway to land or takeoff depending on favoring winds.

When the tower is closed, a standard traffic pattern in recommended… see this thread.

Thanks for the info.
In reading the departure and arrival instructions it say"Climb via assigned heading to 3000 thence…" Would that heading be fluid depending on the conditions or are headings generally static. It seems to me that departure headings have moved over a hundred yards or so recently.

Just looking at your airport ( Cleveland ) it would seem that the SW departure would be the norm. Cleveland experiences a prevailing westerly wind. So to me, a regular NE departure routing would only happen if you had a prevailing easterly wind or if Cleveland experiences a consistant lake breeze off of Lake Erie. I am just looking at the lastest departure and it is to the NE. . Maybe the strong high presure ridge over the area has something to due with your SW departures as well?

As well, the planes may not be encroaching on the homes so much as residential developement is encroaching on the airport. So the change in departure vectors would be seen as relative to the new developement.

Headings are magnetic, not ground track. If I am told to go a 180 heading and winds upstairs are pushing me to the side, the ground track will look much different then what I am flying heading wise.

ATC will factor in winds on heading assignments, all i worry about is maintaining the heading instructions.

For simplicity sake, imagine trying to cross a river and your instructions are to keep the nose of the boat directly across the river. The flow of the river will move you down stream, but the nose of your boat will be pointed directly across the river. By the time I get to the other side of the stream, I won’t be landing on the other shore the same spot I was originally looking at when instructed to cross the river.

Air is the same fluid movement as water and navigating is just about the same.

So it’s possible for me to be overflying houses to the right or the left of the end of the runway due to the air currents pushing me to one side or the other. All my focus of attention is to maintain the runway heading.

The reason headings are magnetic and not ground track is that when I leave the ground, and enter the clouds, I no longer have visual reference outside, so I have to use the magnetic compass to maintain my direction of flight. Not all planes have a GPS in it to monitor ground track.

No looking down when inside a cloud as it’s quite white inside a cloud :smiley:


What I am gathering from this thread is that a heading is dictated from the airport management and at 3000ft. it should be attained, after that the flight plan takes over.
My question is how wide is the cone and how is the point at 3000 feet established?
Who dictates where that point at 3000 ft. is established?

Your question is way too broad to answer directly.

What do you mean by airport management? Headings are decided by pilots and air traffic controllers. Airport management has nothing to say about headings or airplane movement activity at the airport.

I looked at the specifics of your airport KCGF and see you have a part time air traffic controller that controls the runway and ground movements at the airport.

The control tower will coordinate with other components of ATC headings and altitudes. The airport control tower person at your airport has no control over headings or altitudes once the airplane leaves the runway environment.

If it’s a pilot that is using visual flight rules, altitudes and headings are up to him (or her). The tower at your airport has no control over visual flight rule traffic other then giving them the rights to manuever around the airport and take off and landings.

If it’s a pilot that is using instrument flight rules, the tower at your airport will work with other air traffic control components to establish headings and departures.

Your airport does have established arrival and departure procedures. These procedures only apply to pilots using the instrument flight rules, and do not apply to pilots that use visual flight rules. And even under instrument flight rules the pilot has the option of “opting out” of those procedures (No STARS or DP)

The above only covers when there is tower personell present. You already have been pointed to suggestions about non controlled (non tower) airports.

As you can see above, there is no concrete answer to your question as there are many, many options and variations available to pilots departing and arriving at KCGF.

Hope this helps on what you ask of a very complex situation.


I object! IFR procedures are always followed, you just may have to use your cell phone to get a clearance (including departure instructions)!

He he, why???

Only when ceilings prevent VFR departure do I get a clearance via phone at an uncontrolled airport WITHOUT a remote transmitter.

Otherwise, I launch VFR and pick up my clearance in the air. By the time I get my clearance, I am a good 5 to 10 miles down the road.

I live in the land of GPS direct where when I get in touch with KJAN approach, only clearance I have to remember is my squawk and altitude filed. Usually I get cleared as filed, climb and maintain 7000.

Radio transmissions usually go like:

Me Jackson Approach, Sundowner 1943L, out of Madison, climbing through 1000, like to pick up my IFR to Bessemer AL, Echo Kilo Yankee

Jackson approach - Sundowner 1943L, squawk 4311 Altimeter 30.10

Me 43L squawk 4311 Altimeter 3010.

Jackson approach - 43L cleared as filed to Bessemer AL, climb and maintain 7000. Sometimes I may get an intermediary altitude, only when there is arriving traffic at KJAN.

Me 43L cleared as filed, climb and maintain 7000

Jackson approach - 43L readback correct.

Simple enough as you can see. No fuss, no muss. Why make my workload harder by getting the clearance on the ground when conditions allow for a more expeditious departure.

Of course, you Cali forn IA’ers probably fly to your own tune anyway :slight_smile:


seems to me you are looking for someone to blame because you perceive that arrivals and/or departures are impinging on your property. as others have stated arrival and departure procedures are written by the FAA with input from a number of groups - safety is of utmost important. if noise abatement is an issue for you your best bet is to talk to the airport manager as well as the FAA to see what is in place. often times there are rules about takeoffs and landings after certain hours that pilots are supposed to adhere to.

my point is simply that airports are huge economic positives for communities so figuring out how to coexist is the issue, not laying blame. good luck in your quest.

Perhaps I misunderstand what you are saying: you seem to be saying that at “controlled” airports, a VFR flight can do anything the pilot wishes – of course safely?

The above quote also seems to imply that set arrival and departure procedures at “untowered/uncontrolled” airports at NOT mandatory.
Did I misunderstand?

No, the best thing to do is to move if you don’t like the noise.

At your particular airport, yes, that is correct.

The tower controls a very small parcel of air at your airport and it does not have radar facilities beyond a very short distance to control airplanes.

Describing airspace and altitude rules to a non pilot is difficult at best, so the following I will try to keep simple. Airspace is very complex especially around an airport like KCLE.

Please note, the alitudes mentioned below are not altitudes Above Ground Level (AGL) but are MSL (Mean Sea Level). 3000 feet MSL is actually ~2121 AGL which means the plane is lower to the ground then what the flight level indicates.

Your airport is below the Cleveland airspace (3000 feet is the bottom of the Cleveland airspace) so once the pilot leaves the small parcel of air around KCGF, if they stay below 3000, all they have to do is “see and avoid”. The pilot can do whatever they want, whenever they want.

If the pilot needs to climb above 3000 OR fly west to southwest at a lower altitude, then he needs to be in touch with Cleveland approach air traffic controllers BEFORE enterng their airpspace.

Above 3000 feet or flying west southwest of your airport, the pilot cannot navigate without guidance from ATC unless explicit permission is given by ATC.

In fact, the pilot cannot enter the Cleveland airspace WITHOUT permission, he must hear the magic words “cleared into Bravo” under visual flight rules.

Instrument flight rules are a different beast all together, and in simple terms, but simply put, once a instrument receives his flight clearance, he is cleared through all airpsace.

That is correct. I am not required to do a standard arrival (STAR) or departure (DP). I would put in my flight plan NO STAR or NO DP.

This tells ATC I do not have a written copy of the procedures.

Most likely, when I put that down, on a busy day, they will just vector me along that departure or arrival route, but on non busy days, as long as it’s not IMC (Instrument Meterological Conditions)r, then see and avoid is the driving method of the day as I will most likely be approved for a visual approach. Visual approaches are the easiest approaches as all I have to do is point the airplane toward the runway and land AFTER I have been cleared to land.

Direct lines get me to my destination faster and out of ATC’s hair faster.

On visual days, it’s most expeditious TO THE PILOT not to fly STARS or DPs since going direct is usually a shorter path to your destination.

See … 81&start=0 midway down for a more indepth discussion about DP’s and STAR’s and when it may be better not to follow published procedures.

After all is said and done, ATC may have something else in mind especially during “rush hour”…

Hopefully the above makes sense in laymen terms :smiley:


I’d have to disagree, and agree with Stu51’s suggestion.

Not all noise sensitive places are residential, and they may have been in location before the airport was built. Hospitals come to mind. Not so easy to move a large institution.

Barring any obstacle obstructions, FAA and the airport working with the community in moving an arrival or departure flight path one mile to either side is something that can easily be negotiated. Win-win situation in this case. And barring any safety issues, we pilots also need to be aware of noise sensitive areas, where the airport managers can keep us up to speed in the AFD’s.

Now… if that hospital was built at the end of the runway AFTER the airport was built, too bad so sad, they shouldn’t have built there, but my point is that not all noise sensitve areas may be residential areas.

If the airport planners didn’t consider the hospital (or ANY noise sensitive area, I just picked a hospital as an example) in it’s planning, then the airport should be held culpable.

Just playing devils advocate…


What I’m thinking of is that there is no such thing as a noise abatement procedure that is safer than allowing a plane to take using its full performance. As an example: any procedure that requires an aircraft to cut power after taking off is just asking for trouble.

Sound proofing (with the home owner or business paying at least 50%) should be done before stupid noise abatement procedures are made.