Compass Deviation

Photo credit: Cédric

The miracle of flight never ceases to amaze me. A plane can take off from Seattle, arriving in Hong Kong less than a day later. It’s not so much the speed at which it gets there, it’s the accuracy. With so many variables at play, it’s a wonder how after traveling 6,500 miles it’s able to line itself up perfectly with a runway that’s less than 200 feet wide. Incredible!

Now imagine you’re flying in the dark of night. You’ve been watching your electronic instruments intently, keeping track of your progress over the last few hours. Then something goes wrong and all of your instruments go black. Where are you? Do you remember your last location on the map? How do you find the way to your destination in the black of night?

Even though aircraft electronics are highly reliable and often have backup systems, pilots still use traditional compasses in the event something goes wrong. As reliable as magnetic compasses are, they too are still susceptible to error. Did you know for instance that compasses need to be routinely calibrated? It’s true, compasses can lose their accuracy due to outside influences, most notably induced magnetic fields from nearby objects. This outside influence is called deviation.

When you look up the definition of deviation, you’ll see something like the following: The action of departing from an established course or accepted standard: deviation from a norm. Here lies the crux of the matter. We’re all on our own individual journeys, each of us having an intended destination, you do know where you’re going, right?, and experience numerous things that affect our internal compass. What effect does this have on our lives?

Deviation – The action of departing from an established course or accepted standard: deviation from a norm.

While “flying” towards your destination, there are a few things that will certainly pull you off course. There’s the wind, specifically cross-winds. There’s magnetic variation which is the changing of the Earth’s magnetic fields. Then there’s deviation, outside factors that cause your compass to be a few degrees off. A few degrees isn’t much when you’re traveling several feet; you’ll still be within arms reach of your target. A few degrees off at the beginning of a 6,500 mile trip however, can put you in an entirely different country than where you intended to land. To put things into perspective, just one degree off course while traveling from Seattle to Hong Kong would put you 133 miles away from your runway!

If you’re like me you desire to live a long and fulfilling life. If that’s the case, our journey is not going to be a short one. Having a destination in mind is a topic for a whole different article, yet whether you know where you’re going or not, you’re going somewhere day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year. Hopefully you’re excited about your journey, maybe you’re scared, either way, how can we head toward our destination and remain on target?

There are three things I haven’t even addressed yet and will do over my next few articles. I leave you with them here to get you thinking about how you’d answer them right here where you are.

1. What outside influences are causing your internal compass to be off?

2. What will you use to recalibrate?

3. Where is your destination?

I’ll answer these myself, for all of you to read next week. Until then, enjoy the process of answering those questions for yourself.

If you liked this article, let me now in the comments below. I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts.

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