What is CH in Aviation? (Course Heading)

In the world of aviation, there are numerous technical terms and abbreviations that pilots and aviation professionals need to be familiar with. One such term is the Course Heading, also known as CH. The Course Heading is an important concept used in aviation navigation, and understanding its meaning and implications is essential for pilots and anyone involved in flight operations.

The Course Heading refers to the direction in which an aircraft is traveling or should be traveling, expressed in degrees. It is the angle between the aircraft’s longitudinal axis (the line from the nose to the tail) and true north. The Course Heading provides crucial information for pilots in terms of flight planning, navigation, and maintaining the desired path during a flight.

The Significance of Course Heading

Course Heading plays a vital role in aviation for multiple reasons. Let’s explore some of its important applications:

1. Flight Planning and Navigation

Flight planning is a meticulous process that involves determining the best and safest route for an aircraft to reach its destination. Pilots need to take into account various factors such as weather conditions, air traffic control requirements, and aircraft performance capabilities. Course Heading helps in establishing the desired route by providing the direction of travel.

During flight operations, pilots use Course Heading in conjunction with other navigation aids, such as GPS (Global Positioning System), VOR (VHF Omni-directional Range), and NDB (Non-Directional Beacon), to ensure they are following the planned path. By constantly monitoring their Course Heading, pilots can make adjustments to stay on track and avoid deviation from their intended route.

Furthermore, Course Heading is crucial for instrument flying, where pilots rely on cockpit instruments rather than visual cues to navigate. Instruments such as the Heading Indicator and the Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI) provide real-time information on the aircraft’s Course Heading, allowing pilots to maintain their intended flight path.

2. Runway Operations

Course Heading is also significant during takeoff and landing operations, particularly for runway alignment. Prior to takeoff, pilots set their Course Heading to align with the runway’s direction to ensure a safe departure. Similarly, during the landing phase, pilots adjust their Course Heading to align with the runway’s centerline, allowing for a smooth and accurate touchdown.

In situations where crosswinds are present, pilots need to make adjustments to their Course Heading to compensate for the wind’s effect. By using techniques such as crabbing or the sideslip method, pilots can maintain the correct Course Heading while counteracting the crosswind, ensuring a safe and controlled approach and touchdown.

3. Flight Monitoring and Safety

Monitoring the Course Heading during a flight is crucial for ensuring safety and staying on track. Pilots regularly cross-check their Course Heading with other navigational references, such as radio beacons or GPS waypoints, to confirm their position and course integrity.

In situations where the Course Heading deviates from the planned route, pilots can take corrective action to reestablish the desired path. This may involve adjusting the aircraft’s heading or changing the flight plan based on factors such as air traffic control instructions, weather conditions, or navigational deviations.

By closely monitoring the Course Heading, pilots can also detect any unintended turns or course deviations, which could be indicative of other issues such as equipment malfunctions or navigational errors. In such cases, immediate action can be taken to investigate and rectify the situation, ensuring the safety of the flight.


Course Heading, abbreviated as CH, is a vital concept in aviation that helps pilots navigate, plan flights, and monitor their aircraft’s path. It plays a significant role in flight planning and navigation, runway operations, as well as overall flight safety.

By understanding the Course Heading and its applications, pilots can effectively plan their routes, align themselves with runways, and make necessary adjustments during the flight to stay on track. It is an essential element of aviation navigation that contributes to safe and efficient flight operations.

Next time you’re aboard a flight or observing aircraft operations, remember the importance of Course Heading in guiding aircraft through the skies.

For More: What is FD in Aviation? (Flight Director)