Using the ADF
Rev. 8 — page content was last changed November 19 2009
consequent to editing by RA-Aus member Dave Gardiner
|Flight Planning and Navigation|
A useful ADF application in visual navigation is to locate a particular NDB and then track — or home — directly to it. The ADF receiver is tuned to the NDB frequency, and the audio volume turned up, so that the NDB can be identified as soon as the aircraft comes within range. The ADF needle indicates the bearing to the NDB. The wind correction angle necessary to maintain that track is then ascertained by bracketing, a technique that bears some similarity to the double track error method. The term 'bracketing' is derived from the artillery technique for ranging the target by deliberately placing initial rounds behind and in front of it.
Note: this sequence is best performed if the heading being flown is positioned on the ADF card at TDC. The diagrams in the left column below indicate the readings with those settings.
|Needle position||Compass heading||Event sequence|
|060°||Position A. When receiving the NDB signal turn the aircraft so that the head of the ADF needle is pointing to TDC, then check the heading from the compass. That heading is the track required to home directly to the NDB; for our example, 060° magnetic. Rotate the ADF compass card to set 060° at TDC and the needle head will also indicate 060°. Remember that all heading changes should be logged. |
|060°||Position B. As the flight progresses, holding the 060° heading, the crosswind causes the aircraft to drift to the south of the required track and the ADF needle has moved left about 5° to 055°.|
Position C. We now have to make a first rough cut at the track error — it is best to initially overestimate so let's choose 15° and, applying the double track error technique, we turn left 30° onto an intercept heading of 030° magnetic. Positioning the 030° heading at TDC, the head of the needle will still initially indicate 055° but will move towards 060° as we close with the required track.|
Position D. When the needle reaches 060°, the 060° track to the NDB has been regained. Now halve the intercept angle (i.e. subtract the track error) and turn right onto an initial wind correction heading of 045° magnetic; i.e. the estimated track error was 15°, we turned left 30° onto the intercept heading of 030° and now, having regained the required track, we turn right 15° onto a wind correction heading of 045°.
Now rotate the card to the 045° heading and the needle remains at the 060° bearing.
|045°||Position E. If the 15° WCA is correct then the ADF needle will remain at the 015° position whilst the 045° heading is maintained. However, it is most likely that we have overcorrected. The aircraft will drift north of track, shown by the needle moving clockwise a few degrees from the 015° position — so we now have to refine the wind correction angle.|
|055°||Position F. We might guess that we have overestimated the WCA by about 5° so, applying the double track error technique, we turn right 10° onto an intercept heading of 055° magnetic. Positioning the 055° heading at TDC, the head of the needle will still initially indicate something greater than 060°, say 063°, but will move towards 060° as we close with the required track.|
|050°||Position G. When the needle reaches 060°, the 060° track to the NDB has been regained. Now halve the intercept angle and turn 5° left onto a wind correction heading of 050° magnetic, rotate the card to the 050° heading and, if we've estimated correctly, the needle will remain at the 060° bearing, maintaining a 10° WCA, while we continue along the required 060° track to the NDB.
Another useful application for the ADF in visual navigation is in determining track error when departing from an airfield equipped with an NDB or when overflying an NDB.
For example: the flight plan calls for a departure — from overhead an NDB — on a track of 240° magnetic. Any necessary wind correction is to be assessed after departure, using the ADF, with the track recovery and heading correction to be made by a slightly modified double track error method. (The modification is that rather than timing the intercept leg to estimate track recovery we will use the ADF needle to indicate when we are back over the required track.)
In this ADF application the ADF card may be used with the 0° position set at TDC or your personal preference may be to set the 240° heading at TDC. The diagrams and the text below indicate the procedure and the readings with 0° positioned at TDC, but the additional text in italics is the procedure when rotating the card to the new heading for every change. Hopefully you will be able to see that the latter method is easier to handle.
Note that when tracking away from an NDB we use the tail of the ADF needle, rather than the head, as the indicator.
|Needle position||Compass heading||Event sequence|
|240°|| Departing from overhead the NDB to track 240° magnetic.
The magnetic compass heading is 240° (i.e. no wind correction provision) and the tail of the ADF needle swings to the 0° position.
With the 240° magnetic heading set at TDC the position of the needle relative to TDC is exactly the same as in the diagram but, on the background card, the needle tail indicates the 240° heading.
|240°||Position B. As the flight progresses holding the 240° heading, the crosswind causes the aircraft to drift to the south of the required track. |
The tail of the ADF needle has moved about 15° to 345° and is in the left half of the card. Thus the opening angle, or track error, is 15° and the tail of the needle represents the track made good, which is 15° to the left of the required track.
With the 240° magnetic heading set at TDC the tail of the needle will indicate the track made good, 225° or an opening angle, or track error, of 15°.
|270°||Position C. Use the double track error method to intercept the required track.
The aircraft is turned 30° (2 × 15) onto a heading of 270° magnetic. The ADF needle tail initially moves 30° to 315° then commences to reverse direction as the 270° heading is maintained and the aircraft is closing the 240° track out.
The aircraft is turned 30° (2 × 15) onto a heading of 270° magnetic, and 270° magnetic is now set at TDC. The tail of the needle will then initially still indicate 225° but will move towards 240° as you close with the required track.
|270°||Position D. When the needle has moved through a 15° arc and is back to the 30° left position (330°), on a heading of 270°, the 240° track out from the NDB has been regained.
With the 270° magnetic heading set at TDC, the 240° track out from the NDB has been regained when the tail of the needle reaches 240°.
|255°||Position E. Subtract the track error (15°) and turn left onto the new heading of 255°, which will then maintain the necessary 15° wind correction angle.
The ADF needle moves 15° clockwise and the aircraft should hold the required track – if the heading is maintained and the needle kept at the 345° position.
Subtract the track error (15°) and turn left onto the new heading of 255°, which will then maintain the necessary 15° wind correction angle. Set the 255° magnetic heading at TDC — the tail of the needle now indicates 255°.
After flying this heading for a while you may find that you still have some drift, which is indicated by movement of the needle. In this case a small heading correction is usually enough compensation.
Whenever your track will pass abeam an NDB, it is quite easy to obtain a running fix using the 1-in-60 rule and a little mental arithmetic, providing you have a reasonable idea of your ground speed. The technique is illustrated in the diagram.
1. Tune and identify the NDB, set your heading at TDC and watch the ADF needle. The NDB is directly abeam when it moves to 90° either side of TDC, position A in the diagram.
2. Note the time and continue flying your heading, for example 040° magnetic.
3. When the needle has moved a sufficient amount to get a good reading (position B on the diagram), note the time and the bearing from the NDB, indicated by the tail of the needle. Let's say the needle has moved 10°, the elapsed time is 8 minutes, the bearing from the NDB is 110° magnetic and you reckon your ground speed at 70 knots.
4. Now we calculate the distance we are along that bearing using the 1-in-60 rule:
i.e the distance (nm) from the NDB = elapsed time (mins) × ground speed (kn) degrees traversed = 8 × 70/10 = 56 nm. The aircraft's position at time B is then 110°/56 nm from the NDB. The real difficulty now is to measure and plot that position on the navigation chart (not forgetting to convert the bearing to degrees true) so perhaps get the passenger to do it while you fly the aircraft. It is always a good idea to get your passenger involved in the flight.
If you are wondering what happened to the '60' in the 1-in-60 application the answer is that it is negated by the usage of minutes in one factor and nautical miles per hour in another. In the diagram, the dashed red line outlines the right angle triangle on which the calculation is based — the distance from the NDB to position B forms the hypotenuse.
If your browser is Java-enabled then I suggest a visit to FergWorld and try out the ADF trainer applet. Drag the aircraft symbol to position your aircraft then set the aircraft's heading on the directional gyro and read off the bearing to/from the NDB. Note the ADF card is non-rotatable. Try the quiz.
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Groundschool – Flight Planning & Navigation Guide
Guide content |
1. Australian airspace regulations |
2. Charts & compass |
3. Route planning |
4. Effect of wind |
5. Flight plan completion |
6. Safety audit |
7. Airmanship & flight discipline |
8. Enroute adjustments |
9. Supplementary navigation techniques |
10. Global Positioning System |
[11. Using the ADF] |
12. Electronic planning & navigation |
13. ADS-B surveillance technology |
Operations at non-controlled airfields |
Safety during take-off & landing |
| The next section of the Flight Planning & Navigation Guide discusses the growing use of electronic flight planning and navigation
Copyright © 2001–2009 John Brandon [contact information]