Reading the practice questions for PAR, I came accross this

ATC advises, "traffic 12 o`clock." This advisory is relative to your
A) true course
B) ground track
C) magnetic heading

I was inclined to got for A) but isn't that the same as B)?
Neither are defined in PHAK glossary.


2 Answers 2


A heading is the direction the plane's nose is pointed. A course is the direction it is actually traveling. The difference between the two depends on wind.

A true heading or course is corrected for magnetic variation; a magnetic heading or course is not.

Track and course are often used interchangeably, but technically a "course" refers to what you intend to do while a "track" refers to what you actually do.

ATC can only see your ground track on their radar screens, so logically that would be their reference for traffic advisories--and you may look in the wrong direction if you don't realize that, which I suspect was the point of the question.


Refer to AIM section 4-1-15. There's even some nice diagrams in there. "Since the radar controller can only observe aircraft track (course) on the radar display, traffic advisories are issued accordingly."

Answer (A) is incorrect because ATC course/heading/azimuth information is always in magnetic, not true.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, The PDF is daunting at first, but manageable when you cherry pick your content. $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2019 at 13:47
  • $\begingroup$ > because ATC course/heading/azimuth information is always in magnetic I think whether it's magnetic or true doesn't really matter here, as the ATC is not announcing xx degrees. $\endgroup$
    – Hot.PxL
    Mar 15, 2020 at 22:46

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