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I am reading some texts about WWII and English operators tell the pilots to "Steer 1-2-0". Can anyone help with the meaning of 'steer' here? Is it a synonym of 'direction', 'heading' or 'vector'?

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  • $\begingroup$ If you would include some context, that would be immensely helpful. What books are you reading? Can you include some quoted (and properly attributed) text with context? Of course, someone may well know based simply on what you've provided, but you'll increase your chances of a good, accurate and quick answer by providing more background. Also, take the tour and read the help center - it'll only take a couple of minutes and will get you acquainted with how things work here. Welcome to Aviation! $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Apr 5 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ Related $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Apr 6 at 1:00
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To "steer" means to change the aircraft's track (the direction of movement of the aircraft) to a certain degree in relation to the lines of meridian (north–south lines). The units are degrees from north in a clockwise direction. North is 0°, east is 90°, south is 180°, and west is 270°. Note that, due to wind forces, track is not the same as the heading (where the nose is pointing).

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  • $\begingroup$ Looks like there's some disagreement about whether "steer 120" refers to heading or track. Do you have a source showing that it refers to track? $\endgroup$ – Terran Swett Apr 8 at 13:27
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Yes. 'to steer' = 'to change course to', and the number is a compass heading. Source: reading lots of books on WW2. The term is still in use on ships, not so much in aviation any more.

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The modern ATC phraseology is "Fly heading 1-2-0".

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  • $\begingroup$ Looks like there's some disagreement about whether "steer 120" refers to heading or track. Do you have a source showing that it refers to heading? $\endgroup$ – Terran Swett Apr 8 at 13:27

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