Welcome to the NavList Message Boards.


A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding

Compose Your Message

Add Images & Files
    Re: sextants on aeroplanes
    From: Gary LaPook
    Date: 2008 Dec 03, 02:29 -0800

    As the Immortal Bard said:
    "What's in a name--a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
    The terminology used for navigation suffers the same fate as others in 
    English of having meanings shift with time and some words becoming the 
    general description for a whole group of objects. For example, the brand 
    name for a particular copying machine, Zerox, has come to be applied to 
    all copying machines no matter who makes them. "To Zerox" also became 
    the generally accepted verb for photo-copying.
    There is a distinction between sextants, octants and quadrants. Because 
    of the double reflection operating principle of the marine instruments 
    it is possible to measure an angle of  90�, one quarter of a circle, 
    with an instrument having a calibrated arc of only one-half that, 45�, 
    one-eight of a circle, an instrument called an octant.
     If the arc is one-sixth of a circle, a sextant, you can measure angles 
    up to 120� and if the arc is one-quarter of a circle then you can 
    measure an angle of half of a circle, 180�, and you then have an 
    instrument called a quadrant.
    Quadrants must be made larger than sextants which are larger than 
    octants. An octant is sufficient to measure any angle from horizontal to 
    straight up so can be use for normal celestial navigation and this is 
    how they are used in aircraft. Sextants and quadrants allow a greater 
    range of measurement which might be useful for lunar distance 
    measurements, horizontal sextant angles for coast wise navigation and in 
    the rare case of a body within 30� of the zenith with an obstructed 
    horizon below it but a clear horizon in the opposite direction in which 
    case the navigator could turn his back to the star and use the opposing 
    horizon for the sight. (I don't know if this was ever actually done in 
    real life.) Since these types of sights are never taken from an aircraft 
    it is never necessary to have more than an octant on an aircraft. My 
    tamaya sextant actually measures up to 125� and my SNO-T goes all the 
    way to 140� but these are both sextants.
    Aviation instruments have confusing nomenclatures.
    The Pioneer/Bendix A-7 identification plate calls it an "octant" and it 
    goes only to 90�.
    However, even though the A-10 also goes only to 90� its name plate calls 
    it a "sextant." The same is true of the Kollsman instruments, the 
    periscopic and the hand held models, the MA-1 and the MA-2 are all 
    labeled as "sextants" even though they only read to 90� and are actually 
    "octants." So at this point in time "sextant" has shifted its meaning to 
    refer to all navigational instruments used to measure the altitudes of 
    celestial bodies for navigation even if they are actually "octants."
    Notice, octant does not refer to just bubble instruments since there are 
    marine octants also.
    In the early days of airborne celestial navigation many attempts were 
    made to use marine instruments but there are severe limitations on the 
    use of these instruments in the air. Then many attempts were made to add 
    a bubble artificial horizon to the marine sextant and these usually were 
    devices that replaced the normal sextant telescope so they were easily 
    removed and the telescope remounted. There were very expensive devices 
    and still are, $950.00 in the latest Celestaire catalog. Then various 
    instruments were invented that incorporated the bubble (and sometimes a 
    pendulous mirror) to use as the horizontal reference and some of these 
    instrument also allowed the use of the natural horizon such as the A-7. 
    When high speed aircraft came along there was too much of a drag penalty 
    from the astrodome so the periscopic sextant (actually an octant) was 
    invented consisting of a 1 1/2 inch diameter tube that extends through a 
    hole in the top of the fuselage about two inches to allow the navigator 
    to take sights from inside the usually pressurized cockpit.
    The Pioneer
    Jackie Ferrari wrote:
    > Dear List,
    > I understand that sextants as opposed to bubble octants were used to 
    > navigate aeroplanes. I was wondering therefore how prevalent this was 
    > and what were the advantages and disadvantages.
    > Regards,
    > Jackie Ferrari.
    > >
    Navigation List archive: www.fer3.com/arc
    To post, email NavList@fer3.com
    To unsubscribe, email NavList-unsubscribe@fer3.com

    Browse Files

    Drop Files


    What is NavList?

    Join NavList

    (please, no nicknames or handles)
    Do you want to receive all group messages by email?
    Yes No

    You can also join by posting. Your first on-topic post automatically makes you a member.

    Posting Code

    Enter the email address associated with your NavList messages. Your posting code will be emailed to you immediately.

    Email Settings

    Posting Code:

    Custom Index

    Start date: (yyyymm dd)
    End date: (yyyymm dd)

    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site