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Aviation Basics: Where nautical miles replace kilometres on planes…

Nautical miles are commonly referred to, but lesser-known, as a unit of distance. Even though it might seem confusing for us as we are used to the regular kilometer or mile, this unit is usually used for measuring distance in air travel and on sea voyages. This is a device that has been used for many years and is still widely used today.

What is the nautical mile?
As a practical navigational development, the nautical mile was created in the beginning and further developed over time. It all began after the parallel system of latitudes and meridian lines of longitude was established in the 16th century. Using this method was an alternative to visual navigation.

How does a nautical mile work?
Latitude and longitude determine what a nautical mile is. In other words, the earth has been divided into latitudes and longitudes, and the earth’s sphere has been divided into 360 degrees, among which one minute equals one degree. Nautical miles represent the distance between these minutes. A nautical mile is one-sixtieth of a degree.

When was the nautical mile standardized?
Measures based on degrees have been used in maritime navigation for millennia and continue to do so today. Meters were invented in the late 1800s to replace yardsticks. According to calculations, it is equivalent to one ten-millionth of a quarter meridian (extending from the North Pole to the Equator, Paris). According to this, the globe’s circumference is 40,000 km.

Officially, the nautical mile and the meter were standardized by the International Hydrographic Organization in 1929. The nautical mile equaled 1,852 meters at that time. The US and UK used slightly different measurements for a long time, but now all of them have been standardized.

Knots and nautical miles
Both the nautical mile and knot are used in navigation and are interrelated units. In the same way as kilometers and kmph, knots measure the speed of an object; it can be described as one nautical mile per hour.

Who coined the term knot?
The knot is a measure of marine speed that dates back to early measurements. A rope with evenly spaced knots is attached to a piece of wood using this technique. The length of rope (in knots) that passed out behind the ship over a specific period of time defined the speed of wood in the water behind a ship.

How do nautical miles and knots work?
The only logical way to measure distances over long distances is with nautical miles and knots as they utilize the distance between latitudes and longitudes, which is more accurate than any other unit. In addition, planes and ships travel long distances over the globe, so these units are even more effective.



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