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Drift In Magnetic North Spurs Runway Updates At John Wayne Airport

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(credit: Joe Sohm/Getty Images)

(credit: Joe Sohm/Getty Images)

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textalerts180 Drift In Magnetic North Spurs Runway Updates At John Wayne Airport

SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — John Wayne Airport is set to become the first airport in Southern California to re-number its runways in response to Earth’s changing magnetic field.

Orange County Register reporter Mary-Ann Milbourn told KNX 1070’s Chris Sedens and Diane Thompson workers at John Wayne will re-number the airport’s two runways and update about two dozen directional signs to adjust for a periodic shift in magnetic north, the point at the top of the Earth that determines compass headings.

“It moves around, and right now, it’s moving about 40 miles a year towards Russia,” Milbourn said. “As it moves, if you have a stationary object like a runway that hasn’t been changed, eventually it’s headings will not line up with the magnetic north.”

Runway numbers and letters are determined from an airplane’s approach direction and measured clockwise from the magnetic north, according to the FAA.

While several airports around the world have taken similar measures in recent years – including most recently at Tampa International Airport in 2011 – John Wayne is the first in the region to do so.

Officials at Long Beach Airport and San Diego International did not have any current plans to renumber their runways, according to Milbourn.

The runways at John Wayne will not be closed during the transition, which an FAA spokesman told Milbourn is a measure all airports are advised to complete when the magnetic heading shifts more than 5 degrees from any existing runway markings.

Passengers, however, should have no concerns whatsoever about the re-numbering, according to Milbourn.

“All the airport authorities…work months and years in advance to make sure that all these things are done, all of the schedules, all of the manuals and charts are updated,” Milbourn said. “It will basically be more or less like flipping a switch.”

The re-numbering process is scheduled to completed by July 24, 2014, according to Milbourn.

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