Simanaitis Says

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DID THE earth move for you too? On July 24, 2014, my home field, John Wayne Santa Ana Airport, SNA, will change its busiest runway from One Niner Right to Two Zero Right.

Realigned concrete? No. A realigned Earth.


Geographic North Pole versus geomagnetic North Pole.

There are two North Poles, the geographic one and the geomagnetic one. The geographic North Pole, the top of a globe, shifts ever so slowly with movements of the Earth’s tectonic plates.


Ellesmere Island is in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, part of the Queen Elizabeth Islands.

The geomagnetic North Pole, the one that determines compass readings, is currently on Ellesmere Island in northern Canada, at 80.08 degrees North, 72.21 degrees West, and moving westward at about 40 miles per year.

This works out to magnetic north changing about 1 degree every 12 years. In the case of SNA, the runway built in 1965 as 19R/1L is now closer to 200 degrees and 20 degrees. That is, a plane approaching from the north follows a compass heading of 200 degrees. One approaching from the opposite direction comes in on a heading of 20 degrees.


Runway designations indicate the nominal compass headings on approach.

This change will be reflected in new numbers on the runway and other airport signage, new Air Traffic Control designations and updated listings in navigational aids and other documentation. Coordinating all this, the official change will occur overnight on July 24, 2014 in conjunction with publication of Federal Aviation Administration charts.

This happens to every airport from time to time. Though not inexpensive (the SNA change is contracted for $159,100), it’s considered pretty much a non-event among specialists.

Don't try this at home, kids. We're professionals.

Don’t try this at home, kids. We’re professionals.

However, Tampa International Airport officials remember otherwise. Back in 2011, Tampa renumbered its runways. Keeping its public informed, airport officials included a paragraph about the change in a routine press release.

Intended purely as an interesting fact, the change was picked up by CNN and then went viral. Some folks just knew it was the beginning of the Apocalypse; others sensed a vast government conspiracy.

A familiar figure struts in front of SNA.

A familiar figure struts in front of SNA. Image from

Things here at Santa Ana should be less crazy. After all, SNA is watched over by the “Duke.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013

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