Poll: track up or North up?

1 min read

North up or track up? It’s a great way to start an argument with a group of pilots–right up there with Cessna or Piper? In the past few months, almost every major app has added track up as an option, so we want to know your preference. Do you like North up, to match the way charts are printed, or track up, so the iPad matches the view out the window? Vote in our poll below, then add your comments.

[polldaddy poll=”7021142″]

29 replies
  1. Anthony E
    Anthony E says:

    I did not expect to be in the minority on this one. I ride my surfboard goofy foot too. North is north is north. The only way track will be up for me is if I happen to be flying from Sacramento to Portland. Same goes for the sectional on my lap.

  2. Scott W.
    Scott W. says:

    Anthony E. is right north is north, if you kmow how to read a map you don’t need track up. When I fly North to or from Sac, then my track “matches my north up attitude, but not South or west bound. North up for me 🙂

  3. Gene W
    Gene W says:

    I fly track up. That said, I have flown with ForeFlight since November, so I had no choice to fly track up. I got used to it, but now with the option of track up, I went back to it.

  4. Kent Magnuson
    Kent Magnuson says:

    Map data is only north-up. Correct? Data is upside-down in track up mode. If that makes a dif to you.

    • Bret Koebbe
      Bret Koebbe says:

      Kent, the sectional and IFR charts will rotate around based on your ground track and might be upside down, but ForeFlight automatically aligns the route labels for airports and navaids to be right side up.

  5. Bob Mearns
    Bob Mearns says:

    My experience is that in an emergency “track up” gives the best situational awareness to the crew. Take a look at virtually any corporate jet, airliner or military jet and track up is what is used.

    Plus it makes it VERY handy when you need to ask center for a weather deviation…the crew can easily see the amount of course deviation needed to miss the weather.

    Just my 2 cents worth!


    • Larry T
      Larry T says:

      Ex-military pilots I know tell me they used north-up in the service. They say it’s how they were trained and were told to operate that way.

      I use north-up. The paper chart does not rotate on my lap as the aircraft turns, nor does the earth itself move one way or the other depending on which direction I go. I like to see the plane symbol pointed at the heading I travel.

      An FBO owner where I used to rent planes would yell at me if I forgot to switch the G1000 back to track-up after my flight. He said north-up guys like me are a pain in the a$$ because everybody else used track-up, and a lot of “pilots” didn’t know how to flip the orientation mode. One such “pilot” actually returned after takeoff and scrubbed his flight because he would have gotten lost on north-up. Really?!?!?

  6. K. Glass
    K. Glass says:

    Come on, North up, it is related to the heading you fly. It avoids confusion for situational awareness.
    I think everyone should train this way.

  7. Charlie Masters
    Charlie Masters says:

    The north pole is just another point on the map. It doesn’t necessarily have to be “up” anymore than the south pole has to be “down”. In reality down would be the center of the earth and up would be some overhead constellation. Track up means things that should be on your right are on your right and things that should be on your left are on your left. It just makes the most sense for situational awareness. Compasses turn, so should the map. I wonder how Columbus held his map, hmm.

  8. Jon S.
    Jon S. says:

    I used to be “bi-lingual” with either North Up or Track Up with our club plane with a Garmin 430/W. Since this was a shared plane, I just went with whatever the previous pilot had used and could orient myself either way, for a while…

    I switched over to just Track Up after confusing myself during capturing an instrument approach with North Up and turned the wrong way! Sure it was my fault, and likely due to using both formats, but with Track Up, my situational awareness has stayed oriented, especially in IMC and the approach. Bottom line is it becomes whatever the pilot is comfortable with. Fly Safe!

  9. Walter Cawby
    Walter Cawby says:

    You may use North up but you can’t change what’s out your front windshield because it is fixed at TRACK UP.
    Simple isn’t it?

  10. Bill Babis
    Bill Babis says:

    It probably just comes down to how you were trained. Moving maps were science fiction when I learned so “North Up” is for me for best situational awareness. A quick glance at the map immediately gives me the relationship of everything around me. My track is just a part of the overall navigation equation that is all based on where North is.

  11. Mike S
    Mike S says:

    My GTN650 is set for track up but I keep Foreflight north up. Since I use both I won’t say one is better than the other. My iPad is used for weather and so I can see more map details than my 650 can provide. I grew up doing land navigation with only a compass and a good pace count. Even then people argued about how to hold the map. Some folks could keep north up & interpret what they saw but others needed to turn the map or they were quickly lost. One’s preference comes down to the internal wiring of their brain housing group.

  12. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    When learning to fly my instructor taught me to fold and orient the map in the direcction of flight (ie track up). So for me its track up everytime – and the bug in the corner of the GPS makes it easy to identify your orientation in relation to any given location.
    Happy flying.

  13. Larry T
    Larry T says:

    Kevin when you practiced steep turns with your instructor, your hands must have been busy spinning that chart around on your lap! (xD LOL.

  14. Rick A
    Rick A says:

    As a long time collector of antique maps, North up looks wierd to me. OTOH, since the 430 doesn’t have a lot of detail like a sectional does ands it a “new” display to me, it’s set to Track up. I can sort the views easily.

  15. Rick A
    Rick A says:

    As a long time collector of antique maps, Track up looks wierd to me. OTOH, since the 430 doesn’t have a lot of detail like a sectional does ands it a “new” display to me, it’s set to Track up. I can sort the views easily.

  16. Andy
    Andy says:

    I flew fighters and we used track up because we created strip maps of each track – this was before GPS. Track up was important when comparing what was outside the window to what was on the map to make sure you were at the right place at the right time. And that’s important in GA too with paper maps. But now with GPS things are different. The little airplane is SHOWING you where you are on the map. So you are comparing where the airplane IS on the map (your actual location) to where it’s SUPPOSED to be on the map (your plan) (yes you should still check outside to make sure it’s correct but with a good GPS it’s rarely wrong). So to me, north up is important because it keeps me more oriented. At a glance, I know to a few degrees what my heading is in relation to everything (the map, the course, etc). If the track is up, it’s more confusing to me because I have to figure out what the orientation of the course line is in relation to north – just a lot more mental computing going on with track up, in my opinion.

  17. Dan Brown
    Dan Brown says:

    I like to have both on the split screen capability of Wing X. For terrain and weather, track up is best. For overall view of the flight, I like N up in the other window.

  18. Tim Kramer
    Tim Kramer says:

    Clearly both North-up and Track-up have advantages in certain situations and we should be flexible to use both of them when it is advantageous to do so. For example, the G1000 always shows traffic in Track-up because you need yo quickly look left when the traffic is on the left. When you back out to 500 mile map range on the MFD, to view the entire route in your flight plan or to the see weather along the entire route, the G1000 always goes to North-up because that is how you would view weather on a computer screen/TV and that is how you would plan your route on a paper chart. In close and tactical when navigating I prefer track-up but when I need to read chart data printed on a North-up chart, I switch to North-up mode. You really benefit when you know how to quickly switch between map orientations and use the mode appropriate for the task at hand. You need to use both modes to be a journeyman pilot that has mastered his tools. A hammer is not the tool to fix all problems.

  19. John
    John says:

    I use track up when using my handheld GPS. I use north up when using the iPad. If the iPad map would read upright in a track up mode like a handheld GPS, I would use track up with the iPad.

  20. Stu. Ashley
    Stu. Ashley says:

    I like the maximum data out in front of the aircraft icon. So having the track aligned with the long axis of the iPad makes sense to me. On the other hand my sectional is folded north up on my kneeboard. That’s because sectionals don’t fold well any other way. The dicotomy doesn’t seem to cause a problem.
    Cheers! Stu.

  21. Dan Kap, Whittier, CA
    Dan Kap, Whittier, CA says:

    As far as track-up vs north-up, I’ll give my favorite answer: it depends. If all the track up feature does is rotate the map, and you’re left with reading an upside down map, I prefer north up (but admittedly as Bret stated above, ForeFlight aligns the route labels for airports and navaids to be right side up). To clarify, if flying from north to south, I can’t stand the map being upside down, trying to read inverted print.

    But for example, take any of the Garmin et al products such as the 496 or 430. With their own databases, in track-up, EVERYTHING reads right side up, even if you’re flying north to south. In that case, track-up is the ONLY way to fly!

    After all, don’t you want everything on the map to look the same as it does outside the window? That’s my greatest case for track-up!

  22. Russ Paddock
    Russ Paddock says:

    With my wife or certain other passengers, I am forced to us Track Up. Discovered this when we first used a GPS Headed South on I-5 form Portland to Palm Springs, Calif. She would reading the map and watching the GPS. Every time we exited the freeway she would tell me to turn the wrong direction for our service station or McDonalds. She was fine headed northbound.

  23. J J Anderson
    J J Anderson says:

    If the map data was not upside down, I would use track up. This is the way I use my Garmin 430 and 496 but thier data is readable in either mode.

    That said I use Fore Flight exclusively in all my personal flying as well as instructing.

  24. Steven Stadler
    Steven Stadler says:

    For our club, we had some training sessions to cover the instruments in a new plane the club purchased. During the training session, the instructor asked some navigation knowledge questions, and we were to sketch our answers on a piece of paper. Some of us sketched north up, and some of us sketched track up. There was no discussion of track up or north up before or during the exercise. It was interesting to see that some pilots just think from the reference of north up, and other pilots just think from the reference of track up. You should set up the display to match how you think, rather than how someone else thinks you should think.

  25. Dan Kap, Whittier, CA
    Dan Kap, Whittier, CA says:

    Steven’s post above is really interesting. But I think if I were in a classroom situation similar to his and I’d been asked to, say, sketch a route from north to south, I would have sketched it north up because of the way that maps are depicted. OTOH, I’m a huge track up fan. But you’re right Steven; you should indeed set up the dispaly to match how you think. Of course, the only way to think is track up… 😉

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