Enter the wind speed (knots) and the ground speed (miles/min) into the Calculator. The calculator will evaluate the Drift Angle. 

Drift Angle Formula

MDA = WS / GS

Variables:

  • MDA is the Drift Angle (degrees)
  • WS is the wind speed (knots)
  • GS is the ground speed (miles/min)

To calculate Drift Angle, divide the wind speed in knots by the ground speed in miles per minute. This gives an approximate value for the drift angle.

How to Calculate Drift Angle?

The following steps outline how to calculate the Drift Angle.


  1. First, determine the wind speed (knots). 
  2. Next, determine the ground speed (miles/min). 
  3. Next, gather the formula from above = MDA = WS / GS.
  4. Finally, calculate the Drift Angle.
  5. After inserting the variables and calculating the result, check your answer with the calculator above.

Example Problem : 

Use the following variables as an example problem to test your knowledge.

wind speed (knots) = 30

ground speed (miles/min) = 20

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is a drift angle in aviation?

Drift angle is the angle between the aircraft’s heading and the actual track that the aircraft is making over the ground. It is caused by crosswinds pushing the aircraft sideways as it moves forward.

How does wind speed affect drift angle?

The higher the wind speed, the greater the potential drift angle, assuming the aircraft’s ground speed and direction remain constant. Pilots must adjust their heading to compensate for this drift to maintain their intended course.

Can the drift angle be negative?

Yes, the drift angle can be considered negative if the wind is coming from the opposite side of the intended direction of travel, requiring the pilot to adjust the heading in the opposite direction to maintain the course.

Why is calculating drift angle important?

Calculating and compensating for drift angle is crucial for navigation and safety in aviation. It ensures that an aircraft reaches its intended destination efficiently without being pushed off course by wind. It is also vital for accurate flight planning and fuel calculations.