Magnetic North Pole Switch Has Airport Scrambling Some of the busiest runways at Tampa's international airport are shutting down over the next few weeks. The reason? A little magnetic shift.
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Magnetic North Pole Switch Has Airport Scrambling

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Magnetic North Pole Switch Has Airport Scrambling

Magnetic North Pole Switch Has Airport Scrambling

Magnetic North Pole Switch Has Airport Scrambling

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Some of the busiest runways at Tampa's international airport are shutting down over the next few weeks. The reason? A little magnetic shift.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

As Steve Newborn of member station WUSF reports, the move has actually shut down a runway far to the south in Tampa.

STEVE NEWBORN: The magnetic North Pole is not a fixed object. It's continually moving. It's actually racing from Canada to Siberia and that has officials at Tampa International Airport a little busy today.

SCOTT LOPER: Over 100 sign panels need to be changed, 40 signs, surface-painted signs, a lot of work going on.

NEWBORN: Pilots have traditionally flown with the help of a magnetic compass, and runways are designated along the points of the compass. The runway known as 1-8 Right - for its place at 180 degrees on the compass - is now found at 190 degrees. So up went the barricades, and the airport's jets will have to use another runway for a week while its approach numbers and signs are repainted. Loper says it's not just Tampa International feeling the sting of the shifting North Magnetic Pole.

LOPER: Atlanta, I believe, is going to have to close some of their runways to start their process. Last year, we had West Palm Beach that had some runways they had to do.

NEWBORN: The idea of using magnetic compasses in this age of satellites and instantaneous communications may seem quaint. But Loper says it will still be a while before aviation officials can steer away from the designation.

LOPER: You have your GPS's - that's more based on true north and longitude/latitude because it's satellite and better fixes and stuff like that. So it's getting more precise, but they haven't made the change yet.

NEWBORN: For NPR News, I'm Steve Newborn in Tampa.

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