A vector is a navigational radar guidance heading that is issued to a private aircraft charter or a commercial airliner by air traffic control (ATC). A vector may be issued to an aircraft for four common reasons:

  • Departures
  • Collision avoidances
  • Approaches
  • Airspace transitions

Departure Vectors

This occurs when a vector is assigned to an aircraft directly after takeoff or while they’re taxiing on the runway before takeoff. These vectors may provide instructions relating to a specific altitude, time, distance, or landmark.

Collision Avoidance Vectors

If two aircrafts are at a risk of flying too closely or possibly colliding, the ATC will need to monitor the airspace and vector each aircraft to safety.

Approach Vectors

An approaching private aircraft charter may be issued a vector for landing. These are typically given to shorten or lengthen flight time. They also help ensure the air traffic runs smoothly at the airport.

Airspace Transition Vectors

Besides landing and takeoffs, aircrafts sometimes require assistance while traveling through different airport airspaces. Because the airspace surrounding airports can be fairly busy, ATC will sometimes issue transitioning aircrafts a vector to keep them out of high traffic areas. This also reduces the likelihood of collisions and keeps the flow of air traffic running smoothly.

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