What’s Up There? App for Airplane Buffs and Travelers

One of my favorite apps  (and Web sites) is Flightradar24. If you have ever wondered what flight was overhead, this is the app for you. The Web site itself is excellent, and you can find it at flightradar24.com. The app is a available in iOS and Android.

Here’s what it does- Flightradar24 displays flying aircraft on an excellent map. You can see which flights are where, and if you use the optional aircraft icons you can get a good idea what type of airplane it is. An option allows you to have the airlines logos displayed, too.

I live at the confluence of two important flightways. One is the primary north-south route, the other is a major east-west route. Both are on the east coast, and my home is practically smack-dab under the point where they meet. At nearly any hour of the day or night there is at least one airplane overhead.

But, who and what is up here? Flightradar24 allows me to identify what I see. For instance, I know that the airplane that goes over at about 5:15 pm is probably a Lufthansa 747 heading for JFK. Another dot in the sky might be an American 757 heading to Boston from LA. The phone app has a cool feature that will identify an aircraft when the camera is pointed at it. Not bad, eh?

There are settings that allow for personalization and specificity. For instance, the filters can be used to find flights by airplane type, airline, airport, altitude, and more

The system relies on something called “ADS-B” which and volunteers. The ADS-B is a technology built into nearly all European airlines planes and most US airlines planes. The number of aircraft in the US with ADS-B is growing. The information about the flight is sent out by the ADS-B devices and received by other airplanes and ground stations. Volunteers with ADS-B receivers send info to flightradar24 servers, which process it and present it online. Details about non-ADS-B equipped airplanes is obtained from official sources, such as the FAA in the US.

One way that I like to use Flightradar24 when I am traveling is to find my incoming aircraft, if I am waiting to change flights, as it comes into the airport. More than a few times I have been the most informed passenger at the gate because I was watching our airplane as it came if from 150 miles out right up to the point where it touched down. Very handy, it is, at O’Hare on a snowy night!

Check out flightradar24.com for more information and if you are traveling, our just curious about that airplane up there, try the app on your smartphone.