What Plane Is That?

What Plane Is That?

Back on November 21st of this year I wrote What Ship Is That? to show people how to find out the location of their favourite ship as seen from a lighthouse, a home overlooking the water, or a sightseer on a hilltop. I would have loved to have had something like that on the lighthouses when I was there.

One other thing that always got our attention, especially at night, was the flickering lights of aircraft passing overhead. Many a time I wondered where the plane was coming from, or where it was going. You see, at the time, we ran an aircraft non-directional radio beacon which the planes used for navigation. It was more a check than actual navigation, but they did use it because they passed right over the top of us on the lighthouse, albeit at 30,000 feet!

Now, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, we have FlightRadar24.com. This is another great site that uses Google Maps to provide data to the user in a recognizable format. With this program you do not need to know the name of the airline, departure or arrival times – you find an airplane near your house or lighthouse and click on the symbol to find out who it is and where they came from and where they are going. 

Above is a screenshot taken from the website which shows the area around Vancouver airport at the time I was writing this report. I have highlighted one plane which now shows in red instead of yellow like the rest of them, and the plane information is shown at the left side of the screen. I now know the plane is flight TSC-162 at 26,000 feet (8000 m) and is an Airbus 330. 

There are other flight tracking programs out there that fulfill other niches, but this one is worldwide and works well. I highly recommend it.

I will mention a couple of the others just so you have the information. FlightAware has a very intensive website – too intensive! To track a flight you must put in the flight number and/or destination, times, etc. This does not help if you see the aircraft overhead. It might be OK to track the mother-in-law to make sure she actually did leave the country.

Another one is called FlightTracker and again one must know the flight number, takeoff and arrival times, etc. Too much work for so little output.

This Google search lists many more, but none of them do what FlightRadar24 does – real flights in real time. Take a look at it and let me know what you think. I think it does what needs doing – telling me what that flight is over my lighthouse at night and in the daytime.

Note – this program will not map small commercial coastal airlines, helicopters or other small planes. It is only for the large commercial planes. Maybe in a few years we will have satellites that can see everything that goes on and we can view it all on a large TV.


Wondering how it all works? Check here on Flight Trader’s website. They do say:

Flightradar24 shows live airplane traffic from different parts around the world. The technique to receive flight information from aircraft is called ADS-B. That means the Flightradar24 can only show information about aircraft equipped with an ADS-B transponder. Today about 60% (about 30% in USA and about 70% in Europe) of the passenger aircraft and only a small amount of military and private aircraft have an ADS-B transponder.

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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.

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