Saturday, 9 July 2011

Has it gone over your head! (4)

Following on from Has it gone over your head! and Has it gone over your head! (2) and Has it gone over your head! (3) here is,  Has it gone over your head! (4)

Here is the latest installment of the sky at night. However, this time its the sky at anytime of the day or night. The one thing we can see at any time are the aircraft flying overhead.  Traveling to far off exotic locations from who knows where. We look up, we see the vapour trails but apart from the direction of travel there is little more you could guess at.

Aircraft Map
However, that is not strictly true. There is a way to find out much detail about the aircraft flying above your head. Once more its back to the Internet.

Goto Radar Virtuel and see the map of the UK with current aircraft movements tracked on it.

Flight Data

Click on any aircraft on the map and you will get a Flight Data pop-up with some of the flight details in it. Items such as Location, Altitude, Ground Speed, Vertical Speed, Operator, Flight Number, Reg Code and Aircraft Type.

Note the Reg number  number G-EZDL click on the button. Now you can see an online picture of the actual aircraft. In the Flight Data pop-up the aircraft is shown as descending. So it must be going to land at a UK airport.

But there is still more information available, click on the button. This shows the aircraft was on a flight from Alicante to Edinburgh.

There is a second Internet site called FlightRadar24 who run a similar on-line flight tracker.

Some people prefer this one because it has a single window interface and draws all the flight data together.

You may also listen into air traffic control. Due to the conditions of the wireless telegraphy act, you can only listen to ATC centers on the internet from anywhere in the world except the UK.  I like to listen into Shannon centre (High Level) where you can hear traffic from planes leaving and entering Europe to and from North America.

As I write (9:30 2nd July) I am listening to an aircrat( Delta 248) with a declared medical emergency diverting to Shannon.

Live ATC Net world map is the place to be.

You may see a contrail streaming out behind a plane that does not show up on some of the flight radar sites. The technique to receive flight information from aircraft is called ADS-B. That means that sites like can only show information about aircraft equipped with ADS-B transponders. Today about 60% of the passenger aircraft and only a small amount of military and private aircraft have an ADS-B transponder.

You may see a plane without a contrail streaming out behind.  Planes flying at altitudes below 25,000 feet tend not to be in very cold air. The air temperature has to be about -35C for the water vapour to freeze quickly enough that the Ice Chrystals form that are large enough to be reflective.

Do you ever go to the airport to collect people? If you know the flight number you can trace the aircraft setting off from the airport and where it currently is along the route. You will be aware of any delays on take off in real time. It saves having to use the airport on-line arrivals flight data which is sometimes less than accurate.


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