Where the Planes Are

I do so love the internet. Anyone who has gone to pick someone up at the airport knows that planes don’t always land at their scheduled times. So nowadays, of course, you can check the web page for the appropriate airline and find out whether the plane is delayed or on time.

But you know what would be even better? If you could call up a Google map that showed the flight plan and current location of the plane.


And now you can! At least, for Delta flights. Do any other airlines do this? And if not, why not?

Wait, I answered my own question, using — you guessed it — the internet. Just go to Flightstats.com (obviously), where they will apparently give you a map of whatever flight you want. And if you’re bored, you can just pick a random flight! And then you will be, if not less bored, at least somewhat bemused.

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17 Responses to Where the Planes Are

  1. Ellipsis says:

    Hmmm, does Delta have a Google map location for the luggage of mine that they lost 2 years ago? Or the AAS poster that they also “misplaced”?
    Glad to hear that they know where (most of) their airplanes are, at least, though.

  2. Adrian says:

    Unfortunately it still doesn’t help when the airlines will happily tell you that a flight took off 45m ago when in reality it is still sitting on the ground delayed!

  3. Nik says:

    If you happen to be interested in flights above Switzerland, there is this project of the Winterthur school of engineering, which has its own antenna and projects the planes true position onto Google maps. radar.zhaw.ch

  4. JScarry says:

    I am also a fan of Flight Aware to track flights. It tracks airline flights as well as any flight with an IFR flight plan. (Maybe VFR flight plans but I doubt it.) It’s kind of fun to fly somewhere then look up the ground track afterwards. You can also look up flights by kind of aircraft as well. It’s a wonderful time waster.

    Adrian: This shows the actual location of the plane, so the airline can’t lie to you. It won’t tell you whether the plane will have to hold for 45 minutes when it gets close to a congested airport or whether it will take a while for a slot to open at the gate.

  5. Pieter Kok says:

    I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, and this is indeed a neat feature (a bit like the flight tracker on my mac), but isn’t this much mode dangerous than bringing your own liquids through security into departures?

  6. B says:

    Lufthansa has a tracker but not on Google maps. It doesn’t always work though. The last time my husband came in from FRA it showed ‘the plane is now ready for take off’ until it was landed in YYZ.

    It’s a bit morbid but I was wondering whether they have an emergency icon to appear in case of a plane crash. Like, a little explosion and debris or so.

  7. Hal S says:

    Pieter Kok #7

    If these were military jets, then absolutely its a bad idea. For civilian jets however, its not really providing any of the “bad guys” useful info. It’s relatively easy (and the key word is relatively) to predict locations of commercial flights, so its really just a convenience for customers.

    Despite public assertions that the government is completely incompetant, this is one area they got covered pretty well, and if there was any real danger (or rather if it increased the risk of danger), they wouldn’t let this stuff be broadcast.

    Its always possible to hypothesize the “bad guys” having some advanced weapon they could use to hit airplanes, but their ability to use this info to help in targeting is of limited value if any.

  8. Cyde Weys says:

    Bemused? How will knowing where a random plane is above the United States bemuse me? (You may be confusing bemused with amused; they have completely different meanings.)

  9. Sean says:

    Knowing the position of one particular random plane wouldn’t do the trick, but I suspect that clicking many times would indeed be bemusing. It certainly wouldn’t be very amusing, which is what I was (clumsily) alluding to.

  10. Count Iblis says:

    You can also follow planes on shortwave. E.g., planes crossing the Northern Atlantic will talk to ATC on 8864 KHz, 8879 KHz, 8891 KHz and 8906 KHz.

  11. tiger-moon says:

    I want to know when they start to do this.

  12. Ali Shareef al'Dente says:

    as a terrorist, I have to say that giving us that flight data is pretty important to our plans. How else can we be sure when we send our white vans to launch SAMs at your airplanes passing overhead?

    We get our van in position ten minutes before the airplane is going to be overhead, fire, and leave (using Google Maps to find us a route, of course). The Americans never know what hit them.

    PS- you think this hasn’t happened? Your media sources are keeping this information from you because if you knew what was happening, you would leave the Middle East immediately.

  13. Ali Shareef al'Dente says:

    oh yeah, your comment server is full of errors

  14. Josh says:

    fboweb.com allows you to track any flight using Google earth. Block off the afternoon, because you’re not getting anything done tomorrow.