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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Addicted to Facebook — of Aviation

If you see me checking my phone in public these days, it’s likely you saw me first glance toward the sky. I’ve become addicted to an app — I believe the only app I have ever purchased — Flightradar24. Called the “Facebook of Aviation” in a recent Wall Street Journal story, Flightradar24 is a crowd-sourced global aviation-tracking network created by Swedish aviation enthusiasts.

Airlines, airports, Boeing and Airbus operations centers, and news agencies use Flightradar24. Airport workers and car services use it to check flights. I use it to learn what jet flew over my house — and, as it turns out, Evansville truly is flyover country; ever-present, it seems, is the low, distant roar of overhead jets.

This is a Virgin America Airbus I heard overhead as I left for my walk before dawn this morning; it left Los Angeles International Airport at 11:50 last night and landed at Washington this morning a bit after 7.  With an upgraded version of the app ($3.99), users can track routes, as well as receive detailed information on the plane, including a photo and flight statistics.

To provide this information, the company, which was tracking Malaysia Airlines flight 370 when it disappeared and also was the first to conclude a Germanwings pilot intentionally crashed his plane in the Alps, relies on volunteers worldwide with 7,500 receivers installed on roofs, towers, islands, and ships.

Flight patterns are easily visible to users. Morning and night, Federal Express jets to Memphis, Tennessee, play follow-the-leader over the Tri-State.  The skies above the Eastern Seaboard are, as expected, crowded.

I’m not sure checking Flightradar24 is productive, though for me it is enjoyable and educational. Try the free app first, and if you like it, spring for the $3.99 full version.

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