We first covered FlightRadar24 back in 2010, when it was limited to European airspace. It was impressive enough then, but the intervening two years have seen it expand to cover the complete sphere of global air traffic, and the results are literally breathtaking.
Not only can you now view live – five minute delay in the US, real time in the rest of the world – flights as they go about their business, but there’s also a bunch of other features which provide even more of an immersive experience if you’re into this kind of thing, like chat and forums.
By far the most impressive however is the Cockpit View, which lets you hop into the virtual cockpit of any commercial passenger plane in the sky, and get a pilot eye’s view of the trip. The software uses Google Earth to map the terrain, and it’s somewhat miraculous to sit in a virtual jump seat as the captain brings the aircraft in to land at a major airport like Heathrow in London.
This landing view doesn’t appear to work with FAA US traffic, so we’re assuming they’re still a little sensitive post 9/11, even with the 5 minute delay, but if the rest of the world more than makes up for it (take off and landing from Hong Kong International is very cool!). While most people will dismiss it as a plane-spotting dream app, it’s clear there are lots of real world uses for it as well.
As well as consumer tracking of flights, for pick up purposes and simply keeping tracks of loved ones, there’s clearly an advantage to being able to pinpoint the position of an aircraft in the air to answer questions or help in planning. There’s also mobile phone apps which extend the utility of the app to other areas. OK, so we admit it, we’re airplane geeks. But you know what, there’s a HUGE amount of iron in the sky at any one time, and even that is fascinating on its own. Love it.