FlightAware as a reporting facility


In your “Flight Track Log” you have a column for “Reporting Facility”.
(see for example: flightaware.com/live/flight/UAL9 … R/tracklog)

I’ve seen a number of different well known reporting facilities listed in this field such as gandor center, moncton center and montreal center.

But I’ve also seen listings such as: FlightAware, FlightAware UK, FlightAware Transoceanic, FlightAware Approximate.
Where did the data actually come from when the reporting facility is one of these?
Is this data reliable?


We have our own privately operated radio receiving facilities deployed in a few key cities, like Houston, New York, London, Paris, etc to allow us to receive position information from aircraft.


If I am aboard a commercial flight, what kind of radio receiver would I need to receive my aircraft’s lat and lon coordinates?


It varies depending on the equipment on that particular aircraft, but ACARS and squitter frequencies have a lot of interesting data.


On the flight I’m looking at (UA91) you are showing tracking data across most of the Atlantic, and I’m interested in using this kind of data. My only question is:

How can this data possibly be real? Do you operate radio receiving facilities throughout the Atlantic?


Transoceanic data is usually received through data partnerships that we have, and might use long distance HF radio or ACARS transmission. We also receive some of our data via satellite data providers, including Iridium based systems.


Regarding the positional records that are labeled “Reporting Facility: FlightAware Approximate” – just how approximate is it?

Is the margin of error reported via FlightXML? Is the margin of error a standard figure?


FlightXML does not return any projected positions, since most people using it want to do data analysis on the real data. There have been requests to allow FlightXML to return projected positions, which we will optionally allow in a future version of FlightXML. The projected and approximated positions are produced for our website to make the maps appear smoother.


What is the difference between “Reporting Facility: FlightAware Approximate” and “Reporting Facility: Estimated”?

I had understood that “Estimated” means “projected” and “approximate” means data that was reported from sources that are less precise. As such, I had understood that FlightXML does not return any positions that are “Estimated” but it does return positions that are “Approximate”.

Please clarify.


“FlightAware Approximate” and “FlightAware Estimated” are actually both just types of synthetic data projection, but are relying on either waypoints or the destination (respectively) to project where the aircraft is located when no other data source is available. As I mentioned, both types are considered to be projected positions and will not be returned by GetHistoricalTrack.


OK, got it.

And what’s the difference between “FlightAware Transoceanic” and “Transoceanic Report”?


FlightAware Transoceanic are projections along the 4D trajectory between the prior reporting point and the next reporting point.

Transoceanic Report are datalink positions reports.


It seems that positions reported by “FlightAware Approximate” are included in responses to InFlightInfo().

Is there any way to exclude them?

Better yet, is there any parameter which would tell us whether a given position was reported by “Salt Lake Center” “FlightAware” of “FlightAware Approximate”. This would allow our script to decide which positions to accept and which to ignore.


I think the altitude field returned by InFlightInfo will be 0 if the last lat/lon was a projected position.


Actually, a better way will be to call InFlightInfo and look at the “updateType” element. If it is “TP” then the position was projected. “TZ” indicates it is an actual position. (The altitude can legitimately be 0 for reasons other than projection.)


Wow, that’s perfect!

But I’ve actually been getting “TA” for my update type. What does that mean?
Is there any place in your documentation where it says all possible return values and what they mean?


The possible values aren’t documented, since it’s not a commonly requested item. However, “TO” is oceanic position, “TP” is projected, “TZ” is radar position, “TA” is ADS-B position. You really only care that it is not “TP”


And what does plain “Z” mean?


It’s the same as “TZ”. The leading “T” is stripped from some of the return values for brevity.


FlightAware Transoceanic are projections along the 4D trajectory between the prior reporting point and the next reporting point.
Transoceanic Reports are datalink positions reports.

1-OK, so I’m getting some "O"s now. Is that the equivalent of “FlightAware Transoceanic” (4D projections) or “Transoceanic Report” (datalink positions reports)?

Again, I need to make sure I’m not working with any projected data.

FlightXML does not return any projected positions,

2-Now getHistoricalTrack() is starting to give me "P"s.
(For example: Flight ID: UAL90-1372397683-airline-0079 at Timestamp 2013-07-01 09:12 UTC)

Doesn’t P stand for “Projected”?