I really find this site useful to track family members flying both private and commercial. However, lately (last few weeks, approximately) Flightaware will
register an IFR flightplan, and it shows up on the live flight tracker under our tail # (N5442T), but there is no actual speed or altitude data, nor does a track show up on the graphic.
I am the pilot of N5442T, the subject of this dropped tracking issue. Yes, this flight was conducted entirely in IFR except for the last 10 miles. If you go back and look at my last several flights between KGFL and KBUF they have consistently been dropped. I am flying between 6,000 and 9,000 feet with radar coverage. I think it’s a problem with FlightAware
FlightAware gets their info from the FAA. It has been mentioned before that some IFR flights at lower altitudes won’t show up on the tracking.
EVERYONE…Don’t be so quick to blame FA for all problems with flight tracking. Remember, they get they rely on the FAA for data. No data from FAA, no ability to track. And as always, remember the biggest thing of all about FlightAware…IT’S FREE.
Agreed. I love FlightAware and greatly appreciate the free service. It’s just that on these flights I was defintetly on radar. Over Rochester and Syracuse they were calling traffic to me, and while over the Adirondacks, I asked for lower and the Albany Controller said, “lower in ten miles.” So they could defintely see me. The problem might have been the feed from the FAA, or it could have been on FlightAware’s pickup of that feed.
It looks like an issue with the local ATC computer systems not sending the radar positions up the chain. For the first 45 minutes of the flight (after the departure message), we didn’t receive any position reports for the flight. Then we started to receive them every 4 minutes, which is typical for VFR flights (with flight following), rather than the 1 minute intervals for IFR flights.
To reply to pika’s comment about low altitude flights, we usually see information about cross country IFR flights regardless of altitude. It’s the local flights that we often don’t receive any information about.
The bottom line is that the flight has to make it up to the national level computer systems for us to see it. Here’s a reasonably accurate rule of thump to predict if we’ll see your flight:
If you talk to center, we’ll probably see your flight.
If you talk to only one departure/approach controller (e.g. flying practice approaches at the local charlie or delta), we probably won’t see your flight.
If you talk to multiple departure/approach controllers but not center, it’s a toss up; depends on many factors including but not limited to altitude, controller work load, facility equipment, etc.
Sometimes controllers only use a partial tail number, even for IFR flights; we’ve seen plenty of cases where the page for N3AB has a “weird” flight (different type, different region, etc) because N123AB made the flight and the controller only typed in the last three characters. It’s not common, but it does happen, especially with flights that are handled by just one or a few approach controllers.
VERY interesting observation, Allen. It seems that the flight map on the “live flight tracking” page is significantly longer than the track log. I used Google Map to locate the lat/lon pairs.
The northernmost point on the track log is at 12:17 and corresponds to Addison airport (KADS). The track log goes southeast from there, so we know which direction the flight map was flown in.
The end of the track log, at 2000 feet as you point out, is located over the far south part of Dallas, around the top of the straight N/S leg of the flight. From there, the plane takes an 090 bearing, swings over to the north, flies north of KADS to around McKinney, and finally heads south coming into KADS at a heading of 160 or so. This segment just isn’t recorded in the flight track.
Another interesting point is the timing. The last data point of the track log is at 01:59, yet the arrival time is noted as 01:54. What’s up with that?
Here are my thoughts on that. The pilot dropped IFR at 1:59 and continued VFR with flight-following. The arrival message went out at 1:59. FA corrects for a 5 minute data delay and calls it a 1:54 arrival. The track log stops. The flight continues and is tracked on the “live flight tracking” map to its actual landing.
Interesting glitch, too. At one point as I was typing and referring back and forth to the map, the post-1:59 track disappeared from “live flight tracking”. I refreshed the map and got it back. At some point, I think FA reconciles the flight map with the track log and any “flight-following” map coverage is erased.
That’s sad. I’d like to see all the “flight-following” maps survive. I think they don’t and that may explain many of the complaints we see about dropped tracks. This is typically attributed to an FAA arrival message, but I suspect the flight track on the map is really there but does not survive FA’s reconciliation to the FAA track log.
Before FA gave us the capability to search for map/tracks of past flight, we always saw “flight-following” maps until the whole map disappeared because there was a later flight. Now we can look at into the past with flight history maps/tracks.
All “flight-following” gets erased in “history”. Can this be changed? After all, FA once really did have this data. It just wasn’t in a tracklog.
That’s an interesting theory, toby, but the messages from the FAA are timestamped by them. When we received the arrival message (around 1:59) it told us the arrival occurred at 1:54. The map only plots the positions up to the arrival message. I’ll look into the extra positions in the tracklog.
With regard to the position reports not assoicated with an IFR flight, we actually had a meeting about them last week. We’re still undecided if we want to present them as blobs (an entry in the activity history of “positions not associated with a flight”) or try to derive origin/destination information.