Observations & Enhancements


#1

First, let me offer my congratulations for producing a first-class flight tracking system. I speak from experience as both pilot and a database engineer. Around 8 years ago, I worked on the FAA NFDC database (Airports, Navaids, etc.), NOTAMS database and provided some database designs to the first company in the flight tracking arena.

At that time, the web was nascent, yet I strongly recommended that they provide a web interface; they didn’t and are still stuck in a client-server world. Their product pales in comparison to your offering. I’ve used a number of tracking systems over the years for personal and business purposes. Yours is the easiest to use and provides a wealth of data not available from other services.

Suggestions:

  1. It’s been mentiond before, but having historical information and track logs would be very helpful. Sometimes an aircraft flies so often that the history is gone before it can be reviewed.

  2. On the home page, the distinction between “Arrivals” and “En Route to…” is obvious. The distinction between “Departures” and “Scheduled Departures” is not so obvious. The “Arrivals” heading indicates that something is scheduled in the future; “En Route” suggests that the aircraft is inbound to the airport. “Scheduled Departures” doesn’t suggest that the aircraft is outbound however. I filed a flight plan and it showed up under “Scheduled Departures”, fair enough, after takeoff my flight appeared under departures. Okay, I guess, except that two departure lists seem to mix scheduled both departures and aircraft recently departed.

I suggest you relabel the tables to clearly define what data is listed and insure that the data finds it’s way into the correct bin. I suggest the following for each of the four states: “Scheduled Arrivals”, “Enroute to xxxx” or “Inbound to xxxx”, “Scheduled Departures”, and “Outbound from xxxx”.

  1. The track log is a nice feature, but additional data is needed to make it really useful. I’m planning on moving the track data to a mapping tool or a Google Earth type of system. The time hacks and the position reports don’t provide enough granularity. Showing seconds for both the time and position fields would be an improvement. Decimal degrees would be acceptable as well. Looking at one of my track logs today, there were multiple hits listing the same time and position. The altitude changed, so I know something happened. Providing a way to download a CSV file would be a real bonus. Track files could then be harvested easier.

  2. Overlaying the maps with NFDC data would be a real help in analysis. Layering the display to selectivly display/hide them would be helpful as well. I’ve just started working with an Open Source mapping product called MapServer. I envision overlaying tracks on actual sectional or instrument charts, satellite imagery (another area I’ve worked in extensively), basic topography maps, etc.

  3. Missing flights. I’ve seen many posts about missing flights, but this one I can confirm. On November 6-8, I flew N3238Y from KJYO-KCEU-KTYS-KCUB-KBUY-KJYO. I flew IFR for every leg. The KCEU-KTYS-KCUB legs are missing.

  4. Bug?: You can’t enter a single-digit tail number such as N1 in the “Track Any Flight” textbox.

Keep up the excellent work.


#2

Thank you.

Around 8 years ago, I worked on the FAA NFDC database (Airports, Navaids, etc.), NOTAMS database and provided some database designs to the first company in the flight tracking arena.

At that time, the web was nascent, yet I strongly recommended that they provide a web interface; they didn’t and are still stuck in a client-server world. Their product pales in comparison to your offering. I’ve used a number of tracking systems over the years for personal and business purposes. Yours is the easiest to use and provides a wealth of data not available from other services.

Wow. Thanks. At this point we are barely out of beta. I think you’ll be really happy as we roll out new capabilities and fill out our offering.

Suggestions:

  1. It’s been mentiond before, but having historical information and track logs would be very helpful. Sometimes an aircraft flies so often that the history is gone before it can be reviewed.

Yes, a number of people have expressed their frustration at only being able to pull up their last flight.

I lead the mapping team, and we are the ones accountable for track data.

We began archiving tracks at 9:52 PM CST on December 8th, and as of about midnight on the 18th we have saved 672,510 tracks into the database. We intend to keep complete tracks for all flights from December 8th forward.

Our web interface isn’t quite ready for prime time yet, but it won’t be long until you’ll be able to view all of your IFR and VFR flight-following tracks back to the December 8th.

  1. The track log is a nice feature, but additional data is needed to make it really useful. I’m planning on moving the track data to a mapping tool or a Google Earth type of system. The time hacks and the position reports don’t provide enough granularity. Showing seconds for both the time and position fields would be an improvement. Decimal degrees would be acceptable as well. Looking at one of my track logs today, there were multiple hits listing the same time and position. The altitude changed, so I know something happened. Providing a way to download a CSV file would be a real bonus. Track files could then be harvested easier.

I don’t see a problem with adding seconds to the time samples (sometimes we get readings from multiple radars and sometimes the data is inaccurate). The raw position data we receive isn’t wildly precise. (I leave the reasons why it wouldn’t be as an exercise for the reader.) Internally we store positions as encoded short integers, but our internal APIs have evolved over time to exchange latitudes and longitudes as floating point degrees. I think there’s some stuff in our AUP about scraping our data – and I’ll have to get a read from mgmt about a CSV export, though.

  1. Overlaying the maps with NFDC data would be a real help in analysis. Layering the display to selectivly display/hide them would be helpful as well. I’ve just started working with an Open Source mapping product called MapServer. I envision overlaying tracks on actual sectional or instrument charts, satellite imagery (another area I’ve worked in extensively), basic topography maps, etc.

It’s on the list. I really want to be able to see VORs and intersections and interpret the flight plan and show dotted lines along the flight’s projected path and stuff like that. Obviously we have the weather overlay, and we have other layers we don’t currently use like showing cities, urban areas, and lights at night. I’d like to show runways and maybe extended runway centerlines.

And of course with all that stuff a user interface to turn on the layers you want to see. Another oft-requested capability is to be able to zoom and pan the maps. It’s coming, folks.

  1. Missing flights. I’ve seen many posts about missing flights, but this one I can confirm. On November 6-8, I flew N3238Y from KJYO-KCEU-KTYS-KCUB-KBUY-KJYO. I flew IFR for every leg. The KCEU-KTYS-KCUB legs are missing.

I think it’s in the FAQ that we don’t always get departure or arrival messages. I know the data feed has a lot of anomalies and that the guys who wrote all the code to interpret it have made a lot of progress wringing more out of it.

I can say that for tracks we are keeping all the in-flight positions whether the aircraft receives departure and arrival messages or not, so even if we don’t have the filed route and all that good stuff, we should have the tracks.

  1. Bug?: You can’t enter a single-digit tail number such as N1 in the “Track Any Flight” textbox.

That affects nine possible tail numbers! Picky picky picky :smiley: Seriously, we’ll look into it.

Keep up the excellent work.

Thanks. We intend to.


#3

The boards are laid out so that the top half is flights that have already departed from or landed at the airport and the bottom half is flights that will depart from or land at the airport (or vice-versa, depending on your profile setting).
A flight that is Enroute to or Inbound to xxxx would also be a Scheduled Arrival.


#4

If you listen to ATC radio, you’d like to have enroute flights on the same page level with departed flights. All the other flights are on the ground and not yet active with ATC radio. The pairing of ‘En Route’ with ‘Departed’ also puts all activity-mapable flight at the same page level.


#5

My homepage is laid out as follows (L-R Top-Bottom): Arrivals, Departures, EnRoute, Scheduled Departures.

I’m currently looking at JFK traffic.
In the Departures list is JBU185. It just launched from KJFK to KSAN. In the Scheduled Departues is DAL118. It too has launched from KJFK to LFPG. Two aircraft airborne of JFK in different lists.

Interestingly, all the arrival times are italicized in the EnRoute, Departures, and Scheduled Departures lists. I though that this designated aircraft that were airborne?


#6

It sounds like you’re actually watching the takeoffs (or listening to ATC); remember our feed is delayed 5 - 6 minutes.
Italics indicate events that are scheduled to occur in the future.


#7

Nope, not listening to anything, just browsing through diffferent airports. Here’s another example as I’m writing:

AAL1065 KBOS-TJSJ Listed in Scheduled Departures is halfway to its destination. The arrival time is in italics. In fact, the first four flights listed in Scheduled Departures are all enroute to their destinations.

DAL2037 KBOS-KFLL listed in Departures, just launched. It’s arrival time is also in italics as well.

Many flights listed in Scheduled Departures have already arrived at their destinations and their times are italicized as well. In fact, all the Departure and Scheduled Departure times are listed in italics. I don’t see how these are ALL future events.

:question:


#8

AAL1065 filed multiple flight plans for different times, and that’s why it stayed on the scheduled departures board after it departed.
AAL1065 appears to have some additional goofyness: when the flight was about 30 minutes from San Juan we received a cancellation, and then when it landed we received an arrival, so it appears in the Activity Log to have completed a flight that it never started.
As the FAQ says, international flight support is inconsistent.

For scheduled departures, both the departure and arrival time are future events, so they are in italics.
For departures, the arrival time is still a future event, so it is in italics.
Some flights appear on both departures and scheduled departures because they filed multiple flight plans. After a short while the unflown flight plans will be cleared.