Untracked air traffic ?

Hi all,

I’m a nuby and I have a question that may sound dumb but I’m hoping that some of you pilots or ATC people can give me a real answer on it.

I live in southern Maine about 35 miles north west of KPWM we see on average three to five overflights per day heading south west, we have been told by Portland ATC personnel that’s what we can expect to see on most non holiday’s, now here is the question.

Why do we see days that the air space over our rural area here in Maine is crowded with air traffic and a good deal of it isn’t showing up on Flightaware tracking or Flightexplorer?

We use to be able to call operations at KPWM and ask and the pat answer would be that there was a military operation in the area, however after 9/11 that changed and with all of the new security that has been put in place we can no longer get anyone to even tell us that much, more often than not we get transferred to the TSA when calling operations and they tell us nothing.

So, can anyone even begin to explain why we see such large amounts of air traffic here over rural Maine that does not get tracked by Flightaware or even Flightexplorer when the normal air traffic should be no more than five aircraft per day, and please, I know where the MOA’s are, not anywhere near us.

Thank you.

First of all, what type of aircraft are you seeing? Do they look like commercial flights?

Being in Maryland, they may be some transatlantic flights, and Flightaware can be buggy at times with these international arrivals and departures.

:question: He said Maine:?:

May have to do with flows into and out of NYC, KBOS, and even KPHL; which will change arrival and departure routes with changes to the winds and therefor runways.

That’s just one of many possibilities.

So how’s the WX in Maine this winter? Is it going to be a long mud season?

Haha, I meant Maine, I have no idea what I was doing saying Maryland. That’s what I get for replying to posts in the early morning hours when I get home. :blush:

Hi Guy’s,

Thanks for the fast come back on my question of untracked aircraft at times here in southern Maine, it’s really puzzling to us because most of the time as I stated we have very little air traffic in our area, four to five flights per day west or south west would constitute a busy air traffic day for us according to the ATC people we have talked to at Portland International but some day’s the sky is full of jets and we can not get anyone to tell us what the heck is going on because these jets are not showing up on any FAA supported tracking site like Flightaware or Flightexplorer.

I don’t have Flightexplorer but a friend in New Hampshire does and we have both observed the same strange activity on the same days in question, the last day that our sky was full of jets all day long was November 25th and neither Flightaware or Flightexplorer accounted for all of this highly unusual air traffic.

Since we can no longer get any information out of operations at Portland International I decided to try this Flightaware message board and see anyone can help us find out what is going on with regularity in our sky’s because what we are seeing is in no way “normal” air traffic.

These aircraft from what we can see are both commercial and military types, there hard to identify because they are flying at 34K or better,most are light gray, dark gray, some are white but we have been unable to detect any company logos or identifying markings on them which is another curious thing about these aircraft.

We will get a day of this really heavy air traffic and then nothing like it for up to two or three weeks and then it will happen again and I’ll tell you, I’m ex-military and I’m at a loss to explain it.

Your in the air or in the tower so you tell me, I know something is going on because all of this air traffic that no one knows anything about is not just my imagination, it’s real and I would just like to know what’s going on.

The WX here is mighty strange for December 23rd, no snow, no ice on our ponds which are usually frozen over by the end of November, heck, the ground isn’t even frozen yet, our temperatures are running 15 to 20 degrees above normal, today is a good example, it’s 49 degrees right now and raining when it should be 28 degrees and snowing, I don’t know if it’s effects of Global Warming or what but the weather here in the north east is just gone weird, strange and crazy the past few years.

Well, thanks guy’s, I really appreciate the come back, I’d like to here from some one that works in a tower here in the north east or a pilot that fly’s the north east corridor, anyone that might shed some light on my question regarding the strange, untracked air traffic that we have here frequently.

You and yours all have a great, safe Christmas and a Happy New Year.

As ex-military you should be aware that military flights aren’t normally reported on the public access websites like FA.

You could be seeing anything from great circle polar commercial traffic coming out of northern EU and Russia to military flights coming out of Thule or Gander.

I suggest you have a look at

for frequencies in your area or listen to something like

liveatc.net/feedindex.php?ty … s-d-center

and look for Boston area or similar.

Could just be that sometimes the oceanic track structure puts the overflights right over you and other days it doesnt. Maybe you notice the the busy days but the traffic is there all the time.
For what its worth there have been a large number of oceanic REACH flights in the runup to Xmas into Europe and beyond (C17, WOA MD11 etc) but they wont show up on trackers.
Positive note - plenty of planes up high means the Tracon boys are earning their bucks!



"As ex-military you should be aware that military flights aren’t normally reported on the public access websites like FA. "

As a matter of fact I am aware that military flights do not register on Flightaware or Flightexplorer usually, this is precisely one of the reasons why I am asking this question about untracked aircraft, why would there be so much of it if it is a military exercise that’s taking place over populated civilian areas?

I have been unable to find any information from the Governors office as to recent agreements with the DOD authorizing military overflights of exercises or other operations outside of the normal MOA’s that exist within the state, there has not been any changes in the old agreements for quite some time that I can see.

“You could be seeing anything from great circle polar commercial traffic coming out of northern EU and Russia to military flights coming out of Thule or Gander.”

Flights reaching this latitude from the Great Polar Circle is a reach, even if a few did make it this low how would that account for the numbers of aircraft that we are observing that do not track , all of which seem to take a heading of S/SW/W, if they are U.K. or Russian then they are way off course for the Polar Circle route, plus the numbers just do not add up, we see far to many aircraft to attribute to anything coming down from the Polar Circle,…I could see how we might occasionally see a military flight or two coming out of Thule or Gander but again it’s the numbers of aircraft that rule out the occasional military flights.

Whatever we are seeing taking place is big enough to draw the attention of people who normally would care less what goes on at altitude, these untracked aircraft are definitely flying over the area for a reason, we have listened in on the military frequencies, at least the ones we are allowed to listen to and there has been nothing at all going on at the times these aircraft are in the area, same with the local tower chatter out of Portland International, just normal ATC chatter, Portland is a small hub, they don’t do a lot of business and everything that comes and goes from there we observe on Flightaware or Flightexplorer.

Now, prior to 9/11 we were told on several occasions by operations personnel at Portland that there was a military exercise or operation in the area at the time but they would not give us any of the particulars and try as we might we have not been able to find out what these military operations could possibly be as you know that they would have to be listed by the FAA under the advisory of “Special Air Space Use” so pilots like yourself could make note of it for clearance and avoidance, we have found no such “Advisories” listed by the FAA for this area of the north east on days that we observe these untracked aircraft present.

So, you see, the mystery remains and grows even deeper as each “Might be” the cause is ruled out.

We have been over a lot of this same ground that your now suggesting but thanks for your imput, sooner or later we will get to the botom of this I’m sure.


Thanks for the links but we have this info already and we are familiar with the freqs in a three state area, ME, NH and VT and also Boston Center.

I find it curious that these aircraft are not only untracked by Flightaware / Flightexplorer but obviously there communications are also off limits to the public for some reason, someone in the industry must have heard hints of what’s going on by now because this just did not start, it’s been going on for some time.

Well, mother is dragging me off to a Christmas get together with friends, I doubt that I will be able to get back to this before Tuesday, you all take care and have a good one.

Altitudelou is back out.

What do you mean, their communications are off limits? What are they communicating on?

One has to wonder, after reading all of your above postings Lou, if Mom is picking you up in a Black Helicopter?

You need to Google “great circle route” to see just how wrong you are about all of the many possible departure and arrival airports for those aircraft you’re seeing.


here’s the link to a great site… " The Great Circle Mapper "

Addition: Two weeks ago in Montreal, I was watching transatlantic flights heading “due north” coming out of the states. I checked FlightAware and they were heading up to 60 N before heading east through Greenland, above Iceland and back down into Europe. I think it was to avoid mid Atlantic turbulance, but shows that there is not just one route across the pond.

Also, 747 flights ( at least commercial) common into Finland, so maybe a pax overflight by FinnAir or other carrrier?

Altitudelou maybe they’re watching you. hey that rhymes

You know Santa’s helpers making a naughty/nice list. They do radom check ups. Hope you were being good.

But in case that’s not it here is a Newark-London flight that comes close to flying over your house. Great Circle Mapper is a fantastic site. I used it to plan a KTEB to Singapore flight. Gave me WX, FBO’s, Perferred routing, everything you could want or need.

Play with it and you can use lots of different airport combo’s that have international departures and/or destinations that could fly over S. Maine and not show up here there or anywhere.

And BTW I doubt that Portland approach control would even have a clue that those plans are over head. There airspace doesn’t go that high.

Merry Christmas

Hi Guy’s,

I hope that you and yours all had a nice Christmas.

Don’t take this the wrong way because I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my questions with regard to untracked aircraft that we observe occasionally over Maine and New Hampshire but I have been looking into this since 2000 and I have gotten quite an education into the who, how, why and what of anything that fly’s up here in the north east corner, your giving me information that I have heard before many times and it does not, would not account for the numbers of aircraft that we see at times.

As I said, I appreciate your help but it does not appear that any of you have the type of information that I am looking for, that being if you know of any military exercises or operations here in the north east that could account of this untracked aircraft activity because any commercial aircraft as a cause has been ruled out long ago.

I thought it was worth a shot in coming here and putting the question out there as I am serious about finding out why on some days we have flight after flight passing over that is untracked, not commercial, local or international and no one knows anything about it, that’s what I find so unbelievable about it, aircraft in groups of two to three every three minutes and no one knows anything about it?

Someone said that Portland would not know what was going on at high altitude because they only control up to 14K or so, yes, that’s true, they do only handle aircraft up to about 14K but there not blind, they see exactly what’s in the area, anyway, I’m not going to waste any more of your time with this since no one seems to know what’s going on, thanks for your input and to those of you who were serious but there seems to be some jerks (there everywhere) getting into the conversation so I think it’s best if I continue my search for answers to this question elsewhere.

Be safe and enjoy your New Year.

Why don’t you just get some binoculars and see what type of aircraft are passing over. It is fairly easy to determine aircraft type at cruise with a good pair of specs. This would have been the FIRST thing I would have done, rather research it since 2000.

Yes, but you’re rational!

Read the OP’s screeds. He’s had his answers, they just don’t conveniently fit his preconceived notions and obvious paranoia.

Also note the complete lack of any concrete numbers or tracks as “evidence” of these unknown aircraft, as well as the fact that anyone who questions him is now a “jerk”.

I guess anything other than, “Yes, they were super-top secret military operations,” isn’t going to please him.

BTW, I apologize for the lack of a question mark after the first sentence in my previous post. :wink:

Psss, Altitudelou: I can tell you what the traffic was but you must promise never to tell anyone else because my life is at stake giving you this information.

They are nto military craft but craft from the planet Whatsamattu. They have been sent here by Great Leader. Unfortunately, that’s all I can risk telling you.

I give up! Having eliminated all the probable, I now suggest the possible.





Canada Geese?