Will Flight Aware track a small plane on a local search for a missing person?

There’s a plane nearby flying over a provincial park in the dark. I assume it is flying out of the Hamilton, ON airport CYHM. Would it and other planes flying under similar circumstances show up on Flight Aware?

I would think that under two conditions you would see these aircraft on FlightAware, or any aircraft for that matter:

  1. The aircraft has an ADSB transponder that is transmitting its identity (ICAO hex identifier) and hopefully GPS data as well. (Russian bomber aircraft have fairly recently flown without transmitter signals and thus totally unseen by Air Traffic Control dangerously close to commercial airliners and caused air traffic safety incidents.)

  2. There is a FlightAware registered ADSB station within range that is receiving the aircraft’s signal and forwarding the data to the FlightAware server.

Thank you Matthias, for your response. This makes sense, but I haven’t yet been able to confirm this in Flight Aware, despite knowing of at least one example of a plane doing a search in my local area. I’ll continue to watch for future possible examples.

FlightAware will not show planes without a flight plan on the map by default. You can search for it directly if you know the tail number.

If you are logged into your FA account you can go into your account settings and turn on “position-only” flights.

Thanks David, I thought all planes had to file a flight plan?

Planes can fly under visual flight rules that limit their altitude and speed. Air traffic controllers are not responsible for these planes and they are able to fly without filing a flight plan. Since we don’t know where they are heading they are “position only” on FlightAware.