Over FlightAware ✈ Frequently Asked Questions
How live is FlightAware's tracking and status data? (Back to top)
The data displayed on FlightAware.com is typically 30 seconds delayed from real time. Some data in the US is five minutes delayed due to government regulation.
You can contact us if you have a commercial need for real-time data.
How often does the data update or refresh? (Back to top)
Depending on the data source, updates are usually one to four times a minute. For registered members that are logged in, pages will receive more frequent updates.
How much does a subscription to FlightAware cost? (Back to top)
It's free. Perhaps if you like FlightAware, you could provide a link to flightaware.com on your web site, blog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.
Where is this data from? (Back to top)
FlightAware compiles, aggregates, and processes data from over 45 government sources (in Europe, North America, and Oceania), dozens of airlines, commercial data providers, as well as hundreds of receivers in FlightAware's ADS-B flight tracking network. FlightAware's proprietary algorithms calculate delay and arrival time estimates to offer the most up-to-date and reliable flight tracking data on the Internet.
Not all worldwide data sources (e.g., most European data) or satellite/VDL data are freely available on FlightAware.com due to government regulations or commercial agreements. You can contact us if you have a commercial need for worldwide data.
How does FlightAware handle flights around the world? What is FlightAware's service area? (Back to top)
FlightAware's primary service area includes airspace operated by the United States (including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto RIco, and Guam), Canada, the Caribbean, Australia, the United Kingdom, and France. Flights in the primary service area support real time maps, departure and arrival information, delays, and more.
FlightAware's secondary service covers scheduled major airline operations at any airport in the world. Flights in the secondary service area support departure and arrival information. Secondary coverage areas may have real-time positions for ADS-B equipped aircraft operating in FlightAware's ADS-B coverage area. Additionally, some airlines send FlightAware satellite position reports from aircraft worldwide that augments other position data and provides transoceanic coverage as well.
For flights arriving in a service area from outside of a service area, FlightAware will be able to track the flight when it nears a service area. For flights departing a service area, FlightAware will be able to track the flight until it leaves the coverage area. Flights may not be tracked beyond that point unless they enter another service area.
Not all worldwide data sources (e.g., European data, datalink ARINC/SITA ACARS, etc) are freely available on FlightAware.com due to government regulations or commercial arrangements. You can contact us if you have a commercial need for worldwide data.
Why are planes moving on maps? (Back to top)
As part of FlightAware Live, whenever you see a plane logo on a map beneath the pan and zoom controls, you're seeing new positions of aircraft as quickly as we can get them to you, without the need to refresh the page.
However, it's important to note the data is still subject to normal delays imposed by governments. In the US, that means the data is typically delayed 5 minutes.
Can FlightAware display additional flight information provided on an IFR flight plan such as pilot's name, address, phone number, number of people on board, and color of aircraft? (Back to top)
No, this information is not displayed.
FlightAware has this data in some countries, so if you have an operational need for this data, please contact us to discuss.
Can FlightAware tell me the tail number of a flight operating under a company name / flight number? (Back to top)
Yes. FlightAware.com uses this data to for a variety of features on the FlightAware.com web site. For example, you can usually track a flight by either the flight identifier (e.g., ABC123) or the registration number (e.g., N12345).
Please contact us if you have a commercial use for this data.
Can FlightAware track VFR flights? What about a VFR flight with a flight plan? (Back to top)
In the US and Europe, this is not officially supported although some VFR aircraft with flight following are available on the position maps but it is largely unreliable and arrival/departure/flight plan data is often not available. VFR flight plans are irrelevant and only used by FSS for search and rescue. We suggest ensuring that aircraft are on an IFR flight plan from wheels up to wheels down for proper tracking.
In Australia, VFR flights are supported by FlightAware as long as they have been assigned a transponder code.
How does FlightAware handle pop-up IFR flights? (Back to top)
The origin of a pop-up flight will likely be a radial off a VOR or an intersection at the discretion of the controller that opens the flight plan. This will look similar to a flight with a clearance fix (destination) of a VOR radial, Latitude/Longitude, or intersection instead of an airport.
How far back does FlightAware's airport history go when browsing through recent arrivals and departures? (Back to top)
Although FlightAware keeps the data forever, currently only the most recent seven days of activity are available for viewing.
What happens if an aircraft cancels an IFR flight plan en-route or prior to arrival? (Back to top)
The cancellation time will be marked as the arrival time for that flight. There is a chance that an aircraft could proceed VFR to another airport and confuse FlightAware, but the most likely scenario is that a pilot cancels IFR just moments prior to arrival, so assuming that the aircraft has arrived is the safest bet.
What does "result unknown" mean? (Back to top)
It means that the estimated arrival time of the flight has passed without FlightAware marking the flight as "arrived." There are the most likely reasons why this happened:
I see a consistent discrepancy or anomaly in tracking data. What should I do? (Back to top)
Please bring it up in the public discussions. While we're unable to guarantee a resolution for every discrepancy, FlightAware can research some situations to determine the source of the problem and possibly take action if it leads to a wide scale fix.
Why does FlightAware show an overly specific or incorrect aircraft description for a particular aircraft type? (Back to top)
A single aircraft type can have multiple names in the ICAO aircraft database. FlightAware picks the first one listed unless it has been pointed out to be inaccurate. As a result, it might display B738 as a "Boeing BBJ2" rather than "Boeing 737-800." Please bring the error up in the public discussions to be corrected.
Why do the departure and arrival times on a scheduled airline differ from the information on the airline's web site? (Back to top)
Airlines generally display the times that the aircraft departs and arrives from a gate. FlightAware presents the time that the aircraft departed and arrived, also known as the "wheels up" and "wheels down" times. At large airports or in various circumstances, there can be a significant difference in these times due to delays on the ground.
Why do I care about wheels up / wheels down time for airline flights? Shouldn't I just track an airline flight on their web site? (Back to top)
Maybe so; that's a good point. FlightAware's data may or may not be the most relevant for airline customers depending on the situation. One interesting aspect of FlightAware's tracking data for airlines is that although it doesn't offer gate arrival or departure times, if an airline is claiming (for example) that flight #482 will arrive at gate E6 at IAH at 4:18pm but FlightAware says the flight isn't going to touch down at IAH until 4:32pm, you might expect a delayed arrival at the gate or, less likely, a revised ETA from FlightAware.
Can I track NASA's Space Shuttle or other space ships (UFOs, etc) on FlightAware during launch or descent? (Back to top)
No, but that would be rather amusing; the shuttle or UFOs would have to be on an IFR flight plan to be tracked. However, NASA streams live NASA TV on the Internet.
Can I track military aircraft? What about presidential movements in Air Force One? (Back to top)
FlightAware does not track military aircraft and presidential movement flights (e.g., Air Force One, Marine One, etc.) are operated by the US military.
How does FlightAware handle "code share" flights? (Back to top)
FlightAware supports code shares, such as a United flight being operated by Lufthansa as well as "express" code shares where passengers are less likely to be aware of the situation such as United 4124 being operated by "United Express", which is actually ExpressJet Airlines.
When FlightAware says a flight is at 33,000ft, for example, is that the real altitude or the flight level? (Back to top)
FlightAware displays flight levels as if they were true altitudes because the difference is negligible for our purposes. For further explanation on this topic, see Wikipedia's explanation of a Flight Level.
Are displayed flight altitudes AGL (above ground level) or MSL (mean sea level)? (Back to top)
Altitudes displayed are the airplane's altitude above sea level (MSL) and disregard the elevation below. This is how altimeters in aircraft operate and any attempt to reflect surface elevation or terrain would result in constant adjustments and inaccuracies.
For a related issue, see the above question about flight levels.
My company operates aircraft with a 3 character prefix and a flight number, yet all the flights are missing from FlightAware. What can I do? (Back to top)
In the US, please e-mail us the three letter ID, your radio call sign, the countries that you primarily fly to/from/within, the name of your company/airline, your address, as well as contact name with their phone number and e-mail address. Once we have received this information, we will send a request to the FAA and generally be able to begin tracking your aircraft within two weeks.
Outside the US, please email or call to discuss flight tracking options.
My airplane's tail number starts with something other than N (e.g., XA-, VP-, etc.) and isn't showing up. How can I add it? (Back to top)
Does FlightAware receive satcom/VDL data for aircraft with datalink uplinks? (Back to top)
Yes, FlightAware can receive satellite or VHF Data Link (VDL) data from ARINC, ARINC Direct, Garmin, Satcom Direct, SITA, Spidertracks, Honeywell GDC, and UVdatalink. You can contact us if you would like to setup you accounts to show this for your aircraft.
Are blocked tail numbers publicly visible on FlightAware? (Back to top)
Can I send proof of ownership to FlightAware for access to track a blocked tail number? (Back to top)
Yes, FlightAware offers flight tracking for blocked aircraft as a service to owner/operators.
Can I block my aircraft's flight operations on FlightAware? (Back to top)
Yes, there are three ways to accomplish this:
Enroll in FlightAware's selective unblocking service for a tail number that is or isn't already blocked.
FlightAware can process your request with next-day service and will block your operations from the general public. Your FlightAware account(s) will continue to be able to securely view and track your aircraft. FlightAware will complete the paperwork necessary for blocking your aircraft on other flight tracking services and will provide you with everything you need to accomplish the block.
FlightAware is happy to answer any questions and walk you through the process, so please contact us for assistance.
Isn't the accessibility of this information violating the privacy of people traveling on private aircraft? (Back to top)
No, for many reasons:
Without Internet flight tracking, an individual could simply listen to the appropriate frequencies to hear their tail number of interest's next destination in the form of, "citation niner alpha mike, santa monica ground, you're cleared to las vegas executive as filed . . ." In the case of an individual trying to determine the tail number of an individual that is known to be departing a certain airport for a particular destination, they already know where the individual is going so there is hardly any knowledge gained in that circumstance. Even easier, aircraft owner information is available on the country's aircraft registry web site for search or download. If an individual doesn't have an aviation radio receiver, ATC (air traffic control) frequencies are broadcasted on countless web sites for enthusiasts and many web sites even archive ATC conversations for web users to download at a later date.
Isn't this information a big security risk? Is FlightAware helping terrorists? (Back to top)
No, this information is public knowledge and not a security risk. The assertion that knowing aircraft whereabouts, routing, or airport activity promotes terrorism or is a security risk is specious reasoning and baseless paranoia akin to suggesting that train or subway routes/schedules should not be published or perhaps that airport locations should be kept a secret.
What does it mean when a time is in italics? (Back to top)
A time in italics generally means that the time or action is proposed, scheduled, or estimated, if it isn't indicated otherwise. For example, an en route flight will show the arrival time in italics.
I believe I witnessed a traffic conflict, altitude deviation, or some other anomaly. Should I report it? (Back to top)
Can I use FlightAware for a crazy purpose such as operational functions or in flight for navigation or traffic advisories? (Back to top)
Why does FlightAware show two airlines flights operating simultaneously with the same flight number? Is that possible? (Back to top)
Unfortunately, this is not a bug. It seems that some airlines occasionally have duplicate flight numbers in the air at the same time with different origins and destinations. When tracking a flight that is in the air twice, the arrival/departure history will be accurate but the position, speed, and altitude will be unreliable.
What is the suffix that's appended to an aircraft type, such as C172/G or B738/Q? (Back to top)
The suffix indicates the on-board equipment. For an explanation of each suffix, you can either hover over the code for a tool tip explanation, or view them all on FlightAware's Aircraft Equipment Suffixes list.
Why does FlightAware say "Arriving Shortly" on a flight being shown to arrive a few minutes ago? Everything else is accurate. (Back to top)
Because the information that FlightAware displays is delayed, FlightAware says "Arriving Shortly" a few minutes prior to scheduled arrival to compensate. Otherwise, every flight would be 5-6 minutes overdue.
How does FlightAware handle time zones? (Back to top)
By default, FlightAware displays times in the airport's local time zone for US and Canadian airports. For example, if a flight is flying from Houston to Los Angeles with a 4 o'clock departure and arriving in LA 3 hours later, it will show a 4:00 CT departure and 5:00 PT arrival. Registered users can select various time zone and time display preferences including the ability to show all times in your local time zone. For airports outside of FlightAware's service areas, UTC selected as the local time zone in most cases.
What do "(+1)" and "(-1)" mean next to a flight's arrival time? (Back to top)
It means that the flight arrived on either the day after or the day before departure, respectively. The date listed for a flight is the departure date and the "+1" literally means plus one day and "-1" means minus one day.
When do flights show up as "Scheduled" in the activity log? (Back to top)
We display a flight as "scheduled" as soon as receiving the flight plan. This is generally 30 minutes to 24 hours before a flight. For airline flights, it is closer to 24 hours and for most general aviation flights, closer to two hours. Flight plans that are never activated (no departure) or flight plans that are canceled/retracted prior to departure are not displayed.
FlightAware sometimes suggests that I use a metro area or terminal area for my searches rather than an airport code. What other cities or terminal areas can I use for areas with multiple airports? (Back to top)
Please consult FlightAware's list of terminal areas and feel free to use them when appropriate.
What does "Delayed" mean on an airport page and why is a delayed flight being displayed above an airborne flight? (Back to top)
To facilitate airport and airport service operators, FlightAware lists scheduled departures on the "En Route/Scheduled" table when space allows. If there are insufficient en route flights to fill the table, the rest of the table is populated with relevant scheduled flights, sorted by estimated arrival time. In the event that a scheduled (not current en route) arrival is delayed, but could still conceivably arrive before an en route flight (or if no subsequent en route flight exists), FlightAware will display the entry for that flight with the word, "Delayed" instead of an estimated departure and arrival time.
For example, if KVNY (Van Nuys, CA) has two upcoming arrivals and one is from KTEB (Teterboro, NJ), which is en route but two hours from arrival, yet one is from Santa Monica, CA and is delayed (not airborne yet), the Santa Monica flight will be listed above the Teterboro flight, but with the Delayed notation.
What do acronyms like ILS, RVSM, TDZE, and FL mean? Does FlightAware have a list of aviation terminology used on the web site? (Back to top)
We recommend that you take a look at the FAA's glossary of aviation acronyms and abbreviations.
What, exactly, is represented by the flight route line on a FlightAware map? (Back to top)
The solid line displayed on a FlightAware map is a connected series of points between every position report received for that aircraft. Generally, we receive a position every 15-60 seconds.
The dashed line is the planned route of flight per air traffic control. Often times, a flight will deviate from the planned route due to weather, shortcuts, traffic, or other operational factors.
Why do airplanes only sometimes have the "data block" next to them with flight information? (Back to top)
Due to limited screen and resolution real estate, FlightAware Maps has to selectively "de-clutter" the maps so that data blocks aren't overlapping each other. If you're tracking a single flight and it's near the origin or destination airport, it might not have a data block to ensure that the airport code itself isn't blocked. On the ATC-style displays with many flights, often times there are so many flights in limited space that it's not possible to display data blocks for all of them.
On airport maps and flight maps, you can zoom in to an area where you are more interested in seeing a data block. On airport maps, you can hover over a particular flight to see that flight's data block, or let the system automatically cycle through inbound and outbound flights.
Why does FlightAware not show a position for a flight that recently departed? (Back to top)
When a flight first lifts off, it takes FlightAware a minute or two to acquire the position and orientation. Simply wait a couple minutes and the map should start displaying the position.
I see a aircraft identification on an area/airport map that I can't track manually or the data says the plane is not airborne. Why is that? (Back to top)
The area and airport maps often display VFR aircraft that we receiving position updates for, but do not receiving flight plan or departure/arrival information. A good indication of this occurring is if the data block for that flight on the map does not show an aircraft type.
What do the numbers mean below a flight? For example, what does, "340 446" mean? (Back to top)
The two numbers below a flight are the altitude (in hundreds of feet1) and the ground speed (in knots), respectively. An up or down arrow next to the altitude indicates that the flight is climbing or descending, respectively. For example, "333^ 446" means the flight is climbing through approximately 33,330ft at 446kts. The data is displayed in this format because it similar to ATC (air traffic control) displays and familiar to many people.
What do the different controls on the maps do? How do I zoom and pan? (Back to top)
To zoom and pan, you can either:
Why do some flights in a different color only sometimes appear on an airport map? (Back to top)
The airport maps focus on ensuring that you can see flights to/from the airport that you're looking at. When space is available, nearby aircraft with track lines will be included. As you zoom and pan to a more a congested area, the track lines for nearby aircraft may be removed. At a certain point, nearby aircraft will not be displayed entirely.
I like the VFR sectional style flight tracking maps. Is it possible for me to view an entire sectional chart? (Back to top)
Absolutely. Visit any airport information page and click the "Sectional" tab. To get to an airport information page, type an airport code (e.g., LAX) in bottom of the form on the left side of every page and click "View Info".
I want to see a 3D map. Can I export the flight track to view it in Google Earth? (Back to top)
FlightAware supports 3D Google Earth flight tracking for all arrived/landed flights. On the "Status" row in the tracking information, click on the button and FlightAware will send you a Google Earth KML file to view the flight.
Where can I make a suggestion about maps? (Back to top)
We're always interested in new ideas. However, the mapping technology is currently under heavy development, so you should first check this announcement post to see what's already on the future feature list.
When viewing a flight tracking map, why is there sometimes a circle around the airplane or a notice that says estimated position? (Back to top)
When considering the flight's location, the data downlink capabilities of the aircraft, and available data sources, FlightAware will sometimes only have an estimate of a flight's position.
Depending on the circumstances, the accuracy of the position may be within a few miles, or other times it may be within several hundred miles. In order to inform you about the position accuracy, FlightAware will use various airplane icons, radius circles and white lines (as opposed to a solid line) to indicate the degree of confidence in the aircraft's position. The wider the radius circle and the fewer solid lines, the less exact the position is. For example, a solid track line and a solid airplane are a precise position whereas a hollow airplane with a large dashed circle and no track is the least precise position.
What is the difference between a restricted and unrestricted ticket? (Back to top)
Airlines sell many different fares (e.g., A, Z, Y, B, K, L, M, T, etc.) for a given flight. FlightAware simplifies all the fare classes into a cabin (e.g., First, Business, or Coach) and a type of ticket, either restricted or unrestricted. A "restricted" ticket is what most passengers buy; they are discounted fares that are available on web sites, via travel agencies, etc., and tend to be non-refundable and have various restrictions on changing the ticket. An "unrestricted" ticket is refundable and changeable with no penalty. Often times, an unrestricted ticket will be three to five times more expensive than a restricted ticket.
Why does FlightAware show such high fares for such short flights? Why would someone pay $1,100 to go from Austin to Houston? (Back to top)
FlightAware's Insight data shows the prorated price for a ticket across all the various legs of the ticket. For example, if someone purchased a one-way trip from Austin to Houston to Philadelphia for $2,200, FlightAware will show the fare for the Austin-Houston leg to be $1,100 and Houston-Philadelphia for $1,100. This is an extreme case, however, and these instances are addressed on longer flights so that connecting passengers' fares do not bias the results.
How can the "percentage flown" for an airline on a given route exceed 100%? (Back to top)
Due to logistical reasons and airline operational issues, more flights along a route may be operated along a route than were originally scheduled.
What is the coverage area of airline insight data? (Back to top)
FlightAware Insight currently cover airline and cargo operations in the US.
How current is FlightAware's insight data? (Back to top)
FlightAware Insight data is updated every 30-90 days. FlightAware currently displays the last year of data.
How does FlightAware know the fare/routing ticket details? (Back to top)
This ticket data for flown itineraries is provided by the airlines on a regular basis but with personal information (e.g., name, frequent flyer number, address, method of payment) removed.
What is the median and why does FlightAware not display average fares? (Back to top)
A median value is the number that separates the higher half of a sample from the lower half. For example, in this list:
1 2 2 3 3 4 246
The median value is 3, but the average (mean) value is 37. To avoid extreme highs or lows from dramatically affecting results, FlightAware's statisticians often choose to display median values for fares to best represent the typical ticket fare.
What is a Flight Crew and how do I participate? (Back to top)
FlightAware Members can create or join Flight Crews which are virtual groups or communities for sharing remarks (notes), photos, and more among colleagues, friends, and families. A Flight Crew could be specific to an FBO, a charter operator, a flight club, or even to people involved in a particular airplane.
You can search for a crew to see if one exists, or click "Create a new flight crew" to create one and start inviting new members from the FlightAware community. There is no limit to the number of flight crews you create or join. You can decide what information you'd like to share with each crew.
What is an Automatic Flight Crew and how do I get one? (Back to top)
FlightAware creates automatic Flight Crews for employees of organizations with a significant number of FlightAware membership based on the domain name (e.g., @xyzcompany.com) in your account profile. If you have automatically joined a Flight Crew, you can exchange information with other employees/members of your organization at your discretion. If your organization has an automatic flight crew that you are not a member of, make sure that your email address on file in your account profile is your official work/school/etc address. If you would like to request a new automatic flight crew, please contact us..
What is a Remark? (Back to top)
A FlightAware Remark is a per-flight/airport/page notation that allows a FlightAware member to store notes and information for private use or to share with colleagues using FlightAware Flight Crews. For example, an FBO employee could enter passenger preferences or requests as a remark for an N-number. Or, a pilot could enter flight details/background about a specific flight. You can see recent remark annotations from you or members of your flight crews on the remarks activity page.
How do I share remarks with friends or colleagues? (Back to top)
Use the FlightAware Flight Crew feature to join or create groups that are involved in the same aircraft/airports/customers as you. Then, when creating a remark, you will be given a list of your Flight Crews with checkboxes to indicate which flight crews you want to share that remark with.
What is an Endorsement? (Back to top)
Endorsements are graphical icons/badges that are awarded to a FlightAware member based on their FlightAware user activity. Endorsements recognize and reward contributions to the FlightAware community. There are a variety of endorsements which may be earned and displayed to the rest of the FlightAware community. For example, a user who has submitted a top-rated Squawk gets a little newspaper badge next to their forum posts, picture uploads, and squawk submissions. You can see all the endorsements you've earned here.
I have an unusual analysis, reporting, or corporate project and would like FlightAware's technical expertise and data. Is this possible? (Back to top)
I have a cool idea for a feature. Where can I suggest it? (Back to top)
Great! Feel free to bring it up in the public discussion forums.
My question isn't on here. Where can I ask it? (Back to top)
Why is it necessary to have a FlightAware account to use the iOS app? (Back to top)
It is actually not necessary to use a FlightAware account for the majority of the functionality in the app. When you launch the iOS app, you will initially be prompted with a screen that asks you to log in, register a new account, or skip. If you choose to skip, you will continue to be able to use the application but you will simply not be able to create any flight alerts. Attempting to create a flight alert (by tapping the "bell" icon from a flight details screen) will remind you of the requirement to create an account.
If you choose not to create an account, you may still be occasionally prompted when you launch the app again, but you will always have the option to skip.