Internet Flight Tracking Offers Peace of Mind
(Updated May 29, 2003)
Timely airline information
through Internet flight tracking services can give many people peace
of mind, especially amidst recent air travel anxiety. I take great
comfort in watching the progress of a toy-like airplane icon moving
across my computer screen. Why? Because this little icon isn't part
of a game; it's my husband, a pilot flying an Airbus 321 as I write
this column. Through technology, I can tell that he's cruising at
37,000 feet over Iowa en route to San Diego. It's just reassuring to
watch the progress of a loved-one's flight, knowing that it's safely
up in the air.
sites report the real-time status of most domestic flights by
accessing FAA data collected from the nation's regional air route
traffic control centers (ARTCC). All flights using instrument flight
rules must submit a flight plan to one of the regional ARTCCs, which
becomes part of the FAA data stream supplied to online tracking
The Best Tracking Sites
Cheap Tickets FlightTracker (formerly Trip.com FlightTracker)
Cheap Ticket's free FlightTracker updates FAA data every three
minutes. Here users can find specific flight
information by simply selecting an airline and flight number, or
they can search by departure or arrival city and time.
flight-tracking tool allows users to track information such as plane
position, take-off and landing times, air speed, altitude, and
distance to arrival city. There's also a map of the aircraft's
current location, along with detailed textual explanations of all
pertinent information about the flight.
Trip.com also lets
people send flight-status updates via e-mail to up to three
recipients. Travelers can choose to have the e-mail sent up to two
hours before or after the plane lands.
You've probably seen information from
Flight Explorer used quite a bit lately on CNN and
MSNBC newscasts. It's a service most often used by airlines, cargo
companies, travel agents, and airports.
For the basic user,
the Flight Explorer website offers a free tracker called FastTrack,
which is updated every minute. With this service, users can see a
map that shows the position, altitude, and speed of the flight, and
unlike FlightTracker, they can check international flights
However, the real nifty stuff comes with the
personalized version for $9.95 per month that offers real-time updates every
ten seconds. This program provides a powerful set of filters to help
users zero in on specific data like flight or tail number, aircraft
type, origin, destination, estimated time of arrival, altitude,
speed, and direction.
FlyteComm allows users to track the status of any
flight arriving or departing the U.S. or Canada, and is updated
every five minutes. Additional flight details include departure,
arrival, and delay times; aircraft type; current altitude and
groundspeed; and forecasted weather conditions for the selected
With these websites, people will never have to
wonder whether a loved-one's flight will arrive on time. Just
knowing is peace of mind.
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