In Flight: See Every Plane in the Air Right Now

by on February 14, 2014 · 22 comments

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of passenger air travel, UK newspaper The Guardian has developed a fascinating interactive website showing you every plane in the air right now. This website makes you feel like an air traffic controller as you see thousands of dots on a map of the globe, each one representing an airplane in flight.

To get started, head to the Guardian’s In Flight website and click on the map to explore.

The website actually has four parts:

  • Mapping the planes
  • History of aviation
  • How passenger aviation has grown
  • What’s ahead for the future

Each part is interactive with features to click, audio and animation.

In Flight

In the first part of the website you learn that at any given time 1/2 million of the world’s population is airborne. You can see the dots turn into lines as you follow the flight paths of each airplane. The information is current but you can see what’s been in the air during the past 24 hours.

As you watch the flight paths progress the audio explains that the information is based on live data from flightstats.com that includes flight delays. You can see which continents have the most air traffic and which have relatively little.

 

 

You can adjust the map by clicking the + and – buttons in the upper left corner of the screen to zoom in and out on a region and clicking on the Stop button to pause the action. You can also click on Show to reveal the time zones around the world. Switch back and forth between planes and routes to see the different perspectives of world-wide flight.

Birth of an Industry

In part 2 of the site you experience a narrated slide show about the first passenger plane flight from between Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida back in 1914. When you see how that airline was run 100 years ago you’ll realize how far aviation has progressed.

A Century of Growth

Part 3 demonstrates how aviation has experienced exponential growth in the past century, fueled both by passenger demand and by military conflicts. You can scroll along a graph to see how many passenger airline tickets were sold each year.

You’ll also find out fun facts such as that a flight from England to Australia in 1935 took 10 1/2 days to complete. During the past 50 years aviation has morphed from a luxury mode of transportation for the wealthy to a means of mass transportation for the general public. You’ll also see that the number of tickets sold last year was twice the number sold a decade ago.

Hitting the Limits?

Passenger aviation can only grow so much and then something has to give. The Guardian website shows the effect of aviation growth on the planet and warns of the consequences if unbridled growth is allowed to continue.

The Guardian points out that aviation growth may be thwarted by its own limitations. Many localities are resistant to airport expansions. And with over 1500 barrels of oil needed to fuel a 747 traveling from London to Singapore, our energy sources may be depleted before the CO2 emissions choke the planet.

The Future of Flight

Perhaps Planet Earth isn’t our final destination. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is now taking orders for flights into outer space. For a mere $250,000 you can buy a ticket on a commercial flight from New Mexico in the US to outer space where you can experience weightlessness.

Virgin Galactic completed its third supersonic test flight last month and announced earlier this week that it intends to launch its intergalactic passenger service later this year.

Your Thoughts

Have you checked out The Guardian’s In Flight website? Were you amazed at all of the flights currently in the air? What do you think the future of aviation is? Have you purchased your ticket on Virgin Galactic yet? Let us know in the Comments section below!

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Uber’s Digging You!

If you’re in Philadelphia and sick of snow…wait, that’s redundant. Let me start again:

If you’re in Philadelphia, you’ll be thrilled to learn that Uber, the on-demand car service, wants to dig you out of the snow this morning. A Valentine’s Day gift certain to warm many hearts, UberSHOVEL is a joint project between Uber and TaskRabbit, giving you 15 minutes of shoveling snow for $15 between 7-11am today in Philadelphia.

All proceeds from UberSHOVEL will be donated to the Red Cross to help disaster victims in Philadelphia this winter.

To order shoveling, just open up your Uber app and press the UberSHOVEL button and wait for your new best friend to arrive. Note that supplies are limited so make your request early. In addition to shoveling your snow, Uber will give you special Uber touchscreen gloves and Valentine’s day surprises from ProFlowers.com.

New Uber customers can save $20 by using the coupon code UberSHOVEL.

Find out more details from the Uber website.

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Pinterest Valentine’s Day Gift to You

Need a last minute Valentine’s Day card? Pinterest has you covered. Check out Pinterest’s Valentine’s Day card board filled with pins created by designers for you to send to loved ones.

♥ Happy Valentine’s Day! ♥

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* Airplane image courtesy of Kuster & Wildhaber Photography

* Virgin Galactic photo courtesy of Virgin Galactic

Comments on this entry are closed.

Harleena Singh
Twitter:
February 14, 2014 at 8:03 am

Hi Carolyn,

This sounds like something wonderful :-)

No, I am at the other end of the World, but I can well imagine how wonderful all of this would seem to those who are keen to see such an interactive website that shows you every plane in the air right now. I don’t know about the future of aviation, but I know the excitement to see all of this, especially all the flights in air!

Thanks for sharing this with us, and wishing you a very Happy Valentine’s Day as well :-)
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 14, 2014 at 11:01 am

Hi Harleena, Yes, In Flight is an amazing website for anyone looking to learn more about the world. The interactive features are fascinating, it’s incredible to see how many planes are in the air at one time and where they are.

Who knows, in the next 100 years maybe The Guardian will have a website dedicated to showing us flights in outer space!
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Ashley February 14, 2014 at 11:07 am

Ha, cool. I knew flights were getting crazy, but that visual is awesome!
As an Aussie, you don’t think too much about it, but in the EU! so many planes.
We even have a direct flight path late at night here, but other than that, nothing too bad.

Also cool to see Uber is helping out with the snow problems!
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 14, 2014 at 11:12 am

Hey Ashley, Yes I thought this was very interesting, especially that it used to take 10 1/2 days to fly to Australia from England. While that seems like a very long time, it’s much quicker than the time required to sail there. Perhaps in 100 years people won’t believe how long our current air travel times were!

Yes, I wish Uber covered our area. I’m not in Center City Philadelphia and was out shoveling for hours this morning. We broke three snow shovels trying to clear our driveway. I’m sure many people were grateful for UberSHOVEL and that the Red Cross was pleased too.
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Tim Bonner February 14, 2014 at 1:50 pm

That’s a whole lot of people in the air at any one time Carolyn!

It’s remarkable how few accidents there are if you consider how many journeys people make in the air.

I haven’t booked my flight on Virgin Galactic yet. I’m not sure whether I fancy that or not!

With the demise of Concorde quite a few years ago now, I wonder whether we’ll ever get supersonic passanger aircraft again?
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 14, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Hi Tim, Yes, I too thought of the Concord when I saw this. Such a shame that supersonic trans-Atlantic transportation was ended. I never took the SST but it sure would have made my many flights between the US and UK much more convenient!

Do let us know when you book your Virgin Galactic ticket, Tim. I want to see the pictures!
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Claudia February 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Wow! That is really a VERY cool website! Thank you for sharing this link Carolyn! I am not a flyer…it is a fear of mine that I am not interested in resolving at this time in my life. That said, when I see a “global” view of the countries that are connected by the technology of air travel, the adventurer in me realizes how much I am missing. Thoughts to contemplate. Thanks for a fun post!

Claudia
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 14, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Hi Claudia, Another Wonder of Tech reader commented that she was afraid of flying too. But I think this interactive website illustrates how safe flying actually is. With 1/2 million people in the air at all times the airlines’ record of safety is pretty remarkable.

The world certainly becomes much more accessible if you choose to fly. :-)
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Jeevan Jacob John February 16, 2014 at 10:24 pm

This is awesome :D

I haven’t seen any tools like this, especially not for aviation (I do know a similar tool maintained by Indian railways, for mapping train arrivals, departures and so forth. It is useful for the customers).

I am in the second part right now, future of aviation – got to watch the rest after I finish my comment!

As for the future of aviation, it is certainly bright. I do love the fact that we are investing more into space exploration (I know this isn’t directly related to the topic, but I just have to say it)…I think we should put more onto solving our own problems (I am still amazed by the amount of money countries spend on space exploration; it is certainly good news for scientists and for our species as a whole…but shouldn’t we use that money to help ourselves out? Solve the problems we have here?).

Yeah…our world is weird like that. We have so many solutions in front of us, and yet we don’t use many of them. Hopefully, the future generations will do something different!

Anyways, thank you for sharing this, Carolyn :-) Hope you had a wonderful weekend!
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 17, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Hi Jeevan, Yes, i found this website fascinating and I’m so glad that you and many other Wonder of Tech readers felt the same way. When I was writing the article my husband was flying over the Atlantic back from the UK so that was very cool, wondering which dot was his.

Yes, I covered space travel too, even though that wasn’t part of The Guardian website. There has been much debate over the budget for space travel in many countries. Many scientists reason that what we learn in space may help us solve the problems of Earth some day.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Jeevan!
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Jeevan Jacob John February 17, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Yeah, I was worried about that (when I saw this post on feedly). They should avoid revealing too much data, since there are people who would not think twice to use it, in a bad way.

Yeah, it does help…and I do like it. But, perhaps we should invest more into taking care of the problems we have here on, Earth?

Perhaps.

No mention, Carolyn :-)

Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 18, 2014 at 9:54 am

You’re right, Jeevan. The debate about where governments should spend their money will continue as long as there are governments. Many governments dedicate none of their budgets to space exploration. Perhaps private companies will be the future of space travel?
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Antoinette February 18, 2014 at 12:13 am

Just seen the Pinterest, I just know that we can post GIF.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 18, 2014 at 9:14 am

Hi Antoinette, Yes you can post GIF’s and videos on Pinterest in addition to photos.
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Thomas
Twitter:
February 18, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Hi Carolyn
I love websites like this. It is pretty awesome. I know another similar service provided by a Swedish website called http://www.flygradar.se On this website you can click on a plane and see where it is going and what type of plane it is. Check it out it is awesome :-)
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 19, 2014 at 10:38 pm

What a cool website, Thomas! I’m so glad you told us to click on the planes to get the extra flight information. This site is a wonderful complement to In Flight. It’s interesting to see where planes are flying right now. I want to come back and check this out at another time of day to see the difference. Do you know why the planes are two different colors?

Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Thomas! :-bd
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Thomas
Twitter:
February 21, 2014 at 3:09 pm

It is pretty cool. The reason that the planes are in different colors are that the data are from 2 different systems (FAA and ADS-B). The orange planes are from FAA and are 5 minutes delayed on the map. If you click on the Flightradar24 logo in the top right corner you will get more info about it.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 23, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Thanks so much for stopping back by to let us know that information, Thomas!
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Nanda Rusmana February 21, 2014 at 9:46 am

wow now there are flights into space may one day be a thing it is not extraordinary. but could be a thing, and I imagine that in the future there will be an interplanetary commercial aircraft at the nearby airport :D

Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 21, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Hi Nanda, Excellent point. 100 years ago, passenger airlines were a novelty but now they are a common way of traveling. Will space travel be common 100 years from now?
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Ray February 22, 2014 at 4:45 am

Well that is a lot of dots all over the place. I know they have radar tracking and what not, but when you see all of them on a map I am surprised they don’t run into each other.

I would definitely take a ride on Virgin Galactic’s flight to space after they have safely made the trip with real passengers a while first. I don’t think I would want to be one of the early ones just in case. Now the price is another story though. I don’t think I can afford that in my life time.

On another note the sending settlers to Mars Nasa has been talking about is sort of interesting too. Not sure I would want to now, but if I where 20 years younger I would be tempted.
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr February 23, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Hello Ray, You’re right, it is a wonder how there aren’t more mid-air collisions, especially since the number of planes in the air has grown so dramatically over the years.

Please send us photos if you do make it up into outer space. I predict, like airline travel on Earth, that the cost of the tickets will drop over the years. Whether and when it will be affordable to the average person remains to be seen.
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