Drew Vane has written a few posts for AirlineReporter.com and his most recently one takes an inside look at FlightAware.com after speaking with their CEO Daniel Baker. Many aviation fans use this tool to follow planes flying around the United States. Here is his story in his own words:

As some of you fine aviation enthusiasts may be aware (pun fully intended), a handly little website called FlightAware.com has been quietly making headlines as a source for tracking flights real-time (well, almost real time).  The site provides info on airport delays, weather, flight routes, and updated flight status.

If you have any interest in aircraft and air travel, this web site is for you.  According to FlightAware CEO Daniel Baker, ’œFlightAware was founded with the goal of providing flight tracking to pilots of general aviation aircraft in the United States.  It wasn’t long before that goal grew to include flight departments, dispatchers, airport operators, and private aircraft passengers.  We’re now involved in worldwide airline operations, consumer flight tracking of airline flights, and more.  FlightAware has over 3,000,000 monthly users of the free web site and over 2,500 commercial customers that use FlightAware in an operational or research capacity.’

South Ops in Charlotte:  Just put your cursor on an aircraft and it will give you the flight number, aircraft type, flight level, speed and origin/destination.(Image used with permission).

South Ops in Charlotte: Just put your cursor on an aircraft and it will give you the flight number, aircraft type, flight level, speed and origin/destination.(Image used with permission).

How does a simple web site get all this info?  According to the web site, ’œFlightAware compiles, aggregates, and processes data from a variety of government sources, airlines, commercial data providers, as well as FlightAware’s proprietary flight tracking network.’  In other words, its all public domain and some skilled web programmers have developed a system to let the common person see accurately where domestic (and now international) flights are headed within a 5-minute window.

Since its inception in 2005, FlightAware has added new features regularly including mobile apps.  What started as a small business with a handful of executives has grown to 25 employees with offices in both Houston and New York City.  FlightAware even has a company store and is giving something back to support Breast Cancer Research.

Although great, FlightAware is far from perfect.  Recently, I tried to track my friends flight from O’Hare to Virginia Beach which was experiencing bad weather.  After two go-arounds his flight diverted to Raleigh.  Flightaware only showed a couple loops around the airport but did not show the flight continuing on.  In addition, it showed his flight on the O’Hare departures list twice with one flight cancelled.  Perhaps this is a programming hiccup since the original flight was not completed.  The flight to Raleigh never did show up on the web site, but I wouldn’t depend on flightaware over a phone call to check on loved ones travelling.

Flightaware currently has over 1.2 million registered members and that number is growing at a rate of 30,000 to 50,000 new users per month.  CEO Daniel Baker shared with me that, ’œthe rate of airline travelers adopting the site means that it’s our biggest growth area and certainly they’ll eclipse pilots in the long term.  That said, we continue to focus on our roots and will be providing great service to the aircraft operators that use FlightAware operationally.’  With so much already to offer, and a price that’s hard to beat, I’m excited to see what this web site and business will share with us airline nerds in the future.

Here are some of my favorite links to follow of popular aircraft:
Airbus A380’s
Donald Trump’s New 757
Michael Jordan’s Gulfstream IV
Roush-Fenway Racing’s 727
Boeing’s 787 Aircraft ZA001
* The new Honda-Jet

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: david@airlinereporter.com

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I absolutely love FlightAware, it is so helpful for tracking flights for legitimate reasons, and just looking at stats. It does have errors, sometimes it will list a flight as cancelled, but the plane will end up flying it (discovered this plenty of times doing Tulip a Day kziel.tumblr.com). On a mostly unrelated note, I will be dropping by CLT for my first time on Saturday.

If you have time Kris, be sure to check out the Carolinas Aviation Museum (I hope to do a future piece on this museum). http://www.carolinasaviation.org/ I think admission is only $9 and they feature a lot of cool aircraft including a working DC-3 and US Airways Flight 1549, the Miracle on the Hudson A320 that is being restored. Also, there is a free observation area at the north end of 18C where you can watch the planes take off and land.

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