While visiting the Los Angeles area a month or so ago, I dropped by the headquarters of MotoArt Studios in Torrance, Calif., maker of cool aviation-themed furniture and the originator of the PlaneTag, for a tour and some conversation with owner and founder Dave Hall. I’ve purchased several of his products over the years, including a polished propeller and quite a few PlaneTags, so I was excited to see his operation.
It feels like these products have been around for a long time, but Hall explained that while the idea for making keychains out of old aircraft skin came to him more than a decade ago, the tags have only been on the market for a few years.
“We had a small section of P-51 Mustang skin, and I decided to take a section and make a tag from it. I decided to call it a PlaneTag — it’s small enough to connect to a bag or suitcase, or even put in your front pocket on your keys. That first piece of aviation history sat in my pocket on my key chain for years before I actually had the sense to kick off the idea,” Hall said.
This year’s Black Friday marked the three-year anniversary of what’s become his flagship product. “We started with six PlaneTags: the 767 Gimli Glider, a 747, DC-9, A320, B-25, and a DC-3,” he said. He used the existing MotoArt mailing list, which included contacts dating back to 2001, to promote the new product to existing customers. “It was an instant hit,” he said. His online shop now lists close to 30 different types of aircraft tags, including hull No. 1 of the B-1B bomber.
JetTip makes it easy to get notified when unusual aircraft are scheduled to visit your local airport. Sure, my avgeek friends *might* have told me about this MD-80F that visited KBFI last month, but it’s also nice to be self-sufficient.
There are lots of online aviation tracking and spotting tools available to AvGeeks and folks with a legitimate business concern for tracking aircraft.
JetTip is a new entry into the spotting category, created by Nick Benson. The web app is a one-trick pony, but it does that trick really well. Once a user is logged in (and paid up, natch; it’s not free, the service costs $5/month), they’re able to select the airports they’re interested in, choose from a variety of notification options for when interesting aircraft have filed for either arrival or departure, and away you go.
The app is web-based, which means there’s not a phone-specific app. On iOS, for example, I just bookmarked the site by saving a link to the home screen, and it simply launches the site in my default browser. Easy.
A good friend was a beta tester for this app and became quite a fan. That made me curious about it, so I contacted the developer to ask for a review and I was given free access. I wasn’t actually sure that it would impress me enough to end up with a story, but it turns out that I was quite wrong about that.
I’ve been using the app for a few months now, both locally and while traveling. Here are my observations.