I know, I’ve mentioned it many times, but there may be some who are unaware: I am a geek about planes. I don’t even limit it to the fast, exciting, military ones; boring ol’ civilian airliners interest me.
Which is why I’m quite pleased with one of the small unexpected benefits of the house that TLW & I got last year: it’s just about twenty miles due east of the threshold of Runway 27L at Heathrow Airport. So most days, there are hundreds of flights heading from the Biggin Hill and Lambourne stacks and making their final turns just overhead. At any given time you’ll probably be able to see three aircraft turning final from the kitchen window.
This pleases me; what pleases me more is that the planes are low and slow enough that you can make out some details. BA and their innumerable 747s are easily distinguished by their blue underbellies. Quantas are hugely distinctive because of their tailfin, plus a lot of their flights are A380s – hardly the world’s least distinctive shape.
However, there are a great many of the flights aren’t immediately identifiable. Too many planes, shallow viewing angles and so many airlines that just paint their fleet plain white with a small logo. So help was needed.
This is where the geekery gets out of hand: I went mobile. A website exists (FlightRadar24.com) that tracks hundreds and thousands of flights in real time, and displays this over a Google Maps map. So I can look now, and I’ll see that the plane that’s just turned overhead is BD552, a BMI flight from Bergen to Heathrow; the operating aircraft is G-MEDG and it is currently doing 127kts on a heading of 270 at 4025ft. It’s followed by a BA A321 from Amsterdam and an Aegean A320 from Athens. Amazing information, and all on the desktop.
More geekery is available, though. For that website has a mobile app that is really very reasonably priced. And it does all the above, but with a little added bonus: augmented reality, wherein it will overlay the flight information onto the mobile phone screen as you point the camera at a bit of sky. So, for example, if I was to be walking the dog in the local park and spotted a plane that confused me, I could point my phone at it and get all the information I’d ever need.
This is both awesome and insane. Whereas the guy who got that screen grab says he used binoculars to see if the planes matched up, I get to use the Mk1 Eyeball. And look like a loon in the park, but considering that I always have Roxy with me I’m still not the craziest looking creature there…