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The Friendly Skies are Dammed Crowded!
By Gloria Diaz
Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!
Fort Wayne Reader
Since Iíve had time off from school, Iíve been spending more time online. Itís a cheap form of entertainment, and if it can keep me from going out in public and spending money, thatís a good thing.
You already know about my Buzzfeed.com obsession. Buzzfeed is like a warm, fuzzy blanket of optimistic opinions about a wide range of topics: the ranking of the men on The Office, lists of things every big haired/large breasted/Hispanic/Catholic girl knows, and the quizzes about what kind of wine are you and what city should you live in. Buzzfeed is total mind candy, and even though I spent several hours online researching my engaged research paper for one of my classes, I think Iím online more than ever.
Thanks to the latest Asian airline disaster, Iíve discovered flightradar24.com. This site can be both alarming and entertaining at the same time. If you obsess over airline disasters, like I do (where in the HELL IS MH 370? At Diego Garcia? Being retooled as a terrorist airliner? Itís driving me NUTS!) you can track thousands of airplanes in the sky. They can range from Boeing seven-whatever-sevens to Cessna 750 Citation Xís. You can see their flight paths and marvel at either how straight they are, or wonder why they are zig zagging across the sky. One evening, I was concerned about Air Canada 850. I found out via flightradar24.comís Twitter feed that it took off from Calgary, heading to London, but for some reason, made a right turn at Greenland to divert to Toronto. The flight path was a HUGE shark fin, encompassing the Northwest Territories and all of Hudson Bay. Apparently there was an electrical smell, causing some alarm. Because I have no life, I stayed online and followed the plane all the way down from super-northern Quebec, until it landed (safely) in Toronto. Who cares if it was past 5 a.m.? I didnít have anywhere to go that day, anyway.
Iím fascinated by this site, because it will tell you all sorts of information about the planes. For example, right now Iím following American Airlines 3605, which looks like it was going to land in Hoagland, thought better of it, flew to Fort Wayne, and is now heading back to Hoagland. I wouldnít be so concerned, but itís only 2,700 feet off the ground, and is descending at a rate of 640 feet per minute. Itís now in Decatur, turning back towards Fort Wayne. It originated from OíHare, but the destination is showing a question mark. A quick click on the Fort Wayne International Airport icon takes me to the arrivals board. It was due to land 50 minutes ago. OMG! Whatís going on? I know the latitude and longitude, I know what kind of plane it is (Embraer ERJ 145-LR) and the radar and the squawk. AnnnndÖ.it just disappeared a few seconds ago. Iím a little worried.
What can be even more worrisome is to look at the map and see how crowded the skies are. When youíre looking at a particular part of the map, the website will tell you how many planes you are looking at, versus how many are actually in the sky at that moment, and their altitude. The radar gives the impression that planes are either RIGHTONTOPOFEACHOTHER or, ďhey look, these two planes are going to collide head on.Ē You can check the altitudes of planes, and maybe itís because Iím a little paranoid, but two planes a mere thousand feet apart is enough to worry me. It also made sense that Air Asia QZ8501 wanted to climb out of the storm, but couldnít, because there were planes above it. Right now, I am looking at 490 aircraft out of 8,701 that are currently airborne. If you have the Google Earth plug in, you can get a cockpit view of that flight. The planes are color-coded: the orange ones have FAA data, the gold ones donít.
Since I have the app for my phone, some night when I am out walking, Iím going to see if I can spot a plane overhead, then look at my phone to see what it is. Iíll have to upgrade if I want to see the flight path, where it originated and where itís going. I just know Iím going to upgrade eventually.
Thereís also a feature where within seven days, you can plug in a flight number, and see that planeís flight path.
I donít know why Iím so fascinated by this site. There are certain planes which are not equipped with the computers needed to track their flight paths, according to the websiteís page about how it all works. So if youíre hellbent to see ďAir Force OneĒ and where itís going, forget it.
I guess Iím vicariously living my fascination with aviation. Iím well aware that airline travel is incredibly safe. But three airline disasters from Asian airlines in the last year freaked me out big time. I really have no desire to fly again, but if I want to visit Europe or go to Puerto Rico, Iím going to have to get on a plane. If I do, and flightradar24.com is available, Iíll be glued to the screen, watching my plane inch its way across the globe and worry endlessly about that Learjet 45 just a couple thousand feet above us. And wonder where the hell itís going.