Online flight tracking is a great resource for travelers and flight instructors alike. Websites such as FlightAware and flightwise are frequently used by friends and loved ones to watch the progress of airplanes enroute to their destinations. And if you don’t wish to actively track the flight, you can set up alerts that update you on the progress of the flight. These online resources help you plan for when it’s time to head to the airport to pick up the traveler.
For a flight instructor, flight tracking is a great tool as well. I always make my students file a flight plan for their required solo crosscountry flights and as long as they remember to activate the flight plan I can follow along as they fly or get the reassurance with an alert that they arrived safely at their final destinations.
This service eliminates the need for the students to contact me to let me know they’re safe. While I always like to debrief my students after a flight, some students may prefer to take some time to digest their performance prior to discussing it with me. There is already so much to do at the completion of the flight, such as closing the flight plan, securing the airplane and paying for the airplane rental.
But like so many things, the wonderful resource of flight tracking can be abused. Celebrity airplanes can be tracked by paparazzi and companies can track their competitors’ airplanes to glean information. Last year’s BARR (Block Aircraft Registration Request) battle, in which the FAA determined that only airplanes that could prove a security threat would be able to block their registration numbers, was fortunately successful, thanks to the hard work of organizations such as the NBAA and AOPA.
While the FAA is still developing the final procedure for blocking registration numbers, aircraft owners wanting to shield their airplanes from public tracking can do so through the FAA’s Aircraft Situation Display Industry (ASDI) program. If you feel the need to block your registration number from tracking, you can send an e-mail to [email protected] or mail your request to FAA ASDI Blocking Request; ATO System Operations Services, AJR-0; Wilbur Wright Building, Room 3E1500; 600 Independence Ave SW; Washington, DC; 20597.
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