How does work?

Plane Finder has a global network of data feeds and radars that receive data broadcast directly from aircraft. The primary technologies used are ADS-B and MLAT. We also include data feeds from the FAA and a glider feed (FLARM).

See how Plane Finder works for a detailed explanation and more information.

Back to top

How can I find the flight I’m looking for?

The simplest way to do this is to type the flight number or callsign into the search field at the top of the screen. For example typing BA14 will list all British Airways flights that begin with BA14. If the flight you are looking for is listed just click it to track it live.

The flight may not be currently tracked so look further down the list and select the flight to view previous tracks in playback.

Back to top

Why can’t I find the flight I’m looking for?

There can be many reasons for this. It is possible that the aircraft is not yet in the air or has landed. Departure times are from gates so it could still be sat on the ground! Many smaller and older aircraft are not yet carrying the required transponder equipment so are difficult to track. Another reason could be that the aircraft is currently over an ocean or land area not yet covered by the 1,000s of receivers on our network.

See how Plane Finder works for more information.

Back to top

Can I see flight history on

Yes. All the way back to April 2011 – for free!

There are a couple of great ways to do this. For a global or regional view just select the Play icon on the top right of the screen and use the controls to set the date, speed, time etc.

Alternatively you can replay flights directly from our database archive. Just go to Explore and Database to use Search. Selecting your flight number gives a whole page of information, a playback screen and prior flights to view.

Back to top

Why is the difference between the orange and red planes on the map?

The red aircraft in are our primary ADS-B, MLAT and glider feeds. In addition to these we take a delayed feed from the FAA. These are the orange planes and are shown when we are not tracking via our live feeds.

Tip – Set up one or more filters to add or remove these feeds.

Back to top

Why can I see some planes but not others?

Many smaller and older aircraft are not yet carrying the required transponder equipment so are difficult to track. Our MLAT technology can overcome this and is constantly being developed. This will help us to track even more aircraft types.

See how Plane Finder works for more information.

Back to top

Why do aircrafts disappear from the map?

This happens when aircraft go out of range of our receiver network. Typically this will happen over the large oceans or at low altitudes near airports without a Plane Finder receiver.

Back to top

Why can’t I see any planes in my area?

This happens when we don’t have a feed or receiver in your location – or maybe one of our feeds is down for maintenance. Please let us know via [email protected] and we’ll try our best to cover your location.

Back to top

Can I help with coverage?

We really appreciate the help we get from data sharers and antenna partners. Please see our pages on sharing and coverage for more information.

If you have an ADS-B receiver you can get our latest client software from our sharing section.

(Don’t forget to ask for free apps if you can use them!)

Back to top

I see that already includes premium features for free. Do data sharers and partners get anything extra?

We do try to make as much free to use as we possibly can!

Shares and partners can use the website free from adverts, receive free apps and get to see some pretty cool stats and information via our software client and sharing sites.

Back to top

Why is the route information wrong or not included?

The flight number and route are not transmitted by the aircraft. At Plane Finder we operate a large and ever changing database to match up the callsigns, flight numbers and route schedules. Many airlines also help us by sending their data.

There are many reasons that can mean we don’t show the correct route. For example the aircraft is not flying a scheduled flight, our data is out of date or we do not have the latest seasonal schedule for the airline.

Back to top

What is the difference between the callsign and flight number?

Airlines usually have two codes used throughout the industry. A three character ICAO code used for operations, air traffic control etc and a two character IATA code used for passenger activities such as ticketing. In its simplest form an airline, say Qantas, has an ICAO code or QFA and an  code of QF. So flight callsign QFA9 will typically be flight number QF9.

Back to top

I don’t recognise the callsigns and can’t match my flight – why?

The Qantas (QFA/QF) example above is easy. The aviation industry is sadly not always so simple!

EasyJet (EZY//U2), Ryanair (RYR/FR) and Thomas Cook (TCX/MT) for example use their ICAO code on tickets and don’t bother with their IATA code!

So for easyJet try searching for U2 on if EZY does not work.

Another complication is that Traffic Control, especially in Europe, may also have issues with similar sounding callsigns. To overcome this we might see a British Airways flight using an alphanumeric callsign instead of one that has the same number as the flight number.For example in Summer 2015 callsign BAW38AV actually matches to flight number BA638.

Next summer or winter season this might well be a different callsign and/or flight number!

At we work hard to overcome these challenges but hope this helps explain why you might not always find the flight you are looking for!

Back to top

What should I do if I can help callsign matches, routes or new aircraft details?

Please contact us at [email protected] and we’ll let you know the format and information we need. Airline schedules or callsign can be emailed to the same address.

Back to top

Why did you show an aircraft land in a field next to a runway?

We all take GPS for granted these days so it is surprising that this can happen. Sometimes we see this due to faulty and/or very old transponders in the aircraft. In this case the same aircraft will regularly “miss” the runway!

Sometimes we see all planes landing in a field on the map next to an airport! This is usually because the runway has been built on the field since Google last mapped and photographed the area!

Back to top

Why does show planes flying past the airport when I know they landed?

We try our best to plot aircraft accurately on a map using real time data. By default we estimate positions between receiver transmissions. Usually this is for a brief period but if we do not get another transmission our estimations can project the aircraft past where it actually is. This feature can be turned off.

Back to top

Why can’t I see photographs for all planes?

Our photograph database is rapidly expanding. If you have a photograph you would like to see in Plane Finder, you can easily upload it via the Pinkfroot website. All photographs are attributed to the author within Plane Finder and we run regular competitions for the best photographs.

Back to top

Further Reading on Air Traffic Control

We’ve created some documents that explain how aircraft navigate and are managed by Air Traffic Control.

Read about the Visual Flight Rules used by pilots.

Learn more about how Air Traffic Control manage the busy global airspace.

Back to top