Flightaware and helicopters

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mgolden2

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This might be a "duh" question, but can you look on FlightAware or another similar site and see when a Police helicopter/aircraft is in the air much like how you can look up a commercial flight and track it?

Another question along the same lines, can you do this with TV news helicopter/aircraft, also?

Thanks for any information you can provide!!

Matt
 

W8RMH

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Normal airline flights as well as private planes file a flight plan from departure location to destination. This is what you are tracking.

Police and News helicopters don't follow any certain routes and thereby can not be tracked.
 

mgolden2

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Thats kind of what I thought but wanted clarification from the experts here. Thank you!
 

Jay911

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I have recently seen a police helicopter show up on flightradar24.com (an ADS-B aggregator), which is especially ironic considering the police agency in question is excessively paranoid about their comms being heard, but apparently had their aircraft Mode-S enabled for at least a while recently.

IIRC, North American aircraft are soon (within a few years) going to be required to send Mode-S/ADS-B signals (not just commercial aircraft as is the case now). At that point it's likely that tracking will be possible. But that opens up another can of worms if officials get concerned that anyone can track an aircraft's position with a $20 SDR stick.
 

MtnBiker2005

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Some of the aircraft available on FlightAware or FlightRadar24 around the United States for Aircraft Tracking or Flight tracking.

Reach Air Medical Services in California area.
http://flightaware.com/live/flight/REH1
http://flightaware.com/live/flight/REH3
http://flightaware.com/live/flight/REH7
http://flightaware.com/live/flight/REH9
http://flightaware.com/live/flight/REH11
http://flightaware.com/live/flight/REH13
etc...

Mercy Life Line Air Medical Service - Missouri state area.
http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N526T
http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N156V
http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N335ML

&

County Of Tulare Sheriffs Office - California
Aircraft: Flight Design GMBH CTLS (FDCT) (small plane) - (Equipped with ADS-B)
http://www.flightradar24.com/data/airplanes/N911TS

County Of Fairfax, Virginia
Aircraft: Bell 429 (B407) - (Equipped with ADS-B)
http://www.flightradar24.com/data/airplanes/N211FX
http://www.flightradar24.com/data/airplanes/N212FX

City Of Ontario, California
Aircraft: Eurocopter As.350B2 (AS50) - (Equipped with ADS-B)
http://www.flightradar24.com/data/airplanes/N50NT

N136MH - MedSTAR helicopter in Maryland.
Aircraft: Eurocopter EC135-T1 (EC35) - (Equipped with ADS-B)
http://www.flightradar24.com/data/airplanes/n136mh

Southern California List - Mostly with Mode-S only:

Air Medical Ambulance Aircraft Fleet in California
http://www.scanriverside.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=496

Southern California Police/Sheriff Department Aircraft Fleet
http://www.scanriverside.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=434

Some of the News Media helicopter around the countries(United States,Canada,UK,etc) equipped with Mode-S only and some don't have Mode-S yet.
If it's equipped with Mode-S you can use aircraft tracking software/Mode-S box to alert you via email text each time the Police/Fire/Medical aircraft gets in the air.

If the aircraft equipped with ADS-B and in coverage area on sites like FlightRadar24/PlaneFinder,etc.
You can use their Smartphone/Tablet/Computer Apps to alert you each time it's flying.

If the area isn't covered with ADS-B coverage. You can request free box kits from FlightRadar24 or PlaneFinder.
http://www.flightradar24.com/free-ads-b-equipment (Doesn't need a PC to run, Just plug the Ethernet & Antenna cables into the box to upload from your area)
http://planefinder.net/about/coverage/ - PlaneFinder has free boxes available. but it's required to use your personal computer.

The next step will be to MLAT aircraft via the transponder signal. FlightRadar24 will be releasing MLAT viewing later in February or March.
Info on how MLAT works: http://www.multilateration.com/surveillance/multilateration.html
 

MtnBiker2005

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jaymatt1978

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I think the medical flights on flightaware are planes, not medivac choppers. Usually organ donations and "non-emergency" transports
 

WAScanMan

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I've seen airlift helos on FR24 and I've seen our State Patrol's Cessnas on FlightAware. Just do some digging, get tail numbers. Some will be blocked and they don't always show every flight.
 

Jay911

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I've seen airlift helos on FR24 and I've seen our State Patrol's Cessnas on FlightAware. Just do some digging, get tail numbers. Some will be blocked and they don't always show every flight.
On the topic of resolving trips between Flightaware and FR24/other radarboxes, you may encounter some difficulties in getting data. It seems that in terms of non-commercial aviation, Flightaware doesn't necessarily show everything that's in the sky. A couple of examples:

- I've been trying to resolve the flights of medevac aircraft (both rotary and fixed wing) in my area to flights in Flightaware. Despite knowing the "tail number" (or "mark" as it is known in Canadian terms), few of them actually show up. The ones that do (primarily fixed-wing) go under "flight numbers" generated by the small "airline" contracted to do the flights. So you might be looking for "Smith's Air Service Flight 145" instead of your town's EMS agency's aircraft's tail number.

- With regards to helicopters in specific, the tail number/mark of the local traffic helicopter is plastered across many ads and onboard video of the machine when it is flying around doing its reports. Neither Flightaware nor my own PlanePlotter installation locate this aircraft when it is known to be doing its rounds. I get the impression that (a) Flightaware doesn't show it because there is no specific flight plan filed, and (b) they don't have a ModeS radio on the machine.
 

W0FM

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On the topic of resolving trips between Flightaware and FR24/other radarboxes, you may encounter some difficulties in getting data. It seems that in terms of non-commercial aviation, Flightaware doesn't necessarily show everything that's in the sky. A couple of examples:

- I've been trying to resolve the flights of medevac aircraft (both rotary and fixed wing) in my area to flights in Flightaware. Despite knowing the "tail number" (or "mark" as it is known in Canadian terms), few of them actually show up. The ones that do (primarily fixed-wing) go under "flight numbers" generated by the small "airline" contracted to do the flights. So you might be looking for "Smith's Air Service Flight 145" instead of your town's EMS agency's aircraft's tail number.

- With regards to helicopters in specific, the tail number/mark of the local traffic helicopter is plastered across many ads and onboard video of the machine when it is flying around doing its reports. Neither Flightaware nor my own PlanePlotter installation locate this aircraft when it is known to be doing its rounds. I get the impression that (a) Flightaware doesn't show it because there is no specific flight plan filed, and (b) they don't have a ModeS radio on the machine.
Exactly. My son flies the local County PD choppers (MD500E's). A couple years back they were asked by the chopper manufacturer to fly one of their new birds down to New Orleans for the International Helicopter convention there. He got the assignment. They filed a Flight Plan and requested "Flight Following", something they never do for routine patrol. He sent me a text that he was "lifting off for New Orleans". I punched the chopper's tail number into FlightAware and tracked him all the way to the New Orleans Convention Center. Quite a thrill. On the return hop later in the week, they had to put down north of New Orleans due to very bad weather. They took shelter at a tiny FBO in a small airport. That was nerve wracking. Then, after the storm, the chopper's tail number appeared again on FlightAware and I kept up with them all the way back here to KSUS. Once in a lifetime experience for both of us.

Terry
 

ab3a

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If an aircraft is operating in airspace, with radar or ADS-B coverage, and is not squawking 1200 (VFR) you will see it. You may not see where it came from or you may not see it once it departs that airspace when it squawks VFR, but you will see it while they're working with ATC.

For example, in the Potomac Approach region which covers everything from Baltimore MD to Richmond VA, you will see everything. However, some helicopters drop below radar coverage (not hard to do when you're 30 miles from the radar). You may not see a track in those cases, but you will see it when it climbs high enough to be seen on radar.
 
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