delara news Delaware Amateur Radio Association, Delaware OH   VOL 36 NUMBER 10

Jet Trails

Wally Kenyon  W8WLK


I recently came across an article in a magazine about a website where you could track aircraft as they travel  from one place to another. The website is called FlightAware at  You can put in an airport prefixed with a KCMH for Port Columbus which is now called John Glenn Columbus International Airport. Or, you can pick an aircraft model and see how many are airborne at this time.  Let me back up a little and explain how this is done. Aircraft for years have had a radar identification device called a transponder. As a radar beam from the ground would sweep the aircraft it would trigger the transponder to send out a burst of information that would return to the radar antenna site and the aircraft information would give the controller the code the aircraft was sending out (called squawking). Later on something called Mode C was added to the transponder to give the controller it's altitude. An aircraft without a transponder or with a malfunctioning one does show up on a radar screen but only as a blip. With no identification, there is no way to tell what kind of plane it is or it's altitude and it could even be a flock of birds. Enter a new transponder called an ADS-B Out which all aircraft that plan to fly in virtually all of the controlled airspace need to have by 01Jan 2020. There is an ADS-B In but I'll leave that for another discussion.  ADS-B Out doesn't wait until a radar beam hits it to report. It sends it's GPS coordinates and altitude out constantly to any ground station that can pick it up. There are many benefits to this technology, one of which is an aircraft below, in weak radar coverage or is out of radar coverage (to low or out of range) will now be displayed to the controller. This is a great achievement for the FAA for it makes  flying much safer. Enter FlightAware.  They use a network of ADS-B receive sites linked together to provide much of the same info right to your computer at home, a tablet, or even a WIFI connected phone. The other day I noticed an odd sounding buzz coming from the sky. I looked up and saw a very interesting turbo-prop aircraft called a Piaggio P.180 Avanti. It's interesting because it is one of only a couple models of turbo-props in the world that have their engines reversed on the wing in a pusher configuration.   I quickly accessed my smart phone's internet function, went to FlightAware, typed in KCMH and voila.  I not only have the air traffic near KCMH but all of central Ohio which I could expand to cover the US if I wanted to. (Which would pretty hard to see on a smart phone.) I matched up the aircraft's position relative to Port Columbus and learned that it was indeed an Avanti and it had departed OSU Airport and was going all the way to the Wilmington southern Ohio. Pretty cool! But I saved the best for last.   How about if you wanted to participate in the FlightAware program and send them aircraft data that you received at home. No problem! Go to  and you too can add to the accuracy of the program. You will need a receiver and a FlightFeeder box, an internet connection, and a few other items and you can get involved and have a lot of fun along the way.  
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