We live a mile away from our local, municipal airport (AIK), which is just fine with me as I have always enjoyed aviation, even though I never took the time to get a pilot’s license. As I drive by the airport daily, I look and see what activity is going on and listen to the radio communications on my scanner.
Back in the old days, (like 54 years ago, give or take) we lived in Hillside, NJ, which is just a few miles away from what is now Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). Our house was under one of the flight paths and I would sit outside and watch the planes as they came to or left the airport, low over our house. I was maybe 6-7 years old and my father and I would get in the car and drive over to the airport on Saturdays and actually pull up on the grass adjacent the runways and watch the planes land and take off.
I’m not sure if it because dad was a police officer or if airport security was a little less complicated back then, but it was great fun and I remember him telling me about the “Super Connies” that we were watching. We had bottles of soda and a bag of potato chips and we just sat there, watched planes and made memories. Today, EWR, ranks #2 on the list of the worst airports in the country, bested only by New York’s LaGuardia (LGA) and these days, I doubt anyone could get as close to the runway as we did.
As those memories floated through my mind this morning, I wondered how many planes might be in the sky. More specifically how many planes were over the continental US at any given moment. Not surprisingly, the great oracle Google knew. The average number of planes in the air is 9,728 with an average of 1,270,406 souls on board. That’s a lot of planes and it takes an army of skilled pilots, crew and air traffic controllers to keep it all under control.
I then went to my FlightAware app and zoomed out on the Eastern half of the United States and took a screen capture, showing the planes that were in the air at that moment. Most of us never look up or notice what is moving above us. You can zoom in with Flight aware and see flights that are flying over you and you can tap the image of the plane and it will tell you what kind of plane it is, what company it is (if commercial), where it took off from and where it is going to.
It feeds my inner nerd.
Below is a screen capture of a close up. The blue dot is the airport and you can see that I clicked on a plane that left our airport. The box shows the “N” or registration number, the kind of plane it is (Cessna 182) and that it is at 2,500 feet up and cruising at a comfortable 136 miles an hour. The plane is the one directly below the “2,500” Based on the path, it looks like he/she is enjoying a nice ride on a beautiful afternoon.
Tracking planes (the app is free) is another way to learn something new while you are trapped at home.