FlyteTrax


Background

FlyteTrax is a product of FlyteComm, Inc. (www.FlyteComm.com).  The version of the program used here is FlyteTrax 2002, a Windows-based program for displaying the geographic location of airborne IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) air traffic anywhere in the FAA air traffic system.  The program can overlay the traffic with a wide selection of maps such as, geo-political boundaries, air traffic control center boundaries, high altitude jet routes, satellite cloud radar imagery.

On start-up, the program connects to the FlyteComm server through the Internet and receives the current database of air traffic activity.  Once the initial database is downloaded, aircraft movement messages are directed through the Internet to the FlyteTrax 2002 program once a minute.  For most customers, the actual data is delayed by five minutes for security reasons.

FlyteTrax 2002 has two major parts:  the Flight Table Manager (FTM) and the FlyteTrax 2002 Display (TRAX).  The FTM receives the individual aircraft movement messages and checks to assure that they are valid and complete.  Once the flight is found, the status and position of the flight is updated.  If an existing flight cannot be found for a message, it is assumed that the flight has just originated and new flight record is activated.  Information is updated in the flight record as aircraft movement messages arrive.  The entire database is searched and each flight's position is updated every minute. 

Updating of Flights

FlyteTrax receives a radar position report on each aircraft once every 4 minutes when they are in the ARTCC (Air Route Traffic Control Centers) airspace.  The system receives a radar position report every minute for aircraft within 40 miles of the destination or departure aiport.  If the system goes for 7 minutes with no position report, a hollow depiction of an airplane is shown to let you know that the position of the aircraft is based on dead reckoning from a radar position received more than 7 minutes ago.  The dead reckoning system is based on the last radar position report, the established ground speed at that position report, and the direction established by the prior two position reports.  The aircraft's depiction will become solid once a new radar position is received.

Reports of flights over oceans are issued only when crossing every 10 degrees of longitude and can be as much as an hour apart.   Therefore, most of these flights will appear dead reckoned (hollow).  The Aircraft Situational Display for Industry (ASDI) system is only in operation for the United States and Canada.  As more countries make their flight tracking data available, ASDI coverage area will continue to expand.

Weather Information

FlyteTrax can also display weather information. This weather information consists of a national radar mosaic with 1 kilometer resolution and 48 colors.  The 48 colors represent 16 colors of liquid precipitation or rain, 16 colors of mixed precipitation, and 16 colors of solid precipitation (snow or ice).  The radar mosaic is updated every 15 minutes, beginning 5 minutes past the hour. The satellite cloud cover imagery is also provided.  This image is 1 kilometer by 1 kilometer in resolution and is updated hourly.  The image is received on the half hour for the current hour.  The half hour delay in receiving the image is due to the processing time necessary by the data provider, Data Translation Network (DTN).

Map Projections

FlyteTrax offers two different map projections, the Lambert Conformal conic projection, and Mercator projection.  Both projections are conformal meaning that lines of constant direction are shown as straight lines (over small areas).  This is an important characteristic for flight mapping.  Although there is some area distortion in these maps, the use of an alternative projection could have resulted in the depiction of a straight flight line as a curve.  The Lambert Conformal conic projection was used for the animations because it corresponds more to the depiction that most people have of the United States and Canada.

Time and Time Zones

All times used in FlyteTrax 2002 can be displayed in either Universal Coordinated Time (Zulu time) or Local time (12 hour AM/PM) based on your geographic location.  The current time is depicted in the lower-right corner of the screen.  The Central Time zone was for all of the animations depicted here.  This means that the time is one hour behind for Eastern Time zone locations, one hour ahead for Mountain Time locations, and two hours ahead for the Pacific Time zone.

Commercial and General Aviation Flights

FlyteTrax 2002 displays commercial or general aviation flights, or both together.  Commercial flights are all scheduled airline flights and any other aircraft operator who has a designated FAA three-letter operator code.  Any charter operator or on demand operator may request and obtain an FAA three letter operator code if they have no less than six flights a day.  With an operator code, the aircraft operator files his flight plan using his operator code and a 2 through 4-digit trip number that he assigns to the flight.  GA (or general aviation) flights are those flights that file using their aircraft registration number rather than an operator code.  These aircraft are primarily private or company owned aircraft not operating for hire.  In some instances, these aircraft owners have requested that their registration number be blocked so that they cannot be identified.  In those instances, the data tag with the aircraft will show a call sign of "GA" instead of the registration number.  When fights are displayed on a background in excess of 1000 miles across the screen, the flights will appear as dots.  As you zoom-in to less than 1000 miles across the screen, the flights will become small aircraft icons. Each icon will be headed within 20 degrees of the direction the aircraft is flying.

Data Tags and Filtering

Data tags can be displayed for individual aircraft.  The display includes the flight number, the aircraft, the departure time, the arrival time, the remaining flight time, the altitude and the speed of the aircraft.  This feature has been disabled for most of the animations.

Flights may be filtered in one of a variety of ways using the filter dialog.  For example, to display all United Airlines Boeing 767 aircraft flying between 30,000 and 40,000 feet in red that departed Chicago and are arriving in Los Angeles, the following is done:  A. In the Depart field ORD is selected from the scroll down list;  B. In the Arrive field LAX is selected;  C. In the Operator Code field UAL is selected for United Airlines;  D. In the Aircraft Type field B767 is selected for Boeing 767 aircraft;  E. In the Minimum Altitude field "300" is entered;  F. "400" is entered in the Maximum Altitude field; G. Click on the color box and select the red color box; and H. Select OK to display the filter.  A second filter can be added to the first by simply clicking on the Add New button to display a new filter input dialog box.  Multiple filters can be created using this method.

Flights are randomly colored by airline when selecting either arrivals or departures.  This means that the color assigned to each airline will change between the different animations depicted here.


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