If you have followed by for long enough, odds are you’ve seen me share screenshots of certain flights from all over the world. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “how do I find these flights?” this is going to explain how that is done with enough detail that you will be able to do it yourself! If you’d prefer to watch a YouTube video, then you’re in luck as I have a video available on my YouTube channel that explains the same process here.
Without further adieu, let’s get into this.
The very first thing you’re going to want to do is, figure out what you’re going to want to find when tracking flights. If you’re someone that wants to track military flights, you’ll need to use specific websites, however, if you’re someone that wants to track civilian flights, and occasionally track military flights, there’s other websites that are perfect for that as well. Do not worry, as you can bounce between websites depending on what you’re wanting to find.
The first website we’re going to be using for this is FlightRadar24. This website is perfect for beginners as there isn’t much setup required, actually there isn’t any setup required period. Just open the website, and start looking at various planes. This website isn’t focused towards finding military flights, so there isn’t any filtering that you can do to locate them, however sometimes you will come across a military flight.
If you’re someone that wants to look at both civilian and military flights with as much coverage as possible, FlightRadar24 is definitely going to be your best option, as you’re able to see both kinds of flights, and have the coverage that FlightRadar24 offers throughout the world. But, if you’re someone that wants to see more more military flights and isn’t concerned with getting a little bit less coverage, then the next two websites are going to be absolutely perfect for you. PlaneRadar.ru and ADSB-Exchange are two websites that I use almost daily whenever I’m trying to find more information on a flight.
If you’re looking for simplicity, then ADSB-Exchange is definitely going to be the best website for you to use. That doesn’t mean PlaneRadar.ru is difficult to use though. It just offers a little bit more that ADSB-Exchange might not offer because of said simplicity.
Now that you’ve figure out which website you’re going to be using primarily, let’s get that website setup and ready to go. I’ll be starting with PlaneRadar.ru for this. Open PlaneRadar.ru, click the “OK” box if you’re prompted with a pop up, and then click on “Menu” which is displayed on the top left of your screen. From there, select the Russian text with the Russian flag to the left of it. Then, select “English” and select which form of English you prefer. If you don’t speak English you can find whichever language you speak listed there. Great! Now the website is in English, and you’ll be able to adjust some of your settings and filters a little bit more easily.
Now, you’re going to need to adjust some of your filters so that you’re able to see only what you want to see. Click on the “Menu” tab again, then click “Options”, then select “Filters”, and from there, you’re going to click “Enable filters”, and then click the drop down and select which filter you’d like. If you want to see just military flights, select the “Military” filter and click “Add Filter”. The filter you add might not have automatically been selected so you might need to check off the filter you’d like. Another interesting filter you can use is “Interesting” which will filter out all flights that the website doesn’t consider to be interesting. Sometimes you’ll come across some really neat aircraft!
Adjusting units and your view
As someone living in the US that is familiar with miles, miles per hour, inches, etc, I’ll have to adjust my units. In order to do that, you’ll need to go to “General” under your options, and adjust the units at the bottom of the pop up window. We’ll move onto “Map” and adjust what we need to in there. Under Map, typically I don’t adjust anything, however, depending on what you need to do, you can adjust things there. Next, you’ll need to adjust some things to your liking in “Aircraft”. I select “show for all aircraft” under Aircraft Trails occasionally. Aircraft Details is totally up to you, it’s all dependent on what you want to see when you’re on the site. The same goes for “List”. It all depends on what you want to see.
ADSB-Exchange is a very simple platform to use. If you’d like to see military flights, simply click the “U” at the top of your screen and it’ll show you military flights. If you’d like to see civilian flights and military flights, just don’t click it. If you hover over one of the buttons, it’ll display what it does. For example, if you hover over the “T” button, you’ll see that it’ll tell you it’s for showing all tracks of aircraft, which sometimes is something that I’ll enable.
Next to the T button, you’ll see the option to select different maps. Personally, I’m a big fan of dark mode so I almost always select “carto.com dark_all” so that I get a nice dark map that is easy on my eyes, however that is totally personal preference and dependent on what you’d prefer.
If you’re stumped on what an aircraft does, or what it’s purpose is, I heavily recommend Googling the airframe and the operator. I.e, if I see there’s a Boeing E-6B Mercury over Texas, and I’m not sure what that aircraft does, I’d google “E- 6B Mercury US Navy” and I’ll instantly get results for what that aircraft does. I cannot stress enough how useful Google is for these kinds of things.
And just like that, you’re all finished. If there’s any questions you might have regarding this, please do not hesitate to reach out to me on social media for some assistance. My Twitter DM’s are always open, and my Discord is always available (Doge #1337).