Planespotting: A Guide to Tracking Aircraft Around the World

The term plane spotting refers to the act of tracking an airplane. While there are certainly some aviation fanatics who do this as a hobby, trainspotting is an important tool to have as the act has helped significant discoveries in investigative work. Over the years, trainspotting has helped people see suspicious trips being made by Russian oligarchs to Africa and the Middle East,  jet making suspicious trips to the Middle East and Africa, helped politicians make important points on private planes being used by the Hungarian president and other world leaders, exposed rendition flights by the Turkish government, followed the travels of government officials, aided in the discovery of military operations, analyse aircraft incidents, kept track of corporate executive movements so as to keep them accountable and more. Here in this article, we will go through the basics of plane spotting and how they work.

Method to Find and Track Aircraft: 

There are various methods that people use to find and track aircraft. One method is by simply looking at the unique markings that all aircraft should have. These markings will usually be in the same alphanumeric order which indicates its country of registration as well as the identity of the specific aircraft. There is also another number on the aircraft that is known as the registration number, located near the tail. The registration number is painted at least 12 inches high for better visibility. The prefix that is on these serial numbers consist of a few letters identifying the country of registration, which is then followed by a few numbers and or letters that are specific to one aircraft. Most if not all aircraft follow this same pattern of numbers, with the military aircraft being an exception as they use a different ID system

Along with this serial number, all aircraft use another unique address known as the HEX code (also sometimes known as the S mode). These letters and numbers are based from a 24- bit address that is given to different governments by the ICAO, or the International Civil Aviation Organization. Knowing these tracking numbers is a great way to identify aircraft, but in order to bolster this task, many people will use tracking systems to better their search and tracking of aircraft around the world.

When airborne, a plane can be followed in a few different ways. The most modern framework that is currently being embraced universally, is the method of using a radar based system. There are different forms of this including "primary" radar systems that recognize and quantify the surmised position of an airplane utilizing reflected radio signs. There is also "secondary surveillance radar" which depends on a procedure in which data is transmitted back from every airplane when it gets a radio sign. The reaction contains ID data (the ICAO hex code) but not data on the airplane's height or location. That can be resolved when the transmissions are received in multiple areas. These are consolidated through a procedure called multilateration (MLAT) to appraise the situation of the airplane.

If you want to find out more about such plane spotting tactics in regards to the aircraft tracking system devices, get in touch today with our team. Our company is composed of specialists who are prepared and astute in their fields. We have more than six billion parts and components, including new, old, and obsolete parts. Along with experience, our specialists are professionals and capable, and it's through their work that our organization has earned an AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA 0056B Accredited. Here at Fulfillment by ASAP,, we are glad to offer exclusively sourced parts from competent and certified manufacturers. Our team is expertly able to fulfill the obligations of customers, and convey top level items to clients in a timetable that is quick! 

At Fulfillment by ASAP, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all the unique parts for the aerospace, civil aviation, and defense industries. We’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at email or call us at +1-714-705-4780.


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