Using data from the Federal Aviation Administration, knowledge engine Wolfram Alpha is making it easier to learn about all of those planes flying over your head at any given time. If you've ever seen a plane soaring through the sky and thought about its destination or its place of departure, this is the tool for you.
The broadest and possibly the most whimsical way in which Wolfram Alpha's FAA data can be used is with the search query "flights overhead." Wolfram Alpha will then provide you with information on just that - all the flights that are currently flying over you head (with a small 5-minute delay due to FAA restrictions).
If you're on a mobile device, then it will use your location data to pinpoint exactly where you are and give you the most accurate portrait of the flights in your area. If you're searching from a desktop, it will do its best to pin a location from your browser.
The "flights overhead" query gives you a list of all the flights that could technically be seen from your location (on a clear day of course). Not only that, but it lets you knows things like the plane's altitude, flight angle and model as well as provides a sky map for the more visually oriented folks out there.
You can click on any of the flights listed to find out more information about them like departure time and location, destination time and location, flight capacity, flight altitude over time, and even the history of that particular plane (previous flights). Right now, the Pittsbirgh Jet Center flight 79 that's flying over my head left from Dupage Airport in West Chicago and is en route to Charleston, South Carolina. It's a Cessna citation CJ3 with two jet engines and is carrying anywhere from 3 to 9 people. Cool huh?
The blog post about this new feature talks about some of the more practical uses, other than just knowing about the planes flying in your vicinity. One of the cooler uses of the information is to find out exactly where you were when you took that picture from your window seat. Once your plane lands, you can plug the time of your photo, along with the flight number, date, and airline information into the engine. This will give you a pretty accurate description of what you were flying over when you snapped your mid-air shot.
Since all the info comes from the FAA, this real-time flight search will only work with planes having at least one stop in the U.S.
I guess it will always be fun to look up in the sky and imagine where a plane is headed and where it came from. You can then begin to imagine the people on that plane, and their lives, and why they are headed to wherever they are going. It's a daydreamy type of activity, but one that tons of people have done, I assure you.
Now, if you want, you can know for certain where those sky ships are headed.