Flight Radar 24
This free app allows you to track flights in real-time. It’s how we discovered the diverted United flight. You can search for flights or just browse a detailed map showing most of the world’s air traffic. Click on a plane and a box pops up with detailed flight information.
This is another great flight tracking website. What I like best about it is that you can search by airline and aircraft type. Want to know how many flights a particular carrier has underway at that moment? Just click “Browse by Operator”. As I write this there are 363 Southwest jets in the air, followed by Delta at 362 and United at 341. Click “Browse by Aircraft Type” and you’ll see that 737-800’s rule the air. There are 607 up there at this moment. Scroll down and you’ll see just two 727’s and a single DC-9. It’s neat to see who is flying rare aircraft.
This website lists all of the incidents, accidents, and crashes that happen each day. Everything from bird strikes, to blown tires, to engine failure, and worse make it on here. Sometimes there are photos. The Aviation Herald published information on the u-turn United plane a few days after the flight, and explained that problems with the altimeter prompted the crew to return to Houston.
Want to know more about the plane you’re on or find a photo of an aircraft involved in an accident? Chances are this website has an image of it. Photographers all around the world contribute photos to their archive and you can search by tail number. You can see a bunch of pictures of the missing Malaysia Airlines 777 on here.
This may seem like an obvious source, but I find that most airlines are very good about communicating with passengers and other curious flight observers on Twitter. Right after I discovered the diverted United plane, I tweeted at United and they responded:
Listen to live air traffic control feeds from around the world. This is particularly fun when you are near an airport doing some planespotting or waiting for a flight and just curious about what's happening on the runways around you. They also archive important ATC conversations, such as the immediate aftermath of the Asiana 214 crash.
Interesting news and analysis about the commercial airline industry. Well-written flight reviews and articles about trends in the industry. I check their site a few times a week.
Another great airline news source. Mostly centers on New York City, though I find there are a lot of useful stories about commercial air travel as a whole.
This one is kind of silly but I just think it's fun to see what airlines are serving their passengers. Sometimes the meals look amazing, sometimes they're pretty gross.