See What AirPlanes Are Flying Overhead with Siri & iPhone

Mar 20, 2014 - 119 Comments

See AirPlanes flying overhead with Siri and the iPhone

Have you ever seen a plane flying overhead and wondered just how high up it was, where it was going, or what flight number it identifies as? Now you don’t need to wonder anymore, because your iPhone (or iPad) can tell you exactly what flights are flying above you by way of the ever-useful iOS assistant Siri.

Siri can get the aircraft flight number, altitude, angle, aircraft type (the actual plane model like a Boeing 767-300, Airbus, or a Learjet 60, Cessna, etc), slant distance in mileage, and even a nice sky map showing where the sun or moon is in relation to the flights, helping to place them out in the sky. All of this comes courtesy of Siri’s connection to WolframAlpha, but the data itself is provided by something called ADS-B, an FAA tracking technology aimed at increasing flight safety and efficiency. And now you have access to that data in the palm of your hand thanks to Siri and the iPhone, how cool is that?

How to Show What AirPlanes Are Flying Above You with iPhone & Siri

To get flight sky data for your current location and for other locales, just ask Siri the following type of questions:

  • Show me planes flying overhead
  • Wolfram planes overhead
  • What airplanes are flying above me?
  • What airplanes are flying over San Francisco right now?
  • What airplanes are flying over the Grand Canyon?
  • What airplanes are flying over [location]?
  • Which planes are overhead right now?

If you live in an area with a lot of air traffic, you’ll find the angle in degrees and the sky map data particularly handy, both can help to determine which plane is which using some additional visual cues. The sky map is visible by scrolling all the way down through the Siri response:

See flights over a location with Siri

Or you can get overhead flight information for distant locales, just in case you’re wondering who is enjoying a view of some particular landmark or location:

See airplanes flying above with Siri on the iPhone

Use this to quell your own curiosity, satisfy your inner flying nerd, discover which plane is leaving those long vapor trails behind them, debunk some chemtrail or UFO speculation, or maybe help to answer which of the planes flying above you is the one with inflight wi-fi that your buddy is iMessaging you from. This seems to only work with traditional planes and aircraft, and when testing it out with nearby airborne helicopters they did not seem to show up for whatever reason. Whether or not this works outside of the USA remains is not entirely clear, but because the data arrives from the FAA it very well could be US-only, or at least a regional thing depending on your country.

By the way, this works on all iPhone models as long as Siri is enabled and location services are enabled, and the device has an internet connection. Sometimes you have to adjust the language a bit, but Siri will use your location to ping WoframAlpha for flight data near you and offer the details accordingly. It absolutely works, so if you are having troubles getting the flights to show up, try adjusting your language a bit, asking Siri to ‘show me flights overhead’ for example.

Mac users without Siri don’t need to feel totally left out, if you get flight information sent to you through email you can use Mail app to track flights with the accompanying Dashboard widget. Not quite the same, but still convenient and interesting.

Whether you’re a fan of flight or just curious what planes are in the skies above you, now you can know in an instant. This is fun little find from Wolfram Alpha and CultOfMac.

Looking for some more interesting or useful Siri tricks? Don’t miss our Siri archives, we’ve got plenty of things you can do with the smart assistant.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks

119 Comments

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  1. Saman says:

    Doesn’t work in Iran,either

  2. Tricia says:

    I’m 90 miles south of O’Hare. There are 5 planes stacked on top of me and others various distances away!

  3. Sherrie says:

    Hey siri what planes are flying overhead.. it worked and I am out in the Mojave desert . California

  4. Debbie Rosales says:

    “Debunk” Chemtrails! 😆 Do aviation personnel really think civilians think these are “vapor trails?“Anyone from Southwest, Alaska airlines or anyone else who is spraying our skies better watch out for themselves and their families. We’re coming after you.

    • Om Rom Sih says:

      Debbie, this is an article about using Siri and the iPhone to see what planes are flying overhead, it is accessing airline and flight data to accomplish this. This is not a conspiracy discussion. Your comment is so bizarre it must be a joke. But here is some unsolicited advice; don’t threaten anyone, let alone post your threats onto public forums on the internet.

  5. Susan says:

    Works here in MO. We live right under a well travelled flight path, but have a few planes that seem “stuck” midair? Lol. They’re ALWAYS there above our house, incognito I guess. They NEVER actually fly, regardless of what time of day, they show up as being just above our house. One is always 10,000’ and the other is 800’ ???? They must be good at hovering and cloaking. Hahaha! I’d like to know what makes a major airline show up as “stuck” in midair?

  6. Ojas says:

    Doesn’t work here in India

  7. Henna says:

    Doesn’t work in the U.K. iPhone company should get there facts right and tell people it does 😏

  8. Safitri Nafiah says:

    Work in Yogyakarta, Indonesia ! 👍🏻

  9. Ganesh says:

    Did not work in Nepal

  10. Overtly covert says:

    One can identify military planes very easily I have some air force and army ranger family sand close friends whom may or may not be employed bro by CIA or other initial oriented sec agencies

  11. Troy says:

    I am an air quality control professional on the biohazard industrial sector, I promise the stuff the trails behind an aircraft for more than a few hundred feet is NOT a con trail my kind friend! However I know for a fact that these chemical aluminum and crystallized “salt” for pinocytosis withing h2o surface tension and absorption release rates from the molecules of h2o is not at all being watched. Is oversite and the biodiversity that is being negated from the query nor of the equating variable per sit rep standards ” no oversight or safety watch pertaining to civilian and animal . Farmland and fruit Roos and these modalities effects on the afformentiin issues🌧This is a cloud

  12. GypSeaShelle says:

    Doesn’t give info on military planes, I wonder why…lol…would be useful living near a base…

  13. Manoj Malik says:

    Doesn’t work here in India

  14. William says:

    Doesn’t work in Puerto Rico

  15. David says:

    John benerba, you are another conspiracy theorist retard!

  16. Alayna says:

    Doesn’t work in DFW TX

    • wrong says:

      I use Siri to see planes fly overhead when I am curious.

      This feature works everywhere in the USA to see planes flying overhead. You are doing it wrong.

  17. James Harrison says:

    Another example of UK inferiority. Like so much else, this fails to work in “Great” Britain but from what I read here works just fine in Great America. When will the UK ever catch up or do anything remarkable technology-wise?

  18. Mahesh says:

    Doesn’t work in India.

  19. Dell says:

    Works in Houston Texas 😎

  20. Phil says:

    Doesn’t work in the UK!

  21. Tom says:

    It works here in Hammond Louisiana 40 mile from New Orleans. U.S.

  22. Steve says:

    This did not work here in ATL, the home of the world’s busiest airport; if it doesn’t work here then I don’t see why it would work anywhere. I’ve tried every phrase mentioned in this thread and all I get are web search results.

    • Wona Beo says:

      This works fine to locate planes flying above you, I just used it right now and was able to identify a plane overhead. You need to have location services turned on, otherwise it will search the web for results instead of looking for planes in the nearby sky. It’s through Wolfram Alpha, the feature is always there.

  23. Steve says:

    This did not work here in ATL, the home of the world’s busiest airport; if it doesn’t work here I don’t see what would work anywhere

  24. MrApollo says:

    Doesn’t work in UK

  25. SB says:

    As someone above said, you have to specifically say “SHOW ME WHAT PLANES ARE FLYING OVER ME RIGHT NOW” otherwise you get web searches! The “show me” part is the key!

  26. Shukla says:

    It’s not working in afghanistan.how does it work actually.plz anybody can reapply me?

    • Hunch says:

      Shukla, it works fine in most parts of the world. Siri works everywhere too. But, for finding planes, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that if this is not working in Afghanistan it’s because some of your fellow countrymen are not exactly friendly or peaceful individuals. Maybe if the humanitarian and political situation calms down it would be possible.

  27. Jimbo says:

    Doesn’t work in indonesia zzzzz wth

  28. Danial says:

    Its not working over here in dubai

  29. Victor says:

    You have to turn off the bing search results located in settings under siri for it to work.

  30. Ryan says:

    Make sure location services is on and Siri location services too. Mine never worked until I turned Siri location settings to on “while using”

  31. JoE says:

    It works good in Scappoose Oregon. I think it’s cool to see comments from people all over the World. I love you.

  32. Por fri rice says:

    I think I just shipped my pants

  33. Por fri rice says:

    I’m in America it works fine for me on the east coast.

  34. GJ says:

    If it works, pleace specify what iOS version you have. It looks to me the function was deprecated in iOS 8+, but please prove me wrong ;)

  35. Pjodox says:

    Never worked here (United States)

    • rngo says:

      Works fine in the USA, just did it right now. Maybe where you are located in the United States has no planes flying overhead at the moment?

  36. Vip says:

    Doesnt work in Brunei! 😔

  37. Katie says:

    cell data being on also effects whether or not it works.

  38. Laís Souza says:

    Doesn’t work in Brazil 😔😭

  39. Karan says:

    Doesn’t work in China

  40. Ian says:

    I am working in western Canada but live in Nova Scotia, and it has worked for me even when asking about other locations such as Toronto. All you have to do is say “Ask Wolfram what flights are (overhead, above Toronto, above New York, above San Diego, above Chicago)” . These all worked for me just now. Nothing for the UK though.

  41. Edwin says:

    What happens if you get a web search instead?

    • berni says:

      Then you get a web search and you can look up the planes overhead flying through the WolframAlpha website. Siri should give you the data on the iPhone, but if you get the web search, use WolframAlpha directly, it works as well.

  42. Nazeer says:

    Not working in Malaysia. Even with Location setting turned on.

    Iphone 5s iOS 8.1.3

  43. Marcelo Possebon says:

    Does not work in Brazil too! Goes to a search on the web,…

  44. Adrian says:

    Does not work in Australia. Sick of the’US’ only’ features

  45. Lorie says:

    Works in Yorba Linda CA.

  46. Kahminkemmy says:

    Does now work in Malaysia

  47. Moana Vaa says:

    Doesn’t work in New Zealand

  48. SpaceDuck12 says:

    Dosent work in Lithuania :/

  49. Olivia says:

    Not working in China :(

  50. Conor says:

    Works in Massachusetts

  51. Doug W. says:

    Does not work in WV or Ohio. Location Services for Siri is on.
    Using iPhone 5S and IOS 8.

  52. kenny says:

    Doesn’t work in South Africa. All I get is a web search😔😢. Would’ve been great thou.

  53. Justin says:

    Doesn’t work in Cumbernauld, Scotland. Just a list of web addresses

  54. Thomas says:

    Doesn’t work in the netherlands the only results are web search results

  55. Jon says:

    It just won’t work.

  56. Fardinrad says:

    It’s not working in Iran .

  57. Stephen Mos says:

    I tried this, siri’s location is on, and I get directed to this site. I can not get information on overhead flights.

    This is in NJ, USA.

  58. Yancy says:

    I’m assuming (they) yanked that functionality for security reasons. The data is still available if you know where to look but they’ve made it a lot harder for anyone to just whip out an iphone & figure out what planes are flying above any given moment.

  59. Pat O says:

    It works in Muskegon people😜

  60. Tracy says:

    This does not work in Maine. I have asked Siri using the exact wording in this article and all she returns is web searches

  61. Squints says:

    Yep, just web search results

  62. Squints says:

    This does not work at all on Apple iPhone

    • oMGer says:

      Squints, it absolutely DOES work to see what airplanes are in the sky as identified by their FAA flight number, that’s why this article exists. In fact, this is an article about using an APPLE iPHONE with SIRI to see what planes are flying overhead. This is an article that describes how to use this feature http://osxdaily.com/2014/03/20/see-airplanes-flying-overhead-siri/

      Some regions don’t support the feature, you can contact your local FAA office to inquire about that. Be sure you are speaking correctly following the instructions too, if you ask the wrong question it won’t work.

  63. Carver says:

    Doesn’t work in the mid Atlantic states near Dulles. Used to work now only produces web results.

  64. Fran says:

    Is not working on my 6+ iOS eight. All I keep getting is web search queries. And then she told me “I cannot do this for you” and then the other response I got was “I am not allowed to do this for you, my apologies.” So maybe they blocked Siri from doing this for security reasons? All I know is whenever I ask Siri any questions I get all kinds of screwed up responses. I think my Siri is malfunctioning or she’s been smoking crack.

  65. Brian says:

    Ok so it appears Siri properly interprets the phrase “show me what planes are over my head right now.” Omitting “show me” produces a web search instead. However I can’t seem to modify the working phrase to include other places, like the Grand Canyon or Boston.

  66. Brian says:

    So what’s the proper command du jour, bright eyes? “Siri, pull my teeth?”

  67. Tim Lee says:

    Worked for one day

    • Hasy says:

      Siri works all the time to identify overhead airplanes in regions that are supported, which is basically all of the USA and Canada, whoever has the FAA tracking flights. What’s critical is that you must use the proper command with Siri, and Siri must have location service access, saying the wrong command will cause Siri to search the web instead, as will not having location services enabled. For that reason, it works best on the iPhone, though you could probably do it with the iPad too.

  68. Dan says:

    Doesn’t work anymore. WTF

  69. Historysmith says:

    Not working in San Jose, CA with iOS 8 location services on. Disappointing.

  70. Reese says:

    Not working St Louis MO iPhone 6, just Web search. #siriSucks

  71. Paul says:

    Not working for my 4s on ios 8. I’m in St. Louis, Missouri, United States

    If it did, I would be using this all the time….it’s a really cool feature!

  72. Jason Mitchell says:

    And I’m using iPhone 6

  73. Jason Mitchell says:

    Not workin in Boston. Only get web search!!

  74. Johnny says:

    Ontario Canada iPhone 6 Plus iOS 8.0.2

    It is not working on this phone, however it did on all previous iPhones i owned, 4s, 5 and 5s.

  75. Weediewacha says:

    Doesn’s work in Belgium

  76. Herbert Richard says:

    You have to turn on the Location for Siri specifically after turning on the general phone Location.

  77. David Haskett says:

    Doesn’t work in North Florida.

  78. HoustonBeerMan says:

    ‘Location’ on, still doesn’t work for me in Jackson Hole, WY

  79. Deddy says:

    Does not work here in Indonesia and also Malaysia…..anybody from South East Asia has a success so far ? Sigh #airlinesnerd

  80. Derfgis says:

    doesn’t work here in the Philippines

  81. Kilo says:

    Doesnt work in chicago

  82. Cindy says:

    Privacy>Location setting fixed it… per Chris’s email… Thanks! We have a lot of streaking here so I want to check it out

  83. Joey says:

    It’s not working here in Brazil also. :(
    Anyone from Brazil had success?
    Even with location service active…
    Thanks

  84. Erin says:

    I’m here in Tokyo, Japan. I turned on my location services for Siri (they were actually already on anyway, so I just double checked them). I’m still only getting web searches.

    I guess it doesn’t work for Japan, then?

  85. Chris says:

    It wasn’t working for me turned on location service for siri and it works, iphone 5 in kelowna BC canada. Pretty awesome was feeling left out lol. Now that the funs over on to the next find.

  86. William says:

    Jenna..turn on your location and it will work…had the same problem

  87. Jenna says:

    I’ve tried every phrase possible, and siri just tries to web search what I said every time. I tried the same phrases on my mom’s 5S(I have a 5) and it worked for her but not me. Any ideas? My iOS is updated to the latest version.

  88. jayse says:

    doesnt work here in BC Canada. took me to a web search….

  89. Martin says:

    Not working in sweden yet.. =(

  90. David S. says:

    Doesn’t work in Sydney Australia. I wonder about the Indian Ocean though…

  91. chris says:

    Didn’t work in Manchester, UK.
    Would have been useful.

    Chris

  92. David Wilcox says:

    All I got was a listing of where people thought MH370 was. :-(

    Does this work in Malaysia?

    David.

  93. Chuck says:

    Doesn’t work in Stillwater, OK – all I get is a website search.

  94. Ken Schmidt says:

    Does not work in Paradise (Playa del Carmen Mexico)
    Ken

  95. katbel says:

    P.s. at least you know where your readers are from : )

  96. katbel says:

    Doesn’t work in western Canada either, sigh

  97. Kevin says:

    Another US only tip. Could you give us something that we can all use please?

  98. Simon Lawson says:

    Doesn’t work in the UK. Siri just returns the results from it’s Bing web search. You can still ask about flights over US airspace.

  99. Gerrit Snel says:

    Did not work in the Netherlands. Basically only got web search results back. Even choosing WolframAlpha from one of the options, did not give results line the ones shown above.

  100. Tomgi says:

    Doesn’t seems to work for the MH370 Boeing 777.

  101. John Benerba says:

    Haha – debunk those chemtrail “specualtions”. At least the rest of the article was accurate and factual. One day people will clue into chemtrails. Progress can be slow ;)

  102. Mandy says:

    Definitely works in Eastern Ontario Canada. Super cool. My kids love it.

  103. Bharath Krishna says:

    Didn’t work here in India

  104. Nevin Williams says:

    It seems to work in Canada…

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