See What AirPlanes Are Flying Overhead with Siri & 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:
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:
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.
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.