Gadgets for Aviation Amateurs

This winter I took my very first paid time off (PTO) in my life after starting a job. During a period of 18 days, I have taken a total of 8 flights, both domestic and international. Being a statistician I am quite interested in numbers, and being an aviation amateur I want to view the routes I have flown. In this short post I will share three websites that I have found to be very useful.

Great Circle Mapper

The first website is Great Circle Mapper. It has been known that flights often take the great circle route. For example, even though Beijing and New York seem to have the same latitude, a plane does not fly directly on that latitude across the Pacific Ocean. Instead, it often travels over the Arctic Ocean. The website is able to visualize the routes once you put in the starting and ending airports of your trip. For example, for my winter, I would type:

Clicking on ‘Draw Map’ would give the following map, together with a series of summary statistics, such as heading, distance, and code dictionaries for airports. The map can also be customized to have different color themes, but I tend to just use the default.


flightradar24 is another website that enables one to record flights that they have taken. One very useful feature is it finds your plane’s tail number, which means you are able to locate the precise plane you took, not just the flight number or route. Unfortunately I have not been lucky enough to step in an aircraft twice in two different trips. This website also visualizes the routes like below:

It is helpful that the website allows you to export your personal data into a .csv format and do additional data analysis, although the summary statistics it provides are interesting enough. I used the exported .csv to create another visualization on GCmapper (with a little help from Python to split the strings). The plot looks quite busy:



While the previous two websites provide more like a way to record your historical trips, Flightaware is more helpful for a single trip. On its website and app one is able to track the incoming flight. When I had to take a connection, this website gave me a huge amount of help. Also, as can be seen, on the previous two websites, your trip is visualized perfectly on the great circle, which, however, is not always true. There are different routes, and they can depart from the great circle a little bit, due to different reasons such as to avoid bad weather. To see the ’true’ route that your flight has taken, FlightAware is your friend.

Final Thoughts

For now as can be seen, most of my trips are within China and US. I do hope to expand my footprints to other countries and interesting places in the future.

Yishu Xue
Yishu Xue
Data Scientist / Coder / Novice Sprinter / Gym Enthusiast

The night is dark and full of terrors.