Hack 9. Track the Friendly Skies with Sherlock

Use the Macintosh OS X search tool or a web browser to track flights.

It always seems to happen: you need to rush to the airport to pick someone up, but you don't even know if the flight is on time. You can go to http://www.flytecomm.com/cgi-bin/trackflight to use the "Track a Flight" service and locate flights in progress and show their position on a map. You can also access this service from Sherlock, the Macintosh search tool.

This doesn't supplant the simple act of calling the airline to get the flight status, but it is pretty cool to know that when they say the flight has been delayed two hours, what they really mean is that the flight has yet to leave the ground

Sherlock lives in the Applications folder. When the main screen appears, click on the "Flights" icon in the toolbar. You are then offered a search bar, shown in Figure 1-19, where you can search for the flight by airline, flight number, departure, or arrival city.

When flights are "en route," and the data is available, there is a check mark in the chart column.

Figure 1-19. Delta Flight 1598 en route to New York

The interface is seductive, the choices opulent, and the temptation is to spend far too much time exploring the nooks and crannies of the modern air transportation system. Please note this service covers only flights to the United States when they are within U.S. airspace.

1.10.1. How Does This Work?

This tool searches the flight status information provided by http://www.flytecomm.com, which offers "Real-time flight intelligence solutions" that include flight and weather details. An interesting note is that FlyteTrax uses two different map projections: the Lambert Conformal conic projection and the Mercator projection. Both projections are conformal, meaning that lines of constant direction are shown as straight lines (over small areas). This is an important characteristic for flight mapping. The Lambert Conformal conic projection corresponds to the map image of the United States and Canada with which most people are familiar.

Unfortunately, flights do not follow lines of constant direction. The shortest distance between two points is the great circle, which would be depicted as a curved line on a conformal projection. Because of great-circle routing, an aircraft flying long distances would not be on a straight line for most of the flight. The problem with this representation is that people could be easily misled into thinking that a particular flight they are following has a problem because it is not on the "straight line" between two cities.

With projections help from Edward Mac Gillavry





Mapping Hacks
Mapping Hacks: Tips & Tools for Electronic Cartography
ISBN: 0596007035
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 172
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