Make SpotterLead Great Again! Major Updates #1 of 3: Flight Schedules

Yaay! We are extremely proud to announce release of 3 major updates to our planespotter timetables which will make it even more useful. We are going to publish announcements gradually during following few days not to spam you a lot 🙂

Today we are going to give you an overview of the most anticipated update of our system since quite a long while.

Flight Schedules

Before now we always aggregated flight data from various sources like airport sites providing live updates for flights. However, delivering flights for each airport is time-consuming (why?) and available time range is often limited to 24 hours ahead, so we were always looking for a way to provide better awareness of aircraft movements in more airports at lesser costs without going into usage of expensive APIs (which would certainly make us to make our service commercial).

Flight schedules as any other timetable gives you a more overall look on flights but without providing live updates.

By utilizing free-of-charge Yandex Timetable API we managed to introduce a sub-system that allows to retrieve schedules for any airport without spending enormous amounts of time on creating and maintaining individual per-airport data polling algorithms. We just add a record about airport into a database and that’s it: flights are picked up automatically and become visible on a designated planespotter-timetable page as well as they did for airports with live updates!

Pros

  • Adding new airport is extremely fast, henceforth allowing increasing airport coverage dramatically.
  • Ability to provide much longer flight data lookup in future (currently it’s 3 days, but soon we are going to gradually increase this limitation).
  • Flights from schedules may be gracefully integrated with flights which are updated live, so all the airports having live updates now have automatic support of timetables. You also can see schedule flights on the same planespotter timetable page as previously for your airport – you don’t have to look for them separately!
  • As a consequence of previous two advantages: flight search page now able to display information about flight combining data from live and non-live sources with a lookup of up to 3 days ahead.

Cons

  • Data might be not as precise as for airports with live updates and also may be obsolete as Yandex gets this data from its partners which are not always punctual on updates, so schedules might be used to estimate aircraft movements approximately, but not more than that.
  • There are no live flight updates for flights retrieved from schedules: schedules are not updated according to actual flight status. Exception is only for airports which also have live updates (Flights Live) implemented. In this case, scheduled flights would be automatically updated with a live status as soon as this information appears on airport site.
  • We still have to respect usage of the Yandex Timetable API as well as we should respect current performance limit of the servers, so we cannot instantly add all of the airports of the world, but we are going to gradually increase the number of airports and simultaneously optimize operationability of our system.

Airports with Flight Schedules

All the 200 of live airports we had before are now equipped with flight schedule support.

Moreover, for testing purposes we also added 36 more airports, which are listed below:

  1. Los Angeles (KLAX / LAX)
  2. San Francisco (KSFO / SFO)
  3. Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta (KATL / ATL)
  4. Chicago Chicago O’Hare (KORD / ORD)
  5. New York John F Kennedy (KJFK / JFK)
  6. ReykjavĂ­k Keflavik (BIKF / KEF)
  7. DĂŒsseldorf (EDDL / DUS)
  8. Hannover (EDDV / HAJ)
  9. Tallinn Lennart Meri Tallinn (EETN / TLL)
  10. Maastricht Aachen (EHBK / MST)
  11. Groningen Eelde (EHGG / GRQ)
  12. Dublin (EIDW / DUB)
  13. Riga (EVRA / RIX)
  14. Vilnius (EYVI / VNO)
  15. Paris Charles de Gaulle (LFPG / CDG)
  16. Paris Paris-Orly (LFPO / ORY)
  17. Hurghada (HEGN / HRG)
  18. Tokyo (RJTT / HND)
  19. Athens Eleftherios Venizelos (LGAV / ATH)
  20. Kerkyra Island Ioannis Kapodistrias (LGKR / CFU)
  21. Milan Malpensa (LIMC / MXP)
  22. Rome Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino (LIRF / FCO)
  23. Istanbul AtatĂŒrk (LTBA / IST)
  24. Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen (LTFJ / SAW)
  25. Tokyo Narita (RJAA / NRT)
  26. Moscow Zhukovsky (UUBW / ZIA)
  27. Kaliningrad Khrabrovo (UMKK / KGD)
  28. Arkhangelsk Talagi (ULAA / ARH)
  29. Barnaul (UNBB / BAX)
  30. Yakutsk (UEEE / YKS)
  31. Anadyr Ugolny (UHMA / DYR)
  32. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Yelizovo (UHPP / PKC)
  33. Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (UHSS / UUS)
  34. Abakan (UNAA / ABA)
  35. Omsk Central (UNOO / OMS)
  36. Norilsk Alykel (UOOO / NSK)

Please keep in mind that these airports have schedules only supported. Live flights updates are not available for these!

You can find you planespotting timetable in its previous location by choosing your country on the main page of SpotterLead: https://spotterlead.net.

How do I know now which timetables / flights live and which are just scheduled?

That’s a good question. For distinguishing those we use a special icon: feed, which means that whatever content you are looking at, it has live updates. And if there is no such icon: it’s a static (scheduled) data.

Although we tried to make usage of this indication as clear as possible, it might confuse you if you got used to the old look of our service. Here we would like to give some explanation of how it works on actual examples:

tutor1
“Live” indication on the main page
tutor2
“Live” indication on the country spotting page
tutor3
“Live” indication on the airports per country page
tutor4
“Live” indication on the flight search page
tutor5
“Live” indication on the planespotting timetable page
tutor6
“Live” indication on the planespotting timetable page

 Conclusion

That’s roughly it. We hove you will enjoy this new feature as soon we are going to add much more airports. Stay tuned and tomorrow we will tell about another major update we introduced to these planespotting timetables (the most attentive users might already noticed it on our screenshots).

See you tomorrow 🙂

200 Airports Supported Now! Gdansk Airport and Rotterdam the Hague Plane Spotting Timetables Added

200 Supported Planespotting Timetables

We are excited to announce that we added two more live plane spotting timetables in Europe reaching the total number of 200 supported airports worldwide! These airports were added following our users requests.

200 Supported Planespotting Timetables
200 Supported Planespotting Timetables

If you want your airport to be added to our timetables, please contact us.  It’s free of charge.  We extend our network to meet planespotters’ wishes. All the flight information is published on our site in good faith and without requiring payment for it. But please keep in mind, that sometimes we are not able to support certain airports (Why?).

#199. GdaƄsk Lech WaƂęsa Airport (GDN / EPGD)

Planespotting timetables: https://spotterlead.net/EPGD/live

 

Danzig Lech Walesa Flughafen
Original of “Danzig Lech Walesa Flughafen” by Joergsam. Shared under CC BY-SA 4.0

 

Gdansk Planespotting Timetables
Gdansk Planespotting Timetables

~3.7 millon pax annually
1 runway
Dominating airlines: Enter Air, WizzAir, RyanAir, LOT Polish Airlines

#200. Rotterdam the Hague Airport (RTM / EHRD)

Planespotting timetables: https://spotterlead.net/EHRD/live

Rotterdam The Hague Airport terminal
Original of “Rotterdam The Hague Airport terminal” by Ralf Roletschek. Shared under GFDL 1.2.
Rotterdam the Hague Planespotting Timetables
Rotterdam the Hague Planespotting Timetables

~1.6 millon pax annually
1 runway
Dominating airline: Transavia

 

Aircraft Types and Airlines Normalization

There was some while since the latest update at SpotterLead. However, we didn’t waste our time and applied our efforts to implement a new and very important improvement to our system: aircraft types and airlines data normalization.

What does it mean?

It’s fairly simple (but not the simplest thing to implement, so far). As soon as we index data from various airport sites we are extremely dependent on the way how these sites describe such things as aircraft, airline or city names.

For instance, one airport can describe KLM as “KLM“, another one may alter it as “KLM Royal Dutch Airlines“, third one might have “K.L.M.“. The same picture was observed with aircrafts: “Boeing 737“, “B737“, “B73H“, “738“, “Boeing 737-800“, “BOEING 737NG“, “Boeing 737-800 (winglets)“. You could finish up with lots of text variants describing one and the same thing! It makes it quite inconvenient to use search on our Flight Live pages especially if you use it for more than one airport page on a regular basis. On this page you need to enter “B73H” , on another – “Boeing 737” to filter flights you want to see. Quite hard to keep this in mind, isn’t it?

Equal Aircraft and Airlines Naming for All the Flights Irrelevant of the Airport

We analyzed millions of flight records we retrieved so far and with the new data normalization mechanism we’ve added, now in 95% of cases you don’t have to worry about the problem as soon as now you are going to have one and the same naming for the absolute most aircraft types and airlines for all the flights tracked from all of 198 currently supported airports.

Our database is set to perform automatic updates of airline data and aircrafts, so we are going to improve it even more gradually.

We also normalized all the naming for historical flight data starting from the 1st of September, 2016. These changes might be found on our Flights Search page.

What’s Next?

This is basically just one of the stages of data normalization, and we’re still looking into possibility to apply normalization for airport names which now are still stored as plain text.

We’ll keep you posted as usual. Stay tuned and enjoy plane-spotting with SpotterLead!

 

 

+3 New Planespotting Timetables: Toulouse-Blagnac, Kiev Boryspil, Dnipropetrovsk

We are excited to announce release of Flights Live the planespotting timetables for 3 airports requested by our users:

  1. Toulouse-Blagnac, France (LFBO / TLS)
    ~7.5 millon pax annually
    2 runways
    ~260 aircraft movements daily
    Additionally, there is a spotter guide for this airport available on SpotterGuide.net.
  2. Kiev Boryspil, Ukraine (UKBB / KBP)~7.2 millon pax annually
    2 runways
    ~220 aircraft movements daily
  3. Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine (UKDD / DNK)
    ~0.35 million pax annually
    1 runway
    ~16 aircraft movements daily

 

Flights Live: Traditional Departures & Arrivals

Flights Live – is our key feature that displays arrivals & departures in planespotter-friendly way. It groups flights into intervals and gives you a clear vision of peak hours during the following 24 hours.

However, for a sake of higher diversity, we’re adding a more traditional view to Flights Live page, which displays arrivals and departures as ordinary tables (as all the airports do). To switch to traditional view you need to switch round button with the icon of list:

Traditional arrivals - Flights Live
Traditional arrivals – Flights Live

You may see it on every Flights Live page of any of 195 supported airports. This feature is in preview currently, so updates are quite likely.

Swedish Version

Spotterlead.se

Today we have some really great news for our users in Sweden: we are introducing Swedish localization for SpotterLead. If you’re using Swedish version of internet-browser, you may expect that language will be changed automatically for you. However, you’re always able to desired language in a small dropdown with country flags at the very top of any page.

Swedish version of the site is also available at a dedicated domain: https://spotterlead.se

For translation to Swedish thanks a bunch to Samuel Andersson – our new project contributor! We are very grateful for enthusiasm and readiness to help demonstrated by Samuel and looking forward to future collaboration!

9 Airports in Portugal (+4 new)

We have finished updating flight aggregation algorithm for Portuguese airports, so all of them again have Flights Live feature available. Moreover, 4 new airports is added resulting into total number of 9 for all the Portuguese airports on SpotterLead. These are:

  1. Faro (FAO)
  2. Lisbon Portela (LIS)
  3. Ponta Delgada (PDL)
  4. Porto Francisco de Sa Carneiro (OPO)
  5. Funchal Madeira (FNC)
  6. Horta (HOR)
  7. Flores, Santa Cruz das Flores (FLW)
  8. Porto Santo, Vila Baleira (PXO)
  9. Santa Maria, Vila do Porto (SMA)

>> You can see these all here: https://spotterlead.net/pt 

Portugal Flights Live Features

  • Data precision: media
  • Flight data provider: airport site
  • Aircraft data provider: Yandex Timetables API
  • Codeshare/operator flight specified by airport: yes (code-share flights currently not retrieved)
  • Aircraft registrations available: no
  • METARs available: yes
  • Current runways usage: predicted
  • Update interval: normal (7-8 minutes)
  • LiveATC link: depends on airport
  • Planespotter Guide link: depends on airport
  • Airport Twitter: depends on airport

Please keep in mind, that now all the Flights Live planespotter timetables have a nes mobile version, so you can take it with you! Enjoy planespotting with SpotterLead! 🙂

Planespotting Guides

SpotterGuide.net has very nice planespotting guide for Lisbon Portela, Funchal Madeira and Porto Francisco de Sa Carneiro. You may find it useful to review them to find a better location.

Why You Don’t Support My Airport?

Quite often we have questions from users about why this or that airport is not supported yet by Flights Live feature, and we would like to give sort of an answer with a short technical explanation.

Specifics of our project is that usually there is a reason to have an airport rather than not to have it. Flights Live the planespotting timetables – is a core feature of SpotterLead. It operates like any search engine like Google or Bing: it crawls airport sites and represents data found in a planespotter-convenient way.

But unlike Google or Bing, each airport (in some cases, group of airports) is being served by an individual flight data aggregation algorithm and requires lots of attention: each one should be developed, tested and, what’s more important, constantly maintained throughout its lifetime. The more airports you have, the more often these airports change its sites.

For instance, now we have Portuguese airports pages inoperational because airports changed their site and our aggregation algorithm stopped working. It automatically means that a new algorithm should be created, and it might take few days.

And this happens constantly.

Moreover, not all airport sites may be crawled within a reasonable way and time limits. For instance we are still not able to support Paris airports, Dusseldorf, New York JFK or Rome. It’s all a subject of individual research and we currently have not enough hands to provide a rapid grow of our coverage and to keep it live.

We also not yet able to use any universal API for live planespotting timetables (what could potentially solve this problem) as soon as these are extremely expensive for a small non-profit niche project like SpotterLead. Introducing this will make us to charge users and charge a lot, what we want to avoid ideally.

However, we have already had to add some advertisements on our site to cover at least some part of maintenance costs. And we would really appreciate if you won’t block it 🙂

And, of course we keep working on a project and looking for possible solutions to resolve problems described above. Meanwhile we are continuing to improve site itself, add new airports exclusively and develop some new features.

How you can expedite adding your airport? Well, you can send us a message via support form. We have quite a long queue of airports, so the more of

Stay tuned and enjoy your planespotting with SpotterLead! 🙂

 

Mobile Version

Some users noticed that recently we refused of obsolete dedicated mobile version and started to adapt desktop version to mobile screens by improving responsiveness of the design.

So, it happened 🙂 We finished adapting the last and the most important page of SpotterLead: Flights Live. You may now see all the peak hours and all the flights as well as you do this in normal desktop version. And now, we also support swipes! You can open any interval clicking/touching it on a screen and switch to next/previous by swiping left/right respectively.