Flights of Fancy

So once again I’ve let myself get immersed in virtual distraction–though I tell myself it’s educational, and therefore okay and not, after all, a waste of time.

It is related to my deep fascination with the surface of this planet–likely the only one I will know at all well in this lifetime.

And so when I stumbled somehow across’s real-time flight tracking web resource, I was in for the better part of an hour.

First amazement is the sheer number of winged metal tubes in the airspace over the US. [ I remember now that I got to the site from a news piece about the future visualization on the site of drones! ]

You can click on any given aircraft icon (they attempt to represent the size and model of the actual machines) it will give you the origin, destination, departure and arrival times, current speed and elevation.

What is way cool is that  you can click the 3D button up top and it will have you looking down on the plane with its current terrain moving by beneath you. A small navigator window tell where the craft is in relation to major landmark cities and such.

I watched one land, and followed it all the way to the terminal. I did not, however, see anyone deplane so I hope they are not still sitting on the tarmac at Heathrow.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. There will be even more when the use of drones reaches a critical mass. Is anyone keeping track of what is happening up there? Apart from the very real possibility of collision, isn’t it inadvisable to have so much metal flying around over us? Maybe our airspace is all nicely regulated and under control, but I’m not convinced.