I'm looking at some flights in FlightAware. With the scheduled air carrier flights, their call-sign can be crossreferenced with a flight schedule database to determine the origin and destination. How are they populating the origin and destination fields on small Part 91 IFR flights being conducted by a Cessna 172?

Do they have some sort of access to the Aeronautical Message Handling System (AMHS) or Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunications Network (AFTN). If not, how else could they be receiving this data?

In reference to the possible duplicate question, it's unclear to me if the term "flight data" in the context of that thread is in reference to the near real-time (NRT) flight track flight data, or a more robust data set which includes the details of a flight's route, as filed and/or cleared.

Normally that type of flight plan routing data is transmitted over the AFTN/AMHS. It would be very very interesting if the FAA is integrating AMHS flight plan FAA data into the ADS-B/SSR flight track data.

Whilst I doubt know for sure, I’m relatively certain the flight plan routing data is integrated with track data by air traffic management (ATM) system and available to ATC personnel. What I need a better understanding of is how and at what point that integration occurs.

Is it an automated process occurring upstream or is it entered manually by the ATC personnel? If it's automated then is it AFTN/AMHS data or another source? If FlightAware is receiving this data, is it included as a single feed our do they have a separate feed? If the flight is scheduled, assuming the majority of origin/destination information results from callsign/ flight schedule cross-referencing, if either sources routing information conflicts with the other, which has primacy?

I concur that I understand the 5 minute FAA track feed delay was eliminated, but I don’t have a source to confirm.

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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of this thread. The FAA publishes all IFR data in real time (to industry need-to-know companies called "tier one"), and "tier two" businesses like FlightAware can purchase this same data at a 5-minute-delay-output. $\endgroup$
    – Jimmy
    Mar 26, 2017 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Jimmy I believe that time delay is now omitted. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Mar 26, 2017 at 22:25

2 Answers 2


My understanding is that the FAA publishes these data via the System-Wide Information Management (SWIM) suite, specifically the SWIM Flight Data Publication Service (SFDPS) and the SWIM Terminal Data Distribution System (STDDS).

SFDPS allows consumers to receive real-time data for analytics, business processes, research, and other activities. ...
SFDPS provides consumers with access to National Airspace System (NAS) en route information by providing the following services:

  • En Route Flight Data Publication & Query

This information is collected and disseminated automatically; individual controllers have the responsibility of ensuring flights are marked as "departed" if the radar system does not automatically recognize them as having departed, but that is the extent of any human interaction required.


The data that FlightAware first receives for most commercial flights is sometimes delivered a year in advance via schedules published by the airlines. That data then usually remains unchanged until a few hours before the flight. Pilots or air traffic control operators controlling airspace on the route of flight will push out new data with a flight plan that provides specific details about the planned routing, altitude, and speed of the plane. But that’s where the static data end and the real-time data begin.

“When the door is shut and the parking brake is released by the pilots, the aircraft or airline will send us an ‘out’ message that indicates it’s pushed back from the gate, and we know that departure is imminent,” says FlightAware’s Baker. “As soon as the weight is lifted off the landing gear, we often get an ‘off’ message from the airlines or the aircraft itself that indicates the plane is airborne or a departure notice from air traffic control.”

Once en route, FlightAware continues to get position updates from the plane via radar installations at air traffic control centers and via ADS-B, along with continued updates on the plane’s route from air traffic control. All of this information is then fused together by FlightAware’s software, which uses it to determine the plane’s estimated time of arrival, and then displays the aggregate data for the flight on its website and in its apps.

“We detect the landing either by seeing the plane slow down below flying speed, by getting an ‘on’ message from the airplane, or by receiving an arrival notice from air traffic control. From there, we may have surface coverage to track the taxiing on the ground, and eventually receive the ‘in’ message from the airline indicating it’s safely parked at the gate,” says Baker.

Now multiply all the above steps by the thousands, or one for each plane in the sky across the world at any given time, and you’ll begin to appreciate the amount of data that fight tracking websites’ servers and algorithms are crunching each and every second.


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    $\begingroup$ Welcome! SE doesn't work this way, you cannot only copy-paste. This is possible, but only to illustrate your own answer (and the source must be cited). $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jul 22, 2017 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ Well, it answers the question so why retype it? I added the link... $\endgroup$
    – blackswan
    Jul 22, 2017 at 21:02
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    $\begingroup$ This does not actually answer the question, because this talks about receiving something “from the airline”, which may work for “part 121” (airline) and “part 135” (commuter and on-demand) operations, but there is no “airline” in “part 91” operation, i.e. general aviation. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Feb 4, 2020 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ They don't have the flighplan data but can calculate dep and dest by ads-b positions. It's fairly easy... $\endgroup$
    – blackswan
    Feb 5, 2020 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ Your last comment answers the question. Your borrowed "answer" does not. $\endgroup$ Sep 20, 2022 at 23:50

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