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Today I observed a strange flight on Flightradar24, a helicopter departing HAM and traveling at altitudes up to 29000ft and speeds up to 547kts which seems to be way beyond the specifications of a helicopter.1

The altitude and speed were quite constant on this level between Hamburg (ATD 16:15) and Frankfurt (about 500km from Hamburg, after 30 minutes flight) and then it began descending and slowing down. flightradar screenshot

The details in normal resolution for better readability:

enter image description here

About 17:00 the symbol didn't move anymore and the helicopter was now down on 2875ft and 177kts near FKB (Karlsruhe Baden-Baden) and then disappeared.

I checked the registration and is indeed the Agosta Westland AW139 shown on the picture.

Does anyone have an idea how this could be. Usually, the data on Flightradar seems to be reliable, but a helicopter at 547kts seems odd.

flightradar screenshot

1. According to Wikipedia the Agosta Westland AW139 can travel up to 306km/h (165kts) and has a service ceiling of 20000ft.

edit: speed was 547kts, not 247, added image with details.

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    $\begingroup$ FlightRadar data can have erroneous readings, I would not assume that it is correct. I would chalk this one up to bad readings. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Dec 18 '17 at 21:24
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    $\begingroup$ In addition to what mins said, in that area and altitude today @17:00 there were ~90-100 kts of tailwind. $\endgroup$ – Federico Dec 18 '17 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ Obviously, the data is wrong, helicopters can't do this, you have explained it nicely yourself. What's the actual question? $\endgroup$ – Sanchises Dec 18 '17 at 22:03
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    $\begingroup$ Wonder if it might be an issue with the Mode S registration -- somebody's database has a typo in it, perhaps? Can you pull up other flights in FlightRadar24 of that same aircraft and see if they also look more Falcon-ish, or if everything else looks more like a helo? $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Dec 18 '17 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ FR24 is great but every so often there are bugs like this. I’ve heard of people making complaints based on what they’ve seen on the website, even reporting a missing aircraft (which had simply dropped out of their coverage). Rest assured that the real ATC has much better data than what’s on FR24! $\endgroup$ – Ben Dec 19 '17 at 1:05
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@mins answer contains good information, however the conclusion that the mistake is in the Flightradar 24 database is not correct.

It is not Flightradar 24 that has a database error:

30040D IS I-PTFT it is NOT I-MOFI F2TH I-MOFI is miscoded on one box and using 30040D incorrectly. I-MOFI is 30047D please change it back! Why was it changed in the DB when I-MOFI was correct in the DB, I thought miscodes were not allowed anymore?

What this says, is that the 24 bit Aircraft Address (a.k.a. the Mode S address) 30040D belongs to the aircraft with the registration I-PTFT.

The registration I-MOFI has the 24 bit address 30047D, but the quote says it is miscoded on one box (transponder).

Flightradar 24 receives the Aircraft Address with the ADS-B messages from the aircraft and uses the database to find the aircraft associated with the address.

From the screenshot it can be seen that the address they receive is 30040D. In their database, this is correctly linked to the I-PTFT helicopter.

Flightradar 24 screenshot from original post, highlighting the aircraft address 30040D

The fault is with the aircraft with registration I-MOFI; it transmits the 24-bit address 30040D while it should have transmitted 30047D. The transponder has the wrong 24-bit address encoded into it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for that anwer! Turns out to be a more interesting case than I thought yesterday. So the transponder just uses this adress as an id and the registration and a/c type and other data are feteched from a database, right?!. Isn't that a serious thing that should be fixed asap? Isnt't it important for ATC? $\endgroup$ – jps Dec 19 '17 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ It should be fixed, it is important to ATC, but is is not as serious as you might think. The 24 bit Aircraft Address is not used for aircraft / flight identification by Air Traffic Controllers. $\endgroup$ – DeltaLima Dec 19 '17 at 16:26
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Based on this discussion at FR24, mode S transponder addresses 0x30047D and 0x30040D were not associated with the correct airframes (as @Ralph early suggested).

30040D IS I-PTFT it is NOT I-MOFI F2TH I-MOFI is miscoded on one box and using 30040D incorrectly. I-MOFI is 30047D please change it back! Why was it changed in the DB when I-MOFI was correct in the DB, I thought miscodes were not allowed anymore?

Due to this address mistake when the aircraft is fetched by the tracking site, the wrong aircraft appears (I-PTFT instead of I-MOFI).

The actual aircraft is I-MOFI, a Dassault Falcon 2000:

enter image description here
I-MOFI at Salzburg Airport W. A. Mozart, photo by Karl Dittlbacher

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