Since June 2017 I'm running a Twitter Bot that tweets when an aircraft squawks the ICAO reserved codes 7700 (emergency) or 7600 (radio failure). The 7500 code (hijack) is not tweeted due to various reasons. Information about what a squawk is can be found here.
Please note that not every 7700/7600 squawk is really an emergency. Often the code is typed in by mistake, or a radio failure might just have been a typo in frequency numbers. Do not take action (e.g by calling the police) solely based on a squawk code, as this code is meant to provide information to air traffic controllers.
My bot is meant to provide early information to aviation fans, so that you can track a probably interesting flight. You can track the flight via any data source, by typing the registration and/or callsign information provided into some search box. There is also a FlightRadar24 track link included, but it is not guaranteed to work (as FlightRadar24 might change data structures).
Flight XYZ disappeared from radar! Has it crashed?
Since I started this bot, this has been the most asked question, but I never had this in my FAQ so here it is now.
In (almost) all cases: NO!
What you see on sites like FlightRadar24 is not actual surveillance radar data (with few exceptions), but mostly transponder (ADS-B/FLARM/MLAT) based data. By nature, this data is neither accurate nor available at all times. Especially aircrafts tracked over MLAT tend to "disappear" at low altitudes. Somtimes it also looks like the flight landed outside of the airport, but it actually landed normally on a runway.
Please see the FlightRadar24 pages for more insight: https://www.flightradar24.com/how-it-works and https://www.flightradar24.com/faq
Additional write-ups about emergency squawks can be found in many places, just a few examples here: In-flight Emergencies from a Pilot’s Perspective and An Air Traffic Controller’s Perspective on In-flight Emergencies .
Flight XYZ has it's flight path all over the place! It's not flying any straight lines! What's wrong?
This is a common effect with aircrafts tracked over MLAT. Basically, same as above, aircraft tracking over MLAT is possibly inaccurate. It often causes wrong position calculations which lead to an inaccurate or jumping flight path.
The actual aircraft follows a normal flight path (with smooth curves and straight headings), but due to tracking inaccuracies it looks different on your flight tracking website. Only Air Traffic Controllers see the "correct" flight path.
This issue disappears with aircrafts migrating to ADS-B capable transponders. The inaccuracies with ADS-B tracked aircrafts are much smaller (errors can still happen, but are less likely) - as a result the flight path looks a lot "cleaner". ADS-B is currently in the process of becoming a worldwide standard in every aircraft, which means that tracking should get better every year.
Where does the bot get its data from?
I cannot provide details, but data is collected via various feeds, mostly ADS-B based. One data source is https://www.adsbexchange.com/ (it's a great site!). I constantly try to get more feeds into the bot for worldwide coverage and data reliability.
Where can I get data about an emergency?
I usually don't have any data about the flights, my bot just posts the squawk codes when received by a source. It's generally a good idea to see if you can find the flight on LiveATC and then listen to the pilots and/or controllers. Again, please do not panic if an emergency flight appears to behave abnormal - it's usually just small things like a passenger feeling unwell.
There are also various spotters out here on Twitter who tweet about ongoing emergencies.
For events that are more in the past (e.g yesterday, past week), The Aviation Herald writes reports about many incidents and accidents.
There was an emergency, but it didn't show up as a 7700. Why?
Because pilots do not have to squawk 7700. It depends on airline, country, ATC and nature of the emergency if the flight crew squawks 7700. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Additionally, an aircraft might be out of receiver range (coverage) or has other issues like old transponders.
I want to ask you something!
It's probably the best idea to do that via Twitter. (You can also try to PM the Bot account).
Oh, and one last thing: I'm not making any money with this bot, there are no affiliate links or ads anywhere. I run this bot solely for informational purposes. Anyone is free to archive the tweets of the bot or use them for statistics or so. I can provide a list of all tweets upon request.
Last update: 29.09.2019