This morning I was working in the office when the noise of a very low aircraft – not something we normally get in Dublin 8 – caught my attention.

The first place to turn whenever anything unexpected happens is, of course, Twitter. This relies on somebody in the know having already shared some information with the right hashtags and geotags, which doesn’t always happen.

When dealing with aeroplanes and helicopters, there is a much better resource: Flightradar24. It’s available for free as a website and an app, and it shows a live map of all aircraft movements happening around you.

In this example, it showed me straight away that there was a helicopter which had been circling in the area for 15 minutes. I could see that it was registered to the Irish Air Corps, and that it had taken off from Casement Aerodrome near Citywest. I could also see that it was less than 700ft in the air, which is indeed very low. Suddenly, a quick observation is starting to gain a lot more substance.

Finding the helicopter is now a lot easier [Credit: Louise Nygaard]

A good piece of advice would be to note down the flight’s registration as soon as possible. This means if you lose it or want to come back to it later, you can easily do so using the app’s search engine.

Flightradar and Journalism

Flightradar has a long history as a journalists’ tool, but normally it’s only brought out when there has been a major air incident, or when a commercial flight has had to change its route.

Its graphics can actually be used to illustrate a whole range of stories. For example, evidence of Thursday’s Storm Callum can be seen in this image of Munster, showing planes being asked to hold back and circle ahead while presumably waiting to see if the wind would die down.

A plane responds to Storm Callum [Credit: Twitter/CarlowWeather; Flightradar24]