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Why didn't it find the airplane right over my house?
Why didn't it find the airplane right over my house?

How Airnoise finds airplanes, and why it sometimes doesn't

Chris McCann avatar
Written by Chris McCann
Updated over a week ago

It is not uncommon for you to see an airplane that seems like it's right over top of your house, but when you file a complaint Airnoise doesn't find it, or finds an airplane that seems very much farther away than the one you saw. What's happening?

Airnoise relies predominantly on a digital signal broadcast by the aircraft, called ADS-B (see Wikipedia for more info). If the aircraft isn't broadcasting that signal our primary detection system won't be able to find it. In that case, we use a secondary method that uses another data service, but even then sometimes we can't identify an aircraft near you. The FAA has currently mandated that all aircraft flying in US airspace must have ADS-B installed by the end of 2019 so this situation should only get better soon.

I saw an airplane overhead, but Airnoise found one 5 miles away!

Yep, this happens. If the aircraft right overhead isn't broadcasting ADS-B, but one a few miles away is and is still within your search distance, the system will find that aircraft instead. There's no way for Airnoise to know which aircraft you are hearing, and if the closest one is essentially "invisible" to the system, it will find the closest one that it can detect.

If almost all of the air traffic near you is very close to your house, say, 2-3 miles, and you aren't bothered by aircraft 4 and 5 miles away, please contact us via the support system and we'll tailor your search distance to ignore aircraft that far away. Our goal at Airnoise is to allow you to file complaints when you are truly bothered by the noise, not just when an aircraft comes within a large bubble of your home, so do let us know if you'd like us to change your search settings to only find aircraft closer to you.

Note: Some private aircraft, typically fancy business jets, have their public flight tracking information blocked in the FAA's system. While this doesn't affect our primary ADS-B detection service, if the aircraft isn't broadcasting ADS-B and its flight tracking is blocked from public view, our secondary service won't find the aircraft, either. We are constantly working on more and better ways to still figure out what aircraft was overhead so these "misses" will continue to decrease.

But I heard a really loud noise! How can it not find the aircraft?

Sometimes the issue is that you told Airnoise to find a commercial "airline" aircraft, but the real culprit was a large business jet. In that case the system will exclude any aircraft it detects that's not the type you told it to find. The best way to fix this is to use the "Any Aircraft Search" button instead - it will look for any type of aircraft near you and file a complaint on the nearest one.

The aircraft over us are pretty high and sometimes it doesn't find one

If you live under an arrival or departure path some distance from the airport it's likely the aircraft may be just at the top of the Airnoise search altitude limit (typically 15,000 feet). Aircraft may not be consistently at or below that altitude, so even if Airnoise can detect it the aircraft may be above the preset altitude limit. If you live in the mountains or other elevated areas, even aircraft that high can be loud, so please contact us through the support system and we'll see if we can adjust your settings to help.

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