Related Commercial Information: Live ADS-B Flight Data Feed (Worldwide)

FlightAware Firehose API Documentation

Purpose

Firehose is a FlightAware API for receiving streaming flight positions (e.g., RADAR, ADS-B, Mode S multilateration (MLAT), datalink, etc) as well as flight status data (e.g., flight plans, departure/arrival messages, flight updates) and surface movement positions. This page defines a protocol for establishing a connection and receiving data from the Firehose interface.

If you have a question that is not answered by this document, please check our freqently asked questions to see if your topic has already been answered there before contacting your account representative for support.

Connection Protocol

All requests must include a username and FlightXML API Key (don't have one?). In addition to obtaining an API Key, the user's account must be specially enabled by a FlightAware representative for access to the firehose service.

If you have a firewall that needs authorization, then please authorize both of the ranges:

  • 70.42.6.128/25
  • 206.123.125.0/25

A customer's application will connect via a TCP socket secured with Secure Socket Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) protocol to FlightAware. The port for downlink connections will be 1501. The hostname will be firehose.flightaware.com, unless FlightAware has instructed the customer otherwise.

On the downlink connection customer's application will send an initiation command followed by a newline character, to specify the credentials, time range, and any filtering of messages to be provided, and both sides will keep the connection open indefinitely for FlightAware to send messages to the customer as they become available. If an error in the syntax or credentials of the initiation command occurs, the firehose server will transmit an error message and disconnect.

The customer's application should be designed to detect socket disconnection and attempt to reconnect to the FlightAware server when necessary. It is also recommended to have an idle connection handler that will disconnect and reconnect if no messages have been received in the last 5 minutes. When reconnecting to the FlightAware server, the "pitr" or "range" initiation command can be used to resume playback from the pitr timestamp of the last received message, if desired.

Testing Connectivity

An important initial diagnostic technique is to confirm your outbound network connectivity over the necessary port number. For testing and development purposes, the OpenSSL command-line tools can be used to check the ability to open a SSL/TLS connection to FlightAware:

openssl s_client -host firehose.flightaware.com -port 1501 -tls1

If the connection is successfully established, OpenSSL will display the server's certificate information and then pause. Should it fail to connect, contact your network administrator to ensure that your application server has access to make outbound TCP connections on port 1501 to the FlightAware datacenter.

Initiation Command Syntax

Initiation Command Options

  • Required
    • username <argument> - Supply the credentials for authentication. This should be the username of the FlightAware account that has been granted access.
    • password <argument> - Supply the credentials for authentication. In most cases, this should actually be the FlightXML API Key and not the password of the account.
    • the following time range options are mutually exclusive; only one may be used in an initiation command.
      • live - Request live data from the present time forward.
      • pitr <epoch> - Request data from a specified time, in POSIX epoch format, in the past until the current time, and continue with the live behavior.
      • range <start epoch> <end epoch> - Send data between two specified times, in POSIX epoch format. FlightAware will disconnect the connection when last message has been sent.
  • Optional
    • filter "<airline code list>" - Send flight information only related to the listed airlines. The list is a series of space separated ICAO airline codes wrapped in double quotes. For example: filter "FIN" or filter "FIN BAW AAL".
    • idents "<ident reg list>" - Send flight information only related to the listed idents or aircraft registration/tails. The list is a series of space separated idents or registrations wrapped in double quotes, optionally using wildcard patterns. For example: idents "N1234 N2345 N456 CXYZA" or idents "N1*UA N2*UA UAL12 UAL34".
    • version <version number> - Protocol version the client expects. The latest version is assumed if this is not specified.
    • format <format type> - Specifies the output mode of the responses. At this time, "json" is the only supported format, however other formats including "csv", "tsv", "xml" may be offered in the future. If format is not specified, then "json" is assumed.
    • events "<event code list>" - Specifies a list of which downlink messages should be sent. The available event codes include: flightplan, departure, arrival, cancellation, position, offblock, onblock, ground_position, vehicle_position. This argument may be a list of space separated terms wrapped in double quotes. For example: events "flightplan departure arrival" or events "position".
    • latlong "<lowLat> <lowLon> <hiLat> <hiLon>" - Specifies that only positions within the specified rectangle should be sent and any others will be ignored, unless the flight has already been matched by other criteria. For example: latlong "29 -95 30 -94". This command may be repeated multiple times in a single initiation command, allowing positions within any of the specified rectangles to be matched.
    • airport_filter "<airport pattern list>" - Send flight information only for flights originating from or destined for airports matching the space separated list of glob patterns provided. For example: airport_filter "CYUL" or airport_filter "K??? P??? TJSJ".
    • compression <mode> - Requests that the server response should use data compression to reduce network bandwidth. The initiation command sent to the server must not be compressed. The mode argument indicates the compression algorithm and must be "gzip", "compress", or "deflate". For example: compression gzip.
    • keepalive <interval> - Requests that the server should periodically send a "keepalive" message at the specified interval, measured in whole integer seconds (must be 15 seconds or greater). The keepalive messages contain the current timestamp on the server and the pitr timestamp within the data stream. This can be especially useful for feeds that are very low data volume due to heavy filtering, where it may be difficult to distinguish between a failed network connection and a period of time with few aircraft events. For example: keepalive 60.

    Example downlink initiation commands:

    • live filter "BAW" version 6.0 username james password 1234abcd
    • range 1377204966 1377214966 filter "AAL BAW FIN" username joe password 34567abdef
    • pitr 13772104996 username andrew password bcdef1235
    • live version 5.0 user mary password 123abc events "position"
    • live version 6.0 username daniel password abcd1234 events "position" latlong "29 -95 30 -94"
    • live version 8.0 username alonzo password abcd1234 events "ground_position vehicle_position" airport_filter "KBOS"

Keeping a Persistent Connection

  • Network connectivity for long-lived network connections over the internet are not always reliable and will tend to stall or hang occasionally, beyond our control. Additionally, we can occasionally have internal network connections that might disrupt communications between our Firehose server and the internal messaging bus that might also cause this type of condition. Very long-lived Firehose connections do eventually need to be disconnected by our server-side (system updates, feed maintenance, resource leaks), but that condition should result in a "connection closed by peer" rather than a "series of end of lines". Be sure that your application has logic to handle the condition of the connection being actively closed by the server.
  • Keeping a persistent connection open is the expected use-case. We also recommend disconnecting and reconnecting if you receive no data after an extended period of time. When reconnecting, using the "pitr" command to resume data from the timestamp that you last received is recommended.
  • The maximum number of allowable connections for Firehose is two per user account. One connection is suggested for your production environment and one connection for your development environment. Additional connection licenses are available.

Notes

  • Times are specified as POSIX time also known as UNIX epoch format. Specifically, the number of seconds since 00:00:00 UTC on 1 January 1970. If subsecond resolution is available, the time can be specified floating point. Otherwise the value should be an integer. For example, 1375117735.797 is Monday 29 July 2013 17:08:55.797.
  • All messages sent by FlightAware on the downlink will be JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) encoded and the character encoding will be plain ASCII. The expected downlink message volume is approximately 1 Mb/s average with typical peaks of 4 Mb/s for a full feed, but this will vary depending on the type of events and filtering being requested.
  • The latency of the connection can be monitored by comparing the difference between "pitr" value and your system's current UTC time. When your application is caught up and following live data, the difference should generally be less than 15 seconds. If you observe that the difference continues to increase rather than decrease and remain less than 15, then that is an indication that your application is not able to process the datafeed quickly enough and you need to investigate ways of improving its performance.
  • When requesting surface movement (ground_position or vehicle_position) messages, you will be prevented from also requesting any non-surface messages in the same initiation command. If you are developing an application that requires the ability to receive both types of messages simultaneously, you will currently need to open two separate Firehose connections and fuse the data within your application.
  • For technical/commercial support for Firehose, please contact Max Tribolet (email).

Access Levels

Your access level will consist of any combination of the following data layers:

  1. ADS-B: Worldwide
    1. [Position message]
  2. MLAT: Worldwide
    1. [Position message]
  3. RADAR: USA, Canada, New Zealand, *Australia, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatamala, Honduras, Nicaragua
    1. [Position message]
  4. Transoceanic/ACARS/Estimated: Worldwide
    1. [Position message]
  5. FLIFO (Flight Status): Worldwide
    1. [Flightplan, Departure, Arrival, and Cancellation messages]
  6. Block Events: Worldwide
    1. [Offblock and Onblock messages]
  7. Surface Movement: Most major USA airports (ASDE-X and ADS-B), Worldwide (ADS-B only)
    1. [Ground_position and Vehicle_position messages]

Please ask a FlightAware representative if you would like access to additional data layers. Firehose is billed at a monthly rate for unlimited use, dependent on what data layers you choose to access and the scope of how you repurpose/redistribute the data within your application. Discounts are available for long-term commitment, up-front payment, and/or public attribution to FlightAware.

Firehose can also be used in conjunction with FlightAware Global for added satellite uplinks and EUROCONTROL data. Other aircraft operator's data can be integrated as well: read about Improving Tracking of Your Flights on FlightAware.

*Australia RADAR and ADS-B is only available for internal consumption (e.g., not for redistribution to third parties beyond yourself).

Data Coverage

For more information on FlightAware's position data coverage, please see FlightAware's coverage map.

Downlink Messages

Messages have three categories of data fields, "Mandatory", "Common", "Optional":

  • Mandatory fields must be included in every message.
  • Common fields are typically present and assist in matching messages to a particular flight or providing additional details, but are not required.
  • Optional fields are not provided by most sources, but provide important additional information to improve the quality of flight tracking.

Revision History and Version

  • Version 1.0 - Initial release
  • Version 2.0 - Lat/lon and waypoints are truncated to 5 digits of decimal precision
  • Version 3.0 - Adds squawk attribute
  • Version 4.0 - Adds hexid attribute
  • Version 5.0 (August 2015)
    • add airport_filter command to match origin/destination
    • add support for multiple latlon boxes
    • make successful latlon matches trigger matching for further messages from that same flight_id
    • make expression matching use logical-OR when multiple are specified
    • add facility_hash/facility_name to JSON messages.
    • increase maximum initiation command length to 5120
    • add command aliases for "latlon vs latlong" and "filter vs airline_filter"
  • Version 6.0 (February 2016)
    • add "pitr" element to all messages, for use with resuming via the "pitr" (point in time recovery) initiation command
    • add "fdt" (filed departure time) element to flightplan messages
  • Version 7.0 (June 2016)
    • add "compression" command to allow streamed responses to use data compression, useful for lower-bandwidth connections.
    • add support for "onblock" and "offblock" events, approved users only.
    • add support for "positions" from MLAT sources (updateType = "M"), approved users only.
    • add support for datalink sources (updateType = "D"), approved users only.
    • fields with blank values will now be omitted.
    • flight "id" (faFlightID) field now omits the colon and fork identifier suffix.
    • add support for receiving data on blocked aircraft, for customers with FlightAware Global accounts.
  • Version 8.0 (February 13, 2017)
    • add surface movement support by adding new "ground_position" and "vehicle_position" message types (updateType = "X" or updateType = "A"), approved users only.
    • add support for receiving obfuscated data on blocked aircraft, approved users only.
    • add "keepalive" command to allow periodic heartbeat/progress messages to be transmitted, useful when requesting very specific filters that produce low-traffic volume.

Firehose Examples

Java

This open source code provides an example with google-gson parsing.
Another example with json-simple parsing.

C#

This open source code provides an example with Json.NET.

Python

This open source code provides an example using Python 3.

Perl

This open source code provides an example of how to get data using Perl 5.

PHP

This open source code provides an example of how to get data using PHP 5.

Tcl

This open source code provides an example of how to get and parse the data using tcl and its JSON library.