odd aircraft on LAX display?

Los Angeles airports have a site, http://www.lawa.org . From there you can go to the LAX Airport Monitor at http://www1.passur.com/lax.html . This tracks the positions of aircraft derived from actual radar. As I understand it, it is used in noise abatement so people can identify flights that create too much noise.

You can get 10-minute delayed displays of current data or replay data that is at least 1 hour old.

While looking at this, I noticed that there are oddly-moving aircraft on the display. If you replay data for April 30, 2002 at 22:25, you will notice three aircraft (black icons) on the right side of the screen that wander around very strangely. Clicking on an aircraft icon changes it to red and displays flight information details on the far right. The flights I was looking at have the track IDs 12, 37, and 92. They’re flying pretty low, under 1000 feet, and the aircraft types are all “general aviation”, with no other information.

I didn’t see anything on the lawa site that explained these. From their behavior, I find it hard to believe these are actual aircraft, even helicopters. So what are they? Are they just spurious signals? Or are they really some kind of aircraft?

The link keeps locking up the window at this end (Java applets and my computer don’t always get along), so I can’t look at it.

Well, I don’t know, but if you say “oddly moving aircraft” and “no data on them” to me, I say, “Military aircraft”.

Wow… Too cool.

I dunno, but if you zoom out, you can see more of them, at varying altitudes. My guess would be traffic helicopters, but there seems to be an awful lot of them. Then again, why would there be traffic helicopters at 10:30 PM?

Why not helos? At 10:30 at night, 700 - 900 ft, they are below the commercial traffic, no great speeds, racetrack course at the bottom, could be police helos, or newsies out there. What makes you think they are not helicopters?

Dare we suspect…black helicopters? :confused:

Who knows- maybe helicopters of some sort. But that page is sweet. Know of any other Airport monitors like this?

I don’t think news or traffic helicopters would be that unusual. I don’t recall any chases at that time, but when we get one of those down here there are usually several helicopters in the air covering it.

Could they be private aircraft piloted by recreational flyers? If they are flying around at low altitude looking at the city lights, they might move like that.

It’s certainly possible, but it strikes me as odd. I listen to WGN in Chicago and they don’t air traffic-helicopter reports after 7 PM. Rush hour is usually lightening up by then, and they have traffic-detecting devices embedded in the interstates. I’ve read (in novels - Rising Sun comes to mind) that LA has traffic jams 24/7, but I’ve always assumed that was an exaggeration. In all honesty, I haven’t the foggiest.

Does the LA media use helicopters for general news / sporting events on a daily basis? This strikes me as odd also, although I’ll allow I’m hardly an authority on these matters.

Looks like airplanes taking off from outlying airports. If you look here, there are several small airports near LAX:


The airport in magenta (Compton/Woodley) is an uncontrolled field. Planes taking off from there would likely stay low to remain clear of LAXs Class B airspace.

In this terraserver shot, you can see that airport in the bottom center of the screen. It is appears as a rectangular dark spot:


Panning left one frame, you can see how close LAX and HHR are in relation to Compton/Woodley:


LAX is cut by the frame of that photo on the left, and HHR is right below the large East/West road.

Oh, one more thing. There looks like there are some racetracks or stadiums nearby. A blimp or helicopter filming a sports event sounds plausible too.

Compton has an airport? I didn’t know that! But Joey G is gorrect that Hawthorne Airport is very close to LAX, just south of the 105 freeway. Torrance Airport is south and Santa Monica Airport is north.

Things to note: LAX has three “VFR corridors” to allow GA pilots to get through the airspace. In the 1980s a GA aircraft collided with an air carrier resulting in a large loss of life in the air and on the ground. After that collision (which may have been caused in part by the pilot of the GA aircraft suffering a heart attack), the then-called TCA (now Class B airspace) was expanded and its ceiling was raised to 12,500 feet – higher than most small airplanes can comfortably fly.

The corridors at LAX are just off of the coast, over the middle of the airport, and out by the 110 freeway.

It looks like the aircraft that aren’t flying into or out of LAX or SMO are sticking pretty much to the freeways. It’s quite possible that these are traffic helicopters, news helicopters, police helicopters or GA aircraft that are transitioning.

There also seems to be some activity near downtown L.A., where the LAPD has their heliport; and by the Cahuenga Pass, which is a route into the Valley.

I live under the western part of the traffic pattern for SMO, and I can tell you that there is a lot of helicopter activity at all hours of the night. This is almost always the LAPD, and they orbit over crime scenes for as long as they need to – sometimes half an hour or more.

FWIW, the Goodyear blimp is based down by Carson. I doubt it would be covering anything at Hollywood Park or the Forum because that is right in the “final” for LAX. Plus horse races generally aren’t big events here, and the forum is enclosed.

One more thing: Helicopters generally fly around 500’ AGL. Fixed wings that are not taking off or landing tend to fly nearer to 1,500’ and higher.

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten a complete briefing including all applicable TFR’s (Temp. Flight Restrictions)… aren’t public fly-overs of sporting events and other large crowds still prohibited? Thus, no more Gooryear blimp over the fields…

FWIW, I believe that LA has far more police and news/traffic helicopters than any other city in the country (sorry, no cite, just anecdotal).