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Aviation is a big business. Each day, we track around 100,000 commercial flights on Flightera, not including business flights and general aviation. That's more than one flight a second leaving an airport anywhere on the globe. But how does that fluctuate over the day with North America, Europe and East Asia providing most of the flight activity?
To track the number of planes in the air over the day, we started calculating activities and show them on our Statistics page. Our first round of statistics only includes global data but we plan to break this down further by region, airline and plane type over the next weeks.
Note: All numbers here only include scheduled commercial flights. Our tracking data indicates that the actual number of flights is up to twice as high, especially
on days with good weather in Europe and the US (which leads to increased General Aviation activity). However, that data is less reliable so we exclude it for our statistics.
As we are constantly expanding our data sources this number is likely to increase in the future.
The chart below shows flight activity over the past 7 days, in UTC time. While there is little variability from day to day (most flights are operated all-week), it shows a clear pattern throughout the day. The peak of activity is at around 2pm UTC with more than 10,500 commercial flights in the air. This is late afternoon in Europe, early morning in the Americas and late evening in Asia, so that airports in nearly all countries (except for Pacific nations, Australia and New Zealand) are active. Shortly thereafter activity declines as Asia goes to sleep.
A second, smaller peak, occurs at 1am UTC, with the Americas and Asia active but with few flights in Europe. The least busy times are around 10pm UTC. During daylight savings time, this
is past most curfews in Europe (11pm-midnight) and before most Asian airports experience the morning rush (5am in China, 2am in India).
This very basic analysis shows how global aviation has become - over the past two weeks there was no hour with fewer than 7,000 planes in the air at the same time.
The next chart breaks down activity by plane manufacturer. The dominance of Airbus and Boeing planes is clearly visible, with a market share of ~45-50% for Boeing
and ~40-45% for Airbus planes. But it also shows that the type of planes used still varies across regions. Most European and Asian airlines use Airbus A320 or Boeing B737
planes for any distance of up to 5 hours, while in the US regional planes still dominate flight activity for shorter flights.
Embraer and Bombardier, two manufacturers of regional planes, peak with a share of around 15% of global activity around 10pm UTC (3pm-6pm in the US) but drop close to zero during night time in the US.
The charts shown here are live on our Statistics page and will be updated going forward. We are now working to break down activity into regions and airlines which allows for more insights into flight behaviour. If you have any suggestions on what charts you would like to see, feel free to contact us on Twitter.