A unique feature of Kapolei life is the giant jetliners that fly over us on their final descent into Honolulu International Airport.
honolulu to denver flight over the west side

Most flights that aren’t from outer islands pass over the west side on approach. As people from New York, Tokyo, and Atlanta look out their plane windows, they could be looking at your house; your car.

When I see a flight overhead, I like to check where it’s from. I feel more connected to the environment, and more present in it, when I know what’s going on around me. Though they’re man made, jetliners are as much a part of our daily experience as the myna bird.

I use an iPhone app called Flightradar24. The $3.99 app—which its developers claim is the best-selling app in 115 countries—tracks all commerical flights in the world. You can look at a map and see all the flights near you, or even point your phone at a plane to get details about it.

I like the map. A blue dot shows my location wherever I happen to be, and it’s usually easy to tell which plane I’m seeing, since I’m see a plane icon on top of the blue dot.

flightradar24 app map view

Map view on the FlightRadar24 app

When I tap the icon, I can see where the flight came from, how long it’s been in the air, when it’s going to land, its altitude, and what type of plane it is. I can tap again for more information like how fast the plane is going and what its exact heading.

Flightradar24 app flight details

Flight details on the Flightradar24 app

The coolest feature is the 3D view, which replicates a view of what the pilot is seeing.

flightradar24 app 3D view

3D view on the Flightradar24 app.


Mostly, it’s for fun, but sometimes it’s useful too.

I was at a cousin’s baseball game at Campbell High with my wife, and was checking planes as they came by. One was a Delta flight from Minneapolis, I told her. This was news to her, and possibly helpful news as her mom works for Delta and might be able to use that flight to visit family.

Over Christmas, just for fun, I snapped a pic of a Denver to Honolulu flight as it passed over me in ‘Ewa Beach. I texted the photo to my sister, who lives in Denver: “Sis, that could be you up there!” Come for the info, stay for the easy guilt trips.

You can also use it to check incoming flights of friends and family to see if they’re on time. Or zoom out and look at flights at airports all over the world.

To me, $3.99 is well worth it to see what’s happening in the air above Kapolei.