An organization that tracks flights has compressed 24 hours of real flights into less than a minute YouTube video using little plane icons. The effect is mesmerizing.

During National Parks Week, I was hiking in Northern California with my sister Julia. We were an hour drive from civilization, a couple miles into the hike, and well outside cell phone reception. It was a quiet afternoon with only the sounds of birds, waterfalls, our own voices. And above it all, the low thrum of occasional airplanes overhead.

We commented on how neither of us have ever been outside the range of aircraft regardless of how remote a spot we’re in. A few days later I discovered this video from flight tracking company Flightradar24 that shows exactly how crowded the skies really are.

“A Day in a Minute” shows 24 hours of actual flights over the United States compressed into less than sixty seconds. Each tiny airplane icon represents an aircraft and its flight route. It’s actually kind of incredible. The sheer volume of traffic surprised me; the US looks like a giant anthill, and the thousands of aircraft look like ants scurrying in seeming chaos.

According to Flightradar24’s website, they are a “global flight tracking service that provides you with real time information about thousands of aircraft around the world.” The network started out as the hobby of two self-proclaimed Swedish aviation geeks, but now tracks more than 150,000 flights per day — including the planes I saw and heard while hiking with my sister.

Whenever I heard an aircraft as we hiked, I instinctively looked up. I wondered where the plane was headed and imagined what travel adventures the people were about to embark on. I thought about my own adventure I was having on the ground, and felt just a little bit more connected to humanity even though we were still out in the wild.

— Laura Rowley


Written by Laura Rowley

I am an artist, flight attendant, and travel blogger.

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