Flightradar24's air maps are updated every couple of seconds. They allow you to track a specific flight across the globe and you can even see the plane's altitude and speed. (www.news.com.au)
Flightradar24 pulls data from the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States and the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) system in other countries.
Wondering whether your loved one's plane will be delayed? No problem. Anyone can log on and see which flights will land at any given airport in the "next two hours". It applies to about 60% of aircraft at the moment as not all passenger aircraft are equipped with ADS-B, so the map isn't showing every flight.
100 years ago it took 10 months or more to get news
100 years ago it might have taken up to 10 months or even more for a missionary to get news back to their mission society and loved ones that they had arrived safely. Then a constant flow of letters would flow over a long time period, in order for those at home to receive news.
The reverse occurred as well with letters from loved ones to the mission fields' across the world, along with mission society official correspondence and denominational newspapers, let along secular daily news and colour society magazines.
This was no better illustrated that in the 1951 movie 'The African Queen' where actor Robert Morley who played a British Methodist missionary, Samuel Sayer (Katharine Hepburn played his sister missionary Rose). (en.wikipedia.org)
In one memorable scene which demonstrated this time-lag associated with information from home, Morley collected his months' old mail including denominational material, was disgusted to read in the denominational newspaper that one of his ministerial colleagues had been promoted to Bishop. It was a classic Robert Morley scene!
Today flights can be tracked
Today, technology is such, that missionaries, immediately on arrival, can text their loved ones and the mission society office that they arrived safely (should mobile phone services be available), and moreover, get onto a satellite phone, link into Skype, and talk to their loves on video. "Look mum,. we're here".
But, how much better is it that loved ones and mission society personnel, can click a keyboard to this Flightradar24 site, enter the flight details, and they can trace the flight to its destination (within two hours of arrival at least at this stage).
Where this is particularly heart warming is that they can ascertain flight delays or changes in flight trajectory due to storms, volcano dust or no fly zones.
In many parts of the world, missionaries can find themselves in mortal danger, and every little step in the advance of technology which helps to breed calm and peace into the hearts and minds of loved ones and mission society personnel, the better.
The beauty of Flightrader24 is that the reverse is true, that it is now the loved one or the mission society personnel, can trace the flight movements to safety of the missionary.
This is a huge step forward as previously, loved ones and mission society personnel were dependent on the missionary getting in touch with them through whatever means might be available. In many parts of the world, the immediate availability of such technology is not at all certain.
There are numerous additional advantages to having such missionary flights tracked. These applications apply whether the destinations are to First or Third world countries.
Take for example, flight delays. Instead of endless phone calls to airports and airlines, Flightradar24 provides immediate information as to a flight's late arrival. That information can be relayed to those of the mission society who were to meet them.
Also, if a flight is re-routed to another airport through any number of reasons, that information can be passed on to the mission society's personnel in that other city to link up with the missionaries to bring them comfort and assurance.
The system also encompasses safety and security in that the steps taken by an airline, for whatever reason, for a redeployment of the route, provides loved ones and mission society personnel of a measure of confidence.
9/11 demonstrated that where there is "technological infrastructure available" mobile phones can be used while in flight and Qantas itself is likely to include a host of additional technological facilities while in flight. (www.news.com.au)
I wait with baited breadth for the next technological development to aid mission endeavours where ever. One of the first places I scroll to with on-line news sites is the Technology Section. An obscure advance may have unrecognised benefits for Christian mission.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html