Help Me Track the Landings of a U.S. Government Plane last week.
August 27, 2017 7:03 PM   Subscribe

Last week a U.S. government plane was in Montana with a Senator and the Secretary of the Interior aboard. How can I find out if the U.S. government plane landed in Bozeman, Montana?

I know that tail numbers/flights can be tracked. But I don't have a tail number for this particular flight.

The event was: this one
to help with finding that particular plane/flight
posted by ITravelMontana to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on how urgently you need this info, you could:
Call the airport in question and ask. Tell them you are a [student/journalist/writer/whatever you can verify]. Ideally make this call in the middle of the day when they will be very busy and less likely to want to argue with you about providing the data. (Don't ask whether or not the plane landed there because it makes you sound like someone on the outside. Say you needed to confirm that so-and-so's plane landed at 0200 on August 15. That didn't sound right to you so you thought you should check with the source.)

If you get shutdown, you can also email the media contact for the govt official in question with this same message. After sending the email, call the phone number and refer to the email.

File a freedom of information act data request. You will wait.

Search for other photographs of the shot in front of the plane. Whomever was taking photos from the far left of the podium has the best viewpoint of the tail number.

Every airport has a list of planes that landed and took off each day. The commercial flights are easy to get. The private ones are more difficult. Cash for the first satisfying proof of the plane's landing in the city may be your best bet. Crsigslist is your friend here.

That's all I can think of.
posted by Kalatraz at 3:00 AM on August 28, 2017

Flightaware lets you put an airport in and see all arrivals or departures. If you register you can get an xlsx. Time of departure (and arrival) is in there too. Should be easy enough to cross reference and see if any flights around the event end landed at bozeman sometime after.
posted by chasles at 3:44 AM on August 28, 2017

Forgot to mention, flightaware is free and I'm not affiliated in any way.
posted by chasles at 3:44 AM on August 28, 2017

Do you already know where this flight to Bozeman came from, or went next?

Flightaware has data for free online for ~a week so if you act quickly you can get it for without paying the ~$200. Here's flights landing in Bozeman around August 24 (page back and forth for more). This will tell you aircraft type, flight number, time of arrival, and (usually) where the flight came from.

You should be able to find your flight if you knew where it came from or roughly when. You can also narrow this down quickly an expert can tell you the plane type from the photo in the linked article. For that matter you can almost make out the tail number, with a bit of image manipulation you might be able to read it.

Once you identify the plane it's quite easy to track where it's been flying. At least for flights with a flight plan filed, which this plane probably filed for every leg. Flightaware basically republishes public air traffic control records. It will tell you the movements of planes, but will have no information about who was on the plane. The other path to pursue this is FOIA. Journalists file FOIA requests regularly and they work, but it is a slow process.
posted by Nelson at 7:42 AM on August 28, 2017

That's USAF C-40B tail number 10040 based on the image. I think it's not showing up on FlightAware as the FAQ indicates that they do not track military aircraft.
posted by Max Camber at 12:10 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

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