If you’re the kind of plane spotter who likes to keep track of the aircraft you’ve seen by logging aircraft registrations (tail numbers to you Americans), you can either buy books that are produced each year and tick them off, or you can use a database and keep track digitally.
For years I loved to tick off the planes I’d seen in a book. But with the airline and aircraft world changing so fast, I found it frustrating having to wait a year for the latest fleet listing.
I was probably losing lots of aircraft that I’d seen.
So as far back as 2004 I invested in an aircraft database for my computer to keep track digitally.
It updates every week with the latest additions and changes, and it gives me all kinds of statistics and useful information like the latest fleet listings. I have never looked back.
If you’re thinking of starting to use an aircraft database, these are the ones considered to be the best available at the moment.
Most will offer a free trial of their software, so be sure to shop around to make sure you get the right one for you.
Pacific Aviation Database
Covers all civil and military types of aircraft, and includes 1.3 million records, so its pretty substantial. The database is integrated with Planeplotter to help you find needed aircraft. Those subscribing to this database get access to occasional visits, AGM meetings and online community.
Price: £25 per year
An enthusiast-run database with around 1 million aircraft records which has been around for more than 20 years. Aircraft from home-builds right up to fast jets! Updates are done real-time, so no need for weekly email downloads or DVDs.
Price: £40 per year
Aviation Databases Global
Run by Biz and Prop Review Monthly, Aviation Databases Global includes all aircraft types, from light to military, Russian and airliners. Also includes airport and airfield listings, preserved aircraft by country and airline fleet listings. Around 1.8 million aircraft are listed, and the database connects with SBS. You can choose email or DVD updates, and from different prices.
Price: From £70 per year depending on package and add-ons.
Founded in 2002, ADU is well established as one of the leading databases for aircraft enthusiasts. Updated weekly, it has various packages and prices to suit different needs. These include the basic database, connection with SBS, or additional linked mobile app.
The database covers all aircraft types, from airliners to military, light to Soviet aircraft. It also covers airports and airfields, and country listings.
Price: From £60 per year depending on package and add-ons.
A civil and military database covering aircraft of all types, plus airport and airfield data, country listings, personal flight log, operators and more. Known as Quantum. Has almost 1.9 million aircraft entries. Great for photographers, too. Compatible with SBS and AirNav Radar Box receivers.
Price: £150 for complete system, then £100 per year, or £75 per year for QuantumLite,
A web-based database making it easy to store and access your spotting logs anywhere. But don’t worry, these are securely backed up daily and you can also print off your logs. Lets you log your trips and add your photos. Includes all the details you’d expect for each aircraft, as well as the ability to search by airport, view fleet listings, statistics and a good community of spotters you can link with.
Price: £30 per year (includes free import from other software)
Currently only available to existing members (or those sponsored by an existing member), this popular database includes around 1 million records of most aircraft types. Was popular thanks to it being free, but is now introducing an annual fee.
Price: £40 per year. Not currently accepting new members unless sponsored
A basic database with logging, aircraft info etc. It includes airlines, bizjets and turboprops, but does not include any military, general aviation or light aircraft types. It is free to use in its basic form, and includes web support and a community. Small subscription for upgraded features.
Price: Free. £5 per month for upgraded subscription.
With thanks to Kevin Jacomb of LAAS for his help in researching this article.
Which aircraft database do you use? What do you like about it? Leave a comment below.