How I Tracked #FBI Aerial Surveillance Aircraft

Posted: June 5, 2015 in Tech


Googling the registration numbers of the planes from the Washington Post article and looking in the public FAA records, I found several forum posts over the years where people said they thought the planes were suspicious and were FBI. These forums were usually conspiracy/paranoia/gun rights types of sites, but maybe they were right this time.

“People on the Internet” claimed that FBI planes squawk 4414 or 4415 on their transponders, and use callsigns beginning with “JENNA” or “JENA”. It seemed far-fetched.

For fun I planespot/radarspot/whatever. I have a little software defined radio dongle that I use to pick up aircraft transponder pings. I can pick up aircraft from all over the Los Angeles basin with it. I log up to one ping per second per aircraft in a database. You can see more information about the setup and information I can receive at this page: Tracking Aircraft Over Los Angeles.

I wrote up some of what I’d found in a comment on Hacker News (scooping the AP by 25 days). N404KR was a plane that I saw a lot over Los Angeles. I didn’t have position info for it, but the fact that I saw it in the air for hours at a time was unusual. Most planes are going from point A to B, and are only overhead and in range for a few minutes.

Full Story @ [arsTechnica]


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