RealTraffic - What do those data labels mean?

You will have noticed that the RealTraffic (RT) radar display is showing many more data labels than it used to. Depending on which part of the world you're flying in, there are more (or less) of those additional data fields supplied by the ADS-B messages. The depth of information provided also depends on the type of transmitter - you won't find autopilot status in an old and small GA aircraft. But most reasonably modern airframes provide a lot more information than your usual flight tracking website suspects might lead on. But let's look at some examples: First up we have a Virgin Australia 737-800 descending towards their destination:

1st line: ICAO Callsign, (IATA Callsign), ICAO Type, Aircraft Registration 2nd line: Gound speed in knots, Flightlevel descending @ 1865ft/min, distance from us in nm 3rd line: IAS/TAS/Mach 4th line: Wind 7 kts from 221 degrees, SAT or OAT -15C, TAT 1C, signal strength of receiver feeding this traffic in an arbitrary dB scale Note that altitude is displayed in flight levels (F) if the altitude is above the nearest airport's transition altitude. Otherwise it is displayed in feet and pressure corrected using the currently valid QNH. Next there's a military Orion P8 doing some low level work:

1st line: Same as in the first example. 2nd line: Ground speed in knots, altitude in feet, vertical speed in feet/min, QNH set by the pilots, distance from us in nm. 3rd line: The mode control panel altitude has been set to 1008ft by the pilots, the FMS also set 1008ft as the altitude, then as above, IAS/TAS/Mach. 4th line: Autopilot is in altitude hold mode. Wind is from 109 degrees at 11 kts, and the receiver signal strength as above. Lastly, here's an Air New Zealand 787 just climbing out of Sydney:

These labels all show the same as in the above examples, but the autopilot is in LNAV and VNAV mode, and TCAS mode is on. These additional datapoints come from a special message subcategory in the ADS-B specification. They are interrogated by air traffic control (ATC) and do not automatically broadcast, which is why you don't see them everywhere. In the Americas you rarely see the autopilot status, but most everywhere the MCP and FMS altitudes are interrogated. This helps ATC verify the pilots have set the assigned altitudes correctly.