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Acars - Warning To All

Old 22nd Feb 2010, 22:52
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Exclamation Acars - Warning To All

A lot of people are able to capture ACARS messsages from published VHF frequencies, download and decipher them. One loon or nutter - take your pick - in Sydney goes so far as to regularly post what he considers 'unusual' ACARS messages on a web-site relating to aviation based on Sydney Airport. The plain language remarks are highlighted, and have even included private e-mails sent by Air New Zealand crews. Talk about an invasion of privacy!

So, be warned and think twice about any flippant comments or anything that may be sensitive on ACARS as you will never know where the messages end up.
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Old 22nd Feb 2010, 23:14
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ACARS is and always has been totally insercure. You can buy cheap computer programs that will allow the user to see all transmitted messages in plain english. It does astonish me how many people view it as a 'secure' network and are quite happy to send 'sensitive' messages. At a previous airline a Captain was hauled over the coals when he sent a passengers credit card details over ACAR's to sort out a ticketing issue
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Old 22nd Feb 2010, 23:25
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Fare Dinkum, some people need to get a life. If these clowns intercepted my ACARS messages to head office, all they would get is information on why we were late or a weather request. If that interests them.....well, I'll leave it at that
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Old 23rd Feb 2010, 05:44
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So, be warned
Hey thanks for the "warning", I found the website you refer to - saves me trawling through my own ACARS logs!

that Grahame Hutchison is a legend !
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Old 23rd Feb 2010, 08:32
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Use the delay codes guys! That'll keep em guessing! Ha
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Old 23rd Feb 2010, 08:54
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You know the old saying? "Your not a real airline pilot until you have been laid off by ACARS"!!!!!
Thats the fasted way to find out your airline has gone into liquidation
Although my last time was from the cabin crew on the way to the hotel in the crew bus 6000nm from home base.
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Old 25th Feb 2010, 13:48
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Oh don't be so precious! You're worse than a pack of 8 year-olds quarrelling about playground secrets.

Leave them alone - they do it because they're interested in aviation and like to tinker.
If you hadn't been so fortunate to have the opportunities that allowed you to pursue a career in aviation, you'd probably be in their position right now.
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Old 25th Feb 2010, 19:08
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If you knew the information that could be retrieved from your cell phones without you knowing ; even when they're off, you wouldn't carry one. Let's see...there's a mike, a battery, a GPS receiver, a....
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Old 26th Feb 2010, 01:23
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From the Nutter, Loon or Legend himself.

My primary interest in ACARS is technical, I have a receiver monitoring 2 frequencies at once, a laptop translating the data, and a synchronisation program to upload it to my website every 15 minutes in summary form (all done automatically 24/7 with no human intervention). This provides a lot of rich flight and registration information and is used by many local photographers who need extra help to identify an aircraft. In addition, any ACARS position information is also uploaded and plotted on Google Maps. The same ACARS information is also being fed to Plane Plotter where a static radar like plot of the YSSY area is updated every 15 minutes. This is all freely available at

The Sydney Message Board thread came about because I had noticed some interesting, be it funny or technical, transmissions in the log. I posted some of these and people were interested, so it just grew naturally. Best look at The Best Of ACARS 2009 to get the flavour of things (you will need to scroll down a bit to see the item).

As for privacy, ACARS is just part of the technical working environment for flight crew, it is not secure, however only the staff of the particular airline would have access to company records to track a transmission down to individuals. It's a bit like me using email and intranet in the corporate environment, I choose and am responsible for what I say, and always think about the audience who will see the information. I always remove actual names and do not post anything I think is too personal (eg. Air New Zealand emails). I had a nice email from an Air New Zealand crew member who had sent one of the emails I posted, he was cool about it and interested in the technical side of things.

For me personally, flying is a passion, I gained my Private Pilots Licence at 16, and 43 years later, still fly myself where ever I want, when ever I want. I am also into aviation photograph, over 1,050,791 people have downloaded my images from, and I am a regular contributor to Australian Aviation magazine.

Nutter, Loon or Legend, everyone has their own opinion.
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Old 26th Feb 2010, 12:30
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Thumbs up

Good on ya mate. I'm really impressed by the overlay of information on to google maps. Seeing exactly which suburbs the STARs take you over is quite interesting. Thanks for your effort - a lot of commercial website designers would learn lot from your implementation of that. Aviation can use all the positivity it can get.
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Old 26th Feb 2010, 22:15
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If you hadn't been so fortunate to have the opportunities that allowed you to pursue a career in aviation, you'd probably be in their position right now.
(Mr Pseudonymn types this)....

You'll find that being fortunate had nothing to do with it. Roughly half of them (from my exposure to the industry) had a dream and went without a lot of things to achieve it. Many of the (especially) regional pilots are on their second or third career, built on the hard work of the first couple... to achieve their present position.

That (apparent from your wording of your post) intimation that most of us got where we are through luck alone is quite wide of the mark and needed to be addressed.

However you'll find that most of us are as approachable as anyone else should you ever wish to ask anything about the machines we fly.

Have a great weekend.


Mr. Pseudonymn.
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Old 27th Feb 2010, 11:58
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Keep doing what your doing Wheels Down! It doesn't hurt anybody and the more people out there into aviation the better as far as i'm concerned! If aircrew want to send the nuclear launch codes or details about what their wife is like in bed accross ACARS when they know anybody can read it they haven't really thought it through......

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Old 1st Mar 2010, 00:55
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Best of ACARS 2009 was an interesting read! Is there any reason why you don't post up any messages from ground to acft, or don't they have a sense of humour :P
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Old 14th Mar 2010, 05:18
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ACARS is transmitted on VHF frequencies, so I can pickup aircraft out to around 250km from Sydney. I am not sure where the ACARS ground station is, but if it is at YSSY, I am too far away for any ground to ground reception.
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