Thanks for your interest in the background on the site.
Node-RED is used to control the tracking of three satellite dishes in Australia, California and UK.
As as a result of the global coverage of the three satellite ground stations, here is a snapshot of our coverage that we offer to the aircraft tracking community:
The three satellite ground stations receive C-Band data from the aircraft and L-Band data from ground based dispatch operators.
The data from each ground station is sent to my central Node-RED server via MQTT.
As each message is received by the system it is sorted into 2 different data buckets.
Civil or Military.
Since the main interest seems to be in the military aircraft that is the focus that the site has taken over the past 5 years.
ADSBEx make their aircraft database available, so I use it in a SQLite db that Node-RED checks against. It will also return the aircraft type (C-17, KC135 etc) and so all that goes in the rolling 48 hour message buffer.
Site users can then either free text search those roughly 1.3 million records using a dashboard text entry field that makes a simple msg.topic select statement or they can drill into some of the pre-decoded messages via their tables.
Over the years, the site had around 3,000 hits a day. Most were hard core avgeeks. I know there were 1-2 osint (open source intelligence) users, but they were very kind and helpful. Always asking if they could quote an interesting message before they Tweeted it etc.
Then the whole Afghanistan thing happen. In the space of about 2 days a few of the bigger osint Twitter crew found the site. They never asked, they just cut/paste from the site straight into their tweets.
The single user aspect of the site was its weakest link at this point. Hundreds of users all searching for something. Each search result over writing the previous search result usually before it could be read.
Thankfully, the site search was not the only page on the site and most that knew what was really going on were able to get the data they required.
Not going to say too much, but in short, yes, there was one very public flight out that did indeed carry a lot of people.
The data from each flight has to be sent on takeoff, so people were able to accurately count the actual flights and numbers of passengers. Enough to say that the one successful flight did not represent subsequent flights.
Ramp space was tight at the airport, aircraft had to be turned pretty quickly (minutes to an hour at most).
Most of this coordination was done via satcom since there were only very basic ATC on the ground.
It was impressive to see the hard core osint folk set up around the clock monitoring of the site to ensure no flights were missed.
Lets just say, what you saw on the nightly news was not as accurate as those counts.
I'm now in documenting and teaching mode.
The site got a lot of people interested in setting up satcom stations of their own. There is also a lot of interest in Node-RED being able to filter and display this sort of information for non-programmers.
Its an interesting dichotomy, the aircraft spotter guys know their codes and flight patterns, but that does not always translate into being able to pick up coding quickly. Node-RED offers the ability to test a filter out and not cry if you pull it apart and try something else.
I'm trying to help people get up and running with Node-RED so they can see the power of data in context.