The US has some sites for tracking flights on the web (IFR or VFR with flight following), but as far as I know, they all require accounts, membership in an organization, or something like that. While collecting information for our family trip to New York City on Monday, I was visiting the Teterboro Airport web site and discovered a link to a real time feed of flights into, out of, and around Teterboro. You can watch the planes take off, land, and transit the airspace, and you can click on any plane to find out its type and altitude. Similar feeds are available for Newark, La Guardia, and JFK. You can zoom out to get the big picture, or zoom in to get a detailed view of what’s going on close to the airport.
So now you have to decide who you want to pretend to be — John Cusack or Billy Bob Thornton — and then you can scream into your imaginary headset lining up planes tight on the approach to keep the tin moving and prove that you’re the alpha-controller. Of course, the planes won’t listen to you, but that’s life. More seriously, it’s a great way to get a feel for traffic patterns before flying into New York airspace, supposedly the world’s busiest (though I’ve flown my Warrior in and out twice so far and found it quieter than Toronto or Ottawa on a busy day — that might just have been my timing).