Skip to content


Switch branches/tags

Name already in use

A tag already exists with the provided branch name. Many Git commands accept both tag and branch names, so creating this branch may cause unexpected behavior. Are you sure you want to create this branch?

Latest commit

* Explicitly set producer=None when exception occurs on initial connection
* Handle `INVALID_REPLICATION_FACTOR` in main `read_firehose` loop for extra robustness

Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time

Docker Image CI

Firestarter - Getting started with FlightAware Firehose

Firestarter is a small collection of services and sample applications to help you get started using FlightAware's Firehose Flight Data Feed.

Firestarter is structured as a group of Docker containers managed by Docker Compose. Currently, 3 core services and 2 sample applications are included, with more being developed (see the roadmap for details).


We suggest that you have at least 8GB of RAM and 30GB of available disk space to run the full Firestarter stack. In order to have more fine-grained control over memory usage, check the notes on how to configure the timescaledb-tune parameters for TimescaleDB.

You must set the following variables (in your environment or a .env file) before you can start using Firestarter.

  • FH_USERNAME - Your FlightAware Firehose account username
  • FH_APIKEY - The key to your FlightAware Firehose account
  • INIT_CMD_ARGS - Firehose initiation command; more information about this is available at and in the env section of docker-compose.yml. Its value will vary based on your account configuration, but a very basic example that should work for most users is events "flifo departure arrival cancellation position".

There are a number of other environment variables that can be set to tune the behavior of Firestarter. They are documented in docker-compose.yml.

You'll also need to install Docker (18.06+) and Docker Compose (1.22.0+)
Details available at Docker's site:

The usual Docker Compose incantation run in the root of this repo will get you up and running:

docker-compose pull && docker-compose up

docker-compose pull pulls prebuilt images from the Github Container Registry, and docker-compose up creates containers from those images and launches them. If you'd like to build the images yourself, you can instead run docker-compose up --build.

After running the above command, you should be greeted with log output from each container. The services will log periodically as Firehose messages are received, while the sample webapps will produce some initial log output and then only log as requests are made to them.

You can test out the FIDS sample application by visiting http://localhost:8080 in your web browser (if not running Docker locally, use the Docker host's address). The map sample application can be accessed at http://localhost:5001.

If you are running on Mac OS Monterrey or later, disable "AirPlay Receiver" in System Preferences > Sharing > AirPlay Receiver. It runs on port 5000, which is the same port as the FIDS backend application.

Firestarter Components


The connector service handles connecting to Firehose over an SSL socket. This involves building and sending the initiation command, handling compression, and reconnecting to Firehose without data loss if the connection is interrupted. The connector then forwards Firehose messages to its own clients.


We are using kafka as a message queue between the connector and the db-updater. Kafka depends on zookeeper to coordinate some important tasks, so we included that as well. We chose to pull existing docker containers for these pieces of software. Their documentation can be found here:

In this code, the connector is the kafka "producer" and the db-updater is the kafka "consumer". If db-updater stops running and restarts, kafka will ensure that it starts reading from the queue where it left off. We recommend that you let kafka take care of this offset reconnect logic.

We ensure that the kafka consumer will start where it left off with the "enable_auto_commit" and "auto_commit_interval_ms" parameters. We also need to be sure to provide a group name to store the last offset. Consumers with different group names will each consume all messages in a given topic, and consumers with the same group name will split messages from that topic between them. A single Kafka topic is used in Firestarter to stream all messages published by the connector to all subscribers.


The db-updater service receives Firehose messages from the queue and maintains a database table based on their contents. The service is capable of handling so-called "flifo" (flight info) messages and airborne position messages. Two db-updater containers are configured by default - one handles flight info and updates a "flights" table, and the other handles airborne positions and updates a "positions" table. The flight info db-updater uses sqlite by default (but has been tested with PostgreSQL), and the position db-updater uses TimescaleDB which is based on PostgreSQL. Other databases could potentially be supported with little effort. To prevent bloat, flights and positions older than 48 hours are automatically dropped from the table.


The fids sample application is a webapp backed by the flights and positions databases. You can use it to browse flight data by airport, presenting flights similarly to how you'd see them on a flight information display system (FIDS). Detailed information for individual flights can also be viewed.

If you've specified a Google Maps API key, a flight's actual route will be displayed as a static image on its information page. Instructions: Once you get your API key, just specify it in your .env file as GOOGLE_MAPS_API_KEY. Then you will see static maps with a flight track on your flight info pages. Note that the Google Maps API is a paid service with a free tier, so you will need to provide payment information when signing up. Pricing information: You can see that you currently get "a $200 USD Google Maps Platform credit" each month, and each query 0-100,000 is 0.002 USD each. So that means that you will get 100,000 free queries per month. Since this is a demo and not meant for production, that should be fine.

While Firestarter's services are suited for use in a production environment, this sample application should only be considered a demonstration of what can be built using the data from Firehose. It should not be used in a production environment.


The map sample application demonstrates another potential application of Firehose data by plotting live airborne flight positions directly onto a dynamic Google Map. Rather than using Firestarter's databases, this web app's backend connects directly to the queue service. This is a place where an API like Firehose truly shines, as no polling is required by the client to update the map. A Google Maps API key is required to run this application.

Check out the roadmap to see what components are coming in the future!