RAF plane carrying Queen Elizabeth’s coffin sets all-time flight tracking record

(CNN) — The plane carrying Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin has broken records to become the most watched flight of all time.

According to aviation tracking website Flightradar24, around five million people followed online as the deceased Queen was flown from Edinburgh to London on September 13.

This number is derived from two sources: 4.79 million people who followed the flight’s journey on Flightradar24’s website and mobile app, plus another 296,000 who followed the aircraft on YouTube.

This smashes the previous record, set last month during the controversial visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. His plane’s journey to Taipei was watched by about 2.9 million people.

The Royal Air Force plane carrying the Queen spent an hour and 12 minutes in the air. He landed at RAF Northolt, a military station around 10km from Heathrow Airport in Greater London.

From Northolt, the Queen’s coffin was carried to Buckingham Palace. On Wednesday September 14, the coffin will be escorted to Westminster Hall in Parliament, where the Queen will rest until her funeral on Monday September 19 at Westminster Abbey.
Nancy Pelosi will not attend, although President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will.

RAF C-17 globemaster aircraft carried Her Majesty’s coffin.

Andrew Matthews/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Flightradar24 is one of many increasingly popular aircraft tracking tools. The site started in Sweden in 2006 and became publicly available three years later.

Its first significant moment of mainstream attention came in 2010, when the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano failed and diverted thousands of flights across Europe and North America.

Ian Petchenik, director of communications for the website, told CNN Travel that the resulting spike in traffic “was certainly our first foray into international events, and how displaying air traffic to the public in real time could influence the how people thought about world news”.

Prior to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the most popular flight search on Flightradar24 was opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s flight to Russia, where he would be imprisoned upon his arrival in 2021.

Flightradar24 staff members knew the Queen’s latest air journey had the potential to become hugely popular. Their team tried to provide as much stability as possible to the website, but the massive influx of new users proved a technical challenge.

“This immediate and massive spike was beyond what we had anticipated,” Petchenik wrote in a blog post. He added: “In total, we handled 76.2 million requests related to this flight alone – that’s any user action, like clicking on the flight icon, clicking on the aircraft information in the box on the left or adjust the settings.”

He predicts that this particular flight search record will remain unbroken “for a long time”.

During her seven-decade reign, Queen Elizabeth traveled the world, making royal visits to places as far-flung as Bermuda, Nepal, Ghana, Mexico, Pakistan, Australia and Russia.
One of her last high-profile appearances was in May this year, when she attended the opening day of the Elizabeth Line, a new London Underground line named in her honour.

Top image: The Queen’s coffin is greeted by pallbearers at RAF Northolt. Credit: Andrew Matthews/AP/Getty

CNN’s Jacopo Prisco contributed reporting.