Aviation is a key sector of the economy, contributing at least 3% to gross domestic product (GDP) in the UK and the US. Currently, airline performance statistics are published with a three month delay. However, aircraft now broadcast their location in real-time using the Automated Dependent Surveillance Broadcast system (ADS-B). In this paper, we analyse a global dataset of flights since July 2016. We first show that it is possible to accurately estimate airline flight volumes using ADS-B data, which is available immediately. Next, we demonstrate that real-time knowledge of flight volumes can be a leading indicator for aviation’s direct contribution to GDP in both the UK and the US. Using ADS-B data could therefore help move us towards real-time estimates of GDP, which would equip policymakers with the information to respond to shocks more quickly.