Part of MDEP’s mission is to find new ways of representing data through the creation of web maps. With the support of MDEP, a Masters student at the University of Redlands built a plane crash modeling tool called The Recovery of Crash Site or RoCS, which you can read more about at the bottom of this page.
While compiling data to test RoCS, we came across the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Aviation Accident Database and Synopses.
The NTSB database includes data documenting time, date and coordinates for most crashes. Unfortunately, before the year 2000 very few incidents included any coordinate data. Our initial thought upon discovering this database was to construct a heatmap of the crashes to determine where the highest concentrations of crashes have occurred within the NTSB record.
There are almost as many ways to create a webmap as there are plane crashes, we used the Leaflet JS library and multiple java script plug-ins to build this map.
From the start, we expected to find most incidents occurring at take-off and landing. We took a subset of the NTSB data to include only those containing crash-site coordinates, and of the 77,752 records we were left with just 24,289. Looking at the "Broad Phase of Flight" column we noticed that of the 11 phases of flight two phases in particular, take-off and landing, contributed nearly 50% of all incidents. During development of this map, we stumbled across the "Plus 3/Minus 8 Rule". Apparently well known in aviation, this rule proposes that the most risky parts of the flight are the first three and last eight minutes, i.e. take-off and landing.
The Major Airports Points Layer is on by default () inspecting the relationship of hot spots to major airports, you can get the idea, geospatially that many crashes occur on take-off and landing. Analysis rather than inspection should be done to come to any type of conclusion on the hypothesis.
Go to the layer switcher turn off the "Static Heatmap" and turn on the "Aviation Crash Points" ( ) and you get a bigger picture of just how many crashes have been recorded. Zoom all the way out and you'll see that the NTSB has investigated crashes all over the world.
To view month by month hot spots, go to the layer switcher and turn on the "Animated Heatmap" you'll now be able to drag the slider at the bottom of the map and the heatmap will only render a month worth of data. You can drag the slider anywhere from December 1999 to December 2015, press play and watch for recurring hotspots.
The RoCS application was developed by Shilpi Jain while acquiring Her Masters of Science in GIS at the University of Redlands.
RoCS has a simple html 5 interface that can be used on any device with an internet connection and a web browser. A first responder can enter some general information on a plane crash and create a basic debris field model that can be used during a hasty search, this output can then be exported to shapefile and emailed to a GIS office or professional for further plane crash analysis.
Try the RoCS application by going to crash.mojavedata.gov on any device. Try it now by docking this sidebar and click the plane button below the zoom buttons.