Tag Archives: Science

Airplanes, dead birds, and Tableau

For one of my projects in my Information Visualization class (HCDE 411), I was given some data collected by the FAA through a voluntary wildlife strike report online from. The FAA has maintained this wildlife strike database since 1990.

The task was to create an interesting information visualization from that data.

I immediately started thinking of lots of interesting questions, especially since I like aircraft, and I really really like wildlife.

For example:

“What aircraft are most likely to strike birds?” (I figured this would take a lot of extra work, since I would need to find the ratio of aircraft models involved in a strike to all aircraft registered under that model.)

“What is the rate that experimental aircraft strike birds vs. normal aircraft?”

“What species of wildlife are most often struck by aircraft?”  (This would have also been a troublesome question, since the sum number of strike entries is much lower than the actual number of birds struck, since it is not uncommon for many birds to be struck at once. Also, many of the species were unidentified, or unidentifiable after going through an aircraft propeller.)

I explored around the data by creating some preliminary visualizations using a software program called Tableau, and by scanning over the data in Excel. Tableau is a visual analysis software that can generate data visualizations as JavaScript, PDFs, or other things. Doing this project was my first experience using Tableau. In general I found it to be quite intuitive (not like Eclipse…), except for the fact that selecting save in the file menu saves only your data, but not your visualizations.

Anyway, the question I decided to ultimately go with is:

What species of wildlife cause the most damage?

Figure 1. Most costly wildlife strikes by repair time. The top row shows repair time in hours, and the bottom row compares totally number of strikes by the same type of wildlife.

Figure 1. Most costly wildlife strikes by repair time. The top row shows repair time in hours, and the bottom row compares totally number of strikes by the same type of wildlife.

An interesting side note:

Intuitively, most wildlife strikes by aircraft are birds. However, some mammals (besides bats) are included as well. As seen in Figure 2, it is interesting to note that more than 100 White Tailed Deer have been struck during the climb and approach phases of flight (not takeoff and landing) since 1990.  I asked an aeronautical and astronautical engineering student (Ransom) about this phenomenon, and he said this was probably due to small aircraft utilizing ground effect (and if you don’t know what that is, it’s basically flying very low to the ground).

Figure 2. Mammal strikes for each phase of flight since 1990.

Figure 2. Mammal strikes for each phase of flight since 1990.