Plane crash map Locate crash sites, wreckage and more


Major refresh (10/18/2018)

PlaneCrashMap now has an updated look and feel! I've kept he same basic design and theme, but with some updated functionality:

Dozens of other fixes should make the site more usable, especially on mobile.

Another major update is coming soon, with plenty of new data and additional details for existing crashes!

Minor refresh (10/5/2011)

I have been busy with other things for almost a year now, and have neglected updates. I apologize to the people that have emailed me- updating the data has taken much longer than I anticipated.

Today I updated the appearance of several pages, with a goal of getting you to the information that you are looking for faster. Many pages have had more links added, and I have enlarged the map on the main page. Tables on list pages now allow for sorting and searching; I hope this makes the site much more usable. Loading time may be significantly reduced on many pages, but I'm still working on that.

Another project: (11/6/2010)

For a while, I have been looking at putting information from other Goverment databases on a map. I found the USGS (US Geological Survey) MRDS (Mineral Resource Data System) database online. It has information not just mines, but processing facilities, historical mines and prospects, and other things from all around the world. The database has information on over 300,000 sites around the world. I've put it on a map, similar to PlaneCrashMap here, and have used what I've learned on this site to make it more easy to use and quicker, despite the larger data source used.

I'm hoping to update with some of the features of the new site, including a map that loads data when you scroll, instead of having to navigate to a different states' map. I don't have an ETA for these changes, but would expect them at the beginning of next year.

All states, and some minor backend updates (9/7/2010)

I finally updated some code to include all states data. This has been held up by some work both in the PHP backend, and waiting on an updated database backend. All states should be included now.

A few states (FL, TX, CA) have a disproportionately large number of accidents included. This leads to a lot of markers on the map, which may make your browser a bit slow. I have found all of these pages to be at least usable on my PC in Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Internet Explorer, however, really has trouble with them. This was expected, as IE has pretty poor Javascript performance (relative to Firefox and Chrome). I've added (resurrected, actually) a warning to the top of the site recommending some other browsers.

My time has been spent more lately on some other projects, including another mapping site, covering a different subject. However, I have been able to port over some newer code from the other site in a way that makes the back end of this site more effienct, and and should enable some new features in the future. As traffic to this site goes up, I plan to give more attention to it. I have found a couple additional sources of data that I will be adding around the Christmas timeframe.

As usual, feel free to send me feedback on the site, or to suggest some new ideas. My contact information can be found on the About page.

A few more states (AL, GA, SC, TX)(6/25/10)

I've noticed the traffic dropping off this week, which is usally alleviated by a site update (I think google lowers your rankings if your site is stagnant for a certain period of time). The usual way to fix this is to make some updates to the site.

I never have enough time to make the substantial updates that I want, so I'm adding a couple of easy states. I'm not very far away from just adding the rest of the US; however, it seems like around a dozen states have unexpected issues in the data that I have to deal with (for instance, one state I was going to include had a single quote in one of the plane's tail numbers- weird!).

Bigger update(4/3/10)

I've added a separate page for each plane crash that contains some additional details on the crash. Included are some more zoomed-in maps, and part of the NTSB report in some cases. I have yet to include all NTSB reports- I'm just beginning to figure out how to best compress the data, and rearchitect the backend of the site to display all data.

The new data should increase my hitcount a bit, giving me more motivation to work on the site more. I have even more data to add to the site (from the NTSB databases), as well as some cleaning up to do to make the site more presentable. I don't have an ETA for these changes yet, but expect something in about two months...

Minor update(3/21/10)

Several other projects have taken quite a bit of my time lately, and I have much more in the works- but I've decided that its best now to post a small update. I added a key to the map in order to help people decipher more about what each of the map icons mean. That's pretty much it. I hope to hit this more lately, but I've been involved in other things.

New domain (11/29/09)

I've been out of the country for a while, and busy for a while before that, so not many updates. I've also been learning python to help me cope with some of the data preprocessing that I've been doing in PHP. This should help me with some PHP memory consumption problems that I've been having. This is one of several roadblocks to getting a much larger volume of data uploaded.

I've added to point to this site as well. This should hit more keywords that people are using to find the information on this site. This should be tracked separately in Google Analytics, so I'm interested to see what it will do without many external links.

First traffic rush, and why I have ads here (10/5/09)

First, welcome to all the people coming from the Super Cub forum and from the PilotMall forum. This is the site's first big batch of visitors. I've tried to find a link to the Super Cub forum post in order to see just what discussion pointed the 300 or so users this way, but have been unsuccessful. I'd appreciate a link if one of you guys has a minute to email me: lee (at) leecbaker (dot) com.

I've added ads today in order to try to pay for the site, rather than run it as a charity out of my own pocket. I hate to do this, but it seems like the only appropriate way to run the site. Asking for donations doesn't seem like a great thing to do. I hate ads as much as the next person, but hey, it seems to be good enough to keep most of the rest of the Internet paid for, maybe it can work here. I'm really just looking to pay for the hosting. It would be cool to develop this kind of site at home for a living, but I'm going to keep it as a hobby right now (and thus don't really need too much income from the site). So, if you've clicked on an ad, thanks.

I will try my best to minize intrusiveness of ads, as well as minimize their use.

Also- I'm noticing now that Google has deemed it appropriate to put ads in some oriental language on the front page, while using English ads (that seem a lot more relevant!) everywhere else. I wonder if I did something to bring this on?

Crash lists added (9/12/09)

I added lists of the crashes to the site. This was done mainly to add text that Google can index to make it easier to find the site. I really don't like having extra pages, and would have liked to do everything on this site dynamically- but right now, this seems to be the only way to generate pagerank/traffic until other sites link here.

No site updates; non-US plane crash information, Google indexing (9/6/09)

I've noticed a big drop off in visitors to the site as I have made more and more of the information load dynamically. Apparently, information presented that requires Javascript code to run is not indexed by Google. Consequently, less and less information from the site is indexed, and I get fewer and fewer hits from Google. This worries me a bit, as I think I have been making the site more useful, while suffering the consequence of having fewer users find it. I really don't like this.

I've been thinking about ways to fix this problem, possibly by presenting different pages to the Google indexing bots. This doesn't seem right, and seems like a lot of work. The future plans for the site have been modified to include many more static pages, or at least static-looking pages (through the goodness of apache's mod-rewrite). I think having more pages with static URLs, and static HTML content should provide much more information for Google to index, and provide a lot more hits, as well as be a useful way of presenting information. Static pages for each crash incident, as well as static pages containing lists indexed by date, by state, or other parameters should provide the content that Google needs to index.

More states and IE performance fixed (9/3/09)

I've added a good number of the midwest states, more than doubling the number of states with available records from 9 to 20. This should increase the usefulness of the site to many visitors.

I have also modified the maps to use the Google maps 2 interface. This has been in the works for a long time, as it required a bit of the code to be rewritten. During performance testing, I found that the bulkier Google Maps V2 interface worked much faster than Google Maps V3 in IE, despite claims that the V3 interface was a lightweight interface. I am happy to report big speed gains. I attribute much of the gains to more mature code, even if it is more bulky. The version 2 Maps API has many more available features and libraries, and I look forward to adding some of these to the map interface.

Improved state selection map (8/31/09)

In my never-ending quest to make plane crash information more accessible, I've added a better map on the front page to make state map selection easier. This replaces the old text-table based map.

I'm about to finish a big update. I've been working on performance in Internet Explorer for almost two weeks now. Map initial render is really really slow (~2 minutes for some states) compared to other browsers (all under 7 seconds). Until a few days ago, I wasn't able to discover the reason for this. I finally figured out that IE doesn't perform well in code that heavily uses closures, a more advanced javascript feature. I have been using the Google Maps API version 3, which heavily depends on closures. This worked well in Google's browser and Firefox initially, so I stuck with it. It is supposed to be a lighter, higher performing API compared to the very popular but more bloated version 2. I didn't find this to be the case.

I've switched the state maps to the version 2 API, and have observed a large performance increase. I hope to land this update on Thursday, the next update day in the 3 day cycle that I am sticking to. I hope to also include several usability enhancements, such as the ability to dynamically load multiple states' maps on one page on demand. After these few map usability updates, I will focus on adding more detailed information about each crash to the site, likely to include pages for each crash, and likely a Wiki for each one. I'd like to eventually find more data sources, but I don't think that there are any more out there. The only remaining untapped data source is you, reading (and, in the future, contributing!) to this site.

City geocoding accuracy improved for NTSB data (8/28/09)

The NTSB data source that much of this site is based on contains many misspellings. One of the most important places that these misspellings affect the usability of the data is in the city/state information. While many of the mistakes are understandable, it is obvious that there are large issues in spelling the names of many cities correctly.

I am pushing out an update that applies manual corrections to many of the city names. I continue to make progress in reducing the number of un-geocodable entries that are listed below each map.

Arizona and Colorado both a disproportionately large number of misspelled names. Arizona suffers from having many unusual town names, while Colorado has many two-word town names. In particular, the NTSB seemed to like to abbreviate any name that was over a certain number of characters. NTSB reports seem to be totally inconsistent in the way that "Springs" is abbreviated- Colorado Springs had 8 variations in different reports, as did Steamboat Springs. Pagosa Springs, Glenwood Springs, Hot Sulphur Springs and Eldorado Springs are also massively misnamed or misabbreviated. Some Arizona towns had almost funny misspellings: Mormon Lake, AZ was spelled as "Morman Lake." Truth or Consequences, NM was misspelled as "Truth&consequen, NM" which doesn't seem right at all!

In other news, I am preparing to deploy a solution that should yield faster loading and rendering, especially in Internet Explorer. I have been a bit worried that the site is totally inaccessible to IE users due to poor Google maps performance. While I provide a warning on the front page, I do think that it greatly decreases the appeal of the site. I expect this update to be ready on the next update day (8/31/09).

Added Oregon data (8/25/09)

I added Oregon data to the site.

It is interesting to note how many more orange markers Oregon has than green. This indicates that the Air Force dataset that I draw exact locations from doesn't have many of these locations, meaning either that the air force doesn't have as much of a presence in that state, or that the aircraft are harder to spot from the air (or both). Montana is very similar in this respect.

City marker declustering, more accurate geocoding (8/22/09)

I've put a very simple algorithm in to decluster coincedent markers on cities. Accidents with unknown exact locations are put to the city mentioned in the NTSB report. Often, this leads to a lot of markers on top of a single city. These were all on top of each other in previous versions- I have spread them out into a grid, increasing their accesibility.
I added a much larger city database for geocoding to the data sources. This should correct many errors found in the previous database, and also include many smaller and newer towns not present in the old database. This reduces the number of unlocatable cities found below the map for many states. I will work soon to reduce this list further by trying to parse some of the town names better.

More information, and steps towards dynamic loading (8/19/09)

Today I moved a lot of the static information on crashes into a huge javascript array. I'm almost to the point where I can have a single php/html file for all maps, and dynamically load a JS file to populate the map with a new state when you click to load another state's data. This leads towards all sorts of interesting things, like having multiple states loaded on one map(!). In the long term, I plan to have a single map for all of the US, and dynamically load points as you scroll around the map. While this is too big of a jump for a single upgrade now, I am moving in that direction. I plan on also playing with loading information for the bubbles on demand. Putting all of this information on the page seems to slow down the VM enough that it is the biggest bottleneck in loading the page.
I added links today to the NTSB reports. I'm pretty sure that I have both the text and PDF links in for all reports that are currently available.
In the quest to get a more adaptable and scriptable development environment, I migrated my development platform to use Ubuntu on a virtual machine for prototyping. This allows me to rebuild and test all states locally, as well as to perform some more memory intensive processing while baking the data before the page. I still do all of my editing in Windows, with a FTP connection to the Ubuntu VM (using VMware Player). More details on my quest to obtain a more automated, usable, and responsive development environment.

More information, and faster loads (8/16/09)

I'm rolling out some new loading techniques that improve the loading time of the maps of all of the states. There are a few changes to formatting, but not many. Accident dates are now present for almost all points.

There are two main sources of faster loading. First, the actual files downloaded for each page are much smaller. For instance, Colorado, which has approximately 740 accidents marked on the map, was reduced in file size by 65%. Most other states show similar amounts of reduction.

Page size is still the reason that I haven't included several more states in the maps. California in particular has so many aviation incidents that that the page with the map on it is the better part of a megabyte! Until I can implement a streaming data solution, or work on some kind of data compression, the bigger states are still right out.

The second optimization technique uses less Javascript to load the initial images on the Google map. While I was doing this, I also fixed the issue where you can have multiple information bubbles open at once, obscuring data. Information bubbles also close when you open another bubble. This should yield a noticable decrease in the amount of time that you wait for icons to show up on the map when the page is loaded. An informal test shows Colorado loading in about 7 seconds (from 12 seconds), and the more sparsely populated Wyoming improved from 4 to 3 seconds on my machine. I believe that these times can all come down to around the two second mark, and will continue working on improving the user experience.

More states, and thoughts on dynamic loading (8/13/09)

Today, I added maps covering more of the Western US (but not the Pacific Coast :( ). The Pacific coast is taking longer than I'd like it to, mainly due to the higher population density (and consequently, larger number of accidents to be marked on maps). Having a huge number of markers on a map makes the page load size really large, significantly larger than the states that I have already posted. I'm planning on waiting on some improvements in the pipeline before updating these pages.

I consider page load to be one of the largest user-visible problems right now. Other problems, like inaccurate data, or the weak selection of links to other data on the web probably harm the user experience more, but these will be fixed soon! There are many opportunities left to squeeze the page into a smaller size, and you can expect me to take these opportunities as time permits.

I plan on adding more dynamic loading of the pages soon, both to decrease load times, as well as to make moving from one state's map to another as painless as possible. With time, this transition may just happen automatically!

New states added! (8/10/09)

Some maps covering crash sites in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Montana has been added, along with some updates to the way data is presented in all maps on the site!
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