FAA launches data visualization dashboard to better inform public about the national airspace

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New interactive ‘Fact Book’ hopes to make the FAA’s collected data on the U.S. aviation sector easier for readers to comprehend.

The Federal Aviation Administration has launched a new dynamic, interactive online dashboard to make the agency’s collected data more accessible and understandable for the general public, as part of an effort to showcase how the nation’s airspace system operates.

Last year, the FAA held an internal data visualization challenge that gave agency employees the opportunity to help redesign the Administrator’s Fact Book, a static PDF document that is generally updated on an annual basis and includes a range of collected data and information about the national airspace system. Participants in the challenge took the FAA’s existing data and submitted visualizations to be included in the agency’s new Fact Book, which went live earlier this month. 

An FAA spokesperson provided Nextgov with an exclusive look at the redesigned Fact Book and offered further details about the agency’s pivot toward an interactive platform that will allow it to more effectively share collected data with the public.

“The main goal of our data visualizations is to make it easier to identify patterns, trends and outliers,” the FAA spokesperson said. “We added new sections on sustainability, unruly passengers and laser incidents. By putting the Fact Book online, we can more easily—and in some cases more frequently—update the charts and graphs.”

The interactive Fact Book includes, in part, data and figures on air traffic, safety, airspace modernization and unmanned aircraft systems. The new sustainability section, in particular, highlights the aviation sector’s ongoing efforts to reduce carbon emissions and use more sustainable fuels to help combat the effects of climate change. And those data also underscore the goals of the U.S. Aviation Climate Action Plan—released last year by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg—that outlines an all-of-government approach to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“The transportation sector produces the most emissions, and FAA is committed to doing its part to build a greener aviation system through investment in more efficient air traffic operations, cleaner engines and the development of sustainable aviation fuels,” the spokesperson said.

The FAA spokesperson said the hope is that making the agency’s data easier to understand through visualizations will serve as an effective “jumping off point for the public to learn more about the components of our national airspace system.”

“As people engage with the information, we hope that it will spark additional interest to explore the data and learn more about aviation,” the spokesperson added.

Moving forward, the FAA hopes to continue building out data visualizations in the online Fact Book to provide more insights into the national airspace system, including planned interactive maps of U.S. airports, heliports and other aviation facilities. Data currently included in the interactive dashboard will also be refined further as the FAA receives additional input from data professionals. 

“We have brought data visualization experts into our group and we are working with subject matter experts in the lines of business and staff offices to keep building additional visualizations,” the spokesperson said.

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