Visualizing Global Marathon 2012 – Challenge 2

Global Flights Network

The movement of humans is also the movement of ideas, stories, families, business, and disease. Understanding the global transportation systems that enable this movement can yield insights into some of the deep structures of our world. Perhaps the best-documented transportation system is the international network of airports and flights. Precise data is kept on every major flight and is made available to the public through a number of open sources, both amateur and official.

There are approximately 7,000 major airports in 3,000 cities around the world, serving about 29,000 domestic routes and 29,000 international routes. If we consider this data as a network, each airport being a node and each flight a link between its source and destination, then the resulting system is extraordinarily dense and complex. With the availability of “big data” and the increasing interest in network effects, visualization designers are now being asked to tackle this kind of difficult data set.

Your challenge is to visualize a slice of the airports and flights data, with the goal of revealing something about the structure of the global transportation system. With information of this scale and density, plotting it all usually produces a cool but undecipherable “hairball.” We’ve provided some initial selections, but you are encouraged to isolate an interesting subset of the data or create a visualization that allows the user to filter on their own.

Recommendation: Flight data has spawned its own sub-genre of visualization in which arcs are drawn above a spinning globe. We’ve provided different views of the data to encourage new ways of visualizing this information.


Get the data sets here: Global Flights Network
There are several different slices and aggregations of the data, as well as a full network.
Sources: OpenFlights, Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA)


You must be a student participating in the Visualizing Global Marathon to enter this challenge.

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  2. Upload your project (see our FAQ for help)
  3. Click button below and choose your project

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