On the Job: GIS-Based Presentation Benefits 9/11 Commission

15 Oct, 2004 By: Cadalyst Staff Cadalyst

ESRI's ArcGIS software compiles and presents hijackers' activities

ArcGIS software from ESRI provided 9/11 Commission members with 2D and 3D analysis and visualization of activities surrounding the hijacking of commercial airliners on September 11, 2001. ESRI supported the 9/11 Commission staff responsible for writing "Staff Statement 17 -- Improvising a Homeland Defense" and the first chapter of the commission's final report.

"The presentation was a tremendous success," says Charley Pereira, an aviation accident investigation specialist detailed to the 9/11 Commission. "ESRI did an excellent job, and I'm very proud to have worked with them on something this important to the country."

"That presentation will be reviewed over and over by millions of people over the years, Pereira continues. "It will help dispel inaccurate rumors and misunderstandings and will help the Department of Defense, Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Security Administration, Department of Homeland Security, Congress, and other government entities improve our country's defenses against terrorism."

The ArcGIS software-supported presentation took place during the 9/11 Commission's last public hearing on June 17, 2004. It focused on reconstructing the flight paths of the hijacked airliners and fighter aircraft as well as the FAA and military response to the hijackings. The presentation helped to better understand exactly what did and did not take place surrounding the events of 9/11.

The ESRI team generated 3D animation files depicting the flights of the four hijacked planes, fighter planes, and other airplanes of interest to bring together the various data sets including radar, flight recorder, and crash site data. The system accurately plotted aircraft locations and depicted military and FAA responses following the hijackings. The presentation incorporated a customized, simulated clock to show time in correlation with aircraft locations (figure 1). The software made it very easy to jump to any given point in time to display where the planes were and what was happening at various NORAD and FAA locations.

Figure 1. This frame from a presentation created by ESRI for the 9/11 Commission depicts the paths and locations of four hijacked airliners and two groups of fighter planes at 10:03 a.m. (EST) on September 11, 2001.

Two ESRI business partners provided key commercial data sets of imagery and building footprints. DigitalGlobe provided a 15-meter mosaic of the United States and the QuickBird high-resolution imagery of Washington, D.C. Vexcel provided 3D building data of Washington, D.C., and New York City as well as high-resolution imagery of New York City. ESRI continued to support the commission by generating additional maps and data that were used in the 9/11 Commission's final report.

9/11 Commission

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