EAAer Uses 3D Animation to Reconstruct Hudson River Landing
November 6, 2009 — The landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson has been dissected from many angles and now one EAA member has created what is likely the most complete and visually impactful animated reconstruction of the event to date.
Kas Osterbuhr, vice-president of engineering for K3 Resources, Inc., which specializes in accident reconstruction, began the project after a conversation with EAA staff during EAA AirVenture 2009. Using their Exosphere3D software, Osterbuhr initially set out to create a reconstruction to use as a marketing vehicle; however after investing 200 hours his curiosity continued to drive him to refine the project into deeper and deeper detail. The entire presentation contains six videos including an integrated animation that shows the aircraft on its entire flight path switching at key times to different angles. It also includes an in-cockpt inset view, as well as text and audio of Air Traffic Control (ATC) and crew transmissions.
K3’s clients often use Exosphere3D as part of litigation or an investigation. Osterbuhr is careful to note that they create the animation so that others can provide interpretation. “I have a great deal of interest in the visualization of abstract datasets,” Osterbuhr says. “The human brain is an amazing computer but it doesn’t do very well at reading gigabytes of raw data. My goal is to bring together as much information into one place as possible, usually in a graphic way, and allow that human computer to do its job.”
In the video five elements are brought together to help the viewer: A terrain model, (the city, the satellite image of the airport, etc.); depiction of the flightpath (from the aircraft’s flight data recorder); audio recordings from air traffic control, and a carefully selected amount of other data such as airspeed, altitude, sun position and other relevant data. One of the interesting things that Osterbuhr found was the sheer number of birds that were flying around that day and how visible they were on radar.
The entire analysis was compiled into a website where every detail was considered including air traffic and weather radar, flight path analysis for every aircraft operating in the area, and ATC transcripts from all the participating facilities. Despite the rarity of the NTSB releasing the cockpit voice recordings Osterbuhr hopes to someday attain them and make a new video from the perspective of the pilots with input from the flight crew.
“My goal is never to find out who is at fault, because there have been few if any occasions when one single person or decision is the cause of an accident,” Osterbuhr said. The National Transportation Safety Board has released an animation of the event as well, but they have not released their final report.