“The hardest part was processing the live flight data”

In Flight - The Guardian [small]

Among the Data Journalism Award nominees is Kiln; the company that made the interactive In Flight for The Guardian, combining several disciplines in one production. Here’s how they made it…

In Flight - The Guardian - Data Journalism Award Nominee

“Created to mark the centenary of commercial aviation, In flight is an ambitious interactive that combines live mapping techniques with techniques from documentary making and data journalism. We were commissioned by The Guardian to do something about aviation, based on the hook of the debate around Heathrow airport. Then we discovered the upcoming anniversary and the project grew and grew from there.”

Team & Tools

“Kiln is a partnership of Duncan Clark, a techie journalist, and Robin Houston, a journalistic techie. On this project we also had help from Tom Flannery for graphic design and Francesca Panetta for sound design. For In Flight the following tools were used: TileMill for creating map tiles; Leaflet for serving these map tiles; D3 & SVG for interactive charts; Canvas for plotting planes and Talkie for syncing audio.”


“The live flights data feed comes from FlightStats. It’s commercial data and not publicly available, but FlightStats kindly allowed us to use it for visualisation purposes. We also drew on various sources including the ICAO and IATA for the historical and projected data about the number of flights worldwide.”


“The hardest part was processing, serving and visualising the live flight data. This involved a huge amount of back-end number crunching (thanks to things like time zones), some advanced data compression techniques, and plenty of experimenting to get a visualisation that would work on all platforms.”


“We expect to see a further blurring of the lines between journalists and web developers. We’d advise starting data journalists to learn to code!”