I blogged about Scene Systems’ animation of Flight 1549’s landing in the Hudson here back in March.  Great effort, but I noted that it would take hundreds more hours of work before it could be used in court.  That’s because it did not appear that the animation accounted for and synchronized all the available data for the flight.  For example, the flight path depicted in the animation could not have been true to the information from the flight data recorder, because the flight data recorder had not yet been downloaded and made available by the NTSB.  As a result, Scene System’s finished product involved too much guesswork to ever be shown to a jury.

Just for fun, Kas Osterbuhr of Exosphere3d in Denver has been working on perfecting an animation ever since.  He emailed me the link late last night.  Kas, whose firm creates animations for use in court, explained to me that his animation is pretty much technically perfect.

Among the datasets utilized are: audio transcripts and recordings, digital flight data recorder, raw radar data, NEXRAD weather, witness statements, satellite imagery, elevation maps and several of the NTSB reports published in the docket. . .All aspects of this animation are based on actual data, whether from the NTSB docket or otherwise. The entire 3D reconstruction is built into a single environment where every piece of information can be aligned in position and on a timeline.

Tons of work went into this animation and it shows.  Aviation accident animations don’t get any better than this.

One question, Kas.  The animation depicts flames coming from the aircraft’s engines at certain times.  On what data is this based and what would happen if the judge ultimately determined that that evidence for this aspect of the animation is insufficient to allow it to be shown to a jury?

November 9 Update: Kas’ response is in the comments.

  • Mr. Danko,

    You have posed a great question regarding the flames/smoke. I have included a few paragraphs of text onto the webpage which describes the basis for my decision. I debated the “engine flames” issue for quite some time and did not take it lightly; graphic elements such as these are usually difficult to substantiate.

    In the end, I found a pretty good amount of testimony that led me to include fire and smoke from the engine(s). I used the fuel flow data from the FDR as a quantitative basis. If this reconstruction were truly destined for the courtroom, I would discuss with the client the possibility of preparing a version without flames. Remember, this presentation is really just one of many embodiements that the reconstruction can take. I have chosen to include the information elements shown to best represent a “typical” animation.

    By the way, in your post, you say that this animation is “pretty much technically perfect” and I want to stress that “pretty much” is a required qualifier…nothing is ever perfect but I do my best to strive for that.

  • Mike Danko


    Thanks for the added insight and thanks sharing your work.


  • Kas

    Since the movie was coming out, I thought I should engage the audience again with an accurate real-time animation. This time in 360 degrees. Best enjoyed with Samsung GearVR or Google Cardboard or similar.

  • mike danko