Here’s an example of SAS Visual Analytics being put to work in a way everyone can understand – well, at least “see.”

If you are as mystified about what happened to Malaysia Airlines 370 as most people, a SAS software tester has a tool to help you put the without a trace so far saga in context.

Robert Allison, a computer science PhD from N.C. State University, is among the mystified.

To help himself others wanting to know about Flight 370 and other unsolved missing plance cases, Allison has put together an intriguing interactive map/graphic that tracks incidents and related data going back to 1948.

“With all the recent news reports about the missing Flight 370, I wondered what other airplanes have disappeared without a trace … and I used SAS to visualize that data!,” he wrote in a blog published along with the map on Friday.

While this map may not be a prime example of crunching and analyzing “big data,” it is an example of how SAS can help tell a story beyond spreadsheets and something that excites people other than accountants. 

Allison, who has worked at SAS for more than 20 years, decided to create his own graphic being left unsatisfied in his search for information provided by a Bloomberg map. 

“There was in interesting infographic on the Bloomberg website that sort of answered my question, but their map just had dots on it, with no hover-text or drilldowns to find out more info about each missing plane. It basically just showed the geographical distribution of lost flights,” he says.

Playing detective and reporter, Allison went on a web search for more data.

He struck paydirt.

“I found a great website maintained by the Aviation Safety Network (ASN) that had the data I was looking for – they list all aircraft (certified to carry 14+ passengers, and corporate jets) that have disappeared without a trace (meaning that no debris, oil slick, or bodies were found) since 1948,” he wrote. “Their site has an interactive map, but I didn’t find it particularly useful or user-friendly.”

SAS to the rescue …

“So I downloaded the ASN data, and created my own map using SAS. It’s visually similar to the Bloomberg map, but mine has hover-text for each missing airplane marker, and you can click the markers to see the ASN page with all the details about each flight.”

You can access the full graphic complete with “hover-text and drilldowns,” as Allison describes them, online.