By Ellen McCarthy,
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 13, 2001; 7:38 AM
Flight Explorer, a Fairfax company that makes software to track airplane flight patterns, helped media companies and airlines nationwide reconstruct the routes of the four hijacked planes on Tuesday.
The company, a subsidiary of Flight Dimensions International Inc., which sells its software for both personal and professional use, was able to create intricate charts and animated videos of the flights' actual and intended routes.
Flight Explorer receives information from the Federal Aviation Administration's radar system to provide continuous updates on the progress of each plane in the air.
Jeff Krawczyk, the company's chief operating officer, said all 22 employees began trying to sort through its data after the first crash was reported. Though there were 4,000 planes in U.S. airspace during the time of the attacks, Krawczyk said the company was quickly able to pinpoint the paths of the hijacked planes.
Flight Explorer software is sold to airlines, travel agents, frequent fliers and aviation enthusiasts for $10 to $250 per month, depending on the complexity of the system.
The Federal Aviation Administration referred media requests for flight patterns to Flight Explorer, which provided the data free.
Krawczyk said the company dealt with similar requests after other flight-related tragedies, including the SwissAir crash in 1998, but could never have been fully prepared for Tuesday's chaos.
Usually about 1,000 people a day visit the Flight Explorer Web site. On Tuesday, the number of visitors surged to more than 57,000.
Click here to see the routes of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center).