Finding New Sources of Insights – Visual Approach Construction Index

There is a lot of data in aviation. It’s one of the unique things about this industry, particularly in the U.S. where the amount of public data available is massive. However, as great as this data is, it is available to everybody (or those willing to clean and look at it). Everybody is making decisions based on different views of the same data.

This inspired us to find new sources of data that are not currently used in aviation planning. Can alternative data sets be found that are relevant to the planning space, yet secondary in its nature? Can we find leading indicators to suggest where the industry is growing beyond just drawing trends based on where it’s been?

Finding new sources of insights is critical in building the big picture when forecasting market demand, especially when it provides a competitive advantage.

Our first attempt at this is the Visual Approach Construction Index. On the surface, it is simply a collection of the number of floors being constructed grouped by the closest airport. Large building construction is a leading indicator of future economic growth of a city. Whether that be residential or commercial, construction of a new large building suggests economic growth that has yet to be realized; Economic growth that would be beneficial for an airline to position themselves to capture, or an airport to ensure they are communicating the true potential of their market to come.

The first iteration of the Construction Index shows what you would expect. New York continues to be the leading place for large building growth. However, there are communities clearly batting above their average. Seattle continues to be an example of high growth, while Dallas, San Diego, Boston, and surprisingly Nashville stick out as over-performers.

Of course this isn’t perfect. Metros with geographic limitations are bound to score higher on this index than those without since they are more likely to build tall buildings. Seattle, San Diego, and Miami come to mind as real estate near favorable areas (ahem… the beach) becomes more restricted. However, this also suggests that these geographic limitations are also being overcome by more expensive construction that would further suggest a strong local economy.

Additionally, regions with a large number of passenger airports will see their construction divided among several airports, thus lowering their showing on the index. Los Angeles comes to mind with the many local airports and a construction style that tends to build out rather than up.

Context is critical when looking at any data, and this is certainly no exception. Yet, finding new sources of insights is key in building the big picture when forecasting market demand, especially when it provides a competitive advantage. Hopefully we will be able to share some other areas we are finding this alternative, yet relevant data to further build the full picture.


Courtney Miller

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