My specialty as a TAR DETECTIVE is airline flights. Here is a primer on flights:
I start with a vast knowledge of airport codes built from years of international travel and being a travel agent for 3 years. Airport codes are 3-character descriptors that uniquely identify each airport in the world. For example, Newark is EWR, OHare is ORD and Heathrow is LHR. In addition, there are metro group codes like NYC for the New York area airports, LON for London and CHI for Chicago area airports. Although you can look up any airport's code, if you are doing serious flight schedule work that get's very tedious; you just have to learn them in advance or already know them. Knowledge of major connecting airports for each region is very helpful. I will give an example of that below. To request flight information, you need this information:
Departing Airport Code
Destination Airport Code
Possibly the approximate time of day
For example, I used www.airwise.com
(it's back in business!) to look up this request for TAR11:
Departure: KRK - Krakow, Poland
Destination: KUL - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Date: Dec. 9, 2006
time of Day: any
There is another level of complexity if you use AirWise because you also have to know the correct airport when there are multiple in a metro area. For Kuala Lumpur, there is Metro, International, and Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah. The correct choice is International but you have to either know that or try out all three in sequence to see which one is right.
The output was: 7:55am (departure from Krakow to Charles de Gaulle - Paris)
6:35am+1KUL (arrival in KUL next morning)
LO 0343 / MH 0021 (flights LOT343 connecting with Malaysian Air 21)
D (Daily; every day of the week)
CDG 1:50 hrs. (connect time in Paris)
16:40 hrs. (total time not at connection; mostly in the air)
Now, that was a good connection but I know from my experience that there are many more possibilities to do this than I was shown, so I built connections through every major hub in Europe to see what else made sense. Those hubs are London-Heathrow, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Vienna, Zurich, and Milan. London, Zurich and Milan did not have good connections, but Amsterdam and Frankfurt did. Vienna did not have a connection that showed on Airwise.com but I remember seeing it in early January on the schedule of Austrian Airlines and it was the 445am arrival that Mirna and Charla got. The Amsterdam connection was not used by any AR11 teams and problems in Munich on the way to Frankfurt is what screwed up Uchenna and Joyce and ultimately caused their elimination. You have to know enough to second-guess the system if you sense that the results you are getting are not comprehensive. This only comes with lots of experience and ever-increasing knowledge.
Sometimes it is helpful to use direct airline flight reservations systems to find flight options. This works well for the present, but may not precisely reflect the time period in the past that you want to model. Since most reservations systems do not allow general access to historical data on flights, you can only use present data. What you have to do is find the exact day of the week that matches. If you can, move forward to the same time period one year ahead so that you match the seasonality of something historic. If you want to go across most airline reservations systems, www.amadeus.net
is helpful. It did not have Aerolineas Argentinas and some African airlines I needed for AR11, but it does have most international carriers.
This is a decent overview of the subject. If anyone wants to address specific questions to me, if they are of general interest place them on this thread or if they are of personal interest send me a Personal Message