When I set out to plan a once in a lifetime US coast-to-coast round trip with a buddy of mine in a 40-year old single engine Cessna 172 aircraft under visual flight rules (VFR), it quickly became apparent to me that I was creating my very own personal big data project with a well-defined outcome.

Read on. I will explain what I mean by outcome.

Collecting data

The sheer amount of data I was collecting resulted in many spreadsheets with destination airport codes, elevations, traffic pattern altitudes and directions, runway lengths and configurations, radio frequencies and taxi procedures.


Just one of many data rich spreadsheets

It did not stop there: route planning included avoiding high terrain that I knew the aircraft – and pilot for that matter – would not muster, military operating areas and restricted airspace.

I researched seasonal weather trends along the planned route and destinations so I was well informed of what type of weather we could be confronted with along the way. Aircraft performance considerations were made: weight & balance, estimated time en-route, fuel consumption and cost, climb speeds, density and cruising altitudes, etc.

Finally, I spent countless hours on YouTube watching videos posted by like-minded general aviation pilots flying to the destination airports in my plan. I took notes and committed their shared experiences to memory. It was time well invested: I had a pretty good idea what to expect and what to avoid. It lifted any doubt or anxiety low-time pilots like myself often experience when flying to unfamiliar airports.

Getting organized

I organized all that data in a way that would allow me to make informed decisions about each flight.

  • On the ground I used the data to file flight plans, get updated weather briefings and quickly make informed ‘go’ or ‘no-go’ decisions.
  • In the air the, data I needed was easily accessible. It exponentially reduced my workload as pilot-in-command during all phases of flight, allowing me to focus on the fun stuff: aviating, navigating, and communicating with air-traffic control.

And that brings me back to the well-defined outcome for this trip: all this data – and more importantly – how I chose to use it gave me peace of mind that the outcome of each flight would result in a safe landing at each destination airport – one that my travel buddy and I could walk away from with smiles on our faces.

And smile we did

The result was an unforgettable experience: seeing the entire country from a unique perspective that only an airborne aircraft can deliver.

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Flying over the Big Apple

Big Data, Big Opportunities

So here is my point: when it comes to big data projects, my personal big data journey pales in comparison to the amount of data an organization can collect and analyze to gain valuable insights to deliver better business outcomes or unique customer experiences.

The sky is the limit. But deciding on what data to collect, where, and how to store it – how to organize, manage and analyze all that data coming from an ever-increasing variety of sources requires careful consideration:

  • What insights are you expecting to gain from that data?
  • Where is that data coming from? Is it structured or unstructured data?
  • How do you manage that data securely in real-time?
  • How does it support game changing decision-making, add value to the business or create a unique experience for the customer that will have them coming back for more?

All that can no doubt be overwhelming, and unfortunately there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.

But big data is real – it has become a business imperative. An absolute must if your business wants to remain relevant in your industry.

Statistics suggest that organizations and companies that successfully invest in, and execute on, a well-planned big data strategy will have a competitive edge over their industry peers. In some cases they will out perform them by 20%. Don’t take my word for it – just read the Gartner reports.

Or better yet, download the latest Unleashing IT Big Data edition. It is loaded with expert advice from leading Hadoop and analytics vendors that Cisco has partnered with to deliver custom tailored, validated, and secure big data solutions that easily scale as your business grows. It discusses strategies to help unlock that competitive edge. And it profiles organizations that are turning big data into big value today.

big data cover

So take a moment to subscribe to UnleashingIT.com for full access to all of the contents. Unlike a single engine Cessna 172, it’s fast and free.

On Final

Jim McHugh recently posted this blog about a three-part virtual conference series on big data and analytics hosted jointly with Intel and several hadoop vendors. I think it’s worth a read and hope to see you attend our first session on June 17th. Check out the compelling agenda.

Also be sure to tune into Jim’s welcome video.

Last but not least, we are here to answer any and all questions you may have. Simply e-mail us at info@unleashingit.com

May your big data journey take your business or organization to new heights and land it safely with a competitive edge.


Adrian den Hartog

Senior Marketing Manager

Field Marketing US Commercial