Search Strategies

This section, which will help you develop successful ASRS Database Online search strategies, is divided into the following sections:



When conducting searches using the ASRS Database Online, the best results will be obtained by employing an iterative process – you may need to refine your search strategy several times to acquire the data set you need, particularly if your search is complex. A good approach is to retrieve many records in your initial examination – it is easier to reduce the number of reports by successively more restrictive searches than initially retrieving just a few records (or even none) and then trying to figure out what to do next. In short, cast a broad net.

Start by using the minimum number of fields relevant to your search; it may often be appropriate to initially use just relevant fixed fields, such as Location, Event Type, Aircraft Make and Model, etc., and then add text queries in subsequent searches to narrow the results. Avoid starting your search using a complex text request.


Fixed Fields

Information in an ASRS record is stored in 2 types of fields – fixed and textual. Fixed fields contain “static” information such as a Location identifier, a Flight Plan type, or Weather element; these are selected using the drop-down box for each field or by typing in a known value. See the ASRS Coding Taxonomy document for a complete listing.

NOTE: Search values for any given field are “additive,” meaning that a search referencing 2 or more values in one field will find all records where any (each) of the terms appear. Thus, eliminating a value will reduce the number of records returned in a search. It can be a useful strategy to reduce the number of values if your search is returning more records than you are looking for. The fixed fields directly available for selection have been limited in this tool due to complexity, but some database fixed fields will appear in a future “expert’s edition” of this online search capability.  If you find that you require other coded fixed fields available in the ASRS Coding Form, please contact us directly at Contact ASRS Database Online.


Textual Fields and Text Reserved Word Commands and Operating Characters

The reporter’s Narrative and Analyst Synopsis are textual fields. The Narrative is the de-identified and detailed event description provided by the reporter. The Synopsis – written by an ASRS Aviation Expert Analyst - is a brief 1 or 2 sentence summary of the event and offers an effective way to screen a large number of records.

Utilizing text fields effectively can require some thought and planning. Note that standard aviation lexicon employs many acronyms, such as TCAS, VFR, FL, etc., and they must be correctly entered or they will not be “found.” Until August 2009, ASRS textual data has employed many FAA abbreviations, such as FLC for Flight Crew, ALT for Altitude. While the ASRS Database Online utilizes a “look-up table” to convert many of these for you, you may also find it useful to reference the ASRS Abbreviations list and search (for example) for both “FLC” and “Flight Crew” to produce the most comprehensive results based on our recent changes. You may enter text search terms in upper or lower case – the online search tool will make all necessary conversions.

We strongly suggest that for better text search results you use as many variations of a word as possible including its abbreviation. For example, if a user is looking for reports that reference the word "takeoff" in a reports' body of text, the terms/words "tkof," "take off," and "take-off," should also be included in the search strategy in order to obtain the best possible results.

Note that the ASRS Database Online will look for exactly what you typed (including misspellings). For example, searching for “PRESSURIZATION” will provide only those occurrences where the entire word “PRESSURIZATION” is used, and searching on “PRESSU” will yield only “PRESSU”, not ” PRESSURIZE,” etc..  In order to conduct a text search using a portion of a word, e.g., “PRESSU,” a text Operating Character (sometimes referred to as a Logical Operator) must be employed. In the above example you may use a “%” symbol to represent additional characters, thus entering “PRESSU%” will find all words that begin with PRESSU, including “pressurize,” “pressurization,” “pressurized,” etc. See the section on Text Reserved Word Commands and Operating Characters below.

NOTE: As for Fixed Fields, search values for text fields (Narrative and Synopsis) are “additive,” meaning that a search referencing 2 or more values in text fields will find all records where any (each) of the terms appear. In order to restrict the results of a search to records that contain all the desired terms, use the “Reserved Word Commands and Operating Characters” referenced below.

Text Reserved Word Commands and Operating Characters provide a powerful method for combining various text search terms. Following is a brief description and example for each.


OR – Reserved Word Operator
  This reserved word operator allows the user to search for more than one word/term or phrase independent of each other.
  Example: (AIRCRAFT OR AIRPLANE) – This text query will retrieve any report that contains either AIRCRAFT or AIRPLANE in the report’s body of text.
AND – Reserved Word Operator
  This reserved word operator allows the user to search for reports that contain at least two words or phrases within the same body of text.  The specified terms can be anywhere within the reports text fields. In other words, the results are not limited to a phrase, sentence or paragraph.
  Example: (INCURSION AND TXWY) – This text strategy will search for reports that contain both terms (anywhere) within a report's body of text.
NEAR – Reserved Word Operator
  This command is utilized for Proximity Searches.  It must be constructed in the following manner: NEAR((WORD 1, WORD 2),NUMBER RANGE)
  Example: NEAR((TKOF, WARNING),10) – This text search strategy will retrieve any reports which contain the words/terms TKOF and WARNING  within 10 words/terms of each other.  Sample results of this strategy would be:  1) DURING TKOF WE RECEIVED AN EICAS WARNING….  2) …RECEIVED AN AURAL WARNING WHILE IN POSITION FOR TKOF.
NOT – Reserved Word Operator
  This command allows the user to exclude unwanted words/terms. For example, if a user wants to search for reports that reference performance issues, but is not interested in weight and balance related reports, then a good strategy would be:
  Example: (PERFORMANCE) NOT (WT OR BAL OR WEIGHT OR BALANCE) -  This text strategy would retrieve all reports that contain the word/term PERFORMANCE, but leave out any reports that also contain either WT (weight) or BAL (balance) within the report's body of text.
% or _ – Wild card operating characters.
  Wild card characters can be used in query expressions to expand word/term searches into pattern searches. The percent wildcard specifies that any characters can appear in multiple positions represented by the wildcard.
  Example 1: AIR% - This operating command will search for any word that begins with the characters/letters AIR. Some of the results would be words/terms like AIR, AIRPLANE, AIRCRAFT, AIRFIELD, etc.
  Example 2: %AIR% - This operating command will search for any word that contains the characters/letters AIR at the beginning, middle or end of a word.  Some of the retrieved words would be AIR, REPAIRED, FAIR, etc.

The underscore wildcard specifies a single position in which any character can occur. Example: AIR_ (This operating command will search for any word that begins with AIR, but unlike the % wildcard command it will not retrieve the word AIR because the underscore character is forcing the strategy to find “only” words that begin with AIR and are immediately followed by another character(s)/letter(s). Some of the words retrieved would be AIRCRAFT, AIRPLANE, AIRFIELD, etc.
"" – Phrase operating characters.
  The quotation marks operating command is used for phrase searching.
  Example: ("READY FOR TKOF") - This text strategy will retrieve any reports that contain this exact phrase.


Displaying, Printing and Saving the Results

Currently, you may display the results of your search in HTML format, and then print those pages. You may also open (and then save and/or print) the results of your search in Microsoft Word format with and without page breaks.  You also have the ability to export your entire search results in Microsoft Word (.doc), Microsoft Excel® (.xls) and Comma Separated Value (.csv) formats. You have complete control over which fields you display and print – as many or as few specific fields as you want.


Useful Tips

  • It can be useful to write down your objective before you start your search, and keep notes on your search strategy and results as you go.
  • It is a good idea to save your final search strategy by writing it down so that you can easily obtain an update to your dataset in the future. (You can easily add your search strategy to the Word document for future reference.)
  • On occasion it may be useful to save a list of ASRS Record numbers (ACN’s) for your particular search results so that you can retrieve those specific records in a subsequent search.