Howto:Add details to your airport

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FlightGear has thousands of accurately positioned airports, but most of them simply consist of runways and taxiways. Although a number of major international and national airports have been modelled, you may prefer to just fly from your local small airfield or nearby municipal airport. Here's how to add detail to your home base.

Let's assume you have some idea of the layout of your chosen airfield, the buildings and facilities. Use your existing resources, Google Earth to obtain several plan views and Google Image Search for as many other details as you can find. Flickr and similar websites are also useful sources of images.

Print this guide and your images and load FlightGear with the UFO situated on your airfield.

Placing your first model

1rightarrow.png See Howto: Place 3D objects with the UFO for the main article about this subject.

Stay in cockpit view. Increase the UFO altitude for a better view: Home = up, End = down.

Move towards the location of the first major building, terminal or hanger: Page Up = speed up, Page down = slow down. Use the arrow navigation keys to steer; you may prefer to use your joystick. Zoom in for a more accurate view: X = zoom in, Shift+X = zoom out.

Now open the list of the models you want to add to your scene: hit the Space keybar. Select your first model to add: scroll down and up to view all the models. Generic buildings (and objects) are obtainable from the $FG ROOT/Models/ directory.

Choose your model: leftclick on the list – or if you're unsure – click on any model for now.

Now place your model: position the mouse cursor on your chosen spot in the view and left click. The chosen model will now be visible on the ground at your airport.

You may now view other choices of model: Ctrl+Page up = cycle down model List, Ctrl+Page down = cycle up model List. You are able to cycle through all the model choices if you wish.

When you have decided on this first model to add to your airport you may adjust its position more exactly: hit = (post 3.0) or the Tab (pre-3.0).

  • Adjust the position of your model: click on the left/right arrow keys and/or move the sliders. The model will be moved relative to your UFO position.
  • Adjustment of model orientation is usually needed: use the heading controls.
  • Adjustment of model altitude above sea level may be required: best to use the altitude slider at first. Use the Shift key to get a more accurate placement.

If you get it wrong hit Backspace to delete the model.

Placing more models

Move to the location of the second model to be added. Repeat selection and positioning of your next model.

Be Creative

It is possible to adapt the models to suit your own requirements. For example, sink a three storey building into the ground to make a single storey airport terminal; combine or overlap buildings to make more complex shapes; sit small buildings on larger ones for more interesting architecture.

Saving to FlightGear

Save your work at regular intervals: hit D and note the location now listed in your terminal/command console, for example


Then edit/copy (don't use Ctrl+C) the objects listing also listed in your terminal/command console, an example

OBJECT_SHARED Models/Airport/ -2.70395512 51.38404119 183.5494 0.0

Modify the .stg file: start your text editor (Gedit, NotePad etc.) and open the relevant .stg file in the appropriate $FG SCENERY/Objects folder.

2909017.stg located in the  $FG_SCENERY/Objects/w010n50/w003n51 folder, as shown above.

It is wise first make a back-up of the original .stg file first. Rename it to 2909017.old for example.

Edit/paste the object listing from your terminal/command console to the .stg file

OBJECT_SHARED Models/Airport/ -2.70395512 51.38404119 183.5494 0.0

If you're lucky, all subsequent changes should be made to just this .stg file. Otherwise make notes of all the .stg files to be changed.

Placing signs

1rightarrow.png See Signs for the main article about this subject.

Runway and taxiway signs are first obtained from the Models List as the $FG ROOT/Aircraft/ufo/Models/

Make a note of the order in which you place them.

Add the sign models to the .stg file as before (d, copy, .stg, paste) and then you need to modify the entries using Gedit or NotePad. For example, change the relevant entry in the .stg file to create a yellow sign for taxiway “A”:

OBJECT_SIGN {@Y}A -2.70283307 51.38317242 184.0008 96.0 

Or change another entry to produce a yellow sign for taxiway “B”:

OBJECT_SIGN {@Y}B -2.70283307 51.38317242 184.0008 96.0

To create a red sign for runway “27-09”:

OBJECT_SIGN {@R}27-09 -2.70283307 51.38317242 184.0008 96.0 

and so on.

You might also consider adding ground signs, if the current apt.dat format doesn't support them yet (v850 doesn't).

Adding more detail

Now you know how to do it you can float around the airport in the UFO and place models wherever you wish.

Regularly hit the d-key and copy and paste the new object listings to the relevant .stg file.

Separate each type of object listings in the .stg file with comment lines to keep track of your work, eg:

## buses, trucks, vehicles and miscellaneous static objects.


You may find that it is best to build your airport in the following sequence:

  1. Major buildings can be found in
  2. Hangers listed in $FG ROOT/Models/Airport.
  3. Service buildings and miscellaneous buildings to be found in:
  4. Fences in the Models/Boundaries list.
  5. Great static aircraft and services are located in
  6. Vehicles are in the $FG ROOT/Models/Transport list.
  7. Signs, as described earlier.

Add other details such as ISO containers at rear of buildings, buses, tankers, light aircraft.

  1. Red hazard lights may be added to tall structures, find them in $FG ROOT/Models/Effects/
  2. Radio masts, monopoles and other towers they may be lowered in height by adjusting the Altitude slider if necessary. Airports are usually flat, low scenes so any verticals help to add interest to your views.
  3. Immediately outside the airport there are usually large spaces for car parking. Currently there are no 3D models of these so you will have to devise a suitable texture map for them.
  4. In the areas surrounding the airport you could add residential and commercial properties bearing in mind the distance and visibility of these objects.
  5. Usually there are some prominent tall objects within a few miles of your airport so it will be worth the effort to add replica versions of these to your scenery.
  6. Add trees from $FG ROOT/Models/Trees. In many parts of the world the coniferous/deciduous mix varies so you could rename the appropriate file(s) in $FG ROOT/Models/Trees and $FG ROOT/Textures/Trees to give the proportions you wish, e.g.
    • If you wish to reduce the number of coniferous trees around your airport, you have to edit the $FG ROOT/materials.xml file. Do note that this file is distributed with FlightGear and therefore changes will be lost in a next release, unless commited to CVS. It is better (but harder) to edit the terrain instead, to reflect the real area.

Your updated airport

As you settle into your new home you will probably wish to adjust, delete or modify the models which, unfortunately, has to be carried out the long way by first deleting them from the .stg file and re-installing using the UFO method.

Keep an eye on frame rates and stop or back-track when you think you've reached your optimum eye-candy/framerate limit. Remember – have fun.