Howto:Make an airport

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This article will guide you through the process of creating an airport and link you to related articles.

A note about licenses

Official FlightGear scenery is, as the rest of the program and data, licensed under the GNU General Public License v2. In order to have your work included in the official scenery, it must comply with this license.

In short this means that you can only use images that:

  • you created yourself, entirely from scratch. This is the case when you draw something, or take a photograph of a building.
  • you received permission for to release under the GNU GPL v2.
  • are licensed under a GNU GPL v2 compatible license (eg. Public Domain).

Google Earth imagery is per definition not compatible. For the USA you can download the High Resolution Orthoimagery jpeg from and use that to trace airports or buildings. For other countries, you might use OpenStreetMap data if available. Note that OpenStreetMap has been granted the right to trace over Yahoo and Bing aerial images, so it can get quite accurate. Consider learning how to map airports in OSM.

Alternatively you can estimate the lengths and widths of the buildings by looking at pictures.

Runways, taxiways and aprons

What you need

Ubuntu users, can use the script in Ubuntu fg tools.

Airport layout

The very first step before creating a new airport layout is to check if the airport already exists in the airport database in the X-Plane Airports Database. If we find our airport there, we can improve it, if not, we start a new layout. This is all done in WorldEditor.

So if we have done the airport in WED, we save it as "ICAO.dat" (replacing ICAO with the ICAO code of your airport). That's the X-Plane fileformat, which is used by FlightGear too.

A note about the formats

FlightGear once used the 810 version of the apt.dat file format, while now 850 is on duty. The difference between them is mainly that 850 allows laying down taxiways/taxilines independently, and making them bend smoothly (with Bezier curves This is a link to a Wikipedia article), while in 810 there were only rectangles of taxiways with a yellow line in the middle. You can tell an old airport by the fact that crossings and bends are rounded by overlaying a number of rectangular patches. If you meet one, consider converting it, and as you're already there try to gather information to make it better!

Turning the airport into FlightGear scenery

There are three possibilities, the later two require TerraGear, but have the advantage that you can view the result immediately:

Share your layout with the world!

FlightGear and X-Plane make use of the same airport data. The X-Plane team has set up a scenery gateway that allows you to submit your layout for inclusion in the official scenery of both simulators. Even after being accepted into the X-Plane gateway, FlightGear will only show the changes after its own rebuild of the scenery, which occurs periodically.

Terminals, towers and hangars

What you need

  • 3D modeling software, like Blender or SketchUp, as long as it can export to the .ac file type.
  • Lots of pictures of the buildings at the airport.

Making a 3D model

One meter in FlightGear is one meter in the real world. If you use aerial or satellite imagery to measure out the buildings you'll be fine.

Placing objects

1rightarrow.png See Howto:Add details to your airport for the main article about this subject.

There exists a few ways which you can place a model unto a scenery, one of which is by manually using the UFO.

recently, Laserman came up a with more intuitive way using WorldEditor, that provides a nice, accessible way to place models using an existing airport layout as reference, but the object placement data exported by WorldEditor cannot be used directly in Flight Gear, hence the use of a python script, that parses the in such a way to make 3D model placement data compatible for inclusion into an .stg file. (see Howto: Place 3D objects with WED)

Tip  if you are developing an actual building, it's usually good to get the co-ordinates of one of the corners of the building so you can place it extremely accurately.

Share your models with the world!

After finishing a building, send your model to the scenery database, as that is the best way for them to be distributed. Everyone who downloads the airport from then on will be able to see your building!

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