ATC-pie installation guide

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Revision as of 15:37, 1 September 2020 by Mickybadia (talk | contribs) (v1.7.1)
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ATC-pie is free and open source, and programmed in Python3 for Qt5. It is therefore system-independant, but requires Python3 and the PyQt5 library to run. The exact dependencies and required versions are listed in the README file packed in the download. Once they are installed, it runs straight away without any compiling to do (make, etc.).


There are essentially two ways of downloading ATC-pie: one is to download a tarball to extract locally; the other is to clone the Git repository.

Downloading the tarball:

  1. get the latest stable version from the project page;
  2. extract the files to the directory of your choice.

To clone the Git repository:

git clone git:// ATC-pie

More to install?

I say again: the above files are not enough, both Python3 and PyQt5 must be installed too. At this point, please, read the README file for more notes on installation.

The above alone will provide you with a working program, but further software pieces can be installed to enable extra features. Depending on how you mean to use ATC-pie, they can be recommended for more realism but they are not required, and can be installed later. These are:

  • FlightGear for tower viewing in airport mode, and of course the appropriate aircraft models and scenery data (note that it can be run on a separate machine, see feature note in the user guide);
  • the Python IRC library to enable the ATC full coorindation in FlightGear network sessions, incl. unlimited strip exchange and private text messaging;
  • PocketSphinx for voice instruction recognition in solo sessions;
  • pyttsx for speech synthesis of pilot radio communications in solo sessions.


Depending on your system and preference, you might be double-clicking, typing stuff or pulling your hair out. In any case what you must do is run a Python3 interpreter on the file from the downloaded directory.

Two program modes

Initial graphical launcher, with AD vs. CTR mode choice

On program start, a welcome launcher window should open, from which you may start a session in either airport (AD) or centre (CTR) mode, i.e. respectively with or without a base airfield.

The airport mode is for ATC positions like approach or tower control. In this mode, ATC-pie places the radar at the chosen base airfield, depicts its tarmac and runways, and enables features like tower viewing and runway selection.

The centre mode is designed for en-route control centre simulation. It disables all airport-specific features, and allows to place the radar anywhere on Earth. When selecting this mode:

  • The location code is a designator of your choice (excluding airport codes), under which to save your location-specific settings. A good idea is to use ICAO airspace designations, e.g. SBBS for the Brasilia FIR in central Brazil or LFFF for the Paris region in France.
  • The radar position field specifies the point on which to centre the radar. For example, LFPO>090,15 will centre the radar on a point 15 NM to the East of Orly airport. Click on the help button for a summary of valid point specification formats, or read the Point specification section in the quick reference for more detail.

Command line arguments

You may bypass the launcher and start directly at a given location with the following command, using an ICAO code for an airport or a previously defined CTR location code:

./ location_code

Besides, the following command line options are available:

Option Effect and argument specification Default
--map-range=range Only valid with a location code argument. Defines the distance in NM from the radar centre up to which the map will be drawn and navpoints listed in the navigator (accepted values are 20..500). This does not affect radar range, which can still be greater or lower (and be changed within sessions).' 100 in AD mode; 300 in CTR mode
--views-send-from=port Sets the local UDP port number to bind for sending FGMS packets to views. This includes all tower and additional views, but does not affect the FGMS connection port, chosen on session start. 5009

Getting started

Initial configuration

Things you will want to do when running ATC-pie for the first time.

  • For network sessions (FGMS or FSD), give yourself a "social name" so that others recognise you when using any of the ATC coordination/exchange features.
  • To use the internal tower viewing system, make sure you have the right paths set for your FlightGear installation.
  • The integrated FGCom radio system is recommended for FlightGear network sessions. Select the variant to use from in the system settings, check the FGCom tab and try an FGCom configuration test from the System menu. If you have problems, search for "FGCom" in the ATC-pie FAQ.

If you intend to operate often at a given location, it is sensible to:

  • download the latest airport data file from the X-plane gateway and place it in CONFIG/ad (see the Notice file there);
  • review/fill the various fields in the location set-up dialog (a message pops up on the first time at a location, inviting you to open it), e.g. radar/communication equipment, and airport runway capabilities (necessary for more realisitc aircraft intentions in solo simulation);
  • build an elevation map, especially for solo and teacher sessions;
  • if using the radar, consider creating/importing background pictures (terrain maps, procedure charts...);
  • configure strip racks and bays to fit the environment and service provided, they will be saved for future runs;
  • pin your preferred navpoints so that they are restored on every run.

For more detailed and advanced configuration options, check the CONFIG/Notice.

Starting sessions

Solo simulation:

  • wind will be randomised at start, but will be forced to blow in a favourable direction if at least one active runway is selected before start;
  • traffic is spawned with intentions according to the solo simulation configuration options (Shift+F11), so it is preferable to configure them before starting the session to avoid undesired traffic at start.

FlightGear network session:

  • callsigns for ATCs in FlightGear are expected to start with the ICAO code of the controlled airport or sector, and end with a hint on the provided service (twr, gnd, ctr...), e.g. "KORDgnd" (note that FGMS restricts callsign length to 7 characters);
  • before choosing your callsign, make sure it is not already in use;
  • you can connect more than one ATC-pie instance from the same computer, but must use different ports.