While everyone looks at the new UI in awe, X-Plane 11 also had a few important changes under the hood. With Aerosoft Navdata Pro now also supporting X-Plane 11 beta, let's talk about one of the most
boring features of X-Plane 11: The completely redesigned database for navigational data, which makes it much easier for data providers like Aerosoft and Navigraph to supply data updates for the X-Plane navigational facilities, while preserving scenery compatibility.
The most important goal when designing the new database was to eliminate the duplication between data in X-Plane's world and X-Plane's navigation systems to leave less room for subtle inconsistencies. I also wanted to address compatibility of navdata updates and global scenery (mostly concerning localizers at airports). Other improvements were the integration of SBAS path points (needed for LPV approaches) and RNP service volumes. Last but not least I wanted the ability to work with ARINC424 data directly, and eliminate most of the subtle encoding differences that result from different providers generating files with slightly different converters.
Work on the new database started in April 2016, when I got in touch with FAA representatives at the FAA Aviation Safety Center at SUN 'n FUN where the External Data Initiative (EDAi) was launched. Preliminary work was completed by end of April, and feedback was provided to the FAA at the EDAi stakeholder meeting in Washington (the whole trip was quite a memorable experience). I cannot emphasize enough how valuable the open data initiative of the FAA is - this is an example of your taxpayer money at work.
The specification of the database was finalized in September, and both Navigraph and Aerosoft were provided the tools they needed to create navdata for X-Plane 11 in the new format. Actually, we are not limited to those "big two" - as the tool is available for everyone, open-data purists can actually generate their own navdata for the US and Canada using the FAA's file.
With the great power of the unified database comes great responsibility: The navigational data can only be as good as the world scenery it is placed in, especially the airports. Some of X-Plane's airports in the default scenery have not kept up with the pace the real world is evolving at: runways are renamed (due to magnetic shift), extended, built or closed and X-Plane's airport scenery is only as good as the community who cares for it. To make their life easier, we are currently working on a big automated scenery update on the server side. We will rename several thousand runways all over the world on the scenery gateway soon, and this will solve the most annoying issue people are currently facing with the new database: runways not being found because they have been renumbered.
This automatic scenery update is however only part of the solution - because we can only rename runways we have! If an airport is extended in the real world because new runways are built, we rely on the scenery gateway and its incredible community for updated airports.
I took the time to write an even more
boring article on how everything works together in X-Plane 11: Navdata in X-Plane 11. If you are an end-user, you don't need to bother, because here's the TL;DR: It's awesome. It gives you RNP approaches for airliners, and LPV approaches for GA aircraft.
Writing this article though, when I compare it to the new UI, I can't help but feel like the poor guy in this webcomic because this is exactly how the end-user will experience the change: Most won't even notice.