This idea has been on my todo list for a while; I’m hoping to be able to squeeze it into X-Plane 10.40.*

Right now, you can place static aircraft in an X-Plane scenery pack using the library; if the aircraft come from our library, they can go into the gateway. If you use third party scenery packs for custom scenery, you can get even more aircraft types.

But this is not an ideal solution.

  • If you don’t place static aircraft, airports with AI planes disabled look empty.
  • If you do place static aircraft, they can conflict with real pilots on Pilot’s Edge, VATSIM, or any other online network.
  • If you use the AI, X-Plane will park AI planes at the ramp starts, so you must not put ramp starts where the static planes are.

This is a clearly inflexible and non-ideal solution.

Here’s my idea for a fix: X-Plane places static aircraft at real apt.dat ramp starts dynamically based on library paths and apt.dat information.

This way:

  • AI planes and static planes do not conflict.
  • An airport can be “emptied out” for online flight.
  • The level of static aircraft can be turned up and down based on hardware capabilities.
  • We can vary the static aircraft over time and take advantage of ramp types in the apt.dat file.

My thought is to do this sooner (e.g. 10.40) so we can all be working on gateway airports that place static aircraft the new “right way” for future expansion.  The longer we place static aircraft as OBJs, the more cleanup we will have to do.

* We have two release sizes: big and small.  1040 is the next ‘big’ release where crazy stuff can go and this feature is just barely complex enough that it needs a big release. Also, 1035 is already in beta so it missed that boat.

About Ben Supnik

Ben is a software engineer who works on X-Plane; he spends most of his days drinking coffee and swearing at the computer -- sometimes at the same time.

34 comments on “Static Aircraft in Airports

  1. So basically planes will be placed randomly at ramp starts. I’m guessing we will have some new option in WED to define the type of plane (Heavy, GA, etc) which appears at the ramp. Also knowing how you guys approach stuff, we would likely be able to extend the static planes art assets using a library file.

    1. The ramp start types -already- have an equipment field. 🙂

      And yes, because the airplanes would be in the library under equipment entries, you could add more with standard library extensions.

  2. Ben,
    I emailed in a suggestion about extending the Ramp-Start equipment selection a while back, but this seems a good chance to raise it again.
    It would be useful, both for your static airplanes AND for the ATC system to have a second flag for Passenger/Cargo/Military/GA etc. The ATC wouldn’t direct a cargo plane to a terminal gate, and your static airplane system would know where to place a jetfighter. Not straightforward I know. ACF files would need to indicate their ‘type’, and/or your flight-plan.
    Anyway, thought I’d raise it again for consideration.

  3. Brilliant… They don’t call you the “Guru” for nothing. I have a couple of points though, I like my statics to reflect the part of the world I’m flying in? Can we add to just to the “Static” library?

    1. They don’t call me Guru _at all_. 😉

      If you want to make your statics reflect the part of the world you’re in, my proposed library object -> x-plane places solution handles that pretty well – just use a region directive in the library.

  4. Hello Ben,
    hello everyone.

    This sounds pretty good indeed.
    But at this point, one (well, err… me, at least) must point out then that there should almost be certainty that X-Plane will choose AI aircrafts placed at ramp starts correctly, reflecting ramp starts’ specifications chosen and decided by the scenery developer, and not, as it happens to be, in random order. I initially thought that this happened only at first launch, but seems to me that this behaviour continues further during the simulation, making, for instance, props to appear/be sent at gates or (which is probably worse) making jetliners appearing/being sent in small GA hangars. Anyway, in every wrong possible place almost every time.
    (BYW, I’ve always been unsure where to file this bug rather than not, but I somehow knew you all guys knew it since forever, so it felt so poorly useful if not possibly even annoying for you…)
    Thank you very much.


    1. Yeah the spawner is random. When it was coded, ramp equipment types -didn’t even exist in the file format-…let alone exist in a majority of airports. (Frankly a lot of airports still only have one ramp start! 🙁 So this needs to be fixed too.

      1. Thanks, Ben.
        That is very good news (among everything else).
        Hope we’ll see some improvements in future upgrades then.
        Ciao ciao,


        PS: My scenery for Florence Peretola (LIRQ), actually has some 21 ramps… 😉 )

  5. Other problem are csl models to online simulation. I think as sceneries they must be in a repository to download them when they are necesary. 56gb are too much to don`t have any airports objects, or not to hace the 4 seasons or csl.
    Sorry for my english.

  6. Thanks for addressing this issue. I have started flying on VATSIM so this is a big issue for me – even top payware like Aerosoft Amsterdam has static aircraft and it drives me crazy!

  7. Hello Ben

    So in a nutshell do we cease and desist adding static aircraft now or not? I have been putting in one or two but not on ramps so they should be ok. As long as they do not occupy a ramp is it ok?

    Regards Pete

    1. If they’re not on a ramp, that’s not going to cause a conflict, but it does beg the question: if a plane is there why isn’t the location a valid ramp location?

      With that in mind, I’d say don’t change your process at all until we come up with a formal policy; this post is more of a request for comments.

      1. “if a plane is there why isn’t the location a valid ramp location?”

        I assume to avoid placing the user aircraft or AI aircraft at a ramp location which is already occupied by a static aircraft.

        In general, I like your ideas about the dynamic system. I guess, however, that a lot of freeware developers will be unwilling to edit their airports accordingly by removing their static aircraft. (This guess is based on the experience with the exclusion zones, where some devs simply don’t add exclusions for avoiding conflicts with default airports, because they don’t share Laminar’s view on this topic, and because they find it too much work.)

        1. Hi Mario,

          LOL – it was a rhetorical question – of course your answer is correct, but this is -why- we need dynamic AI placement.

          Re: freeware, I think this is -already- a problem. If I want to fly at KBOS and I go to the airport and I find only 5 ramp starts defined, I can go in, define ALL of them in WED, and upload to the gateway. I would expect this would be approved and recommended if I have not screwed it up.

          If, in the meantime, somewhere, there is a third party free-ware KBOS that has loads of freeware planes and _doesn’t_ replace the apt.dat, then there will -already- be a conflict! None of what I have described depends on the new plan; only on authors making scenery packs that are not “defensive” (e.g. defining the airport but leaving the apt.dat to x-plane or not using exclusion zones).

          If the author already has apt.dat in their custom airport, then adding more ramp starts on the gateway to “fuel” this proposal will have no effect.

          And if the freeware is a lego brick airport -on- the gateway, someone else can make the edit.

          If a change would break freeware, I think I must be aware of that and consider that in designing the scenery system; and I think you will find that scenery “just works” for years after it is released.

          But if scenery assumes that the stuff below it (the apt.dat, the DSF) will not change, this is a wrong assumption. This has never been true, and there have always been tools (include your own apt.dat, include exclusion zones) to cope with this. The rest of the X-Plane world, including other freeware authors, payware authors, gateway authors, and LR can’t hold still because one pack is not properly excluded. We have had exclusion zones and overridden apt.dats for _ten years_…not using them is an authoring error.


  8. I like this idea a lot. A few ideas:

    * The ability to specify a spawn factor at the airport level that’s simply the probability that the spawner will put an aircraft at a ramp position. E.g. if the spawn factor is 0.75 (on average) only 75% of the ramp positions will have aircraft placed in them. This would be an easy way to control how “busy” an airport looks without the scenery designer manually controlling aircraft placement. It would also make the airport appear more dynamic as you wouldn’t see the same aircraft in the same position all the time.

    * This would naturally lead to a ballooning of the number of ramp start positions. Usually I only put one ramp start per “interesting position” in the airport, so one ramp start per terminal, not one ramp start for every gate position. But if this also controls the static aircraft, I’d likely put one per gate position. However this causes an enormous start position list that’s a UX nightmare. So basically, could this be coupled with a way to group ramp starts into logical groups and then have X-Plane randomly pick a specify position from within that group. So you could have Terminal groups that each have a gate position, a General Aviation group that has a bunch of tie down positions, a Transient Parking group, an Acme FBO group, a Ajax FBO group, etc. That way a player can simply elect to start at “Terminal 5” and not have to pick from the 20 position gates there.

  9. Hello Ben, will be possible that X-plane (10.xx or we need to wait the 11.xx?), the AI will fly a real route? right now the AI planes are useless, they are all the same and flies around you… this, like a better ATC, is what i miss from the “other” sim

  10. I like the idea. But the start positions need extra fields to ensure not only the right equipment is used, but also the proper airlines. It would be nice to have the right equipment type from the correct airlines apear on specific parts of the airport ( passenger terminals, cargo ramps, military, etc.) also the equipment type could be a bit more specific to narrow down the spawning. Heavy jets, jets, turboprops might not be specific enough.
    It would be also nice to have a simplified tool to update start position only on the existing apt.dat. Sure WED can be used but there is the possibility to miss some start positions.One app that lists the available start position and prompts for the missing data could be pretty handy.
    How about the ability to use cls libraries for static spawning from IVAO, VATSIM or Pilot Edge even when you are not connected to their servers? Just a thought 🙂

  11. What about ATC, in the old x-plane 9 with computer voice, you could do a lot more, than in the new ATC.

    I hope in the future that there will be more voices (not just 2 as now) and there will be more options…

  12. Hi,
    Jut one question… ATC fixes are planned to be inclued in the 10.x run or will be moved to xp11?

  13. Hmmm, interesting points people have touched.
    In terms of ideas, why then not consider the possibility for the AI to include a specified folder_and_subfolder(s) for a specified GAMMA of AI aircrafts… taken randomly? For instance, I could have some 10 AI ACFs running around, but then, the AI will choose among a bigger list of ACFs (say 20 or even 30, I dunno) — perhaps further divided into categories, like GAs, JETs, TProps, and/or divided by Company liveries, or whatever, etc. — and then will choose to make them depart and fly them toward places much further than it happens now. This way, instead of re-spawning ACFs that had most likely left a few minutes before, the AI will choose among the rest of the list. On the user’s side, it would be definitely nicer to see different types of ACFs chosen randomly, even if perhaps with lower spawning frequency…
    In brief, a larger circle (meaning wider flight paths covering much more space) around user, and with different ACF types chosen from a gamma of ACFs present in a specific folder, rather than the entire ACFs folder of the sim, that will most likely contain ACFs very complex, thus not properly suitable for AI purposes only.
    Just an exotic idea, though.
    Hope I’ve been clear enough: english is not my mother tongue. :-/
    Thank you.

  14. Ok, question. I just downloaded two airports from he x-plane gateway airport page, loaded xp 10 up and no buildings appear at the airport. Ok maybe i need to trash the ini scenery file, do that, re launch – same thing. Why and how are their labeled airports for download in the gateway that have nothing? is there a bug or something

    i downloaded spirit of st louis airport- ksus

    1. Chris, this blog is not for trouble-shooting your installation. The only general things to note is that (1) some airports have changes to their 2-d layouts but not buildings and (2) airport buildings won’t show if OBJs are off.

      There’s lots of other ways things can go funny too. Contact x-plane tech support if you need help.

  15. hi ben. right, i just thought since this post was about airports in a way, that it would be ok. ah, so some are just layouts and not mock ups.

    i dont use wed , if thats what your getting at with OBJs off, i was just surprised to download an airport that doesnt resemble one

  16. I feel that’s definitely moving in the right direction. I’ve always found static and AI aircraft that are parked at a gate/ramp frustrating. When I fly, I fly online (VATSIM/IVAO) 99% of the time. I don’t want nor need these objects there. I’d rather have more spawning/parking options when I start an online flight in case others are at the same airport.

    That brings up another point that really needs to be addressed with creating airports. That’s parking spots to spawn up at. Being a very long time MSFS user, we’ve always had the ability and have gotten accustomed to choose from many parking spots to spawn at when stating our flight. Of course it’s all relative to the size of the air field/airport but in most cases all parking spots are available as a choice. I know XPX has that capability but it’s usually very limited or completely non-existent at a lot of add-on airports. Sometimes just runways are available. Not too sure as to why this is the case with X-Plane…. Where’s the “plausibility” in that? (As Austin likes to call this sim plausible.)

    What I’d like to see are the following:

    1. The choice of having AI/Static aircraft at an airport or not.

    2. All parking spots available to spawn at when selecting an airport within XPX. ie. a good example would be CYOW. There is only ONE Ramp location you can spawn at when in the real world there’s over a 150 parking spots at this airport. I don’t get it…

    These are just a couple of X-Plane quirks or “head-scratchers” that I’d like to see change. Again, being a long time MSFS simmer, it’s always been the norm. Even before the advent of online flying. I don’t understand why this is not the case with XPX. Is it a development limitation or just history of the way things are done?

    In any event, it would be nice to see this as a standard for the scenery gateway as it would definitely help attract more users from the FS9/FSX platform who are looking at and evaluating future options for their simming needs.


    1. Hi Todd,

      The lack of ramp starts is a question of airport data. Anyone (including you) can add additional missing ramp locations on the X-Plane airport gateway.

      I speculate that the average low numbers is due to the ramp start UI in the past being limited in size; this caused authors to try to limit themselves to a small number of ramp starts. Now that the UI scrolls we’re starting to see more “full listings.” (Even then, it has been commented that finding a ramp start in a full list with the current UI is annoying because there is no grouping or filtering.)

      Finally, I have to point out that while it’s cute to call everything “implausible”* since our fearless leader used the P word about 1000 times during the roll-out of X-Plane 10, not having all ramp starts is a question of -accuracy-, not -plausibility-. The airport is plausible as long as it has -one- ramp start near a gate. (Airports that have a ramp start on the runway typically have ZERO ramp starts, which is implausible – the sim is doing a bad job of making data up.)


      * Calling things implausible _is_ an effective way to annoy the X-Plane developers!

  17. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the reply. I meant no disrespect to any of the X-Plane developers. I apologize. I guess it’s just something that’s been a bit frustrating to get use to compared to what I’ve been accustomed to in FSX. I want to move over to XPX as my main sim platform. I feel it’s far superior and more advance than any other sim currently on the market. Sometimes my passion to want this migration to work can get the best of me and may lead to some not so choice words. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t of commented on this subject.

    I know I’m also speaking for many other current MSFS users that are looking to jump over as well but are still waiting for certain features/functions to be added/changed. I have a few myself but I won’t hi-jack this particular subject by specifying them here. PM me if you are at all interested in what I’m looking for.

    Anyway’s starting to ramble… Here’s hoping the gateway can be used to harness these kind of standards.


  18. I wonder if, at least initially, airports should all be considered to contain static aircraft, and the auto-populating turned off or turned down. Then in WED 1.4 (say), developers have the ability to specify that X-Plane should fill ramp positions. Admittedly this might mean a change to the apt.dat spec, but it would cause less mayhem for all the existing airport scenery.

    *sudden random idea* Maybe exclusion zones could exclude auto-population?
    *and another 🙂 * Maybe scenery developers could supply a set of aircraft (if they wish) that X-Plane uses to auto-populate ramp positions? (like a “custom aircraft” folder in the scenery package)

    1. Hi Andrew,

      A few things here:
      1. How would the sim -know- that a static aircraft is a static aircraft to turn it down? It’s just a file on disk.
      2. What would the purpose be of having exclusion zones exclude auto-population? To exclude, your pack must be the higher layer…you can simply include your -own- apt.dat with the ramp spots removed.
      3. Under the current proposal, scenery developers -can- provide their own aircraft – no custom aircraft folder necessary; they just add objects to the library the way current “car” packs work now.

      1. Hi Ben,

        1. “Turning down” as in the number of aircraft being populated. I have my doubts this would work too.
        2. Yar, that occurred to me too. I think I was thinking (it’s been over 8 hours!) that a developer could provide ramp starts that would never be auto-populated by X-Plane due to an exclusion.
        3. I hadn’t realised X-Plane would use custom scenery libraries for auto-population (of cars etc). Nice.

  19. Hello hello!

    If only we could have an auto-gen for the 35k airfields of X-Plane!! It would use the same lego-brick airport approach used now for the gateway.
    We could for example reset/regenerate the layout in the airport menu (with restart needed I guess) if someone don’t like it or either reset all K___ or LI__ airports to re-generate them for example.

    Now I suppose this would cause a problem with multiplayer as the apt.dat should be the same to have the same specific layout at a random airport… Maybe a separate apt.dat file exclusive for auto-gen fields that could be synced for multiplayer sessions would do the trick?

    And when someone make a gateway airport with the “real stuff”, the auto-gen counterpart would be deleted from that specific apt.dat…
    I don’t know if it would be easy to implement and I have already asked you that, maybe I’m just dreaming but that would be awesome, no more empty fields, a lot of us would be happy with only auto-gen airports I think.

    Have a nice day!

    1. We have considered “auto-gen” lego brick airports in the past, but the issue is that (1) it’s _not_ easy to implement, (2) it won’t look that great and (3) most importantly, the more major the airport (and thus the more likely that users actually see it) the more likely the autogen algorithm just places buildings in stupid places and generally wrecks the situation.

      I don’t think anyone wants buildings in the middle of real-life accessible ramps, particularly when on PE or VATSIM.

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