Gateway scenery artists may be interested in this document that contains useful tips for building better Gateway airports.  It provides a lot of examples so you can save a little construction time and take your scenery to the next level. Topics include:
  • boundaries
  • terrain polygons
  • using facades (terminal kit, jetway kit, etc)
  • managing road networks
  • taxi networks
  • and more

31 comments on “Building better Gateway airports

  1. Is it possible to create in X-Plane a secret landing base underground where entrance is side of mountain?

    1. Yes we are working on it James, but one really should not talk about it in public. BTW, Moneypenny says “Hi”. I don’t know what she sees in you.

    2. A runway cut into a tunnel perpendicular with the side of a mountain is not possible using WED.

      However there are “cut and cover” options to be explored.

      You could explore the options available with the new “embankment” facade. You could create a runway, place an embankment around it, and then add a roof over the embankment using a terminal kit facade. Then cover over the surrounding terrain with a suitable rock facade, and that’s the facility suitably camouflaged. Height adjustment is something you need to explore however (I don’t think you can get a 50meter high opening), so compromise and improvisation will as ever need to be applied to get an effect that’s acceptable to you.

      Please note though that by definition, secret airbases will not be accepted as a candidate for a new airport in the scenery gateway. You need to demonstrate some evidence to Julian, that it exists in real life. If there is evidence, then by definition it’s not a secret airbase anymore!

    3. Everything is possible, it’s just a matter of ammount of work needed.
      Your example: generate new mesh with flattened terrain instead of mountain, or apply a patch on existing terrain (Mesh Remexe). Then model that mountain in Blender, create entry door, animate it, make in compatible with SAM, and you’re done.

  2. Hello!

    Just want to report a problem with the update 11.30: it is related to starting the APU in some aicrafts (as some people also confirm it): with the default С-172, An-24RV (Felis). Please, check it. When we power up the plane and trying to start the APU system it does not start of shuts down immediately.
    Problems are seen on different platforms.
    And also it is all about vanilla version of 11.30.

    Thank you for the great simulator!
    We hope to see it “on the fly” again!
    Kind Regards


  3. Thanks so much, Julian, for this excellent Manual. Very useful reading for everyone, even a non-Gateway artist.

  4. Hi Julian: This might have been mentioned in the past.Fuel trucks etc.Would it be possible to organize a window to pick and choose which ground services are needed. For example, taxiing to gate with a small turboprop, and having a catering truck show up. Austins veggies are good, but does me no good. LOL!!! We know the fuel trucks needs to be revamped to meet scale. Some of the artists did great job with those at certain airports.Low profile fuel trucks with front platforms. Smaller fuel trucks for avgas, and jet a. Another service missing is lavatory carts, and trucks. Thanks.

    1. Hey Julian: I forgot to say thanks for your airport presentation. Your ideas are good. Keep up the good work.!!!

    2. These are some very good points and suggestions. I’m still fairly new to X-Plane 11, and this next question may have already been asked, but is there also a possibility that in the near future we may get a functional “jet bridge”? That would be really nice. I’m not sure if there are any add-on packs which can do this already, but I don’t want anything fancy just what is already there by default in the Sim to connect to the plane after is has been parked and then initiated with either a keystroke, or pop-up window and a click. Thanks, and like my Uncle Paul stated below, keep up the great work!

      1. The new Jetway method in WED was specifically designed with this in mind. No ETA (on when the jetways will become dynamic) unfortunately.

    3. You would need to file a new feature request for this. However, I think it is likely that any work undertaken in relation to ground trucks at some point in the future would likely be focused on the plausibility of their behavior at a more general level.

  5. Excellent guide, Julian! Something in there for all levels of scenery building experience. Thanks for putting it together for us!

  6. Nice update and doc. Always difficult to find the right terrain mesh near airports and your doc makes that easy.

    1. Glad to help Barry – yes I had the same problems, but noticed these particular ones were nice during the course of Gateway airport moderation, so I noted them down for just this reason 🙂

  7. Is the legobricks soon going to be upgraded with more pbr and the glass have reflections?

  8. Nice, but I am not so sure about using terrain polygons for large areas. I just looks awful when used with ortho. I get that ortho is 3rd party addon and priority when making gateway airport should be to make it work well with default XP install, but ortho is without a doubt one of the most popular addons and at least in my opinion it is a good idea to keep in mind the most used addons for the specific area as well. Personally I try to make the airports so they work and look good with default/ortho/HD mesh and X-Europe.

    1. Thank you. This is exactly what I wanted to add. When I made KHSP for the gateway, I temporary fixed wrong airport boundary with terrain polygon. It looked good in default X-Plane (better then with the default (wrong) boundary), but when I generated ortho for the location, I realized what I have done. I will need to check if the airport boundary is now updated for the KHSP and remove the terrain polygon. So, please use terrain polygons (if you have to) with the above in mind.

    2. Yup certainly many folks like to fly with ortho imagery, but the goal of Gateway airports is to create the best possible experience in X-Plane without third-party add-ons present. Personally I have never found a satisfactory outcome from ortho-photos – they look blurry up close at airports, and only sharp from altitude. I prefer the look of our airports with default terrain assets, as long as the boundary was set correctly, or nice terrain polygons were used by the artist in the interim.

      1. Hi Julian,

        In that case, you have not configured Ortho4XP properly. In the settings you can define a higher zoom level at airports. Currently I am using ZL 16 for “normal” terrain, but ZL 18 in a 3 mile radius around airports, with really remarkable results.

        You can have a quick look at this video if you want. The link is at a good point in the video where you can see how nice the resolution at ZL18 is:


      2. An admirable idea, and I do agree that a comprehensive autogen system with good art could supersede the quality of default terrain.

        The big issue I have is that alot of the X-Plane default terrain art and placement just isn’t satisfactory. I’m probably going off on a tanager from airport creation, and more into general environment renndering

        – Terrain colour often looks too undersaturated

        – Terrain textures are often placed in a random collage, with no relation to plot/boundaries.

        – Too much visible repetition.

        – Terrain decals are also seemingly placed in random array and vary rapidly in size and texture. Fairly easy to go using mild lumpy terrain, to city blocks seemingly made out of gravel

        – Coastlines made out of a low res texture, with an exaggerated rough edge (in relation to the texture, not the actual mesh itself)

        – Trees lack depth, eye tracking, or ground shadowing.

        I’m sure X-Plane will keep doing incremental changes over time, but I’m beginning to question how much art is being added to the sim, and the relative applications. Even more strange that platforms such as Outerra (yes that one engine we all love to cite.) can get away with so much using less textures, more shaders and procedural rendering.

        Anyway, hopefully we’ll see how X-Plane evolves. But I disagree that default terrain/world assets are superior to ortho, except in the performance department. And I’m not even sure how accurate that even is.

        1. To my knowledge, X-Plane uses OSM data to generate scenery. Once in a while, the data from OSM is being pulled and X-Plane tiles regenerated (recut).
          The end goal is to have as much accurate date as possible to autogenerate the “plausible” world. This in turn will allows (at any time) to update the art files (textures) and have everything the way it is in real life.

          What would really be grate (or not?), is if X-Plane had its own (OSM like) database and (OSM like) map editor, to be able to make changes to any tile and instantly see the results in X-Plane after reloading. To have similar (to the airport) gateway to submit and share the data.
          I do participate in OSM and the only reason is X-Plane, but we have to wait (sometime very long time for the OSM update to end up in X-Plane). P.S. I am aware of all the 3rd party (community) tools to pull the latest OSM and build you own updated tiles, but it would be nice to only work with X-Plane. But I guess since OSM already is being used, there is copyright issues to copy all the initial data to X-Plane database (if such will ever gets created) …

          I understand there are performance concerns, and just like very detailed airport, this can cause problems. So, at least allow us to clean forests/trees. Currently, many (if not most of) forests and trees are not reflect reality. A lot of trees are in places where there should just be field looking bad and eating resources, so if anything, the cleanup should free up some load. And I do promise not to create forests with lines ;-)))

          1. Autogen & Landclass annotations would also be great. Maybe less complicated than editing OSM tiles, but perhaps more selfish.

            Overall, I do believe the growing demand for either more artist driven environmental tools, or a more automated and public management of editing global scenery.

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