OpenFlights

News from OpenFlights, the site for flight logging, mapping, stats and sharing


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New features on Facebook

A few new features for our Facebook app have been rolled out since the original announcement, so I thought I’d take a moment to share them with you.

First, today’s new feature: instead of just updating your friends when you add new flights to OpenFlights, which is interesting but, quite frankly, not all that useful, you can now also opt to post updates on the day you fly: the perfect way to let your friends know that you’re in town!  Be sure to enter your flights ahead of time, or at least on the same day, to make use of this though. Note that for existing users, this is turned off by default: to enable it, go to the Facebook app page and, under “Feed preferences”, check the box next to “On the day I fly”.

Also, as of today, editing existing flights no longer causes updates to be sent to Facebook.  We originally thought it would be nice to know about changes, but in the end the cost in clutter and confusion was a bit too high.

Last but not least, since February 9th, the example thumbnail in your OpenFlights profile box has been replaced with a miniature map of your flights, complete with color-coding for airports from busiest to quietest.  If your profile is still showing the old version, click on “Refresh” to bring it up to speed.

And that’s all for today: if you like the application, please do invite your friends to try it out, and share your thoughts at the OpenFlights.org fan page as well.

Face forward,
-jani

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OpenFlights at BarCampSingapore3, Sat Feb 28

I’ll be giving a short talk entitled Open Travel Culture: Wikitravel and OpenFlights at BarCampSingapore3, held at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore on Saturday, Feb 28th, 2009.  My slot is tentatively scheduled for 4:30 to 5 PM in Room 3, but this being an unconference that’s subject to change.  As you can guess from the title, in addition to OpenFlights, I’ll also be talking about Contentshare’s other major free culture project, Wikitravel Press.  See you there!

UPDATE: Thanks to all who showed up, it was a great event and a great crowd.  The slides are now up on Slideshare.

Raising the bar,
-jani


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Give your flights a spin in 3D on Google Earth

Today I’m delighted to announce OpenFlights‘ coolest feature yet: KML exports.  KML, or “Keyhole Markup Language“, is the data format used by Google Earth and many other 3D visualization programs, so now you can turn your OpenFlights maps into this:

Exporting from OpenFlights couldn’t be much easier, just click on List flights and then hit the new KML button up top.  Load the resulting file in Google Earth — just double-clicking should do the trick — and there’s your map, in glorious 3D!    And if your planet looks a little too busy, you can tweak your OpenFlights filter and export, say, only one airline’s flights or only this year’s flights.

Airports are sized and color-coded, from big and yellow (busiest) to small and green (least visited), and you can click on them for more information.  Flight routes take into account the airport’s altitude and even approximate takeoff and landing paths, although runways and actual approach paths are not accounted for.

If you want to give 3D maps a shot before you start entering your own, download this sample (337 KB) and load it in Google Earth.  Tip: zoom into an airport and “tilt” the view with your middle button/scroll wheel to see the flight paths!

Anything else you’d like to see in your KML exports?  Let us know.

Going for a spin,
-jani


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Airport and airline databases released

One of the largest hurdles to getting OpenFlights off the ground was getting good airport and airline data.  The FAA’s DAFIF has not been available to the public since 2006, apparently because the Australians demanded money for their data, and most other airport lists floating around are badly out of date — one of the main sources we used still assumed the Soviet Union existed.  Commercial providers, on the other hand, wanted hundreds or even thousands of dollars for dubious lists of unknown provenance.

I’m thus tickled pink to announce that the airport and airline databases built for OpenFlights, both by the dev team and our users, are now available to the public, naturally under the Open Database License.  The map above shows 5391 airports in the current release (click for a larger view), and there are 5971 airlines to go with them.  Each airport entry contains the name, city, country, IATA/FAA code, ICAO code, coordinates, timezone and daylight savings rule, while each airline has the name, a possible alias, IATA code, ICAO code, callsign and country.  Best of all, our data is stress-tested and updated on a continuous basis: if an airport is missing, wrongly named or in the wrong place, our users will let us know ASAP.

We’ve also turned OpenFlights’s search windows into little stand-alone tools that can be used for searching without logging in.  Check them out, and bookmark them if you find them handy:

OpenFlights Airport Search

OpenFlights Airline Search

Updated: The airport database has been updated with 1000 new airports from OurAirports.com, an excellent public-domain airport mapping resource with over 40,000 airports, heliports and landing strips listed in their freely downloadable database.  The license has also been changed from GNU Affero to the more suitable Open Database License.

One for the treble and two for the database,
-jani


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Time flies like an arrow

…and now OpenFlights keeps track of it too, since with today’s release our very first feature request was completed: flight arrival and departure times are now supported.

You’d be excused for thinking that this doesn’t sound too complicated, but the devil is in the details: to work out when a flight departing Los Angeles lands in Singapore, it’s not enough to know how long it will take, you need to account for time zones and daylight savings time as well.   It also requires keeping all the data coherent: if the user changes the duration of a flight, the arrival time must change as well, and vica versa.

To see the timezone calculations for the current flight, hover your mouse over the icon (in Detailed editor only), and to check the DST zone setting of any airport, pop up the Airport Search window by clicking on or .  An example:

This tells you that LAX is in UTC-7 (with DST active on April 30th) and SIN is in UTC+8 (no DST).  With an estimated flight duration of 18:01 plus the time difference of 15 hours, the flight arrives at 8:01 AM, two days after departure.

Handling DST is particularly complicated, as not only does DST start and end on different days every year, but it does so differently from country to country.  Currently, OpenFlights understands five flavors: European, North American (US/Canada/Mexico), South American (plus a few African countries), Australian and New Zealand, but there are many exceptions not yet coded in and you can help by spotting wrongly tagged airports, eg. many smaller airports in the DST-less states of Arizona, Hawaii, Queensland and the Northern Territory.   More gory details can be found in Help: Time.

Last but not least, departure times are also now supported both in OpenFlights’ native CSV format (bumped to v0.4, see spec) and in FlightMemory HTML imports.  Since arrival time can be computed from departure time and duration, it is not stored.

Disclaimer: One sentence in this blog post was provided by our sponsor. Guess which!

Fruit flies like a banana,
-jani