OpenFlights

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


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Scheduled downtime on Monday, June 8 at 0:00 UTC

OpenFlights is getting a major workover to support full localization, so the site will be down for about an hour starting Monday June 8, 0:00 UTC for database migration and web server reconfiguration.

Want to help us translate the site into other languages?  Register your interest by mailing info at openflights dot org today.  No programming ability needed, and we’ll be handing out free Elite levels to people who can help.

Multilingually yours,
-jani


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Banners, blog badges and forum signatures

Some of our users have been asking for a way to add OpenFlights stats to their websites, blogs or forum signatures.  Wait no longer, banners are now here!  Here’s mine:

Banner contents update automatically every hour.  They can be used with HTML markup (used by web and blog pages):

<a href='http://openflights.org/user/yourname' target='_blank'><img src='http://openflights.org/banner/yourname.png' width=400 height=70></a>

With PHPbb markup (for bulletin boards):

[url=http://openflights.org/user/yourname]
[img]http://openflights.org/banner/yourname.png[/img][/url]

Or as a simple hotlinked image:

http://openflights.org/banner/yourname.png

In all the three cases above, substitute in your OpenFlights username for “yourname”.  Easier yet, just login to your OpenFlights account and click Settings, and it will generate the markup for you.

Anything else you’d like to see in a banner?  Smaller, larger, more data?  Let us know.

Flying the flag,
-jani


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Trains, planes and automobiles

To date, OpenFlights has been all about flying — too bad if you occasionally used other modes of transport as well. But today, a major new feature has been rolled out: instead of just flights, you can enter train, road or ship journeys as well.  This introduces a large number of other changes, some obvious, some subtle:

  • Travel is now color-coded: flights are still the familiar orange, but trains are red, trips by car brown and ships a light blue.
  • Handy icons (shown to the right) quickly tell you which mode you’ve selected.
  • For 3D Google Earth (KML) exports, land and sea journeys stay firmly anchored to the ground instead of soaring in the skies, and they’re color-coded as well.
  • A new “Mode” filter lets you filter your journeys by transportation mode.
  • Estimated travel durations are adjusted for mode, from a zippy 500 mph for flights to 100 mph for trains, 60 mph for cars and down to 40 mph for ferries.

Now, rest assured the focus of OpenFlights is and will remain on flying.  The primary purpose of allowing more than just flights is to “fill in the gaps” between those flights, which is why all journeys still have to start or end at airports.  Take a look at a sample trip that shows how this works:

The Serpent Across the Mekong

To add your own train, car and ship journeys, just switch into the Detailed editor (or pull up an airline search dialog in Basic) and choose your mode from the Flight pulldown.  We’ve also made it a little easier to enter new railway/bus/shipping companies, since there aren’t too many in the database at the moment: just hit Save after entering an unknown carrier, and you’ll be asked if you want to add it.

Last but not least, OpenFlights has switched to the Google Charts API, so those little pie charts under Analyze now look a whole lot nicer.

Find any bugs, or something simply not working the way you expect?  Let us know.

By sea, air and land,
-jani


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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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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


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Facebook application launched

This has been one of the top feature requests since day 1, and we’re delighted to announce that OpenFlights now has a Facebook application!

Install the app and give it your OpenFlights username, and something very similar to what you see on the right will appear, showing the number, total distance and total duration of your flights.  Click on the map or any of the links, and it will pop up your full OpenFlights profile.  What better way to share your travels?

By default, the profile box is updated whenever you click that “Refresh” link or visit the application’s page.  However, you can also opt to give the application permission to update your Facebook automatically whenever you add new flights.  As a bonus, it will also add notices to your feed describing the new flights:

What else would you like to see on Facebook? Join the discussion on the application’s About page, and while you’re at it, join the Facebook fan club as well.

Keep on flying,
-jani


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Interesting uses of OpenFlights

OpenFlights was originally created as a personal flight mapper, so you can record your own flights and share them with the world.  However, our inventive users have come up with some entirely different things to do with the site, and I’d like to share a few of them today.

Planning get-togethers

Over at FlyerTalk, the frequent-flyer website extraordinaire, there are dozens of “Dos”, or get-togethers, in cities all over the world every year.  These involve people flying in from cities all over the world for a weekend or so, all on different days and different flights, and then dispersing the same way.  How to find out who else is coming from the same direction, on what flights and when?  For the fourth Continental Do (Feb 6-7, Houston, Texas), sbm12 had a brilliant idea: let every participant list their own flights on OpenFlights under CODoIV.  Want to figure out who’s coming in from Philadelphia?  One click and you’ll find out.  The same idea would work nicely for conferences, weddings or any other larger event, private or public, and as plans change, everybody can change their own flights, with no need for a central coordinator.

Showcasing your airport

Texas is famously big, and the Office of the Governor wanted to show visitors just how many international connections its airports have.  What better way to show this than mapping them on OpenFlights as DFW_International?

Mapping an airline

Given the care lavished on flight maps in inflight magazines, it’s surprising how bad the online route maps of most airlines are.   One way to address this is to create a profile on OpenFlights, like GAflight‘s listing of all Garuda Indonesia routes, past and present.

Any other fun or useful ways to use OpenFlights?  Let us know.

Keep on flying,
-jani


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Public launch of OpenFlights

After some six months of development and testing, we’re delighted to today announce the official launch of OpenFlights, the site that lets you map your flights around the world, search, filter and categorize them in all sorts of interesting ways, calculate statistics automatically, and share the resulting maps with friends and the world — if you want to.  A quick recap of some of our main features:

  • OpenFlights has a dynamic map. You can pan, zoom, select, scroll and explore all you like!
  • OpenFlights is user-friendly and efficient. Everything’s on the same page!
  • OpenFlights makes searching really easy. Point and click!
  • OpenFlights has a powerful filter. Three clicks, and your map will show only Singapore Airlines flights in business class in 2007.
  • OpenFlights works in realtime. Make any change, and you’ll see it right then and there.
  • OpenFlights supports “trips” (read more). You can join up any flights together into a trip, which you can then display on its own page and even share with friends.
  • OpenFlights is free in spirit. We don’t try to lock you in: it’s easy to import your data and export copies for safekeeping.
  • OpenFlights is free software. All our source code and (public) data is licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License and can be downloaded from SourceForge, so you can set up your own copy or just use the bits you like.
  • OpenFlights can be used anywhere. No need to install any programs, synchronize data or take care of backups, just point your browser to the site.

Gold EliteToday also marks the introduction of our Elite Level system, in which those users who have contributed to the site, either through beta-testing, publicity or donations, receive stars on their profile and access to a few extra perks like password-protected private profiles and opting out of advertising.  On the other side, those users who have either entered over 100 flights or set their profiles as private, meaning that they are not visible to the outside world, will start getting reminders to consider contributing.  However, all core functionality in OpenFlights is and will remain free to all.

This is by no means the end of new development for OpenFlights, there are plenty of feature requests already waiting for us to get back to work.  Your feedback on what you’d like to see next is very welcome!

Keep on flying,
-jani