OpenFlights

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


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OpenFlights rolls out new maps, moves to GitHub

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m delighted to announce three fairly fundamental upgrades to OpenFlights: one obvious, the other two less so, but no less important.

The first change is that OpenFlights has new maps, more specifically three of them!  They are…

The “Positron” political map tiles from CartoDB, now the new default map:

Political map

The “Open Aerial” satellite map tiles from MapQuest:

Satellite map

And an entirely new style of map, the “Watercolor” artistic map tiles from Stamen:

Artistic map

You can choose your favorite tiles by clicking on the little globe icon in the top right corner. And in addition to being pretty, all three providers should be much more reliable than our previous servers.

The reason this switchover took so long is that until now, OpenFlights was using an equirectangular (plate carrée) projection to display its maps, which is computationally very simple but doesn’t have a whole lot of other benefits, and is not very popular with modern mapping software.

The second change was thus adopting a new map projection: Web Mercator, which has become the de facto standard for online maps.  This is not a perfect solution, since Mercator maps are distorted around the poles and regions north/south of 85°N/S are clipped off entirely, but the vast majority of flight routes display fine and almost all the world’s airports can squeeze into the top level zoom without scrolling.  (Sorry, Longyearbyen!)

The third change is that OpenFlights has switched from SVN to Git, and now has a new home on Github.  Back when OpenFlights launched in 2008, Sourceforge & SVN was the standard place to way open source projects, but GitHub has long since taken over that mantle.  What’s worse, Sourceforge continues to engage in increasingly worrisome behavior, bundling malware with downloads and taking over repositories.  So long, Sourceforge; and contributors past, present and future, welcome!

It’s about forking time,
-jani

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Personal Data Hacks: Visualizing Data from OpenFlights.org

James Siddle has done some interesting work creating visualizations of OpenFlights data.   Check it out:

Personal Data Hacks: Visualizing Data from OpenFlights.org

And remember, you can export all your flights easily with Backup to CSV from the Settings screen, or any selection of your flights by clicking on the CSV button of the List flights dialog.

Happy new year,
-jani


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Comprehensive airline route data released

One of OpenFlights‘ most popular features is our dynamic airport and airline route mapping, and today, we’re proud to release the underlying data in an easy-to-use form, up to date for October 2009.  Behold 56749 routes between 3310 airports on 669 airlines spanning the globe:

The data can be downloaded from our Data page and is free to use under the Open Database License.  In addition to IATA and ICAO codes for airlines/airports, which can be difficult to use due to controlled duplicates and code recycling, we also include the unique OpenFlights identifiers that can be used for easy cross-referencing to our airline and airport databases.  So, for example, a route map entry like this:

BA,1355,SIN,3316,LHR,507,,0,744 777

Can be cross-referenced to the name, codes and country of airline 1355:

1355,"British Airways",N,"BA","BAW","SPEEDBIRD","United Kingdom","Y"

As well as the name, codes, location and even timezone of airports 507 and 3316:

507,"Heathrow", "London", "United Kingdom", "LHR", "EGLL", 51.4775,-0.461389,83,0,"E"
3316,"Changi Intl", "Singapore", "Singapore", "SIN", "WSSS", 1.350189,103.994433,22,8,"U"

As always, we’d like to thank the folks at Airline Route Mapper for doing the hard work of collecting and maintaining the route data, all we’re doing is repackaging and providing it online.

Routing for the winners,
-jani


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Think global, act localized

After tonight’s upgrade, OpenFlights can now support languages other than English, and we’re starting off with two: Finnish (suomi) and Japanese (日本語).  French, German and Russian are also coming soon, and we’re looking for people to help us translate other languages (more on that below).

To try out a different language, simply select it from the Language pulldown before logging in.  All existing users are still set to default to English; if you want to change this, just browse to your Settings and change the language there.

And a disclaimer: this upgrade entailed changing, quite literally, every single part of OpenFlights, so please let us know immediately if you run into any sort of error, garbage string or mistranslation.

How you can help

Creating a translated version of OpenFlights does not require any special technical skills: you just need to translate about 400 strings, mostly short but some long. You do not need to translate everything, and translating even a small part would be very helpful; somebody else can easily continue from where you left off.  All users who help will get free elite level access for a year!  Here is how you can do it:

0) Mail info at openflights.org and let us know you’re interested in translating; this will help avoid duplicated effort.

1) Download and edit POEdit, a specialized editor for translation. It’s free, and versions are available for Windows, Linux and Mac.

2a) To create a new language, download a copy of this blank template:

http://openflights.svn.sourceforge.net/viewvc/openflights/openflights/locale/template.po

2b) To edit an existing language, browse the “locale” directory here and find the “messages.po” file for it:

http://openflights.svn.sourceforge.net/viewvc/openflights/openflights/locale

For example, English is under “en_US/LC_MESSAGES/messages.po”.
3) Load the .po file in POEdit.

4) From the “View” menu, activate “Show comments window“, so you can see comments about what strings mean.

5) Translate! Just Press CTRL-Arrow Up/Down to move between entries.

Style pointers

– Especially for short entries, try to roughly match the length of the existing string. If the English uses an abbreviation (“Reg.”), keep the translation short.

– The special strings %s, %1, %2, %3 etc are automatically filled in by OpenFlights. Keep them in the translated string, but you can change the order if you want:

"Results %1 to %2 of %3" --> "Total %3 hits, last result %2, first result %1"

– HTML markup like <tag>text</tag> or <%s>link</a> is used in some entries. Do not change content between < and >, but do translate everything else, including text inside tags. Again, you can change the order:

"<font>Blue</font> is a delicious cheese" --> "Un fromage delicieux, c'est <font>Bleu</font>"
"Look, <%s>my favorite site</a>!" --> "<%s>Lempisaittini</a>, katso!"

– If you get a “Fatal error” when saving, don’t worry, it’s not fatal at all, you’ve just typed an extra ” or % character somewhere and your changes have been saved just fine.  We can easily fix these for you.

When finished, or just tired, mail the revised .po file back and we’ll put it up for your review.

Speaking your language,
-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