The latest version of Microsoft Flight Simulator marked the arrival of a disruptive, cloud-powered entry in the genre. The use of satellite imagery and map data helps create a highly detailed, accurate replica of our planet, serving as a limitless sandbox for virtual aviators. While it's host to thousands of airports, Microsoft pays special attention to a hand-picked range. Here's what you need to know about airports in Microsoft Flight Simulator, and how they relate to game editions.
Microsoft Flight Simulator has over 37,000 airports
The virtual world of Microsoft Flight Simulator sets out to mirror planet Earth in full, leveraging satellite imagery and mapping data down to the meter. That includes thousands of airports, ranging from small grass airstrips to top international hotspots. Microsoft has 37,000 "manually edited" locales, ensuring faithful reflections of their real-world counterparts.
The Flight Simulator team has discussed the measures to represent each runway, which require additional love to align with reality. The dedicated tools allow developer, Asobo Studio, to outline the site perimeter, runway footprint, orientation, and other properties. The approach also allows Microsoft to flag artifacts and visual anomalies from the bird's-eye view, clearing up the input for the world-building algorithm. The result feeds Microsoft's artificial intelligence, stringing the environment together in the cloud, and streamed to your PC in real-time.
Microsoft has also discussed a curated variety of "top-level" airports, blessed with a further handcrafted charm over the masses. These destinations receive additional custom-made buildings and props, aiming to translate their full identity into the simulation. It's reserved exclusively to iconic and popular locations, with substantial human input far exceeding the data's limitations.
What is a 'Handcrafted Airport' in Microsoft Flight Simulator?
What about the "handcrafted airports?" Microsoft's handcrafted airports refer to those "top-level" locations, with massive creative input over the broader 37,000. This includes recreating various defining architecture, custom lighting models, and better mapping the intricacies of areas to their real-life detailing.
While Microsoft Flight Simulator first shipped with 40 handcrafted locations, we've since seen Microsoft deliver regular "World Updates," downloadable expansions free to all users, upgrading world detail for specific regions. Initial updates have visited regions in Europe, North America, and Asia, adding new landmarks, airports, and more throughout the virtual globe. World Updates regularly introduce a few new handcrafted airports, with the list of airports steadily growing.
Microsoft Flight Simulator ships at $60 in the U.S. and includes 20 aircraft and 30 handcrafted airports. The Deluxe and Premium Deluxe each expand the offerings, with five additional aircraft and airports with each tier. Check out the full list of planes in Microsoft Flight Simulator for additional information on the aircraft.
How Microsoft Flight Simulator airports work across editions
With Microsoft tying select handcrafted airports to various game editions, the world may appear different for some players. Those without access to Deluxe and Premium Deluxe editions can still visit those 10 exclusive airports. Instead, they receive in-game models of airport buildings and furnishings with reduced visual fidelity, using generic airport assets.
For multiplayer, that introduces a new disparity between versions. Pilots may see different variants of airports, even if it's not immediately noticeable while playing. The underlying functionality remains identical for all, with handcrafted airports merely cosmetic upgrades designed to reflect the real world. There's no worry about playing with friends across different editions, even if the Premium Deluxe promises the full package.
List of Microsoft Flight Simulator airports
Microsoft Flight Simulator ships with up to 40 handcrafted airports, which each feature improved levels of detail and immersion over the algorithmically generated designs. While those with the base Microsoft Flight Simulator edition can sample 30 custom designs, a further 10 airports tie to premium bundles. The full list of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 handcrafted airports follows, with their required editions.
|ICAO airport code||Airport name||Country||Edition / Update|
|KASE||Aspen/Pitkin County Airport||USA||Standard|
|WX53||Bugalaga Airstrip (CAMA)||Indonesia||Standard|
|HUEN||Entebbe International Airport||Uganda||Standard|
|LPMA||Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira International Airport||Portugal||Standard|
|LXGB||Gibraltar International Airport||Gibraltar||Standard|
|KLAX||Los Angeles International Airport||USA||Standard|
|KJFK||John F. Kennedy International Airport||USA||Standard|
|KMCO||Orlando International Airport||USA||Standard|
|LFPG||Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport||France||Standard|
|VQPR||Paro International Airport||Bhutan||Standard|
|NZQN||Queenstown Airport||New Zealand||Standard|
|SEQM||Mariscal Sucre International Airport||Ecuador||Standard|
|SBGL||Rio de Janeiro-Antonio Carlos Jobim/Galeao Int'l Airport||Brazil||Standard|
|TNCS||Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport||Dutch Saba||Standard|
|TFFJ||Gustaf III Airport||Saint Barthélemy||Standard|
|KSEA||Seattle-Tacoma International Airport||USA||Standard|
|MRSN||Sirena Aerodrome||Costa Rica||Standard|
|KTEX||Telluride Regional Airport||USA||Standard|
|MHTG||Toncontin International Airport||Honduras||Standard|
|CYTZ||Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport||Canada||Standard|
|EHAM||Amsterdam Airport Schiphol||Netherlands||Deluxe|
|HECA||Cairo International Airport||Egypt||Deluxe|
|FACT||Cape Town International Airport||South Africa||Deluxe|
|KORD||O'Hare International Airport||USA||Deluxe|
|LEMD||Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport||Spain||Deluxe|
|KDEN||Denver International Airport||USA||Premium|
|OMDB||Dubai International Airport||United Arab Emirates||Premium|
|EGLL||Heathrow Airport||United Kingdom||Premium|
|KSFO||San Francisco International Airport||USA||Premium|
|RJTH||Hachijojima Airport||Japan||World Update I|
|ROKR||Kerama Airport||Japan||World Update I|
|RJCK||Kushiro Airport||Japan||World Update I|
|RJFU||Nagasaki Airport||Japan||World Update I|
|RORS||Shimojishima Airport||Japan||World Update I|
|RJX8||Suwanosejima Airport||Japan||World Update I|
|KATL||Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport||USA||World Update II|
|KDFW||Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport||USA||World Update II|
|KFHR||Friday Harbor Airport||USA||World Update II|
|KSWF||New York Stewart International Airport||USA||World Update II|
|EGPR||Barra Airport||United Kingdom||World Update III|
|EGGP||Liverpool John Lennon Airport||United Kingdom||World Update III|
|EGHC||Land's End Airport||United Kingdom||World Update III|
|EGCB||Manchester-Barton City Airport||United Kingdom||World Update III|
|EG78||Out Skerries Airport||United Kingdom||World Update III|
|LFHM||Megève Airport||France||World Update IV|
|LFMN||Nice Côte d'Azur Airport||France||World Update IV|
|EHRD||Rotterdam The Hague Airport||Netherlands||World Update IV|
|EKRN||Bornholm Airport||Denmark||World Update V|
|BIIS||Ísafjörður Airport||Iceland||World Update V|
|ESSA||Stockholm Arlanda Airport||Sweden||World Update V|
|ENSB||Svalbard Airport||Norway||World Update V|
|EFVA||Vaasa Airport||Finland||World Update V|
How to download World Updates in Microsoft Flight Simulator
With regular World Updates available in Microsoft Flight Simulator, it's crucial to ensure you have these free installations for the best available experience. These packs are available on both PC and Xbox versions of the title displayed as free downloads via the in-game Flight Marketplace. Visit the "Marketplace" tab while in-game to download any of the latest World Update add-ons for free.
What's new with Microsoft Flight Simulator airports?
Beyond satellite and mapping data, Microsoft Flight Simulator brings bespoke refinements to all airports. The game automatically inserts ambient life based on the size of the location. Many of its flagship international hotspots also host vehicles and walking ground crew. Like Flight Simulator X, various services are also available upon request, such as fuel and power supplies or baggage and catering. These bring more complex animations, capturing the full airline experience.
Microsoft has also introduced some changes to runways with this iteration, extending far beyond pretty lights and new visuals. The full aerodynamics overhaul also incorporates a new collision model, capable of handling static and dynamic friction, and simulating the relationship between tires and materials. That allowed the team to implement sloped runways, best demonstrated with infamous locations like the Courchevel Altiport, nestled in the French Alps.
The legend returns
Prepare for take-off
Microsoft Flight Simulator takes to the skies, promising a cloud-powered globe, with authenticity on an unmatched scale. It's now available on PC and Xbox, with three flavors available.
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