Scenery - V7 and Earlier

How do I get scenery for the rest of the world?

V5.x: Scenery for most of the civilized world was available for V5. I'm not aware of any available download sites, however. Guy Daugherty used to offer an X-Plane update CD, which included back versions of X-Plane and all available scenery. See http://home.inreach.com/defiant/XplaneCD/. I'm not sure whether he's still in business.

V6.x:  Scenery for V6.00-V6.40 is no longer available, to the best of my knowledge. Scenery for V6.50 and later (including all V7 versions) is currently available on CD from Laminar Research and from X-Plane.org, or via free download from the GloS Project.

How has the scenery evolved?

Four generations of scenery have shipped with various V6.x-V7.x versions:

The current version of X-Plane works with all 6.xx scenery generations. However, WorldMaker always saves using the latest format.

I just bought the new scenery CDs for 6.70. Do I need to buy the V7 scenery CDs now?

No - they're the same. For more help in identifying what version of the scenery CDs you have, see the X-Plane Global Scenery page.

How do I install the scenery CDs?

Each of the four scenery CDs contains a single huge Zip archive, containing multiple scenery folders. Open it with WinZip on a PC or Stuffit Expander or ZipIt on a Mac. Extract the contents into the Resources\Earth Nav Data folder. Note: you must end up with the numbered folders in the Earth Nav Data folder. If you end up with additional containing folders, move the numbered folders into the Resources\Earth Nav Data folder and discard the intervening folder(s). See the description below of how the scenery naming conventions work.

What is (or was) the GloS Project?

GloS stands for Global Scenery Project. It was a freeware effort to improve the X-Plane scenery with mechanized updates from available terrain data and by coordinating manual scenery updates. Principals included Michel Verheughe, Jonathan Morton, and Ben Supnik. Most of the other folks that have been involved with X-Plane scenery in the past like Sergio and Pierre-Michel were also involved. The GloS project produced the third and fourth generation scenery updates and provided free download sites.

GloS originally envisioned a cooperative process that would allow individual contributors to make improvements to the scenery and submit them to the GloS library. Due to a lack of interest, this process is defunct. The GloS web site continues to provide downloads of the default X-Plane scenery.

How do I install the GloS scenery?

As you've probably noticed from the GloS web site, the scenery is organized into squares measuring 10x10 degrees, with one RAR archive per square. Each archive expands into a folder containing the individual one degree .ENV files. (See below for further explanation.)

To install scenery:

  1. Download the RAR archives for the areas you want.
  2. Expand the RAR archives. On a PC, use either WinRAR or WinZip; on a Mac use Stuffit Expander V8.0 or later. Note: Other sources may tell you Stuffit Expander V7.0.3 or later. There have been reports that pre-V8.0 versions have a bug that corrupts some of the scenery files when they are expanded. Use V8.0 or later.
  3. Open the resulting folder(s) until you see one or more folders with numbers in their names, like +40-120, +50+010, etc.
  4. Move the numbered folders into the Resources\Earth Nav Data folder. (You should see some other numbered folders there already, like +30-120 and +30-130.)
  5. Discard - do not use - any containing folders left over from expanding the archive.

I see only water when I move out of southern California.

You haven't installed the remaining scenery, or you have't installed it correctly. For details, see the Upgrade/Install page.

There's one other gotcha which seems really dumb but happens surprisingly often: I you have multiple X-Plane folders on your system (i.e., multiple versions of X-Plane), make sure you're installed the scenery to the right folder!

There's no terrain in the San Francisco area.

The San Francisco area is in +37-123.env, which belongs in the +30-130 folder. The X-Plane download contains +30-120 and +30-130 folders, but they are not fully populated. They only contain terrain for the greater LA area, which is where you're allowed to fly in the demo.

You must install the remaining contents of these folders from either the X-Plane scenery CDs or from the GloS download. Getting this right can be a bit tricky because the folders are already present in the normal X-Plane install. Most Windows utilities properly merge the folders when you expand the archive into the Earth Nav Data folder. Macintosh utilities may not, and you may end up with a second version of the +30-120 and +30-130 folders with slightly different names. You'll have to manually merge the contents and make sure the folder names are right.

What happened to all the lakes and rivers in Canada???

OK... Sorry about this, folks. In the third generation scenery, most of Canada (and the northern US above 45 degrees latitude) is a desert. It appears the vector shoreline data was missing when this area of scenery was generated. The root cause is that the source data from NIMA (the US National Imaging and Mapping Agency) is corrupt in this area. The GloS folks contacted NIMA but got nowhere. In the fourth generation scenery, lakes in Canada have been restored from an alternate, but less accurate, data source.

There are roads running through my airport.

Previous to version 6.50, roads crossing airports were automatically suppressed. This is no longer the case. The runway placement in the new airport data is very accurate; however, the road data is not, so there are roads in strange places. Removing the automatic fixup from X-Plane allows unusual situations to be represented, like roads very near runways. However, errors in the roads database will have to be fixed manually.

Why are city shorelines all square?

Unfortunately that's the way it is for now. The V6.10+ scenery makes the land areas look much better, but is a step backwards for coastlines. The problem has to do with how different land use types are rendered, and in particular how the boundaries between them are handled.

X-Plane starts with a world that's all water and then paints land areas on top of it, using a priority order coded into the land use types. Each land texture has an associated set of transition masks that define the boundary between that texture and what it's being painted over. This way, the transitions between land use types are consistent with their appearance. The city textures have a rectangular transition mask that lines up with the city blocks - that way you get whole city blocks at the boundary with woods or fields.

Basically, there's no special provision for shorelines, so you just get city blocks right up to the water. The folks who helped Austin design the current scenery are working on how to do a much better job with shorelines, but what you see is what you get for now.

What do the numbers on the scenery files and folders mean, anyway?

Scenery files and folders are organized into a grid by latitude and longitude. Each scenery file covers one square degree of the earth and is named according to its coordinates. For example, the file +42-089.ENV covers the square degree that has 42 degrees North and 89 degrees West as its south-west corner. Each folder contains all the scenery files for a 10 degree square. So +42-089.ENV would be contained in the +40-090 folder. All scenery folders are contained in the Resources\Earth Nav Data folder.

Note: In version 5.xx, there is an additional leading zero on the latitude. The preceding ENV would be named +042-098.ENV in 5.xx, and its folder wold be named +040-090.

Is there custom scenery available available?

There are many add-on scenery packages available for download at the X-Plane scenery registry. Caution! X-Plane scenery format has changed over time, and different versions tend to be incompatible. Check the version number in the description.

There is also an alternate global scenery package available, the X-Plane SRTM scenery. It is a remake of the V7 global scenery, using elevation data from the Space Shuttle radar terrain mapping project.

How do I install custom scenery?

As of version 6.50, simply extract the custom scenery archive into your Custom Scenery folder. For details, see the Installing and Upgrading page.

For earlier versions of X-Plane, you need to put the components into your Resources folder on the HD, in the appropriate subfolders. If you're still running 5.54 or earlier, the folder structure is different. See the Version 5.54 page. When X-Plane loads scenery, it looks first on the HD. If it's not there, it looks on the CD. This way, you can supersede the default scenery on the CD with custom or modified scenery on your HD. For details, see the Installing and Upgrading page.

How are custom scenery packages structured?

X-Plane versions 6.50 and later have a Custom Scenery folder that allows custom scenery packages to be installed separately of each other and of the default scenery. Each custom scenery package is contained in a single folder, with the package's name, located in the Custom Scenery folder. Inside the package folder there should be a replica of the normal scenery folder structure, with the following folders:

Custom Terrain Textures
Custom Objects
Custom Object Textures
Earth Nav Data

These folders contain the obvious data. You'll find a worked example in the X-Plane installation named San Bernardino Example. Note that the ENV files in the custom Earth Nav Data folder supersede their counterparts in the default Earth Nav Data folder and the CD. However, the apt.dat, nav.dat, and fix.dat files are merged into the default versions. This allows you to include small versions of these files containing just modified airports with custom taxiways, new navaids, etc. in the custom scenery package.

Can I use scenery packages from Microsoft Flight Simulator?

No. The formats are completely different.

But... There is a scenery plugin available that loads MSFS scenery objects and custom textures into X-Plane. This does not give you complete MSFS scenery in X-Plane, but it does populate the somewhat barren X-Plane default scenery with all the MSFS objects. This plugin will work with versions of X-Plane 6.70 and later.

I have noticed that when I am running X-Plane every once in a while X-Plane freezes for a couple seconds.

X-Plane is loading new scenery. The scenery is organized into one degree squares. The Low Enroute window contains a 3x2 degree patch of the terrain and X-Plane keeps you more or less in the center of that window by loading whole degrees of scenery as you move.

(The remaining discussion only applies to X-Plane versions 6.x and earlier. In X-Plane version 7 and later all scenery is on the HD.)

If you want to speed this up, have a look in the DATA folder on the X-Plane CD. You'll see folders named something like +40-080. Each folder covers a 10x10 degree square and the name is the latitude and longitude of the lower right corner of the square. So for example +40-080 covers the northeastern USA and southern Quebec. Simply copy the folders for the areas you fly in to your X-Plane folder on your hard drive, into Resources\Earth Nav Data.

Note!! The X-Plane install includes the +30-120 and +30-130 folders to cover parts of the US west coast. These folders are not fully populated; the remaining scenery files are on the CD. DO NOT simply copy the complete +30-120 and +30-130 folders from the CD to the HD. A couple of the scenery files on the CD are wierd and are not recognized by X-Plane. The folders in the install contain good copies. Only copy files from the CD that are not yet on the HD.

I copied all the scenery to the hard drive and X-Plane still pauses occasionally.

Scenery loads still take time even if all the scenery is on the HD. There's a lot more than just reading the scenery in; all the scenery textures have to scaled according to the rendering options. The more recent versions of X-Plane make multiple copies of the textures at varying precomputed resolutions to optimize graphics performance.

On the Macintosh the CD may still spin even though you have all the scenery on the HD. The problem is the MacOS file system, which occasionally hits the CD for file metadata even though the app is not making any explicit references to the CD. You can make the pauses go away by switching back to the Finder after X-Plane has started up and ejecting the CD.

Why do portions of the terrain look distorted?

The same generic texture is used for all terrain tiles. If the tiles have an irregular shape (to get more accurate elevation or to follow a shoreline more accurately) the texture will get distorted because the same 256x256 pattern gets stretched over the irregular terrain tile.

Why do shorelines sometimes look strange (with bits of land seemingly out in the water or with the shoreline on the wrong side)?

(This issue does not apply to versions 6.10 and later.)

Shorelines in the water result from the automatic shoreline placement getting confused when there is a complex pattern of water and land. Things like barrier islands can cause a lot of trouble. X-Plane draws a shoreline and water transition texture in the water tile that's adjacent to a land tile. When the water/land pattern gets complicated this algorithm breaks down.

How does X-Plane decide whether an area is land or water?

In some scenery, some areas that look like land act like water (i.e., you sink if you try to land on them.)

Scenery is divided into squarish patches; each patch is either wet or dry. However, the appearance doesn't completely match because terrain texture boundaries run down the middle of the patches. Here's the complete dope from Ben:
Regarding this second-to-last point, X-Plane cannot "see" the alpha channel, so it cannot know the precise land/water changeover point.

Navaids

I did an ILS approach at airport XXXX and missed the runway.

There have been a lot of misaligned ILS markers in earlier versions of X-Plane. Most of these are simply errors in the navaid or airport database. In V5, some ILS misalignment is caused by the airport straddling a degree of longitude. X-Plane's flat earth model causes discontinuities in the terrain at every degree of longitude. If a runway and its ILS marker are on opposite sides of a meridian, the ILS will be off. These problems are fixed in 6.06. However, the round world conversion left a number of minor errors.

As of version 6.25, ILS markers are automatically aligned with the runway (unless they are explicitly  tagged as OFFSET). X-Plane 6.40 and later include completely regenerated runways and ILS markers from new source data (the DAFIF database) that fix the alignment errors. To the best of our knowledge, as of 6.50 all previously existing inconsistencies in object placement between WorldMaker and X-Plane have been fixed. There will always be some errors in navaids, because the DAFIF data itself has some errors.

How are the Navaids defined anyway?

Airport and navaid data is contained in three files located in Resources\Earth Nav Data: apt.dat, nav.dat, and fix.dat. Robin Peel maintains this data; current copies are available at Robin's X-Plane.org page. All corrections to navaids and updates to airports (e.g., custom taxiways) should be coordinated with Robin.


Back to the main scenery page

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