Why is Stuttgart Airport (EDDS) missing in Flight Simulator 2020?

The attempt of an explanation

Diese Seite in Deutsch: Warum fehlt der Flughafen Stuttgart (EDDS) im Flight Simulator 2020?

Updated 03 September 2020 (Note about a community project, see below)

The airport is gone

Environmental activists will be pleased: Stuttgart Airport (Germany, EDDS. STR) has been converted into a green space. Only the Messe Stuttgart trade fair center and a few former airport buildings have been preserved. At least this is the case in the newly released Flight Simulator 2020 from Microsoft. But why? To answer this question we should first take a general look at this product from Microsoft.

Stuttgart Airport in Flight Simulator 2020 (Version 1.7.12.0)
Stuttgart Airport in Flight Simulator 2020 (Version 1.7.12.0) - The airfield is a green area with bushes (middle and right), the fair (middle left) and a few airport buildings still exist. (Source: Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020)

Flight Simulator 2020

After 10 years Microsoft has re-released the legendary Flight Simulator. With a mixture of cloud technology and artificial intelligence, a high degree of realism is created on the home computer. The result is sensational, the pictures are breathtaking and remind more of videos than computer landscapes. Water surfaces look absolutely realistic. The same applies to clouds and other weather phenomena. And still you can move freely in this world - with good performance even on a mid-range PC.

But it is not only the wonderful looks that make the FS 2020 a killer application. It is also the fact that the entire world is depicted with unprecedented accuracy. The claim is that almost every house, every tree and every street is arranged as it is in the real world.

To achieve this, a corresponding data basis is necessary and Microsoft has already had this for several years with Bing Maps. Bing Maps may have played an important role in the "disappearance" of Stuttgart Airport.

New York at sunrise
New York at sunrise (Source: Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020)

Is Stuttgart the only one missing?

In the flight simulator you can use thousands of airfields all over the world, even the smallest airfields in Asia. But why is an airport like Stuttgart missing, which in 2019 was ranked 6th in Germany in terms of passenger volume?

In Germany, other airports are missing as well. It is noticeable that several military airfields are also not shown, e.g. Schleswig, Wittmundhaven or Nörvenich. The same for the civil used Rostock/Laage Air Base. If you look at these airfields on Bing Maps, all these airfields are pixelated.

Rostock Laage Air Base / Airport
Rostock Laage Air Base / Airport - Also a green meadow, but at least there is a control tower (Source: Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020)

Pixelation on Bing Maps - also Stuttgart Airport

It remains unclear according to which criteria the airfields were pixelated. Most of the airfields of the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) and Air Force are pixelated, while the US bases Ramstein and Spangdahlem appear in full detail. Also the Bundeswehr bases Niederstetten and Laupheim are clear on Bing and can be selected appropriately in FS 2020, even explicitly as military airbases. This constellation is interesting, because Microsoft is a US vendor, but today apparently mainly bases of the German Armed Forces are blurred and not selectable. Does this all look like a big plan?

Stuttgart Airport on Bing Maps:
Here even the fair in the northwest is pixelated, nevertheless it was taken over into the FS 😊
https://www.bing.com/maps?osid=5d80e461-02e7-47b9-a3ad-fa6ba58c8242&cp=48...

So why did Stuttgart have to disappear?

Currently the most obvious explanation for me - my personal speculation: Years ago, Microsoft had started years ago to pixelate certain facilities on Bing Maps. This was done at the request of the authorities in the respective countries and apparently there were also requests in Germany to make individual objects unrecognizable. However, the location information provided for this purpose was inaccurate, so among others, data from OpenStreetMap was used for identification and automated processing. As a result, more objects than necessary were pixelated. This apparently included Stuttgart Airport, presumably because of the military part of the airport. Then this procedure had changed over time, so that the now existing jumble of pixelated and not pixelated on Bing Maps was created. This was taken and not further questioned during the implementation in Flight Simulator 2020 - and therefore Stuttgart Airport is not shown in Flight Simulator. I guess it wasn't intentional.

The other side of the story: This has made the small airfields of Pattonville, Esslingen Jägerhaus and Malmsheim the new hubs of air traffic in the Stuttgart region 😂

Community project

Tom aka SphinxBesen3514 has started a great community project to provide the missing airport. First versions are already available, information can be found in the official Flight Simulator forum: EDDS Stuttgart Airport WORK IN PROGRESS (Missing Airport). Community project means: Anyone can participate - and support is urgently desired, because this is a huge task. You can get Tom's contact details via the forum.

My personal conclusion

Despite the missing fields, Flight Simulator 2020 is a mega strong program with endless fun potential. Especially in Corona times, when wanderlust is difficult to satisfy in a normal way. Here the whole world can be flown. And the advantage of a simulation with such a high online component is that corrections can be provided easily - either by Microsoft or by the community. I have hope for Stuttgart and for some other airports. Clear recommendation to buy!

Above Tokyo Haneda Airport
This is what it looks like when a city has an airport 😃 Tokyo Haneda (Source: Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020)

Sources

Bing verpixelt Militärgebiete
1) Microsoft has blurred Bing Maps on government request and used data from OpenStreetMap. 2) According to a spokesperson of the German Ministry of Defense BMVg, there was no request from the BMVg to blur objects (15 February 2012, in German)
https://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Bing-verpixelt-Militaergebiete-1435160.html

Discussion in the OpenStreetMap forum
Contains a quote from the federal press conference on pixelation on Bing (13.02.2012, in German)
https://forum.openstreetmap.org/viewtopic.php?id=15289&p=6

Nachtrag Bing Luftbildzensur
Contains an e-mail from the German Federal Armed Forces in which a request to pixellate an individual installation is confirmed, but the extensive pixellation of surrounding public areas cannot be explained (July 2012, in German)
https://lists.openstreetmap.org/pipermail/talk-de/2012-July/096806.html

Note

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 © Microsoft Corporation. The screenshots were created according to the Verwendungsregeln für Spielinhalte by Microsoft using content from Flight Simulator 2020, but is not supported by or affiliated with Microsoft.


Recommended

Image credits are shown on the respective target page, click on the preview to open it.

Related Topics

Aeronautical charts for free download
My guide to free airport and approach charts on the internet. Arranged by continents and countries.