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OpenTTD - A Guide For Newbies - Pt. 7 - Airports and Aircraft

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#1 This member is from the United Kingdom Paulicus25  (Paul Dennington)


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Posted Thursday 26 November 2009, 01:33:16 PM

Airports and Aircraft – Money that just falls from the sky...

Welcome back...wow this is unusual for me...such a quick follow up to the previous topic. Its mainly because this one won’t take that long. Hopefully.

Aircraft are probably one of the simplest and most profitable transport types available in the game. This is why I’m covering them now. You know how to build stations, add vehicles to a road route and maintain them. The jump to aircraft is rather minimal so let’s get started.

The first most important thing to note is that most aircraft (at least in the set that was provided by default) carry very limited cargo. Mostly they will carry BOTH passengers and mail at once, so when giving planes orders, sometimes a loading command of “full load any one type of cargo” command could be useful. Some aircraft can also be refitted for goods or valuables.

There is a small selection of aircraft dedicated for cargo, however these can be limited to slow, expensive airships/ zeppelins very late in the game, or in a newer version of the grf file that was provided with the patch-pack, a Hercules cargo plane.

You cannot stop an aircraft unless it is on the ground (duh). Trying to stop an aircraft while it is in flight will simply flash up a red “stop it” error box (as I call them) so don’t bother trying. If you want to stop a plane, click the hanger button then wait till it enters the hanger. If you’re performing demolition/construction work on the airport and a plane is approaching it, you can always use the “skip” command in the orders list to send it away while construction is underway (I find this trick extremely helpful).

Finally, one other thing of note before we begin. Aircraft are expensive. Make sure that your company is rather well established before you start building them.

Building an Airport

This works in a very similar way to building a bus stop. Firstly, click on the build airports tab (no dropdown) on the upper taskbar...

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This brings up the following toolbar...

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As you can see, this is just the landscaping toolbar plus one extra button. This button is the “construct airport” button (on the far left). All you must now do to be able to build aircraft is to place one airport at each destination along the route...i.e. a passenger route between two towns will need an airport at each town (with the blue coverage boxes covering as many buildings as possible as usual). Clicking on the construction tab will bring up the following selection box...

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This is simply a list of all possible airports that can be built. Building an airport isn’t that hard. You just simply choose one of the available airport templates from the list, and then build it. You can’t design your own (a feature that many people have asked for over the years), and each type has its advantages and disadvantages. Those that are greyed out become available as the years progress. To begin you’ll just have to make do with the basic “small” airfield.

Types of small airport...

Small airports are usually cheap and also small. They consist of only a few bays or points for an aircraft to land. Advantages are the low cost and the space required for them. Disadvantages are that there aren’t many parking bays and that aircraft labelled as “large” have a much higher % chance of crashing when landing at small airports (see air crashes later).

“Small” Airport

The small airport is that which you begin the game with. It’s very simple and is rather inefficient. It uses up 12 squares (in a 3x4 grid) as shown below. There are 2 parking places where aircraft can load, a single runway where planes both land and take off, a depot for construction and servicing of planes and a single patch of bare grass for helicopters and airships (effectively helicopters in this game) can land. Only one aircraft can be moving on the ground at once.

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I have labelled the flight directions in white, the parking places as red crosses and the helicopter landing point in yellow. The depot is the hanger at the left hand corner (from now on I shall refer to depots as hangers for aircraft, as that’s technically what it’s called)...

“Commuter” Airport

The commuter airport is an upgraded version of this “small airport” for use in tight cramped situations in major cities, where building bigger airports would require demolishing half the city. They become available in 1983. It is 4 squares by 5 squares – one more than the “small” in each direction. It has 3 parking places for planes, a single runway, a hanger and also 2 HELIPADS. Helipads work as both a landing position and a parking place for helicopters, so helicopters and small commuter jets can easily land at this airport simultaneously...

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One thing you may notice is that it is now rather easy to spot parking, landing and helipad positions. These were unmarked on the “small” but are clearly visible on all other airports.

Types of large airport...

Large airports are much more capable of handling bigger jet planes. Of course, it’s never impossible to completely prevent aircraft crashes. However, if you’re using large passenger planes, best to rely on building these larger airports.

“City” Airport

This is the simplest airport that can handle large aircraft. Available from 1955 onwards, this template has one runway and 3 parking places. Just like the “small” airport, this has no helipads, but a single place where helicopters can land. More than one aircraft can be moving on the ground at the same time (3 if you’re very lucky) however due to the lack of a second runway, things can get a little cramped. This airport is 6x6 in size. Make sure you have enough space when planning to upgrade from small airports (a note about upgrading later)...

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“Metropolitan” Airport

Although it is the same size as the city airport, don’t be fooled. Available from 1980, the metropolitan has a larger catchment area than the city airport, and has TWO runways - one for landing, one for taking off. This means that it can handle much more traffic, although planes that have landed must cross the inner runway to get to the terminal, affecting planes taking off.

It’s not a brilliant solution, but considering the fact that you can upgrade the city Airport simply by demolishing one and building the other in the same place without having to demolish and landscape around it, it can be a very hassle free upgrade...

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Types of hub airport...

Hub airports are huge. They are extremely efficient at handling traffic flow and have plenty of parking space. However, you need to have a large open space to construct them...

“International” Airport

At 7x7 squares, this bulky template is a definite upgrade to the metropolitan. With 2 runways at either end of the airport, planes no longer obstruct traffic flow, and neither do helicopters as there are 2 helipads too. There are 6 parking spaces, and even 2 hangers, due to its size. The international becomes available in 1990

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“Intercontinental” Airport

From 2002 onwards you will have the opportunity to construct a monster of an airport. It’s significantly larger than the international. The intercontinental airport is 11x9. Yes, 11x9. It’s a whole 4 squares deeper and 2 squares wider than the airport before it, giving you a clue to how good it is. The intercontinental has 4 runways...2 at either end. At each end, one of the runways is for taking off, the other landing. There are 2 hangers, 2 helipads and 8 parking places for planes, with room for even more on the ground.

It’s truly colossal, and if you get to the point where you really need to build one, then you’ll not only be hard pushed to fit it anywhere, but ecstatic when it’s up and running. They’re real money spinners.

In addition, the fact that there are 2 landing runways means that the airport can still remain partially operational when an air crash occurs on one of the two. Although you’ll still lose all your passenger supplies and your rating will still go to 0% (see later), you can restore the airport to its former glory much faster, since you can still operate services there even under such dire circumstances...

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Types of heliports...

Heliports are simply very small airports with just helipads. No parking spaces or runways for jets e.t.c. just for helicopters and airships. Thus, this makes them incredibly small.

In addition, as I mentioned on a previous topic (I think), by this point in the game, oil rigs (sea-based industries with built in stations that serve all players if you remember) may well be around, and the only 2 ways of shipping passengers to an oil rig are by ferry/ hovercraft, or by helicopter...

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The basic heliport is available in 1963. It’s simply a one square tower that is of similar height to a tower block/ block of flats. This makes them ideal for use in tightly packed urban centres or in places with very little room...

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However they do not have a hanger, meaning that you cannot use them to construct helicopters. Sometimes you may have to use a regular airport to build helicopters, or use a helidepot or helistation later in the game

However this lack of a hanger means that normally, once constructed, early helicopters have little or no ability to be replaced or serviced. Hence, whenever a helicopter lands on a basic heliport they will be automatically serviced (this may well also replace the vehicle when using auto replace and the upgrade tool, however I have never seen it happen).


Available in 1976, the helidepot is a 2x2 station with one heliport and a hanger. Enough said...

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From 1980 onwards, the helistation can be constructed allowing access to its 3 helipads and a depot. It’s shown below...

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Choosing, buying and organising aircraft works in a similar way to road vehicles. Click on the hanger, choose new vehicles and buy the one you want. Give it orders, refit it if necessary, put it in a group if you wish, then tell it to go by clicking on the little green flag in the depot or the bar in the aircraft window.

The aircraft will then follow its orders, flying between the airports you told it to in the order you told it to. Nothing else is required.

If an aircraft breaks down it instead has an engine malfunction or similar and its speed reduces, and a trail of grey smoke appears behind it. All it does is slow it down, whereas a road vehicle, tram, train or indeed any other type of vehicle breaks down, it stops completely. Aircraft breakdowns stop as soon as the aircraft touches down. When it takes off again, the breakdown will be repaired and the aircraft fully functional. If you’re playing with breakdowns off, which is default in the patch-pack, then you can ignore this.

Landing Procedure

In most airports with runways, when approaching the runway to land, aircraft may well look like they are flying PAST the airport. However, sometimes, planes may well have to perform one or more passes/ orbits around the airport until a runway is free or until they can approach the runway at a sensible angle. Do not panic when it looks like your planes are being jack-asses.

They need to have empty runways and the right landing angle to land on the runway. However, because of this it is quite often the case that faster, more agile planes may well beat the littler, slower planes to the runway. This is a problem for all of us...the few planes we tend to need to desperately land for service and replacing are those that are slower and older and are less likely to get to land if there’s a lot of more advanced, faster, newer traffic in the air.

There’s not much you can do about that other than perhaps telling those meaner, faster, planes who keep stealing the little guy’s thunder to go and shove it.....erm.....I mean.....using the skip command on them.....yeah......that’s right.....so that they go somewhere else and don’t steal the runway (greedy supersonic concords and jumbo jets stealing the runways off of my old and past it Douglas DC-3 propeller planes....grumble grumble...).

Anyways, let’s leave the grumbling behind and carry on....

Upgrading Airports

Replacing airports with a bigger one is simply a case of blowing one up and replacing it with a newer one. Potential problems are...

1. The local council may hate you. Be careful not to blow up one airport and try to replace it with another, bigger template without the local authority REALLY liking you. As airports get bigger you’ll potentially have to do a lot of landscaping and demolition to fit them in. Possible solution...do the landscaping and demolition BEFOREHAND, buy the land you don’t want the local authorities building new town buildings on, and then wait. Once your town rating has returned to a higher level, QUICKLY perform the destruction/ construction procedure before the local authority builds new buildings/ roads on the spot where your old airport was.

2. You cannot bulldoze/ demolish / blow up your old airport if there are any aircraft grounded there. This includes aircraft in hangers. You’ll need to give all aircraft approaching or grounded at that airport the “skip” command in their orders panel. If you’re having trouble clicking on fast moving aircraft that are approaching/ orbiting the airport, it is easier when the game is paused (just thought I’d mention that)

Airplane Crashes

Non-helicopter planes are subject to random crashing. There is something like a 0.07% chance that when a plane lands at the end of the runway it will crash (large planes have a 5% chance of crashing at small airports)! If this occurs, like a level crossing incident, the wreckage will disappear after a while so I suggest you clone the crashed plane immediately to retain the same level of service to your airport.

As for the airport itself, due to local publicity and the media or whatever, cargo will immediately boycott your airport, even if you have multiple runways. All the cargo waiting at your airport is lost, and your transport ratings at that airport for all cargoes being transported from there (and all interconnected railway stations, docks and bus stops e.t.c.) will be set to 0% (appalling). The rate of cargo being there will be reset to basically zero and you’ll have to start raising that rating all over again.

This is unavoidable. I HAVE been searching for a patch or setting or anything at all that prevents this but I just can’t get one. There used to be such a patch and it has been coded several times. I know so because i used to use it ages ago. However, no matter how I search I cannot find one that is compatible with the patch-pack...or any version of OpenTTD in like the last 3 years for that matter.

You’ll just have to put up with it for the time being until some kind-hearted/ annoyed about air crashes game coder comes along and writes a patch compatible with this version. However the likelihood is that any patch would be written for a newer build of OpenTTD, and that the patch-pack would not be compatible.

I shall post a screenshot here when I next run across one. I may well have to open one of my old mega-saves to raise the chance of a crash occurring....never thought I’d hear myself saying/ thinking/ typing that.


Well, we’ve flown right through that one haven’t we? I told you it would be quick now that you have most of the basics. There’s a little more to boats, as that next topic will include such complexities as canals, aqueducts and buoys, but I’ll do those soon. In the meantime I’m going to open up an old saved game and see if I can print screen a plane crash (although I’m not quite sure how).

Edit 15 mins after posting...

AHA! The paulicus was extra sneaky and hence managed to procure a plane crash screenie. Here is a super-futuristic mega-jet, the J-Tech Roku, being forced to land (for the 5th time) at a "small" airfield style airport....result...kaboomboom....

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