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Customising the display

Page history last edited by info@coaa.pt 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Some hints and tips on the chart view


Bev has been working hard to make Plane Plotter meet the changing needs of the users.  As of version - (March 2010):


  • F8 toggles GPX overlay.  If you have defined a GPX overlay with Options..Chart..GPX overlay..Define, you can turn it on and off with a press of the F8 key.
  • F9 toggles prediction - you will see the aircraft jump back to their last known position.
  • F10 toggles Mlat-only display
  • F11 toggles the "My Sky" display.
  • Shift-left-click drags label of nearest aircraft.  If you place the cursor over an aircraft, hold down the shift key and then left click and drag, the label for that aircraft will be displaced accordingly.  If you are troubled by the superposition of labels, you can use this feature to re-arrange them.  A thin line in the same colour as the label, joins the aircraft symbol to the displaced label.


Adding your own charts and outlines


The easiest way to start is to press the Map button .  That will give you mapping and you can then zoom/move around the map and then press Map again for a new map best matching the current scale (i.e. without the pixelation).  There is an animated tutorial here showing how to load maps and how to zoom around.  There is more information about the different chart formats and text overlays here.


As background for your Plane Plotter display, you can use either an image (which you may need to calibrate) or outlines (vectors) which have the advantage of maintaining their quality as you zoom into an area.  If you have charts for Ship Plotter, or outlines from BaseStation, you can use those, or other data from the Internet:



Please note that two files are required for a chart to work in Plane Plotter - both an image file (chart.jpg, for example) and a corresponding calibration file, which has the same name but a .CLB extension, (chart.clb for example).  Be sure to copy both files to your Plane Plotter charts directory (Options, Directories, PP Chart files - tells you where this is, also discussion here).  If the two files appear to have the same name and no extension, be sure to turn on Windows Explorer's display of file extensions - instructions here:  http://www.helpdesk.umd.edu/documents/0/670/  When you have the two files, you can use the Plane Plotter File|Open chart... menu to load and display the chart.


How do I calibrate my own maps?


You can use your own maps and charts, but you will need to calibrate then before use.  There is a tutorial here about calibrating maps:   http://www.coaa.co.uk/map-calibration.htm  It's an animation that you can watch over and over again until you get the hang of it!


Can I add vector outlines on top of a chart?


Select PlanePlotter...Options...Chart...Outline over chart


How do I enter my home location, and use my own symbols?


You can enter a marker for your home location by using the Options, Home location... menu.  You will be presented with a dialogue box, where you enter your latitude and longitude.  Both values are entered as degrees and decimal minutes, so north 50 degrees, 7 minutes and 30 seconds would be entered as N55 7.500, West 3 degrees 24 minutes would be W3 24.000, and East 12 degrees 10 minutes and 6 seconds as E12 10.100 - try not to get east and west confused - it seems to be a common error!  From Plane Plotter V4.7.9 onwards, you can design your own graphic for your home location.  Enter Help, Search, "bitmap" for more details on how to make the bitmap, and name your bitmap "homelocationsymbol.bmp", and place it in the Plane Plotter main directory.  You can also define your own symbols for way-points, track and routes in GPX overlay files should you wish.


What do the different colours mean?


The colour of the icon denotes the data source - note that you cannot change these colours:


  • -1 - ACARS no position report (no plot)
  • 0  -  Red ACARS position report or manual position report
  • 1  -  Blue ACARS ADS 'forward estimated position' report
  • 2  -  Green ACARS AMDAR position
  • 3  -  SBS-1 log access position - yellow (current) or orange (stale)
  • 4  -  Cyan HFDL position report
  • 5  -  Magenta ACARS flight-plan way-point position
  • 6  -  Yellow/Orange SBS1 TCP access - yellow (current) or orange (stale)
  • 7  -  Yellow/Orange RadarBox TCP access position - yellow (current) or orange (stale)
  • 8  -  RadarBox Log Access
  • 9  -  White - Position estimated by Multilateration (Mlat)
  • 10 - You should not normally see type code 10.  When an Mlat is performed, the result has the type code 10.  As soon as this is uploaded to the sharing server, it changes to a type code 9.
  • 11 - DF-18 reports (what colour?)
  • 12 - Mode A/C reports (what colour)?
  • 13 - Beamfinder fix (what colour?)



  • You can customise the colour of the text (using the Options, Chart, Options menu or spanner toolbar icon) to differentiate between locally-derived data, and that downloaded from the shared server.
  • The reports other than ADS-B are not nearly as frequent and you do have to be looking in the right place to see them, but they are displayed with uniquely coloured symbols - aeroplane symbols if speed and direction have been reported, triangular symbols if that data is missing.
  • In report types 3, 6 & 7, the orange colour indicates data more than four minutes old, and therefore data that you may wish to trust slightly less than the yellow near-real-time data.  Note that the four-minute current/stale transition is independent of the "omit-after" interval and "delete-after" interval chart settings.
  • According to Bev, types 1 and 2 are not intended to be passed by the COAA Plane Plotter shared server since they are predictions, however, it has been discovered type 1 ACARS ADS does pass through the server.
  • For local aircraft only - blue-nose means ascending, brown-nose means descending.
  • Note that orange may no longer indicate delayed reports if SBS1rt, BaseStation v145, or RadarBox ? is in use.  The TCP interface was the indication of delayed in the past and now may not be.
  • Data sources 10..13 will appear in the report type column, headed "Rep".


Originally type 3 were all live and therefore in yellow and types 6 and 7 were delayed and therefore orange.  In more recent versions, because there are patches and updates that make that generalisation no longer valid, the colour for 3, 6 and 7 types changes from yellow to orange as the report goes out of date.  If you set the "Omit after" time to 4 minutes or more, you will see orange symbols at the limit of your range where the last report from a receding aircraft gradually becomes out of date until it disappears at the "Omit after" time.


What do the different colours mean in the View, Aircraft List?


This is documented in the  Plane Plotter Help File which has the British spelling of color: "colour".  Plane Plotter colour codes the position-less aircraft to show the probability of success with multilateration.  Green* text denotes that three or more raw data Ground Stations received the aircraft at the last refresh cycle; a position fix is relatively likely.  Orange* text denotes that two raw data Ground Stations received the aircraft at the last refresh cycle; a position fix is not likely but a position curve is possible.
* These colours can be redefined using the Options..Aircraft view.


How do I distinguish shared aircraft from my local ones?


Use the Options, Chart, Options menu, or the spanner icon on the toolbar.  Labels panel => Label colours (local / shared).  Click on the buttons to change the colours.  I have mine set to yellow / cyan.


How do I change the vector chart background colour?


Invoke the Options, Chart, Options menu (or click the blue spanner on the green background in the toolbar).  Towards the bottom right of the dialogue, click the Vector background, Select button, and choose from the colours shown.


You will need to redraw the outline by clicking on Outline View to implement a change.



Why do aircraft disappear or stay too long?


  • Why do my plots disappear after 2 minutes?  Set Options, Chart, Options, "Omit aircraft after" to a larger value, e.g. 6 minutes.
  • Why do my plots seems to stay on my screen long after a plane has landed.  Because your "Omit aircraft after" is set to a long value!
  • Why do my aircraft keep moving after they have landed!?  Because you haven't set a lower altitude limit for "Predict Positions over" in Options, Chart, Options.  The value is set in feet, and something in the range 500-1000 feet might be be sensible.


What's the difference between "Omit after" and "Delete after" times?


The Omit after time applies only to the chart/outline displays.  Such aircraft are still shown on the View..Aircraft screens and can be made to reappear by increasing the "Omit after" time.  The OLE/COM interface provides two means of accessing the internal database.  One family of methods yields only those aircraft that are currently displayed on the chart (within the "Omit after" time) and the other family of methods yields all aircraft that are in the system.

The Delete after time removes all trace of the aircraft from Plane Plotter's internal database.  Such aircraft will not reappear, even if the times are subsequently increased and they do not appear on the OLE/COM interface.


What does ?? in the share code mean?


Hypersharing gives you data from unknown users, hence the ?? in the most recent sharer column.  This from Bev's posting in the Plane Plotter Groups.io group.


How can I display route information?


Select PlanePlotter...Options...Script...Fetch flight route database.  YOu must stop PlanePlotter processing to select this function.


What does F250>330 or F300>280 in the height/flight-level display mean?


You may sometimes see: F250>330 or F300>280 as the flight-level (altitude or height) display.  This means that the aircraft is currently at the first flight-level, but has been cleared to the second flight level, and changing between the two.


Why do some aircraft always have an altitude of 33,333 feet?


The altitude 33,333 is a dummy value.  Plane Plotter puts it into HFDL reports so that the Google-Earth cockpit view would give a nice view (altitude zero is not a nice view) and it cannot be confused with a real cruising level.


Can I use my own symbols for different aircraft types?


Yes.  In the Plane Plotter Help, look for the topic Chart View, and within that topic, look for the text planesymbol.txt - the process is explained there.  You will end up with a number of different files such as planesymbol1.txt, planesymbol6.txt, planesymbol7.txt etc. for the different aircraft types you wish to have.  Nic Storey has created a video tutorial showing how to do this, and there is also an illustrated tutorial by Lionel K Anderson (author of Plane Plotter - A Users Guide) here: http://www.planeplotters.com/pdf/Symbols.pdf


Adding a Helicopter symbol


There is a file named helotype.sql, which is in the Plane Plotter Groups.io group files area.  The file itself does nothing, but it contains a set of SQL commands which you may apply to your BaseStation.sqb file so that the user tag in that file for each entry which is a helicopter will be set to the value "$7".  Now, if you have set up a file containing a helicopter symbol named:  planesymbol7.txt  in your Plane Plotter directory, helicopters will be displayed on the chart as a helicopter rather than as an aircraft.

  You can use one of the SQL editing programs to act on your BaseStation.sqb, and the programs will accept the file you downloaded as "SQL commands".  I've used both these programs:
  SQLite Database Browser: http://sqlitebrowser.sourceforge.net/
  SQLite Expert Personal:  http://www.sqliteexpert.com/download.html

There is also a command-line program you can use directly, or within a batch script:

and from the command line it's as easy as entering:

  sqlite3.exe BaseStation.sqb < helotype.sql


You then use the plane symbol file:  planesymbol7.txt  for helicopters as mentioned above.


What do A0/A1/A2 mean?


The A0/A1/A2 tags are only available to receivers that feed low level data into Plane Plotter.  The ANRB and older SBS-1 versions may ignore the data.  They are aircraft categories that are embedded in the messages yielding flight number.  The definitions are listed below.  Plane Plotter uses the A series to choose the aircraft symbols if you have not specified the $7 etc. codes in the User tags.  Note that most aircraft just send A0 (no data available) and some send the wrong category.


A0 = No ADS-B Emitter Category Information
A1 = Light (< 15 500 lbs.)
A2 = Small (15 500 to 75 000 lbs.)
A3 = Large (75 000 to 300 000 lbs.)
A4 = High Vortex Large(aircraft such as B-757)
A5 = Heavy (> 300 000 lbs.)
A6 = High Performance ( > 5 g acceleration and > 400kts)
A7 = Rotor-craft
B0 = No ADS-B Emitter Category Information
B1 = Glider/sailplane
B2 = Lighter-than-Air
B3 = Parachutist/Skydiver
B4 = Ultralight/hang-glider/paraglider
B5 = Reserved
B6 = Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
B7 = Space/Trans-atmospheric vehicle
C0 = No ADS-B Emitter Category Information
C1 = Surface Vehicle - Emergency Vehicle
C2 = Surface Vehicle - Service Vehicle C3 = Fixed Ground or Tethered Obstruction
C4-C7 = Reserved


Can I use my own Waypoint, Trackpoint and Routepoint symbols?


From the Help information: You can make Plane Plotter display different symbols for the various Waypoints, Trackpoints and Routepoints by placing a suitable Windows bitmap (.BMP) file of your own making in the application directory (the same diectory as PlanePlotter.exe).  Use a graphics editor to create a small bitmap file with the symbol that you wish to be displayed for each type of point and save the file with the name “waypointsymbol.bmp”, “trackpointsymbol.bmp” or “routepointsymbol.bmp” as appropriate, in the application directory.  When Plane Plotter starts, it will import those symbols and use them instead of the default triangles.  Note that you need to restart Plane Plotter to use the new symbols.

If you want to have transparent areas in the symbol (to make a symbol that is not a rectangle) use the following colour (pale pink = RGB 255,200,200) and the pink areas will be transparent on the chart.


Why does the aircraft symbol change between an aircraft and a triangle?


From the Help information: If a Mode-S report includes speed and heading, the symbol is a directed outline of an aircraft.  If no speed and direction are available, a triangular symbol is used.  In the case of Mode-S or HFDL messages, if Plane Plotter receives a succession of position reports, it will attempt to calculate the speed and heading from the vector between reports.  In this case, the heading and speed may be subject to jitter because the samples may be closely spaced and the positions are quantized.


What does the white diamond-shaped symbol mean?


It is the position estimate resulting from a successful Mlat operation.


What are the blue concentric rings?


Each time an aircraft squawks a Squawk Packet Ident SPI - see the Glossary, the "squawk ident" triggers a highlight on the screen, and is noted as "SPI" on the status bar at the lower left, together with he ident of the aircraft giving the squawk.  This can happen when the aircraft has changed squawk, or has squawked "ident", or squawked and emergency ident (7700).  If the aircraft squawks one of the emergency codes, the rings stay visible.  This is feature handy when listening to ATC, helps to quickly identify traffic changing SSR codes.  The rings are the same colour as you have chosen for waypoints - typically they are blue rings.  See this message.


How can I control what is on the status bar?


Use the View, Toggle Status Bar menu to individual items on and off.  This may help is your display is limited in width on a smaller portable or netbook PC.


What are the four numbers on the right-hand side of the status bar?


The different parts of the status bar are called panels. Which panels are visible can be controlled (see View..Status Bar). 

This particular Panel is called 'Message Counter Panel' . 

Bev explains:  "At the bottom of the display, you will see four numbers, separated by slashes.  These numbers are the number of aircraft received in this session, the number of messages received, the number of messages with positions, and the number of raw data records.  Note: if you are using Plane Plotter with the SBS1 (with the log file access method) the number of messages will be the same as the number of positions, because every message is a position report.   

Update: as from version the new fourth one shows the number of raw data records in the internal buffer.  The number is displayed modulo 10.  If you are a Ground Station (GS), you can check that you are getting raw data by checking for activity on this number.  When the other counter values get large, the fourth digit will be pushed out of the box.  It is a diagnostic aid and is not intended to be monitored continuously.  If you are not a GS, this value will always be zero."


Further clarification:  The first number is the total number of aircraft currently known to Plane Plotter.  It is the number of lines in View..All Aircraft.  Aircraft appear from time to time but they are also deleted after the time you specify in Options..Chart..Options..Delete after...   Why should "the number of messages received" be the same as "the number of messages with positions"?  There are many message types (in all the modes that Plane Plotter handles) and only some of them contain positions.  Depending on the receiver type and the access method, the numbers may be very different indeed.


How is QNH derived?


When you click on the QNH button, Plane Plotter scans the file called "metarcoords.txt", which resides in the application directory, and finds the station that is closest to the coordinates of the centre of the chart display.  It then performs an FTP download from :

"tgftp.nws.noaa.gov/data/observations/metar/stations/"  to retrieve the latest METAR for that station.  It scans the METAR to find the QNH and inserts that value into the QNH field in the dialogue.  It does not take account of the time of the report.  To do so, would involve some sort of search pattern of stations not quite so close to the screen centre until a report with an acceptably recent report was found.  This could take an indeterminate number of FTP downloads, to say nothing of time, and was not thought worth the trouble.


[The QNH button is located in the Labels panel of the Chart options dialogue (green spanner tool-button, or Options, Charts, Options menu.]


If your favourite screen centre is closest to a station that only makes METAR reports on the fifth Sunday of alternate Februarys, then I suggest that you eliminate that station from the "metarcoords.txt" file so that Plane Plotter chooses somewhere else when you click on QNH.  If you have a preference for always using, say, the QNH at EGLL, then remove all the entries in "metarcoords.txt" except the one for EGLL and it will pick that one every time.

From: Bev's message in the Plane Plotter Yahoo group.


How can I use flags with Plane Plotter?


Plane Plotter gives you the option to display flags next to any or all of your aircraft.  The command to view flags is:


Option > Define > Enable


Once you have Defined where your bsflags.txt file is, select Enable.


You can then select the option to view flags by going to:


View > All aircraft with flags


HOWEVER, before you view flags you must:


  1. Have a folder named BMPFlags in either you PP main folder (or use your SBS-1 BMPFlag folder
  2. Place a bsflags.txt file in your main PP folder.


Both are available in the Plane Plotter Groups.io group Files section.


You can have as many bsflags.txt files as you like i.e., military, civil, special. Just Define in PP each time which one you wish to view.


It is as simple as that.


Pat Carty


There is a more detailed description of the process on the Flags page, and in Tim Quine's guide: "Flags in PlanePlotter" in the Groups.io group Files area.


Locating positionless aircraft


Starting with Plane Plotter V4.9.8, some location data for positionless aircraft can be displayed, by displaying a range ring for the station providing the data.  For more information, please see Bev's post to the Plane Plotter Groups.io group.  Starting in early 2009, a more advanced Multi-lateration feature has been the focus of much development.


How it works 

  The circles feature is intended to help those who want to know where an aircraft that is transmitting its identity and height, but not its position, might be located.  It draws a circle around the position of the current sharer who reported the designated aircraft if that sharer's location is known.  The radius of the circle is 1.2 times the square root (aircraft height in feet).  This is a good approximation for the coverage given a clear antenna close to sea level.  If the sharer's antenna is high up then the circle will understate the coverage and if they have a sheltered antenna, it will overstate the coverage.  It works pretty well for my traffic, but you can tweak the circle parameters for a better match with a particular sharer's coverage.

  If there are several sharers receiving the same aircraft, then the approximate coverage of each of those sharers, for an aircraft at that altitude, is displayed as a circle.  It follows that the unknown must be inside all of the circles if it is being received by all of those sharers.   Provided there are no duplicates in the sharing IDs, the shaded region (whose colour you can change, by the way, if it doesn't match your map colour scheme) shows you the area that falls within all of the circles.  The unknown should therefore be in or very close to the shaded region.

  The whole thing is not at all exact but it tells you a great deal more than you would have known otherwise (that the aircraft was somewhere in the vicinity of planet Earth).


How to use it

  Turn on the option "Circle Sharer" under Options..Chart.  Now designate an aircraft.  You do that by double clicking on the chart, outline or on the View aircraft list.  A dotted circle will appear around the position of the user who received it, if that user's ID is found in the file "sharerlocations.txt" in the application directory.  If you received the aircraft yourself, the circle will be centred on the position you have entered as your Home location.  The radius of the circle will grow or shrink as the aircraft climbs or descends.  If you watch one of your own aircraft descending out of your coverage, you should see that it disappears somewhere around the point where the aircraft crosses the circle (or as the circle crosses the aircraft, as the circle shrinks).


The Database fields

  The range ring information is stored in the Plane Plotter Sharer's Database, and Bev kindly provided these notes about the two fields used.  In both cases, the decimal separator is a point.  Those who, like Bev, live in a country where the conventional decimal separator is a comma, will no doubt be adept at switching between the two.


Max Range

  The Max range is in nautical miles which is the ICAO default standard unit for measuring distances longer than runways and visibilities.  It should be set to the best range you get (under unremarkable propagation conditions) in directions where there are no obstructions and the aircraft is high enough to be clear of the horizon.  I suggested a default of 150 nm.  It might be more or less depending on your receiver sensitivity, feeder cable losses and antenna gain.


Range Scale Factor

  The Range Scale Factor is the parameter to replace the figure of 1.2 in the 'industry standard' horizon equation (1.2 times the square root of the height in feet giving an answer in nautical miles).  If your antenna is clear of obstructions in a flat area close to sea level, this is will be an adequate model.  If your antenna is in a prominent place high on a hill, then the figure would be more than 1.2.  If you are sunk in a valley, surrounded by hills, then it would be much less.  You can work out a sensible value by watching low level aircraft going out of sight.  High level aircraft may be lost by the inverse square law but low level ones will disappear behind your horizon.  If you use a value of 1.2 for your entry, and you consistently find that on designating one of your own aircraft that is descending out of sight, it is still inside the ring when you lose contact, then reduce the 1.2 to 1.1 or 1.0.  This will scale the size of the ring for low level aircraft.  High level aircraft will always show a ring of the radius of the Max Range parameter.


How do I stop gliders displaying?


Go to: Options, Sharing, Setup and uncheck "Enable FLARM targets"


More on Chart Symbols and colours


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