View From 30,000 Feet
December 4, 2017 6:54 AM   Subscribe

View From 30,000 Feet
Airport runways, reinterpreted as minimalist art, drawn to scale.

I've always been fascinated by planes, airports, and transportation, so I put this together last weekend. It's very minimalist art generated by p5.js from the latitude, longitude, angle, and dimensions of airport runways around the world.

I'm building up the set right now, so I'll be posting a few per day for the rest of the week, but then I hope to settle into a 1 per day rhythm. I take requests!
Role: programmer, creator, artist
posted by bowbeacon (20 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This project was posted to MetaFilter by bondcliff on December 11, 2017: View From 30,000 Feet

oh HELL yes
posted by cortex at 6:55 AM on December 4, 2017

This is really cool. Very glad I recognized Logan.

One of my favorite little bits of aviation trivia is that the runway numbers designate the direction the runway is facing, minus any zeros. So Runway 36/18 is a North/South facing runway (360 degrees / 180 degrees). So when you're on a commercial flight if you can catch the number of the runway you're heading to you can get am idea of what direction you'll be taking off, which can help you figure out what you're looking at.
posted by bondcliff at 7:26 AM on December 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

That's true, although (even more trivially) they are bearings to magnetic north, not true north. In my drawings I've made an effort to keep true north as up. Thus, on the Logan one, 9/27 (the crossbar of the A, I guess), is not horizontal.
posted by bowbeacon at 7:34 AM on December 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

That is really cool.
posted by COD at 8:58 AM on December 4, 2017

This is a genius idea and would also make really cool tattoos.
posted by capricorn at 6:26 AM on December 5, 2017

This is great. ZRH and DEN would be my requests, for contrast :)
posted by a complicated history at 9:56 AM on December 5, 2017

I'll get right on them!
posted by bowbeacon at 10:28 AM on December 5, 2017

Curious... is this an automated thing where you're scraping the info from airport data and automatically generating the image or is this a manual process, or a bit of both?

(I know nothing about programming or what p5.js is. I can make a TRS-80 say "Fart" 1000 times in a row and that's about it.)
posted by bondcliff at 10:34 AM on December 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I wrote up a script that takes as input the latitude, longitude, angle, length, and width of a set of runways, and then it draws it automatically. There are a bunch of websites that are just databases of navigational info for airports, such as, so I've been cutting and pasting from there. Because my input format requires a little editing from the exact text they show, I have to massage the data a little, but it only takes about 3 or 4 minutes to do a single airport.

If I get some time this weekend, I plan on tweaking the script a little so I can cut and paste the "10083 x 150 feet / 3073 x 46 meters" or "N42°22.46' / W71°1.07'" formats directly, which will save me most of the time I'm currently spending.

p5.js is a Javascript library that handles the actual drawing of the lines.
posted by bowbeacon at 11:04 AM on December 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Cool. Then may I request BED, which is a pretty simple airport (just an X) but I took flying lessons there many years ago so it has a special place in my heart.
posted by bondcliff at 11:06 AM on December 5, 2017

Sure. That was on the list anyway, because I used to work at Hanscom.
posted by bowbeacon at 11:17 AM on December 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

That's true, although (even more trivially) they are bearings to magnetic north, not true north.

Even more trivially, because the earth's magnetic field is slowly moving, sometimes a runway will be renumbered to account for this.
posted by exogenous at 6:12 AM on December 6, 2017

Nice! I'm also a map and aviation geek. Your work reminds me of these Nomo posters and Geraldine Sarmiento's Morphology maps (scroll down for airports). These are more complex shapes, incorporating taxiways and other airport features. I like the spare simplicity of yours.

If you wanted to do something with taxiways, OpenStreetMap has the data.
posted by Nelson at 8:03 AM on December 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ooh. I really dig the Morphology stuff. Thanks for the link.
posted by bowbeacon at 8:17 AM on December 8, 2017

My girlfriend and I agree that if you were to do art prints of these, we would buy several of them and display them in our home.
posted by Alterscape at 1:39 PM on December 9, 2017

Just beautiful! Awesome project.
posted by mochapickle at 10:39 AM on December 11, 2017

Just coming to this from the FPP. You say you're manually importing data from SkyVector. You might want to check out the data downloads from -- they could let you do this on a more automated basis.

Coming from an avgeek... I love this.
posted by jammer at 1:25 PM on December 11, 2017

Those data dumps look pretty great, but honestly I’m already pumping them out way faster than I can reasonably post them to Instagram without being That Guy, and looking over the data is half the nerdy fun.
posted by bowbeacon at 3:29 PM on December 11, 2017

These are really neat. (Be that guy! I want to see more.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:32 PM on December 11, 2017

Don't worry, there's going to be plenty more! Just not more than 2 or 3 a day.
posted by bowbeacon at 6:54 PM on December 11, 2017

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