Airport/Airplane DLC - Big Bag of Ideas!

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Sep 20, 2015
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So recently the game's official twitter posted a question about airport features people may want. It begged the question of airport DLC. I don't know if anything like that will ever come, but like everyone else, I had ideas, and though I tweeted a few suggestions, it's impossible to talk about things in 280 characters. After some thought and lots of time in Photoshop, I've come up with a cluster of ideas for how an airport and expanded plane DLC could potentially work.
Also, I understand not everyone is hot on airport DLC, but I honestly think it could be very cool. DLC has expanded on parks, industry and so on, and added more transport options, so why not airports?

On that note, fasten your seatbelts and put your tray tables in their upright positions, because this is gonna be a long one...


The basic vision for an ideal airport DLC would involve several things:
  • Custom, modular airports with different buildings and networks you can place.
  • Airport districts.
  • Airport buildings like terminals with modules, hangars, towers, services, etc.
  • More airplane types (wide-body, light, etc.)
  • Addition of seaplanes and water-based airports.
  • Addition of civilian-use helicopters and usable helicopter pads for skyscrapers etc.
  • More advanced plane AI, especially on the ground, so planes can use multiple runways/taxiways.
  • Expanded and more realistic airport operations; Pushbacks, service vehicles, turnaround times, etc.
  • Addition of air taxis and routes between airports within a city.
  • Airport-related policies and effects.
Below, I will go over most of those points in more detail, starting with...



1. Paint airport districts

Like Parklife and Industries, airports would be modular and built within districts that can have their own policies and buildings. A district is needed before an airport can be built.


2. Build main terminal

The "gate" for the airport, the main terminal (or a cargo terminal, discussed later) needs to be placed to unlock further buildings in the airport category. There can be several different main terminals from a huge, flashy building to a small terminal building without jetways for a small airport. They have gates and places to put connectors for additional modules (see much further below).


3. Terminal connectors

Terminals themselves can be modular, and you can place multiple terminal modules either as part of a larger terminal or on their own. In order to connect them with other terminals, you need connectors or hubs. Hubs are buildings between terminals, with "bridges" between the hubs and terminal. The connector hubs can be T-shaped, 4-way, circular, whatever shape. They can either come in pre-built hubs with a set number of bridges, or hubs-only with a set number of points to connect bridges, with bridges being build before or after placing a hub.


4. Branch or sub terminals

If you've decided to expand your terminal facilities and have placed connector hubs, you can now place sub-terminals connected to the main ones or on their own. These can be plopped anywhere, connected to hubs, or plopped along taxiways, and on roads if they only have gates on one side and an entrance for people to leave/enter.

Sub-terminals can be "stacked", meaning you can place several in a row to make a longer branching terminal. There are a couple ways passenger traffic between airport and the rest of the city can be handled:
  • Passengers deplaning in a sub-terminal will leave via the nearest road-connected terminal, and those departing will enter through any road-connected terminal and board anywhere a plane is available.
  • Passengers can enter or leave any terminal via a subway or other transit connection if available.

5. Runways, taxiways, and airport roads

Once you have some terminals, you can build runways, taxiways, and airport roads to connect everything.

Everyone knows how runways and taxiways work (though I'll expand on that further down), but this would introduce a new type of airport road: Actual airport roads. They would be used only by airport service vehicles to take the load off of taxiways, which the vehicles would otherwise use. You can build an airport without roads, but vehicles will cause delays with planes while traveling on taxiways. Airport roads can cross or connect to taxiways but not runways.

Additionally, you can build multiple runways in multiple directions, and multiple taxiway connections on runways.

Various facilities can be built on airport roads and taxiways, like hangars and aprons along taxiways and service buildings along airport roads.


6. Build a control Tower

Every airport needs a tower. At least one is required to open the airport. Towers will come in two or three sizes (Large international airport tower, medium regional tower, and small local tower) and styles and have an effective radius, and every runway must have at least one tower's radius covering at least part of the runway for it to be used or the airport to be open. (See further below.)


7. Build airport services

There would be multiple airport service buildings. Some may be required before the airport can open, others are optional. Some service buildings may include:
  • Baggage cart garage and baggage handling building - To handle plane baggage. Baggage carts go out to parked planes and then come back after a short time.
  • Catering truck garage and facility - Catering trucks restock planes with food and other necessities. Catering trucks go out to parked planes and come back after a bit.
  • General aviation vehicles - This facility would spawn things like air stairs and pushback vehicles if implemented.
  • Airport general maintenance facility - This would send out maintenance trucks that repair broken airport buildings and maintain runways. REQUIRED.
The more services you have, the higher your airport rating and faster the plane turnaround time is.


8. Plop emergency services

Airports will have their own emergency services. They can be combo buildings containing health, police, and fire, or at least one building per service. These services can be built along airport roads and taxiways and will only service airport buildings via taxiways and airport roads.

Additionally, if vehicle crashes ever become a thing, airport emergency services can help there, too. I would never expect horrific explode-y crashes (especially considering recent events), but rather it could work like this: Planes would only crash during takeoff or landing. Before leaving or after touching down on a runway, occasionally a plane will veer off the runway, come to a stop a short distance later, and the engines will catch fire. Airport rescue vehicles would then approach, put out the fire, and remove the plane.


9. Fuel services

At least one fuel truck depot is required. Fuel trucks use taxiways or airport roads to get to planes after they stop at a terminal. Larger fuel tanks of various sizes (inset image) can be used to increase the airport's fuel capacity and plane turnaround time. If you have hangars or aprons, planes can automatically fuel up from there provided you have at least one fueling facility.


10. Place hangars

At least one hangar is REQUIRED. They can be built along taxiways or roads, but must have a taxiway connected.

Hangars are spawn and despawn points for planes. Instead of just materializing at a terminal in full view of shocked passengers, they will simply spawn or despawn inside a hangar so nobody knows the reality of their world. Hangars can also be used as parking lots for planes, however that can work. Can come in multiple sizes for different airplane types as discussed below.


11. Aircraft aprons

A parking lot but for planes. Optional. Aprons can serve as gates.

Both hangars and aprons can have their own fuel pumps, eliminating the need for fuel trucks. (Cargo planes will only use them if a cargo terminal is built.) Passengers and cargo arriving via an apron will leave the airport via the nearest road-connected passenger or cargo terminal.


12. Plop radar/Radio services

Radar towers and other communications buildings are REQUIRED for the airport to open. They can be built along roads or airport roads within the airport district.


13. Cargo terminals

These can be built along roads, or along taxiways, but will still require a road connection. You can build them as part of a passenger airport or as main terminals for a cargo-only airport, thus a cargo terminal will be available alongside the main passenger terminal before the rest of the buildings. Cargo terminals can also include railroad connections.


14. Helipads

No longer the purview of emergency services, helicopters can now be used by almost anybody. Citizens and tourists above a certain wealth and education level can enter or leave the city, or get to and from other buildings/airports, via helipads. Helipads can be placed as part of an airport, or on their own as a sort of self-contained airport that doesn't require a district, or on rooftop helipads on buildings placed in the asset editor.


15. Airport parking garages

These are optional but will increase your airport's rating and passenger capacity. A possible additional feature could be airport hotels. When placed in an airport district, hotels cound towards the airport rating and capacity.

Once you do all that and have the place connected for water and power, you can now open your airport!

Once it's open, how does it work?


16. Service vehicles

Instead of simply coming and going immediately, planes will now sit at a gate or apron/hangar for a bit after arriving and before departing. In that time, either it will be approached by a fuel truck, or utilize a fuel pump at an apron/hangar, and baggage carts, catering trucks, and cargo trucks will approach the plane, park around it, then leave after a bit. These vehicles can either spawn from plopped service facilities and approach using airport roads/taxiways, or spawn directly from the terminal.

Once the plane is ready to push back, a pushback car that's either already sitting there or spawning from the terminal will connect to the plane's forward landing gear and move with it as the plane backs onto the taxiway. The pushback car will then go back to the terminal while the plane goes on its way.


17. Plane AI

Plane AI would be a bit more advanced. Some of the "decisions" and paths a plane can take might include the following:
  • Approach on any runway that's soonest available. If all runways are in use, the plane circles until it finds a slot to land.
  • If there are multiple possible taxiway exits or crossing on a runway, wide-body planes will skip all but the last one, narrow-body planes will skip all but the last or second to last one if there are 4 or more exits or the second-to-last is in use, and light aircraft will use the first possible exit or skip the first one if there are 4 or more exits.
  • Planes will use the first available gate, and passengers will get to or from that terminal via whatever the nearest road-accessible terminal or main terminal is.
  • Multiple gates can be in use at the same time in one terminal.
  • Planes can also use aprons as gates.
  • If a plane is originating at an airport, it will spawn in a hangar, then go to the nearest gate or apron.
  • If a plane despawns at an airport, it will do so in a hangar after leaving the nearest gate or apron. (Barring pathfinding bugs, in which case it will despawn after a set time if it gets stuck or will spawn at a gate if there are issues getting a plane there in time.)
  • Once at a gate, the plane will sit there for a little while as service vehicles approach and service it.
  • Once the vehicles leave, the plane will back away from the gat with a pushback truck (unless it's a light aircraft).
  • Planes will find the best path to the first available runway, or radnomly select a runway, or select a runway based on what direction it's facing (which sidee of the map the plane will despawn on).
  • Planes will stop before crossing a runway if it's in use, and stop before a runway before entering it for takeoff if it's in use by another plane that's already taking off or landing.
  • Planes can use a number of possible taxiways routes if they're set up, so taxiways are no longer a pain to set up and get to work with complicated airports. On the ground, planes will act more like cars having to deal with one-way streets.
  • Planes will leave the runway at a distance based on what type they are, which will be discussed below.


Modular parks and industries are a walk in the park, but what would you ever do that with airports? Simple! Mostly, anyway...


Modular airport, a concept

The above graphic shows but a few of the main options for building a modular airport, really the most complicated ones being the terminals and sub-terminals. The examples include:
  • A - Main Terminal
One of these must be plopped in order to build additional facilities. A cargo variety can also be plopped for similar effect.
  • B and C - Connectors, or Hubs and Bridges
These are used to connect multiple terminals as one building, creating branching terminals that can be in a variety of shapes, from Ls to Us to Ys or Es. If you prefer, you can just make one boring I.
Connectors can either come in single parts that include the hub (circular part, B) and bridge/s (short segment, C), or you can build bridges and hubs separately, elciminating the need for many different connectors and making them more modular.
  • D - Sub or "Spoke" Terminal
These can be built against taxiways, roads if they're designed for that on one side, or connectors. You build a main terminal, then a connector/hub and bridge, then stick a Sub-Terminal onto one of the bridges/Connectors. You can also build sub-terminals apart from any main terminal, having them on their own and surrounded by taxiways and gates on all sides, like certain terminals at O'Hare and other airports. Passengers would either automatically appear or enter the nearest road-connected/main terminal, or move through underground passages you can build between terminals, under the airport, or leave via subway connections.
  • E - Hangars
Discussed above, you can place these along taxiways or roads, but will only be used - and allow the airport to operate - if connected to a taxiway. Used as a preferred spawn and despawn point for planes and a staple at any airport. Can or must come in multiple sizes for different airplane types as discussed below.
  • F - Aprons
Open-air gates or parking spaces for planes, discussed above.

Once you place these buildings, you'll have to figure out how to best build taxiways and runways. That's the only sticky part, but depending on how it's handled as far as plane AI goes, perhaps it wouldn't be so difficult.

Color code:
  • RED - Connector points for connectors/hubs and bridges, or other terminals/sub-terminals.
  • PINK - Taxiway connection points.
  • YELLOW - Plane gate parking points.
  • GREEN - Service vehicle stopping locations.
  • BLUE - Pushback truck default parking spot or spawning zone.


That's fine! If modular isn't for you, default pre-made airports would still be an option. There could even be a few options for pre-made airports:
  • The classic default airports we all know and... know.
  • NEW default airports pre-made and included with the DLC that utilize the new facilities and have bigger footprints.
  • Custom airports people can create and upload to the Workshop. You would be able to do that by either selecting an airport district and exporting the airport, and it would automatically detect all airport buildings and networks within the district and put it in an asset file, OR by simply creating one in the asset editor or a specialized airport editor.

Basically, like what creativeDEX did but complete with working airport facilities, included under a new airport category on Steam, and possibly created using an airport editor.



Planes are loud, and airports are noisy. People don't like living under that sort of thing. At London Heathrow (last I heard, hah), planes aren't even allowed to take off or land at night because the people in surrounding neighborhoods complained about the noise so much.

I picture noise working like this:


When you build a runway, a cone of noise is generated expanding from either end, fading out or ending some distance away. The more the runway is used, the harsher the noise intensity is, and the more unhappy people are in those areas. To avoid that, you can strategically build runways to avoid neighborhoods, build neighborhoods to avoid runways paths, or enact policies for the airport district, such as closing the airport during night hours. If you are limited in space and surrounded by neighborhoods, you can simply opt to build a light-aircraft-only airport, which would be much quieter.

Also illustrated is how a control tower has an effective radius that must cover at least part of a runway.



In addition to modular airports and better plane AI, planes themselves could be expanded upon. No longer will it just be a strange-looking Faux-380 as the sole aircraft in the skies, or one runway to rule them all.

Airports can handle different types of aircraft, and thus capacities, depending on their runways and taxiways. It would work something like this:


  • A - Wide-Body Runway and Taxiway
These 6-tile runways and 4-tile taxiways would allow the largest planes to use the airport, as well as narrow-body and light aircraft. The 4-tile taxiways would also have paths along the sides for airport vehicles so that they do not need roads but will not disturb aircraft, either.
  • B - Narrow-Body Runway and Taxiway
These 4-tile runways and 3-tile taxiways would allow Narrow-body and light aircraft to use the airport, but NOT wide-body ones, with the exception of the taxiway which can also be used by wide-body planes, but won't have dedicated pathing for airport vehicles.
  • C - Light Aircraft Runway and Taxiway
These 2-tile runways and essentially 1-tile taxiways can be used ONLY by light aircraft, NOT narrow or wide-body ones. You can pair these with a small terminal to create a small local airport used only by light aircraft, or build them as part of a much larger airport in which all types of planes intermingle. Use the 1-tile taxiways to direct only light aircraft out of the way of the jumbos.
  • D - Airport Vehicle Roads
For use ONLY by emergency and service vehicles like baggage and fuel trucks. They come in one size, can intersect or be built along taxiways (but cannot cross runways) and take the vehicle load off of taxiways, allowing both planes and vehicles to get around faster.

It's also worth noting that while runway length is important in real life, it won't be in the game, save for a minimum length that's the same across all sizes and roughly equivalent to the default airport runways, so people don't make runways that are absurdly short. Whether you make a runway that's a default length or 3 city tiles long, they will be used by whatever plane type they're made for, the only restriction being what width you use.



What are wide-body, narrow-body, and light aircraft? I'm glad you asked!


Light aircraft

Light aircraft are small planes, usually propeller-driven, though it can also include tiny jets for the purposes of the game. They use the smallest runways/taxiways, or any other size if available.


Narrow-Body Aircraft

Narrow-body aircraft are the midsized planes with a single aisle. They can be jets or propeller-driven and include models like the CRJ series jets or the Bombardier Dash 8 turboprop, and the smaller of Boeing and Airbus planes like the 737 or A320. Narrow-body planes can use the medium and large runways and taxiways, but not the small ones.


Wide-Body Aircraft

Wide-Body aircraft are the largest of the large, true jumbos. They include models like the Boeing 747 / 777 and the Airbus A380 (and also the plane that currently serves as a cargo plane for Industries). These planes can ONLY use large runways, NOT medium or small ones, with the exception of medium taxiways which they can also use.



Worth a quick note is the varies these planes would come in.

By default, there would be at least 2 passenger models and 1 cargo model for each type of plane.
People can make custom planes and select what type they fall under in the asset editor (Light, Narrow, or Wide).



One thing missing from Cities: Skylines is seaplanes! Why not rectify that with DLC?


A water-based airport concept

You would now have the ability to build airports on water for use by seaplanes. Seaplane airports could be simple ploppable docks with a pre-made system of taxiways and a runway to simplify things. As long as you have space, you can build it. No district needed. Or you can make them modular like regular airports.



Seaplanes would be their own aircraft type apart from Light, Narrow, and Wide. You could have at least one passenger and one cargo variety, or passenger-only, in which case have a large and small seaplane for variety, with people being able to create their own.




Air taxis

One other great feature to have in an airport DLC is air taxis! They would consist solely of light aircraft or seaplanes, and can operate out of any land or water airport. They would work something like this:
  • Have at least two airports in a city.
  • Place an air taxi terminal within an airport zone - water airports would already have this ability once a stop is connected.
  • Place stops/routes between at least two air taxi and/or seaplane airports.
  • Air taxis will spawn and fly out of and between these airports, ferrying Cims at dizzying speeds.
  • Profit!



One small thing that could also come with beefed up airport/plane content is the availability of firefighting planes! We have helicopters, but those are rather slow. With this, you could plop a hangar or service building containing a parked firefighting tanker in any airport. When there's hard to reach fire you need put out quickly, call up one of these planes and let it do its thing. Even with taxiing and takeoff, it'd probably get there faster than a helicopter. Firefighting tankers would not only be faster but carry more water or fire retardant chemicals, which are often dyed red. Wouldn't that look neat?


And that concludes this 18-hour international flight of a suggestions post.

Take it or leave it, do with it what you will, use whatever ideas you like, it would just be super cool to see a DLC like this at some point, even in part. I hope the devs consider it, because airports are extremely important. They're vital to cities, they impact people's daily lives, and they're often cities in themselves. I haven't even touched on other things an airport could include, like mixed zoning for commercial areas within terminals and so on. Airports are huge, sprawling facilities with more facilities within them. Planes come in so many varieties, and despite the addition of helicopters and blimps, there are still modes of aircraft transport yet to be satisfactorily fleshed out. People are already making great custom airports, but it's extremely difficult and they're mostly eye candy. How wonderful would it be to have custom, more easily built, modular, more realistic, fully-operational airports?

Thanks for your attention, especially if you made it all the way through this!
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There are way more important things than airports. Like the simulation aspect of the game - cars don't need parking lots, citizens don't care if you, for example, significantly raise taxes for a few weeks and then lower them (you can basically get a free money boost by doing this). There is hardly any punishment for screwing up other than the citizens moving out of the town. There should be popularity meter, citizens should protest against rising taxes or not having good police/fire coverage and if you don't meet their demands they should riot, the stuff like crime should have way more impact (for example high crime rate would cause more arsons). Because currently (other than the traffic issues) game is way too easy - even fires are pointless, you don't need fire departament at all because you can turn off fire spreading option in the menu and save shitload of money. This is unacceptable for a simulation game.

And even if we need another Parklife style DLC it should focus on beaches because that's what community had been asking for a long time.
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I am with @velles on that one. The game still has some issues to be resolved first before getting new content. Airports are nice but in contrast to the points mentioned in the post before...well, they lose importance unless you always play sandbox-mode and just want to build a nice city, but not struggling for compromises and building a good, working city. I would not scrap the idea entirely - it is a good one - but I agree something else is to be done first.