markboston
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Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 7:07 pm

Recently flew BLR-LHR and none of the cities in Iraq or Syria appeared in the in flight map while we were flying over these countries. Are maps "censored" while flying over sensitive areas?
 
sw733
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 7:19 pm

Quoting markboston (Thread starter):
Recently flew BLR-LHR and none of the cities in Iraq or Syria appeared in the in flight map while we were flying over these countries. Are maps "censored" while flying over sensitive areas?

I've definitely seen Baghdad and Basra show up while flying over Iraq before. We flew straight over Basra at night and the only way I knew what city it was is because of the map.

That being said, interesting southern route you guys took. My LHR-BLR flights have always gone the more "traditional", straight route over Eastern Europe, Ukraine, Georgia/Azerbaijan, and Iran.
 
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Francoflier
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 7:19 pm

They're not as far as I know...
It might just be that over desert areas, there are no cities of importance to show?

I know that tail or belly cameras are turned off in certain areas before landing, mainly when the airport is a military base or there is one nearby.
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SOBHI51
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 7:50 pm

I remember few months ago Iran wanted all airlines to show the Persian Gulf and not the Arab Gulf on the in flight maps.
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Cipango
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 8:20 pm

Am I right in saying the in flight maps over the US have a 5 minute delay for security reasons?
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BRxxx
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 8:30 pm

Sometimes they just show the 'big' cities.

I flew over that region on the way to LHR and got this on the map:

Flight map
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timf
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 8:47 pm

Quoting cipango (Reply 4):
Am I right in saying the in flight maps over the US have a 5 minute delay for security reasons?

This is true of ground-based flight tracking software and websites, but as far as I know onboard maps are shown in real time.
 
skipness1E
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 9:03 pm

Quoting SOBHI51 (Reply 3):
I remember few months ago Iran wanted all airlines to show the Persian Gulf and not the Arab Gulf on the in flight maps.

The BBC has always referred to it as the Persian Gulf.
 
cmf
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 9:15 pm

Quoting SOBHI51 (Reply 3):
I remember few months ago Iran wanted all airlines to show the Persian Gulf and not the Arab Gulf on the in flight maps.

It is only the last 50 years or so Arab countries have used Arabian Gulf. This is good reminder for everyone who think Iran is an Arab country.
Don’t repeat earlier generations mistakes. Learn history for a better future.
 
rampart
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 9:24 pm

Quoting SOBHI51 (Reply 3):
I remember few months ago Iran wanted all airlines to show the Persian Gulf and not the Arab Gulf on the in flight maps.

I've never heard reference to it as "The Arab Gulf", so had to look it up. The geographic community, the UN, and shipping industrry all consider it the Persian Gulf, though there appears to be a controversial movement to call it the Arab Gulf in some circles. So I can't see how much "wanting" needs to be done. Do the airlines of the "Gulf States" (and the rest of the Arabian Penninsula) refer to it as the Arabian Gulf on their maps?

-Rampart
 
cmf
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 9:48 pm

Quoting rampart (Reply 9):
Do the airlines of the "Gulf States" (and the rest of the Arabian Penninsula) refer to it as the Arabian Gulf on their maps?

The ones I have seen, yes. First time I noticed it was a couple of years ago in UAE. After that I have checked almost every time I have seen a map of the area and every map inside GCC have it marked as Arab Gulf.
Don’t repeat earlier generations mistakes. Learn history for a better future.
 
bwaflyer
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 10:10 pm

bmi had a bit of a nightmare a few years ago. The aircraft acquired from BMed which operated to the Levant / Middle East did not show Israeli cities on their maps (although showed the Israeli border in outline). However bmi started using these aircraft on the LHR-TLV service unaware of the omissions. Passengers quickly kicked up an understandable fuss, reported in the press, and the maps were deactivated immediately until a software update could be uploaded. Since the suspension of the TLV service, the maps remain unchanged and continue to show Israeli cities.
 
penguins
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 10:59 pm

I've always wondered about the route shown on there inflight maps aboard the planes. I f you were drastically off court would the map show so or does the plane always stay on the "yellow line"?
 
bwaflyer
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 11:14 pm

Quoting penguins (Reply 12):
I've always wondered about the route shown on there inflight maps aboard the planes. I f you were drastically off court would the map show so or does the plane always stay on the "yellow line"?

From what I understand as a lowly chicken chucker down the back, the map is linked to the FMC so the route is constantly updated from the navigation system.
 
B777LRF
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 11:24 pm

They're not "censored" per se, there are just more than one version available of a map  

You'll never see Tel Aviv on the map when flying a Gulf carrier, but you might very well see Jerusalem. Neither will you see Israel, but chances are good you'll see Palestine written on the screen.

If you're flying certain Gulf carriers the map will read Arabian Gulf, to everybody else it's the Persian Gulf. And I bet you that if AR flew anywhere near the Falklands, their map would say Malvinas.
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reality
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 11:39 pm

Quoting BRxxx (Reply 5):
Sometimes they just show the 'big' cities.

I flew over that region on the way to LHR and got this on the map:


Flight map


This map see seems to confirm the OPs observations. No cities in Iraq or Syria are shown, even though they are larger than the "big" cities.

Not shown on map:

Bagdad--population 7 million
Tehran--8 million
Demascus--2 million

While at the same time, "small" cities are shown:

Mecca--2 million
Sana'a--2 million
Beiruit--2 million


So it seems that markboston, the OP, is correct. But why is this so? As he asks, are the maps "censored." Or does it just depend on the specific airline and what they think are important cities, or, does the map exclude Bagdad and Tehran simply because very few airlines fly to those cities?
 
cmf
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Mon May 07, 2012 11:53 pm

Quoting reality (Reply 15):
This map see seems to confirm the OPs observations. No cities in Iraq or Syria are shown, even though they are larger than the "big" cities.

I have often question how highlighted cities are selected. For example showing Limerick but not Dublin.
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shamrock137
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 2:14 am

Quoting cmf (Reply 16):
I have often question how highlighted cities are selected. For example showing Limerick but not Dublin.

I was once told that obscure cities shown are because the map is linked to the FMS. This is why small towns such as Gardner, Massachussetts are shown over larger towns nearby such as Worcester. Simply because the FMS recognises GDM as a fix.
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kann123air
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 2:46 am

Quoting cipango (Reply 4):
Am I right in saying the in flight maps over the US have a 5 minute delay for security reasons?

So that explains why every time I see an airplane over my house it's always about 70 miles away on flightaware....
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777klm
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 7:23 am

Quoting penguins (Reply 12):

I've always wondered about the route shown on there inflight maps aboard the planes. I f you were drastically off court would the map show so or does the plane always stay on the "yellow line"?


As this photo shows (taken on the tragic day of 9/11/11) the map shows the correct information.


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Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Michiel Jas

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PlaneInsomniac
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 8:36 am

Automatic map annotation / labelling is a non-trivial (and sometimes unsolvable) problem, since a huge number of geographical place names contend for a very limited screen real estate. I have observed odd behavior (i.e., laughably irrelevant places being shown and world cities being ignored) on practically all in-flight maps I have ever used. It is also worth mentioning that most in-flight map software appears to be somewhat sub-par in quality, to state it diplomatically. If your favorite city doesn't show up, it is likely a sign of the algorithm trying its best and failing. No conspiracy theories necessary...
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planesavvy
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 9:16 am

I had a bizarre onboard map issue flying Virgin Atlantic from LHR to Cape Town a few years back. I like following our track on the map when I fly so turned it on fairly soon after departure. The map said we were flying from LHR to Shanghai!!! It even showed all the normal info such as ETAs and local times for PVG. I found it amusing that for about five hours it continued to show a track over northern Russia until it was turned off when it was clear that something was wrong. It wasn't corrected to show that we were actually heading south over Africa.

It did leave me doubting the accuracy of the maps which, as others have mentioned, I thought was linked to the FMC.
 
Eagleboy
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 9:24 am

Quoting SOBHI51 (Reply 3):
I remember few months ago Iran wanted all airlines to show the Persian Gulf and not the Arab Gulf on the in flight maps.
Quoting skipness1E (Reply 7):
The BBC has always referred to it as the Persian Gulf

I have always known it as the Persian Gulf war rather than the "Arabian/Arab Gulf"

Quoting penguins (Reply 12):
I f you were drastically off court would the map show so or does the plane always stay on the "yellow line"?
Quoting bwaflyer (Reply 13):
From what I understand as a lowly chicken chucker down the back, the map is linked to the FMC so the route is constantly updated from the navigation system.

No. The route on the map is fed by the actual route of the aircraft. I have seen the map display the aircraft diverting before the flight crew were able to made an announcement to that effect. (It was a sudden thing so their responsibility was to talk to ATC and divert before informing the pax)

Quoting cmf (Reply 16):
I have often question how highlighted cities are selected. For example showing Limerick but not Dublin.
Quoting PlaneInsomniac (Reply 20):
a huge number of geographical place names contend for a very limited screen real estate. I have observed odd behavior (i.e., laughably irrelevant places being shown and world cities being ignored) on practically all in-flight maps I have ever used. It is also worth mentioning that most in-flight map software appears to be somewhat sub-par in quality, to state it diplomatically.

I have seen that too, as the map 'zooms' in and out some very random towns/cities are noted. And the screen can only show 5-6 at any time without cluttering up the map image with text.
 
speedbird217
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 11:41 am

Sometimes they also define a whole new world. This was taken on a KLM B737-700 en-route to Bergen. Look at where they placed Tripoli on the map (I give you a hint, try to find Beirut   )...

http://i1149.photobucket.com/albums/o593/madmax15787/2012-04-27_09-30-46_486.jpg
 
offloaded
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 11:49 am

Quoting speedbird217 (Reply 23):

There is a Tripoli in Lebanon and Libya, so the Lebanon one looks about right...
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speedbird217
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 11:53 am

Quoting offloaded (Reply 24):

There is a Tripoli in Lebanon and Libya, so the Lebanon one looks about right...

Of course you are right! Well, my bad. Anyway, I guess most people would expect to see Beirut there, since almost all the other cities on the map are capitals. Confusing...   
 
AviRaider
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 1:56 pm

Quoting PlaneInsomniac (Reply 20):

You're absolutely correct, as a geographer who works with such systems, it's more likely the software trying it's best to keep up. To keep the map from being cluttered, an algorythm linking to a database selects a percentage of cities to label at any one time. It really can't be predicted as to what will be labeled. The only solution is to delete smaller cities from the database or to expand the code that runs the algorythm and give cities a weight in order to give certain cities a priority. Remember, it's software, so it's always the lowest bidder that get's the contract.
 
markboston
Topic Author
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 2:05 pm

Quoting AviRaider (Reply 26):
To keep the map from being cluttered, an algorythm linking to a database selects a percentage of cities to label at any one time. It really can't be predicted as to what will be labeled.

I don't think that was what was happening on my flight. While we were flying over Iraq and Syria the map wasn't showing ANY cities even though I could clearly see cities looking out the window. As soon as we crossed over in to Turkey the map started showing places again. It appeared that the map software had a "filter" option and that someone had chosen to omit all cities while flying over Iraq and Syria.
 
brilondon
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 3:19 pm

Quoting markboston (Reply 27):
I don't think that was what was happening on my flight. While we were flying over Iraq and Syria the map wasn't showing ANY cities even though I could clearly see cities looking out the window. As soon as we crossed over in to Turkey the map started showing places again. It appeared that the map software had a "filter" option and that someone had chosen to omit all cities while flying over Iraq and Syria.

I think that that situation you had may have had was that the system may have been faulty.
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DTWPurserBoy
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 3:38 pm

Quoting bwaflyer (Reply 13):
From what I understand as a lowly chicken chucker down the back, the map is linked to the FMC so the route is constantly updated from the navigation system.

You are correct--the map is slaved to the FMC. However, it is possible that the purser either forget to enter the departure and arrival cities into the inflight entertainment computer before the flight and a previous flight was still entered. I have seen that cause an error. And sometimes it just freezes up for whatever reason. At my company someone got the bright idea to put a sensitive piece of computerized equipment (the IVOD system) right next to a hot coffee maker, a very hot bun warmer and three extremely cold chiller compartments for food and beverage carts. Most people know that computers do not like to be subjected to constant changes in temperature. This can cause havoc with the system, too.

BTW--I love the term "chicken chucker!"
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edds
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 4:25 pm

Thanks or starting this interesting topic.

Most of the in-flight moving maps are horrible design and really the worst cartography you could find. I am a university lecturer an I am teaching courses in Cartography and Geographic Information Science. When I teach my students about Geovisualization or Cartography I always show my students inflight moving maps as bad examples.

I am not sure why the companies producing these systems not bother to spend at least a title thought in their designs, or at least hire someone who is trained in Geovisualizaiton or GIScience. I know that all of these systems are coupled with a database where all the information is stored, but nowadays it is very easy to do any manipulation even on an very low powered PC you find on board of an aircraft. I am also not sure why these companies use their own implementation. If you are familiar with API development, there are even many open source APIs out there which they could make use of, like Cloudmade, OpenLayers, GeoEX or if the want go the easy way just stick with the GoogleMaps API, BingMaps API or Mapquest API. Car companies are also now implementing the Bing API and GoogleMaps API into their navigation systems. I thing one limitation might be the programming languages and specs approved by the FAA. I know that there is a special version of SQL for implementation on the aircraft.

Here is another example of a strange inflight moving map.

http://www.flightdisplay.com/images/sized/images/gallery/IMG_1223-930x698.jpg

[Edited 2012-05-08 09:26:21]

[Edited 2012-05-08 09:26:52]

[Edited 2012-05-08 09:27:26]

[Edited 2012-05-08 10:19:26]
 
planefixer
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 4:40 pm

Airlines can pick and choose what cities they want to show on the Airshow system, they can also highlight points of interest on the trip, and the newer versions of the unit can give 3D views of the aircraft from above.
The FMC has the direct input into the Airshow box, which has different profiles depending on how fast the aircraft is travelling (changes from gate mode to flight mode about 100kts) and also when the aircraft reaches about 20,000 feet, it goes to the next profile, so you see more.
 
stratacruiser
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 6:29 pm

I remember my Dad telling me after one of his business trips to Kuwait in the early seventies that all maps in his firm's offices there were altered to change "Persian Gulf" to "Arabian Gulf", as well as to remove any mention of Israel.

Dave
 
rfields5421
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Tue May 08, 2012 7:10 pm

Quoting cmf (Reply 8):
Quoting SOBHI51 (Reply 3):I remember few months ago Iran wanted all airlines to show the Persian Gulf and not the Arab Gulf on the in flight maps.
It is only the last 50 years or so Arab countries have used Arabian Gulf. This is good reminder for everyone who think Iran is an Arab country.

In October 1973 my US Navy squadron operated out of Bandar Abbas Iran for missions over norther Saudi Arabia and the northern Red Sea.

We were warned very pointedly by a USAF briefing officer when we arrived in Bandar Abbas to refer to the body of water as the Persian Gulf when we were in Iran and speaking to Iranian ATC. But when we crossed and were speaking to Saudi, Qatar or Bahrain ATC - it was to be referred to as the Arabian Gulf.

I saw a USN briefing sheet to that effect for people being sent to the ship homeported in Bahrain back about 1976.

Quoting markboston (Thread starter):
Recently flew BLR-LHR and none of the cities in Iraq or Syria appeared in the in flight map while we were flying over these countries. Are maps "censored" while flying over sensitive areas?

Sometimes airlines will show cities they fly to and not show cities to which they do not fly. Sometimes it is just 'recognicable' city names on the map.

As noted several places above - it is not 'censorship' as such, but the maps definitely reflect the political climate of the nation of the airline.

[Edited 2012-05-08 12:12:54]
 
Burkhard
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RE: Are In Flight Maps Censored?

Wed May 09, 2012 8:44 am

Sometimes these maps show tiny villages and not hte names of the multi million cities nearby - never took them serious, but nice to have them...