Many Runway Lights, Approach Lights, and VGSIs are the incorrect type - widespread

I searched for this topic in the wishlist, but only found a few random examples. My research has led me to discover this is a widespread issue, possibly related to the database used in generating runway environments, thus the topic is much more broad than for an individual airport.

It is not easy to enumerate due to the vastness of the issue, but based on a fairly large sample, I estimate well more than half of the approach lights and VASI/PAPI in the sim are of the incorrect type.

From what I can gather, comparing historical data, the database used to generate these is around 15 years old. Most VASI installations in the US have been replaced by PAPI of some sort - only ~600 remain, compared to almost 7,000 PAPI.

The issue here, and why I’m asking for this to be fixed, is that if a person is on an instrument approach and in the approach briefing, briefs a MALSR with a 4-light PAPI on the left, however upon break out and minimums, see an ODALS with a 2-light VASI on the right, (or worse, nothing) that’s cause for a go-around due to the fact you are likely approaching the wrong runway, especially egregious when there are parallel runways. Missing VGSI create an entirely different, yet obvious problem with obstruction clearance.

Here are just a few examples of incorrect lighting:

  • KSAC Rwy 20 missing P4L (4-box PAPI, left side). Rwy 30 has V2L, should be P4L (since 2009)
  • KLHM Rwy 15 and 33 have V4L in-sim. These were replaced in 2007 with P4L
  • KRNO is missing all five PAPI installations
  • KCXP Rwy 27 has V4L in-sim. These were replaced in 2008 with P2L. Also missing REIL
  • KPVF Rwy 23 has V4L in-sim. This was replaced with P2L in the mid-2000s
  • KOVE Rwy 31 has V2R in-sim, should be P2L
  • KOVE Rwy 2 has no PAPI or REIL in-sim, should be P2L and REIL
  • KGOO Rwy 7 and 25 have REIL in-sim, they should not
  • KMYV Rwy 14 has REIL in-sim, it should not
  • KMOD Rwy 10R has P4R in-sim, it should be P2L
  • KBOI Rwy 28R has V4L in-sim, should be P4L, also has centerline lights and should not
  • KBOI Rwy 10L has V4L in-sim, should be P4R, same centerline issue as the reciprocal
  • KBOI Rwy 10R has a MALSR, should be an ALSF-2
  • KRAP Rwy 32 has P4R in-sim, this should be a P4L
  • KTVL, a bespoke airport, has runway centerline lights. These do not exist in real life at KTVL
  • KTVL Rwy 18 has a MALS in sim, this should be a MALSF

At this point I’m literally going into the sim and picking random airports. Every airport I’ve tested has an issue.

  • KSPK has no lighting at all! Should be MIRL with P4L and REIL at both ends.
  • KPGR Rwy 22 has P4L in-sim. Should be P2L and add REIL
  • KPGR Rwy 4 has P4R in-sim. Should be P2L and add REIL
  • KOCF Rwy 18 has P4R in-sim. Should be P4L
  • C35 Rwy 18 has P4L in-sim. Should be P2L
  • KMNI Rwy 20 has PVASI in-sim. Should be P2L, same with reciprocal end
  • KSLB Rwy 35 is P4L in-sim. Should be P2L, same with reciprocal end
  • KCNH Rwy 20 is V4L in-sim. Should be P2L
  • 50R Rwy 36 has no VGSI. Should be P2L, same with reciprocal end
  • KFFZ Rwy 22L has no VGSI. Should be P4L
  • KFFZ Rwy 22R has P4R in-sim, should be P2L and REIL
  • KFFZ Rwy 4L has no VGSI or ALS, should be P2L and REIL
  • KFFZ Rwy 4R has no VGSI, should be P4L
  • KSEZ and KPGA have taxiway centerline lights. Taxiway centerline lights exist only at a several dozen airports in the US, neither of which are these. This seems to happen a lot and should definitely not.

Here is an example at Wenatchee (KEAT) that could cause problems on an instrument approach. First, an in-sim pic of the approach to Rwy 30. Note the V4L and ODALS

KEAT Sim approach

Here’s the current approach plate, note the ODALS was removed, a REIL installed, and a P2L replaced the V4L. This occurred sometime between 2006 and 2009.

KEAT Approach Plate

The list goes on and on and suffice it to say there’s a major lighting error at nearly every airport I surveyed. These databases are updated and published by the FAA every 28 days (see “Airports and Other Landing Facilities”) and should be able to be parsed in order to correct these issues. With nearly 8,000 VGSI, and almost 10,000 approach light (including REIL) installations in the US alone, this is very worthy of correction.

Disclaimer: my area of expertise is in US systems, not rest-of-world, but I’m sure those are worth a look as well. This also does not address the incorrect longitudinal placement of many VASI/PAPI systems, and/or obstacles encroaching into the FAR 77 clearance plane while on said VASI/PAPI, which is a different concern addressed in this thread.

My analysis was performed using current and archived Airport/Facility Directories, Terminal Procedure Charts, Historical Google Aerial Maps, facility databases, and FAA publications such as FAR/AIM.

Here, here! Great post. I’ve noticed many of the same issues. Suffice it to say, this arena is where I make my living in the “real world” so your clear knowledge and observations are appreciated.

ETA: last night was my first night loading the Sim again in several days because I’m still ticked off at the pathetic response from Asobo/MS regarding the Xbox LOD issue. Flew a short IFR flight from KSUN to KBOI. Arrived in KBOI, broke out at minimums to floating RWY approach, threshold and edge lights several feet above the ground! That was a new one!


I noticed this too. Like you said, it’s especially not good landing in poor visability while raining at night, at an airport with an RNAV approach but no ILS, expecting lights to suddenly come into view when you break through the cloud layer, to only be greeted by pitch black lol

I modelled a missing airport myself using the SDK and went to great lengths to ensure it matched the approach plate, I even used the in-game bing satellite ground textures to get precise placement of The PAPI and approach lighting!

Hopefully the accuracy of things like this will greatly improve once the WORLD HUB is released and people can spend the time (like I did) placing these with love and care across the globe.

But it would certainly help if the starting point for us improving them was from the most up to date charts.

I remember something at the very beginning of MSFS about them using AI to look at the bing satellite/aerial imagery and approch plates to place buildings, taxiways, runways, and lights etc. (if you’d noticed the worst airports are at places with poor or no aerial imagery, that’s why!)

Could they could re-run this AI using the new charts, plates and aerial imagery to greatly improve the situation?

Hmm, that’s a good question. I’m not sure how the lights are procedurally generated. I imagine it can be hard to discern a 2-box PAPI from one bar of a VASI unit. That said, much of the imagery clearly shows PAPI installations, yet the sim still does VASI quite often. So I’m thinking it’s a database somewhere, because so many of them are the units that were there 15+ years ago, despite being different in the imagery.

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Check out KSDF; after 2 1/2 years it still does not have taxiway lights!!.

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