Great WPF Applications #14: Zurich Airport

From the beautiful city of Zürich in Switzerland comes this great example of how WPF makes data visualization a snap. In the scenario we're looking at here, the airport wanted a way to be able to track and manage flight operations.

I'm sure we've all been in the situation of waiting at the airport to collect someone, but not knowing how close they are to getting out of the terminal. Usually all you have to go on is a bank of monitors that shows the flight status as "Landed", which doesn't tell you whether the plane has literally just touched down, is taxiing around the airport, is actually docked at a gate, or is emptying its load of passengers. If you're monitoring the airport operations, this is a business-critical problem: how full are the car parks? Are planes backing up for a particular runway? How many gates are open?

In the case of Zürich Airport, they now have a new tool built on WPF that can help answer these questions and more. This application, built as a XAML Browser Application, provides airport operators with an immediate overview of the real-time status of every plane. On the operator's display, every plane shows its location on a map, colored in a gradient from red to green that shows what percentage of the aircraft is full. Since every aircraft transmits its location thanks to GPS, it's possible to follow it from the moment the pilot powers the systems on to the moment that the aircraft leaves the airport environs.

Similarly, they've built in instrumentation for the car parking garages, so it's possible also to see where any capacity issues exist for people who are arriving at the terminal. Once again, a red/green gradient shows how full any individual garage is.

For obvious security and scalability reasons, it's not possible to make the live application available over the Internet for anyone to access. But they've kindly given us permission to post a public demonstrator for the application along with some historical data so you can see it in action. Thanks to the power of XBAP deployment, you can see this here on

Since this is real historical data, you get to see the application in all its rawness. There's no smoothing of the GPS signals, so occasionally it looks like an aircraft is not pointing in the right direction or it "jumps" to a new locations. Planes suddenly appear: I presume that's when the aircraft power system is turned on for the first time and starts communicating with the tower.

Several helpful shortcuts for using the application are presented on startup; I recommend modifying the "Airplane zoom" and "Playback time" sliders to about 50% so that you can see the aircraft capacity and the planes move at faster than normal speed. You can experiment with other options in the toolbar - for example, you can change the color binding for the aircraft to represent length of delay or airline rather than capacity.

Special thanks to Ronnie Saurenmann from Microsoft Switzerland, who was pivotal in realizing this application and kind enough to arrange to make this available for the broader community to see.

Comments (18)

  1. Sven Groot says:

    The app isn’t working for me. I can see the map but I don’t see any planes. Sometimes when I drag the "playback time" or "Airplane zoom" sliders they briefly flicker into view, and then they’re gone again.

    Running Vista x64, GeForce 6600GT.

  2. That is awesome.  Video game meets business app.

  3. Sven Groot says:

    I tried it on a different machine, running XP x64, GeForce 7950GT, same problem.

  4. Há algum tempo eu não falava sobre aplicacões em produção utilizando WPF. O tim Sneath tem em seu blog

  5. 经常坐飞机,有时候就想能不能有一个系统能够让我了解我所乘坐的飞机的具体情况,以及机场的准确位置。当然,目前我对首都机场的了解简直比我家还要熟悉。上海虹桥、深圳以及广州白云等机场也是比较了解的。但是当我第一次到达西雅图机场的时候,当时还真有一些昏头昏脑,实在太大了,呵呵。

  6. Sven Devriese says:


    It works fine on my old Northwood P4@2.4

    with a poky PCI ( not PCI-E !) Nvidia FX-5200.

    Windows XP Pro 32 bit.

  7. Unul din colegii evanghelisti din Elvetia (Ronnie Saurenmann) a avut sansa sa contribuie la aplicatia

  8. A lot of things happening in the .NET world these days. While going through my unread RSS Feeds I summarize

  9. John says:

    Does not work for me.   zeuswpf.xbap ???

  10. msdn Austria says:

    Ich habe schon einige Male in Vorträgen zum Thema Windows Presentation Foundation als ein Paradebeispiel

  11. Joel says:

    Great links Tim!  Have you seen <a href="">thirteen23</a&gt;?  As far as I can tell, these guys have the best WFP apps out there.

  12. Super application!

    Je l’avais déjà vu au TechDays à Genève mais c’est encore mieux en vrai sur mon PC!

    C’est vraiment une technologie fantastic!!!!!


  13. Asta dupa caderea de saptamana trecuta: doua discuri crapate simultan, plus backup (numai) din februarie.

  14. shopautodotcaseocontest says:

    thanks tim. i never looked that much into wpf applications

  15. MS_rev says:

    Päris paljud minu sõbrad, kes on muuhulgas ka MS_rev igapäevased lugejad, on mult küsinud, et miks küll

  16. Unul din colegii evanghelisti din Elvetia (Ronnie Saurenmann) a avut sansa sa contribuie la aplicatia

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