back to article We've heard some made-up stories but this is ridiculous: Microsoft Flight Simulator, Bing erect huge skyscraper out of bad data

Talk about software floors... The world's second tallest skyscraper can be found in Fawkner, Australia, according to Microsoft. It can be seen on Bing Maps and, more vividly, in the latest version of Microsoft Flight Simulator, thanks to an errant entry in OpenStreetMap, which is based on community-edited data. Towering over …

  1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Is it ...

    ... in an approach pattern? It could be true that everything in Australia is trying to kill you.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Is it ...

      Well, virtually everything.

      1. MyffyW Silver badge

        Re: Is it ...

        "Just entering the correct measurements for this little fella could get me killed.."

        Remembering fondly a certain Australian, god bless you, Stevo

      2. Why Not?

        Re: Is it ...

        Yeah I don't think Kylie or he sister Dani are.

        But that Jason Donovan looks sus. ;)

  2. Displacement Activity


    Back in the day (20 years?) I could land on the roof of the Willis Tower in Chicago on the MS flight sim. Moved on to a better sim.

    1. logicalextreme Silver badge

      Re: Roof

      You might just be a shit-hot pilot and you don't know it.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Roof

        Nah, anyone who can fly a plane can land on the top of that tower. All it requires is a sufficiently high windspeed and absolutely no turbulence, and appoaching it from downwind. Practically an every day event! (I am not a pilot, but I am an excellent passenger...).

        The (very crude) flight sim for the Research Machines 480Z had an integer wrap around bug. Put the "airplane" into a vertical climb, and wait for the airspeed to drop to 20, 10, then 5, 2, 1 and 0 knots. At that point you'd expect the plane to start falling, tail first. Nope, airspeed was an unsigned integer and it would underflow, meaning you now had an airspeed of 65535 knots straight up, or about M.86. Weeeeheeeee!

        1. logicalextreme Silver badge

          Re: Roof

          Sounds like we've got a way of testing whether we're living in a simulation or not. Er, you go first.

        2. Totally not a Cylon Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Roof

          The ZX81 Flight sim had a better bug.....

          Provided your wheels were down you could hit the ground at ANY speed and bounce, often to massive heights....

          1. Uncle Slacky

            Re: Roof

            On the Spectrum one you could fly backwards by doing a loop-the-loop (IIRC).

            1. DrewWyatt

              Re: Roof

              I remember the flight sim on the BBC B. It gave you points for flying through the town under building height, and for flying under the bridge over the river. You got double points for doing it inverted.

              It was perfectly possible to take off, do a half roll, land on the river on your roof, and taxi under the bridge to collect your double points...

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Roof

      @Displacement_Activity You're Snake Plissken and I claim my five pounds...

      1. Kane Silver badge

        Re: Roof

        "You're Snake Plissken and I claim my five pounds..."

        Don't antagonise him, you know what happened to Fresno Bob...

      2. Loyal Commenter

        Re: Roof

        I heard he was dead.

    3. PerlyKing

      Re: Roof

      Early versions of the RAF's Nimrod simulator (so, early to mid 1970s) "flew" a PoV camera over large physical maps of the airfield, the sea, and a small bowl of cotton wool for cruising above cloud :-) Apparently, if you were gentle enough you could "land" on the sea! On the flip side, if you were not gentle enough you could literally crash the camera into the map and cause thousands of pounds worth of damage....

      1. Joe Montana

        Re: Roof

        The concorde simulator was like that too:

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intentional Error?

    I've come across maps in the past where there was an intentional error, e.g. a small side street with a specific name that doesn't actually exist. They were introduced intentionally to detect people using the dataset without a license. "We're not using your data, we swear!" -- "Oh yeah? What about X street here?"

    I wonder if this could be something similar...

    1. Ellipsis
      1. johnfbw

        Re: Intentional Error?

        @Ellipsis I think you missed the date OpenStreetMaps - the open source mapping site posted about it's copyright!

    2. logicalextreme Silver badge

      Re: Intentional Error?

      I spent ages recently trying to figure out what an island that simply did not exist was doing on a bunch of old maps. Turns out it's called Friesland, and was probably just an error that got copied and copied for a good hundred years or so. Maybe they were up to that shit in the sixteenth century too?

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Intentional Error?

        Perhaps the original map-maker was bored with 'Here Be Dragons' and thought an island might have a more authoritative look to it.

      2. TrumpSlurp the Troll

        Re: Intentional Error? Fries land?

        Perhaps just an early chippie?

        1. Aussie Doc
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Intentional Error? Fries land?

          I misread that as 'Clippy' and envisaged "You look like you're trying to land on a thimble. Would you like help with that?"

          Haven't got a plane -------------------------------------------------------------->

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Intentional Error?

        "Maybe they were up to that shit in the sixteenth century too?"

        Maps, especially nautical charts, were often state secrets and almost certainly had "special" features on each individual copy such that if the enemy or competitors were found to have them, the leaker could be traced.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Intentional Error?

      Back in the days of hand-engraved OS maps cartographers would try to get their names or initials onto the map. Unfortunately I've never found any.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Intentional Error?

        Years ago some chap did get their name into the detail of some cliff somewhere on the Isle of Wight I think it was. But that probably got spotted and editted out in later editions.

        Edit: Yep, found it

        1. logicalextreme Silver badge

          Re: Intentional Error?

          The correct way to get it kept in later editions of the map, of course, is to also chisel your name into the cliff face IRL.

          1. David Pearce

            Hitchikers Reference


          2. Kane Silver badge

            Re: Intentional Error?

            Won an award, you know. Lovely crinkly edges.

    4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Intentional Error?

      maps in the past where there was an intentional error, e.g. a small side street with a specific name that doesn't actually exist.

      There's even a word for it, it's a "mountweazel".

    5. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Intentional Error?

      I've come across maps in the past where there was an intentional error

      They still do this, and at least one road atlas publisher was caught this way by the OS.

    6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Intentional Error?

      I'm currently trying to find a "Hare Lane" (it isn't any of those StreetMap knows about). It's on a modern hand-drawn copy of a supposedly medieval map. I suspect it's just a misreading of one of the listed landmarks at the bottom of the map but it would be nice to be certain.

      1. DryBones

        Re: Intentional Error?

        Probably receded.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Intentional Error?

      At one time, Google Maps managed to confuse Wood Green (N London) and Woodford Green (TOWIE territory)

      I also once tried to find out how long it would take to drive from Stirling to Perth only to be told there was 'no route'. It turned out that Google Maps *UK* decided I meant a round the world trip to Perth, W Australia, rather than just up the A9

      More recently, the online version had me down as a Dalek as I strolled down the south bank of the Thames and it put me on a wide detour rather than climb the steps to get onto Hammersmith Bridge. It currently doesn't show a bridge, just a single pier and Jesus walking back and forth across the water

      1. Spacedinvader

        Re: Intentional Error?

        That's crap. It used to tell you to swim across oceans!

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Intentional Error?

          Nope, it used to tell you to use a jet ski to cross from Japan to China.

  4. Kev99 Silver badge

    Someplace I still have my copy of Flight Simulator from around 1995. I wonder if Sporty's in Batavia will let me trade it in for the new version & work on my license?

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      I was thinking how much Flight Sim has come on since I got version 3 for four quid P&P through a Microsoft promotion.

  5. Zangetsu

    could you really land on a small roof like that with a single engine rock, err i mean aeroplane ?

    1. seven of five

      The F35B should be able to.

      Ooooh, you mean a REAL plane?

      (Probably everything with a low stall speed when the wind is strong enough.)

      1. khjohansen

        ...REAL plane

        Easy ... Piper Cub, Fieseler Storch of WWII allegedly could both fly backwards with a bit of head wind!

        WWII footage of a Storch taking off >>

        1. TeeCee Gold badge

          Re: ...REAL plane

          I've mentioned it before but.

          A WWII Fairey Swordfish pilot was sent to a yank carrier. The idea was that the yank pilots and gunners could get a good look at the thing (presumably while trying not to laugh), so the trigger happy loons wouldn't shoot any passing Fleet Air Arm aircraft down.

          On approach, the carrier turned into the wind a steamed at full speed, as per the correct drill for receiving aircraft. There was a stiff breeze blowing and that, combined with the carrier's speed was some way above the stalling speed of a Swordfish, even with the flaps retracted.

          He could hover over the deck and fly backwards over the deck, but he couldn't land on the deck and was obliged to call down to ask the carrier to slow down.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: ...REAL plane

            "He could hover over the deck and fly backwards over the deck, but he couldn't land on the deck and was obliged to call down to ask the carrier to slow down."

            That last sounds a bit suspect. It seems like the tale has grown with the telling. There's no reason the plane couldn't land if it could match the speed of the ship.

            1. SkippyBing

              Re: ...REAL plane

              I've definitely read an account of a convoy escort where the Swordfish's own carrier deliberately overtook it from dead astern and they then landed on. It may have been in 'Achtung Swordfish' which definitely includes an account of assembling one serviceable air-frame from the remains of three wrecks so they could continue flying ASW patrols.

            2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: ...REAL plane

              There's no reason the plane couldn't land if it could match the speed of the ship.

              Above a certain (air) speed the plane just won't stay down.

          2. jelabarre59

            Re: ...REAL plane

            Dad told me of some military plane that had a particularly takeoff/landing length. One day some wisecrackers were landing at some larger airport, and proceeded to land the plane on the taxiway *between* the runways. The tower crew were sufficiently incensed, and then when the crew took off, they did their takeoff on the taxiway as well.

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: ...REAL plane

              I'd be more impressed if they took off from the runway but using it across.

              As for taking off from the taxiway, it sometimes happens, see here.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: ...REAL plane

          I watched a Cessna 152 not being able to land on a mile long runway one day. It was so hot that the thermals coming off the tarmac were keeping him off the ground

          He solved the problem on the second pass by switching off the engine and finally wafted down 100 yards later

      2. Sanguma

        low-wing civilian monoplane

        There was one such an aircraft I knew of, one of the small civilian monoplanes German aircraft manufacturers made in the 1920s or 30s, a two-seater with a small engine, big wings - very light, not particularly fast, but with good range ... the Klemm Swallow. It was featured in the Air New Guinea in-flight publication, which I've also forgotten the name of, as one of the aircraft I think the Lutheran mission used during that period, or it may have been the Catholics ...

        If the wind was sufficiently strong, and the pilot throttled back the engine, he could fly backwards.

        Ever since I read that, I've wanted one, just to piss off the Cessna pilots ...

    2. Steve Todd

      I’ve managed to land a Rallye 110ST and turn off onto the taxiway In less than 50 feet, so yes it’s doable, but you need an aircraft designed for short field work.

  6. Chairman of the Bored

    If it stays up like that more than 4 hours...

    Call your doctor.

  7. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Time to rebrand BootNotes... Tall Storeys.

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: Time to rebrand BootNotes...

      Get out.

      1. seven of five

        Re: Time to rebrand BootNotes...

        ...from a tall storey, preferably...

  8. hoola Silver badge

    It is all about AI

    The dynamic scenery is generated from the maps and photo mosaic using AI. Unfortunately the AI get it wrong fairly consistently turning cranes into steeples, losing St Pauls and plonking a block of flats in the place of Buckingham Palace.

    I am sure that it is all very clever but this really does highlight the limitations of what is called AI. Al is just a sent of rules and without someone to tell it that it is wrong it will never change. To be genuinely Artificial Intelligence it would be able to apply context and would not put a steeple where a dock crane is.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: It is all about AI

      No, AI isn't just a set of rules. Or at least, the rules are not high-order rules as you're thinking, but self-training algorithms leading to emergent (not programmed) behaviour.

      Without seeing the input data it uses I'm not sure, but it's quite possible a human would make similar errors if they didn't know the area in question.

      Now if they could incorporate data such as StreetView and so on, these things might be automatically fixable?

      Of course if you're using the program properly, you do not get close enough to see these details. It's flight simulator, not terrorist-mission simulator.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It is all about AI

        AI doesn't exist, it's just the term has been broadened to mean whatever the sales guys. marketeers etc want it to mean.

        Usually the more reputable refer to machine learning as AI, but the less reputable refer to any decision that a computer makes as AI even if it is just an algorithm.

        Until a computer has a generic engine that can make decisions just based on context without being specifically programmed to look for a pattern or try to interpret certain result then it's not really AI.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: It is all about AI

          There's lies, damn lies, and statistics. And then there's AI.

        2. JDX Gold badge

          Re: It is all about AI

          Comments like "AI doesn't exist" routinely get popular reactions. The thing you decide AI should mean - artifical life basically - doesn't exist. But that is not what AI means at an academic level, by the people who actually work on it.

          AI is anything which seeks to emulate or simulate genuine intelligent behaviour. That can include rules-based systems, it can also include NNs and genetic algorithms and ML. Many of these systems meet the criteria "without being specifically programmed to look for a pattern or try to interpret certain result" - this is fundamentally the way NNs operate in fact. They are not taught to 'make decisions'. They are not 'looking for a pattern'. Humans cannot generally tell how a NN does what it does, there is no algorithm you can find and tweak.

          As someone who has actually worked in this field, it's pretty sad that the IT community is not just ignorant and dismissive about AI, but positively boastful about it. It's like hearing dumb 'mericans boasting about how they don't know science when dismissing evolution, they see it as a plus.

          AI might not be what you want it to be. It's not what films make it out to be and it's certainly not what the marketing people say, but to say it "doesn't exist" shows rather a lack of intelligence of the non-artifical kind.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It is all about AI

            Hold on the view that AI doesn't exist is not a dumb IT person view it is a view shared by many people in the field ( I've worked within this field for a number of years myself, however although there are some companies that are showing great promise towards extracting intelligent insight from pure compute sources there is not yet a commercial system that most would define as Artificial Intelligence.

            Even your comment about Neural Networks? Seriously - that is also a conflated term and generally refers to ML rather than AI at this point in time.

            That doesn't mean there isn't a great number of people and companies that are striving to produce ground-up generic AI systems and theoretical papers exist but it will be a while before they are available commercially.

            It is easy to change the meaning of AI to mean ML or has a NN template and maybe some in IT are purists who would prefer to keep the categories separate. I mean ML (that is not just pattern recognition) will probably be needed to create true AI, but that does not mean that ML in and of itself is AI.

            So don't feel down heartened that what you and your communications department refer to as AI might not be regarded as a high enough standard for others in the field to regard as AI, just work towards progressing it so it can be generally accepted as AI by all those with some knolwedge, be the first and the riches await you.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Of course if you're using the program properly, you do not get close enough to see these details"

        Actually, one of the joys of a flightsim is you can do thing you can't do safely in a real plane, like scud running over a city, or flying a 747 under the Golden Gate. And you're not a terrorist if you just look for some pilot's fun. After all hitting a building is easy, it's avoiding them the hard and funny part.

        Moreover FS did simulated helicopters as well (don't know if in this version yet), and with an helicopter you do get to fly close enough to buildings even in real life too.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: "Of course if you're using the program properly, you do not get close

          Proper flight-sim users don't crash on purpose, or do dangerous stunts. That's for games, not simulators.

          That's why MSFS has always been such a niche product, most people don't want to do a 3 hour flight in a 747 where nothing really happens.

          1. Getmo

            Re: "Of course if you're using the program properly, you do not get close

            If you might recall, the training videos for Flight Simulator 2000 were shot with live actors. There's a scene at the very end where one instructor is flying low through NYC, between the buildings. The other instructor says, "You almost hit the Empire State Building!" The one playing the game turns to the camera and says, "That would've been cool!"

            As you might imagine, this choice scene was quickly stripped from future copies of the game post-9/11.

            Here's the scene @4:35 in all its horrific glory:

            It's on you if you want to play gatekeeper and fun police for a video game, but don't pretend like there aren't plenty of professionals out there who like to dick around too, every now and again.

          2. SkippyBing

            Re: "Of course if you're using the program properly, you do not get close

            Damn never realised I wasn't a proper flight sim-user, there I was using it to pre-fly real world sorties but obviously my landing a Piper Cub on the Burj al Arab makes me a gamer. Oh well. Still at least I don't have a stick rammed up my ass.

    2. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Re: It is all about AI

      ...and plonking a block of flats in the place of Buckingham Palace.


      Wasn't that in the last Labour Manifesto ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It is all about AI

        Only in the Conservative propaganda about it

  9. DrXym Silver badge

    You know what's going to happen now

    Now people know that Flight Simulator uses OpenStreetMaps for meta data, griefers are going to be tagging random bungalows, especially on the approaches to airports as being 2000 stories high.

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Try this one: go to,-1.8845179,3a,75y,17.25h,86.22t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sNaDhbBqb3_gUqVS9RcF3EA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en and then click to go forward into the side road.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Sigh. I went from "what a cool stone fronting, I want a better look at that" to "ffffffffuuuuck, they sure turdulated that."

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Shows what can change in 6 years (and not just the August weather).

  11. dak

    Storey not story

    See title

    1. agurney

      Re: Storey not story

      Not to the west-pondians it isn't.

  12. Gordon861

    Problems with MS FlightSim

    From what I've seen in game so far the majority of the scenery is good, but the AI does seem overly keen on tree planting so if there's some trees in RL the area is full of trees.

    My main problem with the sim is that my keyboard keeps unlisting as a controller when I start a flight, so I cannot end the sim other than closing the program from task manager. The keyboard becomes usable if I crash until I start a new flight again.

    Very impressed with what they've done but there are some serious problems with the sim/game and support is very sketchy right now.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    can the planes spray chemtrails!?

    1. Loyal Commenter

      I heard a rumour that the planes in the game could spray chemtrails IN REAL LIFE!!11!!1eleventyone!

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        cAusiNg 5G!!!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The guy should have tried a better selection of airplanes. It looked like he was trying planes with good short field performance. Clearly he needed to select for tall field performance.

  15. Carl D

    This reminds me of the 'error' someone made about 15 years back (can't remember which company it was - might have been Google or MS) when a search of their online maps showed Melbourne, Australia to be in the ocean off the coast of Japan. Someone had entered Melbourne's latitude into their system as 38 degrees north instead of south.

    It was fixed very quickly but not before many screenshots were made of the amusing mistake (I thought I'd kept it myself but I must have misplaced it).

  16. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    It's an isolated vision of the future, with all the other gigantic towers, the giant glass dome and legs to move the suburb around missing

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