The Red MSX Source (RMS) survey has identified a large sample of massive young stellar objects and ultra compact H ii regions from a sample of ∼2000 MSX and Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS) colour selected sources. Using a recent catalogue of molecular clouds derived from the Boston University-Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory (BU-FCRAO) Galactic Ring Survey (GRS), and by applying a Galactic scaleheight cut-off of 120 pc, we solve the distance ambiguity for RMS sources located within 18°〈|l|〉 54°. These two steps yield kinematic distances to 291 sources out of a possible 326, located within the GRS longitude range. Combining distances and integrated fluxes derived from spectral energy distributions, we estimate luminosities to these sources and find that >90 per cent are indicative of the presence of a massive star. We find the completeness limit of our sample is ∼104 L⊙, which corresponds to a zero-age main-sequence star with a mass of ∼12 M⊙. Selecting only these sources, we construct a complete sample of 196 sources.
Comparing the properties of the sample of young massive stars with the general population, we find the RMS clouds are generally larger, more massive, and more turbulent. We examine the distribution of this subsample with respect to the location of the spiral arms and the Galactic bar and find them to be spatially correlated. We identify three significant peaks in the source surface density at Galactocentric radii of approximately 4, 6 and 8 kpc, which correspond to the proposed positions of the Scutum, Sagittarius and Perseus spiral arms, respectively. Fitting a scaleheight to the data we obtain an average value of ∼29 ± 0.5 pc, which agrees well with other reported values in the literature, however we note a dependence of the scaleheight on galactocentric radius with it increases from 30 to 45 pc between 2.5 and 8.5 kpc.