Thursday, October 16, 2008

FlightGear Flight Simulator

FlightGear is an open-source project. This means as long as you abide by the terms of the GPL license you may freely download and copy FlightGear. Anyway can have easy and open access to the latest development source code. Being an open-source project, we have made our file formats open and easily accessible. We support standard 3D model formats and much of the simulator configuration is controlled through XML based ASCII files. Writing 3rd party extensions for FlightGear (or even directly modifying the FlightGear source code) is straightforward and doesn’t require a large amount of reverse engineering. This makes FlightGear an attractive option for use in private, commercial, research, or hobby projects.

FlightGear is known to run on Windows, Linux, Mac OS-X, FreeBSD, Solaris, and IRIX platforms allowing the user run on their platform of preference.

Extensive and Accurate World Scenery Data Base

  • Over 20,000 real world airports included in the full scenery set.
  • Correct runway markings and placement, correct runway and approach lighting.
  • Taxiways available for many larger airports (even including the green center line lights when appropriate.)
  • Sloping runways (runways change elevation like they usually do in real life.)
  • Directional airport lighting that smoothly changes intensity as your relative view direction changes.
  • World scenery fits on 3 DVD’s. (I’m not sure that’s a feature or a problem!) But it means we have pretty detailed coverage of the entire world.
  • Accurate terrain worldwide, based on the most recently released SRTM terrain data.) 3 arc second resolution (about 90m post spacing) for North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
  • Scenery includes all vmap0 lakes, rivers, roads, railroads, cities, towns, land cover, etc.
  • Nice scenery night lighting with ground lighting concentrated in urban areas (based on real maps) and headlights visible on major highways. This allows for realistic night VFR flying with the ability to spot towns and cities and follow roads.
  • Scenery tiles are paged (loaded/unloaded) in a separate thread to minimize the frame rate hit when you need to load new areas.

FlightGear implements extremely accurate time of day modeling with correctly placed sun, moon, stars, and planets for the specified time and date. FlightGear can track the current computer clock time in order to correctly place the sun, moon, stars, etc. in their current and proper place relative to the earth. If it’s dawn in Sydney right now, it’s dawn in the SIM right now when you locate yourself in virtual Sydney. The sun, moon, stars, and planets all follow their correct courses through the sky. This modeling also correctly takes into account seasonal effects so you have 24 hour days north of the arctic circle in the summer, etc. We also illuminate the correctly placed moon with the correctly placed sun to get the correct phase of the moon for the current time/date, just like in real life.


The intention of FlightGear is to look nice, but not at the expense of other aspects of a realistic simulator. Our focus is not on competing in the “game” market and not on the ultra-flashy graphic tricks.

The result is a simulator with moderate hardware requirements to run at smooth frame rates. You can be reasonably happy on a $500-1000 (USD) machine (possibly even less if you are careful) and don’t necessarily need $3000 (USD) worth of new hardware like you do with the many of the newest games.

That said, the more hardware you throw at FlightGear, the better it looks and runs, so don’t feel like you have to chuck your expensive new hardware if you just purchased it. :-)

A number of networking options allow FlightGear to communicate with other instances of FlightGear, GPS receivers, external flight dynamics modules, external autopilot or control modules, as well as other software such as the Open Glass Cockpit project and the Atlas mapping utility.

A generic input/output option allows for a user defined output protocol to a file, serial port or network client.
A multi player protocol is available for using FlightGear on a local network in a multi aircraft environment, for example to practice formation flight or for tower simulation purposes.

The powerful network options make it possible to synchronize several instances of FlightGear allowing for a multi-display, or even a cave environment. If all instances are running at the same frame rate consistently, it is possible to get extremely good and tight synchronization between displays

FlightGear Flight Simulator

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