Michael Basler, Martin Spott,
Stuart Buchanan, Jon Berndt,
Bernhard Buckel, Cameron Moore,
Curt Olson, Dave Perry,
Michael Selig, Darrell Walisser,
Revised by Jörg Emmerich
September 2011, for
February 2012, for FlightGear-Version 2.6.0, see a list of changes on http://wiki.flightgear.org/Changelog_2.6.0
FlightGear is a free Flight Simulator, developed cooperatively over the
Internet by a group of flight simulation and programming enthusiasts.
"The FlightGear Manual" is meant to give beginners a guide in getting
FlightGear up and running, and themselves into the air. It is not
intended to provide complete documentation of all the features and
add-ons of FlightGear but, instead, aims to give a new user the best
start to explore what FlightGear has to offer.
There is little, if any, material in this Guide that is presented here
exclusively. You could even say with Montaigne that we “merely gathered
here a big bunch of other men’s flowers, having furnished nothing of my
own but the strip to hold them together”. Most (but fortunately not
all) of the information herein can also be obtained from the FlightGear
web site located at http://www.flightgear.org/
This version of the document was updated for FlightGear version 2.6.0.
Users of earlier versions of FlightGear will still find this document
useful, but some of the features described may not be present.
We kindly ask you to help us refine this document by submitting
corrections, improvements, and suggestions. All users are invited to
contribute descriptions of alternative setups (graphics cards,
operating systems etc.). We will be more than happy to include those in
future versions of "The FlightGear Manual" (of course not without giving
credit to the authors).
About This Manual
FlightGear may be used like any other plaything to move with some
kind of modeled-aircraft from one location to another and just
having fun -- while actually it is a very detailed Flight-Gear-Flight-Simulator
(FGFS) in which you can simulate the whole complex environment of flying aircrafts of all types behaving like real aircrafts
Covering this very large area requires a whole lot of learning - which
often is not really wanted and/or required for the first steps into
this Simulation Environment. So we try to offer a guide which covers
everything - but is structured also as a reference, that allows you to
start with a minimum of reading and offers step by step enhancements.
- in 3D-sceneries of the whole world
- under actual weather and daytime restrictions
- within the surrounding activities of a big, worldwide avionic
- controlled by Air-Traffic-Controllers and Ground Operations
- which strives to become a FAA-approved flight training device
for certified pilots.
The "Parts" of the Manual
You navigate through the Manual by mouse-clicking into one of the tabs
in the top-menu-bar. Those are introducing more and more "KnowHow",
from left to right. On top of each "Part" you find a "Table of
Contents" that brings you to the chapter of your interest. Of course
it is suggested to first browse through it from left to right and top to bottom, just to
see what is covered. Within all chapters you will find lots of "Links"
that reference other parts of the Handbook and/or to external
references. You can always return from those by clicking your browsers
"page back/forth" icons - or, if you want to start again with the index, just click into the menu-bar again.
You do not need to work through the chapters as we propose in the following for those people that rather "try first - then read":
If you rather want to "read first - then try"
then you may use e.g. the sequence
then start with the "First Solo" and follow the tabs to the right.
you may try any other sequence you like. All chapters and single tasks
do reference to each other - so you should not get lost!
We suggest for those who want to "first try - then read" the following sequence:
- What you are reading now is the opening "Start", in that you find hereafter
- some more general hints
- some references to other FlightGear- and also external- publications that may interest you
- a short explanation of "the why and
what" is FlightGear
- Already the next header "First Solo" lets you do your first experiences, after you have installed the Basic-Program
- this is a "learning by doing" kind of training
- we describe keystroke by keystroke what to do to get you into the air (and hopefully back in one piece)
- in addition there are lots of links for more explanations
- After that first "I did it (- somehow)" we explain in the "Advanced KnowHow"
- why that works as it works
- and how you can improve your skills and performances
- In the following "VFR
we apply that gathered knowledge in order to
- simulate a "real flight" from Santa Clara to Livermore, both in California
- just navigating by visual landmarks, basic
- based on a detailed flight planning!
- "Radio-NAV" then introduces you to the world of
- Radio-Navigation, including VOR,
ILS, NDB, Autopilot, etc.
- and shows you many detailed examples for how to use those
- Finally there will be the big final: "IFR Cross County"
- including flying without any visual reference to the outside
- just trusting the instruments and your own preflight planning
- and lots of charts etc. that are needed to do so
contains all you might want to know about operating your aircraft &
the simulator, over and above of what was needed by the forgoing
- how to start FlightGear with different options in different
- explains what all the instruments in the cockpit are for
- how you control your model by keyboard and/or mouse and/or
- and all the options that are offered by the FlightGear menu-bar
- We did place the big chapter "Installation"
to the end - because most of you will be able to install FlightGear
just by downloading the source and executing it. This is also described
in the "First Solo". Thus most of you will need to know the details
only when you advance to wanting more charge-free extensions, e.g.: installing
- more models (aircrafts, carriers, balloons, etc.)
scenery - basically you have available only a small area around San
Francisco --> you may have the whole world, charge-free!
modeled airports etc. from other users, that want to create there own
models and or home-airports, or most interesting Skyscraper, etc.
- complex features
- and you might need it when you run into trouble
- Finally "Features"
gives you some hints to additional, charge free programs which will
enlarge the usability and opportunities of FlightGear, especially in
the area of "Multiplayer"
- At the end the "Appendix"
- explain the used "technical terminology"
- list ALL the "command
- and some infos about the past and future of FlightGear
While this introductory guide is meant to be self contained, we suggest
you have a look into further documentation, especially
in case of trouble:
- Used Abbreviations and all available options are listed in the "Appendix"
- In your $FG_ROOT-directory there
are many additional user documentations on particular features and
function written by the designers themselves. Just look into the files
"README.xyz" ("xyz" being the
theme being explained)
There is an immense amount of Literature available about flying - even
free in the WEB. Here we will just list a few we found helpful to
extend the knowledge provided by our FlightGear Guide:
And some more
And again: There are many, many more. Ask you friends: Probably
everybody has some favorites from which you can choose.
If any of these questions apply to you, PC flight simulators are just
for you. You may already have some experiences in using Microsoft’s
Flight Simulator or any other of the commercially available PC flight
simulators. As the price tag of those is usually within the $50 range,
buying one of them should not be a serious problem -- given that
any serious PC flight simulator requires PC hardware within the $1.500
range, despite dropping prices.
- Did you ever want to fly an airplane yourself, but lacked the
or ability to do so?
- Are you a real pilot looking to improve your skills without
having to take off?
- Do you want to try some dangerous maneuvers without risking your
- Or do you just want to have fun with a more serious game without
Flight Simulator ???
With so many commercially available flight simulators, why would we
spend thousands of hours of programming and design work to build a free
flight simulator? Well, there are many reasons, but here are the major
- All of the commercial simulators have a serious drawback:
they are made by a small group of developers defining their properties
according to what is important to them and providing limited interfaces
to end users. Anyone who has ever tried to contact a commercial
developer would agree that getting your voice heard in that environment
is a major challenge. In contrast, FlightGear is designed by the people
and for the people with everything out in the open.
- Commercial simulators are usually a compromise of features
and usability. Most commercial developers want to be able to serve a
broad segment of the population, including serious pilots, beginners,
and even casual gamers. In reality the result is always a compromise
due to deadlines and funding. As FlightGear is free and open, there is
no need for such a compromise. We have no publisher breathing down our
necks, and we’re all volunteers that make our own deadlines. We are
also at liberty to support markets that no commercial developer would
consider viable, like the scientific research community.
- Due to their closed-source nature, commercial simulators
keep developers with excellent ideas and skills from contributing to
the products. With FlightGear, developers of all skill levels and ideas
have the potential to make a huge impact on the project. Contributing
to a project as large and complex as FlightGear is very rewarding and
provides the developers with a great deal of pride in knowing that we
are shaping the future of a great simulator.
Let us take a closer look at each of these characteristics:
- Beyond everything else, it’s just plain fun! I suppose you
could compare us to real pilots that build kit-planes or
scratch-builds. Sure, we can go out and buy a pre-built aircraft, but
there’s just something special about building one yourself. The points
mentioned above form the basis of why we created FlightGear. With those
motivations in mind, we have set out to create a high-quality flight
simulator that aims to be a civilian, multi-platform, open,
user-supported, and user-extensible platform.
- Civilian: The
project is primarily aimed at civilian flight simulation. It should be
appropriate for simulating general aviation as well as civilian
aircraft. Our long-term goal is to have FlightGear FAA-approved as a
flight training device. To the disappointment of some users, it is
currently not a combat simulator; however, these features are not
explicitly excluded. We just have not had a developer that was
seriously interested in systems necessary for combat simulation.
developers are attempting to keep the code as platform-independent as
possible. This is based on their observation that people interested in
flight simulations run quite a variety of computer hardware and
operating systems (see the actual list under "Operating
within "Installation"). At present, there is no other known flight
simulator – commercial or free – supporting such a broad range of
- Open: The
project is not restricted to a static or elite cadre of developers.
Anyone who feels they are able to contribute is most welcome. The code
(including documentation) is copyrighted under the terms of the GNU
General Public License (GPL).
- The GPL is often misunderstood. In simple terms it states that
copy and freely distribute the program(s) so licensed. You can modify
them if you like and even charge as much money for it as you want, for
distribution of the modified or original program. However, when
distributing the software you must make it available to the recipients
in source code as well and it must retain the original copyrights. In
|”You can do anything with the
software - except make it non-free”
Without doubt, the success of the Linux project, initiated by Linus
Torvalds, inspired several of the developers. Not only has Linux shown
that distributed development of highly sophisticated software projects
over the Internet is possible, it has also proven that such an effort
can surpass the level of quality of competing commercial products.
and user-extensible: Unlike
most commercial simulators, FlightGear’s scenery and aircraft formats,
internal variables, APIs, and
everything else are user accessible and
documented from the beginning. Even without any explicit development
documentation (which naturally has to be written at some point), one
can always go to the source code to see how something works. It is the
goal of the developers to build a basic engine to which scenery
designers, panel engineers, maybe adventure or ATC routine writers,
sound artists, and others can build upon. It is our hope that the
project, including the developers and end users, will benefit from the
creativity and ideas of the hundreds of talented “simmers” around the