The Installation

C172 in the Alps
A C172p within the European FlightGear-Alps
  Looking from above the Grimselsee at 12.000 ft. in direction: Finsteraarhorn, Jungfrau, Mönch, Eiger, Schreckhorn

System Requirements

In comparison to other recent flight simulators, the system requirements for Flight-Gear are not extravagant. Please find the basic requirements in the following sub-chapters - the latest news and details you may find on

Operating System

The present code supports the following Operating Systems:


There are available lots of hardware, that can be used to build up complete Cockpits with many Screens, Pilot seats, original Yokes, real Instruments, etc. etc. But in the following we concentrate on a basic System with one screen and one user. Hints for extensions you may find under "Features". For the "Basics" we need:


A medium speed AMD Athlon64 or Intel P4, even a decent AMD Athlon/K7 or an Intel PIII should be sufficient to handle FlightGear pretty well, given you have a proper 3D graphics card.

If you want to run FlightGear under Mac OS X, you need to have Mac OS X 10.4 or higher. Minimum hardware requirement for that is either a Power PC G4 1.0GHz or an Intel Mac, but we suggest you have MacBook Pro, Intel iMac, Mac Pro, or Power Mac (Power PC G5) for comfortable flights.

Graphics-Card and Driver

The most important prerequisite for running FlightGear is a graphics card whose driver supports OpenGL. If you don’t know what OpenGL is, see the overview given at the OpenGL website, that says it best: “Since its introduction in 1992, OpenGL has become the industry’s most widely used and supported 2D and 3D graphics application programming interface (API)...”.

FlightGear does not run (and will never run) on a graphics board which only supports Direct3D/DirectX. Contrary to OpenGL, Direct3D is a proprietary interface, being restricted to the Windows operating system.

You may be able to run FlightGear on a computer that features a 3D video card not supporting hardware accelerated OpenGL – and even on systems without 3D graphics hardware at all. However, the absence of hardware accelerated OpenGL support can bring even the fastest machine to its knees. The typical signal for missing hardware acceleration are frame rates below 1 frame per second.

Any modern 3D graphics card, featuring OpenGL support, will do.
For "Windows video card drivers", that support OpenGL, visit the home page of your video card manufacturer - but also note that sometimes OpenGL drivers are provided by the manufacturers of the graphics chip instead of by the makers of the board. If you are going to buy a graphics card for running FlightGear, a NVIDIA GeForce card-type is recommended, as these tend to have better OpenGL support than AMD/ATI Radeon.

256MB of dedicated graphics memory will be more than adequate - many people run FlightGear happily on less.


To install the executable and basic scenery, you will need around 500 MB of free disk space. In case you want/have to compile the program yourself you will need about another 500 MB for the source code and for temporary files created during compilation. This does not include the development environment, which will vary in size depending on the operating system and environment being used. Windows users can expect to need approximately 300 MB of additional disk space for the development environment. Linux and other UNIX machines should have most of the development tools already installed, so there is likely to be little additional space needed on those platforms.


For the sound effects, any capable sound card should suffice.

Joysticks etc.

FlightGear supports a wide range of joysticks and yokes as well as rudder pedals under Linux and Windows. FlightGear can also provide interfaces to full-motion flight chairs. See also the chapter  Joysticks.

Development Environment:

FlightGear is being developed primarily under Linux, a free UNIX clone (together with lots of GNU utilities) developed cooperatively over the Internet in much the same spirit as FlightGear itself. FlightGear also runs and is partly developed under several flavors of Windows. Building FlightGear is also possible on a Mac OS X and several different UNIX/X11 workstations. Given you have a proper compiler installed, FlightGear can be built under all of these platforms.

The primary compiler for all platforms is the free GNU C++ compiler (the Cygnus Cygwin compiler under Win32).

The Flight-Dynamics Models  (FDM)

Historically, FlightGear was based on a flight model it inherited (together with the Navion airplane) from LaRCsim. As this had several limitations (most importantly, many characteristics were hard wired in contrast to using configuration files), there were several attempts to develop or include alternative flight-models. As a result, FlightGear supports several different flight models, to be chosen from at runtime:
It is even possible to drive FlightGear’s scene display using an external FDM running on a different computer or via named pipes on the local machine – although this might not be a setup recommended to people just getting in touch with FlightGear.


The FlightGear Programs and Data are stored on your PC in several directories. Sorry enough those directories are named and structured different for different Operating Systems. But when you update the program, or add features, or scenery, or models you need to know and reference some basic directories again and again. So we define here the major variables for all systems - and will refer to those throughout the Manual.

After you have installed FlightGear once (and it is operational), you can always look up those Variabels:


This variable defines the directory in which FlightGear looks for its data, like XML-programs, airplanes, navigation-aids, airports, etc. Usually that variable is set automatically during the installation of the program. If you want to know what it is in your system, you find it in the running FlightGear under:  menu debug → Browse Internal Properties → sim → fg-root=...

Typical values are:
for Windows:

for Linux:

for Mac OS X:
 c:\Program Files\FlightGear\data




This variable defines where FlightGear looks for Sceneries. Basically $FG_SCENERY is setup as $FG_ROOT/Scenery - but you may change that - you even may assign multiple directories and/or external drives for it. For how to install additional Sceneries and how to assign those to the $FG_SCENERY-variable see the chapter Installing scenery.

Typical values are:
für Windows:

für Linux:

for Mac OS X:
 c:\Program Files\FlightGear\data\Scenery




Often you also need to access the directory in which the program itself is installed. If you want to know what it is in your system:
Typical values are:
for Windows:

for Linux:



FlightGear saves the most recent settings of each user in his "Home Directory", to recall those at each start. The path to that directory is defined by the Operating System and cannot be changed by FlightGear. But Sometimes you may want to add or delete or save some of the data from there. Also: If you have some "unexplainable, bad behavior of FlightGear" you may want to delete (or better just rename) that directory. With the next start of FlightGear that directory will  be rebuild again - but of course your last settings are lost (you may retrieve those or part of those from the "renamed" one, see above!).

Typical values are:
for Windows (Vista):

for Linux: 

  /home/yourName/.fgfs   (watch the point in front!)

Installing FlightGear

In order to use FlightGear you have to install the already compiled Binaries or download the Scripts and compile them. Together with that also the Directory $FG_ROOT with all the airplanes, sceneries, control programs, etc. will be created.

You can download all needed parts for all Operating-Systems from On this page you also find hints on how to install it.

Watch out: Depending on the Security-Settings of your System, you may have to ask your Administrator to do that for you, inclusive opening Ports in the (hopefully used) Firewall! If so, you should ask him to allow you unlimited access to the directory $FG_ROOT - that way you can later on add aircrafts, sceneries etc. without bothering the admin each time!

In case you always want to have the very newest level of code you may look into the "GIT"-distribution, see FlightGear WIKI But be aware that in there are the very latest design-proposals - which are there mainly for testing! They may not yet be "error-free"!

Installing the Scenery

Detailed FlightGear scenery is available for the entire world, allowing you to fly everywhere from the Himalaya mountains to rural Kansas. The FlightGear base package just contains scenery for a small area around San Francisco, so to fly elsewhere you will need to download additional scenery (no worry: It is charge free!).

Each piece of scenery is packaged into a compressed archive, or tarball, in a 10 degree by 10 degree chunk. Each tarball is named after the 10x10 degree chunk it represents, for example w130n50.tgz.

You can download scenery from a clickable map:

Alternatively, you can support the FlightGear project by purchasing a complete
set of scenery for the entire world from here:

To install the scenery, uncompress the tarball and store it into the $FG_SCENERY directory.

Most operating systems provide tools to uncompress tarballs. If you cannot uncompress the tarball, install an extractor program such as "7-zip" ( Note that you should not decompress the numbered scenery files inside the tarball like e.g. 958402.gz - this will be done by FlightGear on the fly.

Once you have uncompressed the tarball, the Terrain and Object directories inside $FG_SCENERY will contain the additional sub-directories with your new scenery inside. To use the new scenery, simply select a starting airport within the new scenery.

If you are using the FlightGear Launcher (FGrun), you must restart it and/or you may have to press the Refresh button (on FGrun Page 3) before you select your airport.

Separate Directories for addon Sceneries

You may prefer to download and store some scenery in different directories (and/or on a different disk and/or PC etc.). You may even have many different directories for different bunches of sceneries. Some of them may not yet be released and thus may be withdrawn again. Or your "Oldie"-PC needs some more Disk-Space, or whatever. Thus you may have a directory for you homebase-area, and others for different events, and even others for testing.

You can do so by just defining the directory or directories to be used in the $FG_SCENERY Variable. The program will search through all directories you have defined in the $FG_SCENERY and will use the needed scenery-piece first found. Just write all the directories you want into one line and separate them by a special sign:
We will revisit how to define the $FG_SCENERY during the "Briefing"

Fetch Scenery as you fly = TerraSync

FlightGear comes with a tool named "TerraSync", which allows you to fetch/download the Scenery as you fly - if you have a permanent Internet connection at your disposal. But be aware: "TerraSync" needs quite some additional PC-resources - so if you have already a shaky performance you should not use this option!

To use TerraSync create an empty ‘working’ directory for "TerraSync" that you have "Write-Access" for, and point FlightGear to this directory using the $FG_SCENERY variable. Do not let TerraSync download Scenery into your original, pre-installed Scenery directory, because there always may occur problems on your permanent Internet-connection, and that might destroy the data in the active directory! (Of course you may copy those new data into your normal Scenery-Folder, after you are sure the data are functional!).

TerraSync expects you to feed FlightGear’s current position via the so called ‘Atlas’ protocol - so start FlightGear as follows:
Watch it: You must define the same Port (e.g. as shown: 5505) for both lines!

You may find further details on

There is a "chicken/egg" problem when you first start up on an airport in a brand new area! FlightGear then searches for the scenery available at startup - but only finds and thus loads the "not existing (or old) scenery"- i.e. you may see only "blue water all over"! Therefore it’s suggested to exit FlightGear after TerraSync has caught up and then restart FlightGear. There is no such Problem when you enter a new Scenery-area during an ongoing flight!

Note that TerraSync (when called with the recommended "-S" option) is going to download the Scenery via the Subversion protocol over HTTP. Thus, if your Internet access is set up to use a HTTP proxy, please make yourself aware of how to configure the "libsvn" Subversion client for use of a proxy. If you are using Mac OS X 10.5, the GUI launcher automatically specifies "-S" if svn is available.

One major benefit of TerraSync is, that it always fetches the latest and greatest scenery from the FlightGear World (Custom) Scenery Project and therefore allows you to pick up incremental updates independent of the comprehensive World Scenery releases, which are generally synchronized with FlightGear releases.

Create your own Sceneries

If you are interested in generating your own Scenery, have a look at TerraGear - the tools that generate the Scenery for FlightGear are:

The most actively maintained source tree of the TerraGear toolchain is co-located at the FlightGear landuse data Mapserver

Models used in Sceneries

Sceneries (and other Models) use a lot of Sub-Models, e.g. there are may "light-towers" and "gates" etc. on an airport, for which you just create 1 model and then use this "Sub-Model" many times in many "Master-Models" all over the world. Such "Sub-Models" are not contained within the "Master-Model", but must be downloaded from On that page click on "here" which is in the line "A collection of shared models can be downloaded here. Extract those compressed data as usual (see above) and copy them into the directory $FG_ROOT/Models. You should do that from time to time - because many people are creating new scenery and models all the time. You may notice missing ones when you see entries like “Model xyz not found” in your "FlightGear-Log"!

Installing Aircraft

The base FlightGear package contains only a small subset of the aircrafts that are available for FlightGear. Developers have created (and constantly do create) a wide range of aircraft, from the first "wrightFlyer1903", over WWII fighters like the "Spitfire", one- and multi-engine Planes, to "jet-Fighter" and passenger planes like the "Concorde", "Boeing 747", "A380", etc. You can download many more aircrafts from:  (charge free!)

Simply download the files and uncompress them into the $FG_ROOT/Aircraft subdirectory of your installation. The aircrafts are downloaded as "*.zip" files. Once you have uncompressed them, there will be a new sub-directory in your $FG_ROOT/Aircraft directory containing the aircraft. Next time you run FlightGear, the new aircraft will be available. (If you use FGrun you need to restart it before it can find those new aircrafts!)

Please see the "Special Notes" for "Windows" and "MAC" at the end.

Installed Documentation

Most of the packages named above include the complete FlightGear documentation including a PDF version of "The FlightGear Manual" intended for pretty printing using Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, available from Moreover, if properly installed, the HTML version can be accessed via menubar while FlightGear is running - see the entry under the "Help" menu.

Look also into the $FG_ROOT/Docs directory: There you find lots of "" ("xyz" being the name of a detail) - those are descriptions of the detail from the designer. They usually describe a lot more then we do here in the Manual.

Also you find a constantly increasing amount of articles, written by users, in the FlightGear Web-pages:
Of course You are most welcome to add or improve Articles in that WIKI's!

Special for WINDOWS and MAC

Special for MS Windows Vista & Windows 7

If you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7, you may find that Windows installs downloaded scenery and/or aircrafts to your Virtual Store:
c:\Users\(Your Name)\AppData\Local\VirtualStore\Program Files\FlightGear\Scenery

If it does this, you need to copy the Terrain and Objects directories manually to your real FlightGear Scenery directory as described above.

Special for Mac OS X

You may install the downloaded Tarball_data-files (scenery, aircraft, etc.) by using the "GUI launcher":

Acceptable formats for the scenery data are one of zip, tar.gz, tgz, tar, and extracted folder. If the installation via the GUI launcher fails for some reason, you still have an alternative way to install the data. Opening the data folder by pressing “Open data folder” on the "Others" tab will pop up a Finder window for the data folder: Dragging an aircraft folder to the "data/Aircraft" folder (or a scenery folder) under the data folder will get the job done.