Ready to start in an Aerostar 700, LOWI, Innsbruck Kranebitten, Austria

Starting the FlightGear Simulator

You can start FlightGear on 2 very different ways:
  1. FGrun: This is the easy way! Here you use a GUI to just select the wanted Options. FGrun then combines these to a normal FlightGear command-file and issues that to the system. FGrun also remembers your last selections and presents those on start-up. You can save the settings and recall them again - so you can prepare many of those settings for different events/opportunities. FGrun is already included in the basic packages for Windows and MAC OS X. If you want to install it (e.g. on your Linux-System) see for downloading and installation instructions.
  1. Manual: Here you search and define all Options by yourself and type them into a command-line or command-file. This is the most flexible way of doing it - but relatively complex and time-consuming
For both of these ways of starting, you must know something about the most important "options" - as follows:

The Major Options

You can start FlightGear just by typing "fgfs" (or clicking onto such an ICON). FlightGear will then start in San-Francisco on the active runway in a Cessna c172p with running engines - just waiting for you to push the throttle.

But you probably will change that default behavior pretty soon - and you can do so by defining over 150 options. Some of those you might change very often (e.g. the aircraft, airport, etc.), some only once in a while (e.g. the input/output devices you use, etc.) and some only very seldom - if at all (e.g. logs, tracers, etc.). In the following we will describe just the most used ones - a complete list of all options you find in the appendix.

You define the options you want to use by issuing the start-command like:
fgfs --Option1 --Option2 ...

Be sure that those "--" always are 2 dashes - some system tend to join those 2 to 1 long one -- and that may become your first error for which you might search for hours or even days! If you have problems preventing the system from joining those 2, try to mark that single one and overtyp it again with the 2 dashes and then DO NOT USE THE ENTER-KEY but just click with your mouse somewhere else!

System Options

While FlightGear starts it needs to know some basic informations. Those are generally set during installation - but just in case: You can change them any time as options in your start-command:

defines the directory where the program finds the data (aircraft, etc). You see already here, that you could place your (big chunk of data) onto some other disk! Or you may have different versions installed, which you may select with this option!

the directory where the sceneries are defined. This basically contains 4 sub-directories:
Terrain: Contains the actual 3D-world-surface including some basic models (like e.g. airport-terrain-generation)
Airports: Contains structural data for runways, taxiways, parking-positions, thresholds, ILS, towers, etc.
Objects: Contains the models to be placed into the terrain
Models: Contains shared models that may be used inside other models (e.g. lights for airports etc.)

Some models may ask you to enable some special functions (open doors, shoot guns, towing a glider, etc.). They will tell you during installation which XML-file they require - and you pick that up with this command.

--control=your primary control-unit
Define with which device you will work most: With a joystick, mouse or keyboard. Make sure that device is connected to your system prior to start FlightGear (or FGrun). This is especially important if that device is a joystick! And be aware that those devices may interact with each other! e.g. if you control by Keyboard, but also have a joystick installed, the "joystick home-position" might not allow you to change "analog values", e.g. ailerons, speed, etc. by the keyboard!

--language=(de, fr, it, ...)
Starting with FlightGear 2.0 you can define the language-group you want to use for your FlightGear menus. (But there are not yet many languages available! See all installed translations in your directory: $FG_ROOT/Translation.)

In case you have different Internet-Browsers installed, you define here which one FlightGear shall use.

Further details you find in "General Options"

Define the Aircraft

FGrun will present you a list with all the models installed - but if you do not use FGrun (but still want to use other models than just the C172p!) you have to define at least:

For a list of models available see the directory $FG_ROOT/Aircraft (or use the option "--show-aircraft" with your start-command).
Further details you find under "Aircraft-Options".

Define the Startposition

You may start at any point anywhere on earth - the only restriction is: You must be able to define that place somehow! And do not be disappointed if you see just deep blue water after starting - that would indicate that you did not yet have the sceneries installed for that location!

You can define your starting point:
    Define Airport and Park-position: This Option is the only one matching reality - and should be used each time. But not all Airports in FlightGear do have designed park-positions yet! If you do not use FGrun (which would list them for you to select) you can find the available Park-positions for an airport in the data-file  $FG_ROOT/AI/Airports/ICAO/ICAO.parking.xml.For San-Francisco that would be $FG_ROOT/AI/Airports/KSFO/KSFO.parking.xml
        • you could define e.g.:     --airport=KSFO --parkpos=B26
  1. Define just the Airport: In this case FlightGear chooses itself a runway that is best fitting according to wind etc. -- and by that finds exactly that runway, that everybody uses. And that probably leads to many bad wishes from
  1. Define Airport and Runway: This is the worst selection at all, because in addition to the problems with item 2, you now may even start against the other traffic (and wind) - that surely will tempt the other pilots to even "worse wishes" against you! We suggest this solution only in cases were there is a small, unused runway available - which you leave as son as possible!
Instead of using one of the last two, it would be much better to use the next option:

            You may find more details about that location in chapter "VFR Cross-Country"

--­­vor or ­­--ndb or ­­--fix or ­­--carrier or ­­--airport
plus --­­offset-­distance and ­­--offset-­azimuth
plus --­­on-­ground or --altitude=ft

You could e.g. start exactly above the Fix=HAN85 which is on the ILS-localizer for runway 21 at EDFH. For the c172 you might choose an initial speed of 100 kn and the altitude (according to the ILS-glideslope specification) shall be 3000 ft.:
Be aware that some options may overwrite others! e.g. "--vc" (velocity) would overwrite a somewhere else defined "--enable-freeze" which would stop everything!

Features and Rendering: (very nice - and very slow!)

It is a big advantage that may experts have chosen FlightGear for their hobby - and that they are constantly improving visibility and rendering effects etc. That is wonderful for some users - for others it can result in problems! Especially if they have an older, not that powerful PC! If your PC-response-times are getting very slow check your FPS (menu → View → Display Option → Show Frame Rate) before and after you activated/deactivated some of these features (like fog, AI-models, etc.). And then test the FPS somewhere outside in the open country and compare it to e.g. the FPS  over KSFO (San Francisco) and/or LFPG (Paris France). Especially the city of Paris is modeled with a whole lot of buildings: That is wonderful because you can do sightseeing to all the touristic attraction in e.g. a little Cessna -- but you need a "good" Computer with a very good Video-Card to be able to enjoy it!

So watch how many of the Feature and/or Rendering options you are activating!


If you have a permanent Internet connection at your disposal you may be using many other features (e.g. Multiplayer, FGCOM, etc.) - see the chapter Features for that. Further Details you find in the Networking options

Starting with FGrun

Start FGrun like any other program in your PC. In case you do not find a Start-ICON on your desktop and FGrun is also not listed in your Program-Lists, then verify that FGrun is installed. If installed it usually resides in the same $FG_PROG-directory as FlightGear itself. Basically there are two versions of the FGrun:

“FlightGear Launch Control” for Windows and Unix/Linux
Please see in the following how the major options are set in FGrun for Windows and Linux - for more details see:

After having started FGrun it will first show you the second page! That sounds odd - but has a good reason: On page 1 there are system options which needs to be accessed only very seldom! While on page 2 you select the aircraft - which is needed much more often. So:

To view or change the "System Options" you first have to press "Prev" on the "Page 2":
FGrun Page 1:

The variables $FG_ROOT and $FG_SCENERY and $FG_PROG probably have been set already during installation - otherwise see the definition of those variables in the part "Installation".

Notice: The shown FGFS-data are from a LINUX/UBUNTU installation, done with the "Scripted Compilation on Linux Debian/Ubuntu", which makes installation also for LINUX very easy - but does NOT install according to the LINUX-Distribution standards - so You may notice the unusually long directory-paths!

Under "Executable" must be given the standard start-command for FlightGear $FG_PROG/fgfs

In FG_ROOT is the pre-defined variable  $FG_ROOT.

FG_AIRCRAFT is not yet used

In FG_SCENERY you find the variable “$FG_SCENERY”. Notice that the first entry is a test-version for a new scenery - after that there is the TerraSync-directory - and only last the standard FlightGear directory. That is the order in which FlightGear searches for any given piece of scenery! New sceneries will be downloaded into the directory marked by "T" -- independent of what you named the "TerraSync"-directory (of course you better define the TerraSync-Directory as the one where TerraSync downloads the new sceneries into!).

If you want to use TerraSync you must define the "Terrasync exe" in its field - it should be $FG_PROG/TerraSync.

The "Airports-Cache" defines where FGrun saves a list of airport-pointers - that usually is within $FG_HOME. When starting FGrun for the first time it searches in a big database for all airports available, to present them to you for selection. Depending on how much scenery you have installed, that may take a long time! So FGrun does it only when it does not find the "airports.txt" at startup. After you installed new scenery you should initiate a rerun by the "Delete"-button here -- or by the "Refresh"-button on page 3.

After you clicked "Next" you are on the following page - which usually is shown first!
FGrun page 2:

In the left column you select the aircraft you want to fly.

After selecting you may watch it from all sides by moving the mouse over it while the left mouse-button is pressed.

Watch the given "Status" in the lower part - that is a definition by the designer himself. You should not expect an "error-free model" when the status is not "production"  or similar.

FGrun page 3:

Define the initial airport in the left part of the image (other types of start-locations you find on the "Advanced" page under  "Initial position").

You may either select an "ICAO Id" or a "Name" by mouse-click or you type (parts of) the name into the input field under the table - and the system will search for it.

In the right lower part you select a "Parking"-lot (or Gate or Terminal). If there is no entry in that "Parking"-list then you may
  • select nothing more: Then the system selects a best fitting runway to pop up on
  • or you select a "Runway" in the upper right list.
Remember that you should not use these last 2 Options when flying in "Multiplayer-mode"! See "Starting Positions"

For the Carrier usage see the Carrier operations.

If you do not yet have the scenery installed for the wanted airport, you might use "Scenery Prefetch" to get that scenery prior to start! (Of course you must be connected to the Internet if doing so!)

FGrun page 4:

here you define the basic environment:
  • Activate "AI models" if "Multiplayer" is activated - otherwise you will not see the other models!
  • Activate "Show command line" to evaluate which options are defined how (you may use those in case you want to write some special Command-Files).
  • Activate "TerraSync" if you want to refresh your sceneries - or download new parts "on the fly" (see TerraSync)
  • Please enter a unique "Callsign" for your Multiplayer-sessions!
  • If you have performance problems with your PC you may use the "Framerate limiter". With that the system will not try to be as fast as possible (and then may get surprised if workload suddenly rises!). A Framerate of 25 is standard for films - so I usually use 20 and have some other applications running in parallel! (Even a FPS of 10 is usable!)

Remember: The other options may pull down your system-performance - so be careful when you have an older system or notebook!

If you click "Advanced.." on the previous page, you will be presented with the following pages.

On those select a header in the left column to go to that sub-page!

General          (click --options  to see the command details)
  • Executable, $FG_ROOT und $FG_SCENERY etc. had been set already during installation or on FGrun page 1
  • Airport & Parkinglot & Runway had been set already on FGrun page 3
  • Aircraft had been set already on FGrun page 2
  • Control: Define which is your prime control-unit: Joystick, Mouse, or Keyboard. Make sure the wanted device is plugged prior to starting FlightGear!
  • Language: Starting with FlightGear Version 2.0 you can define in which language the menus will be displayed. See the directory "$FG_ROOT/Translations" for a list of available languages. (You are invited to add more!)
  • Browser: In case you have different Internet-Browsers installed you define here which one shall be used for FlightGear.
  • Config: Some Models do need special XML-Data for special effects. The installation-instruction for that model should define what should be entered here.
Features          (click --options  to see the command details)

Most of these fields will show a PopUP explaining that item, when you hold the mouse-pointer over it. Just a few remarks here:
  • Be careful when using these wonderful options! Some PCs and/or Graphic-Cards may become overloaded!
  • "Auto-Coordination" may help beginners a lot by not having to control ailerons and rudder separately. But with it you cannot perform some very useful maneuvers, like Slip etc.
  • AI-Traffic produces artificial aircraft and air-traffic. But those are limited to your local PC - in a Multiplayer environment each user will see some different traffic -- so you switch that off when having Multiplayer activated!
  • "Failures" allow you to define problems you want to be surprised by during the flight! It may be easier to set those from inside the cockpit via: "menu --> Equipment --> failures".
HUD:    Is grouped by itself in the options-list
Flight Model          (click --options  to see the command details)

  • Usually the models will define them-selfs which FDM they need during start-up.
  • So the standard user should not change anything here!

Freeze         (click --options  to see the command details)
  • Freeze starts FlightGear in the "pause"-mode, i.e. nothing happens unless you free it by keying "p". Be careful: Some models will not show up when starting in this mode!
  • Fuel Freeze is a completely unrealistic modus: You can fly forever without burning any fuel - which is very nice for the environment - but very bad for your reputation as a pilot! And you will miss some of the fun when noticing that a fully loaded aircraft behaves drastically different compared to a light weighted one! That may shock you some times, especially during Starts and/or Landings!
  • Clock freeze just stops the Simulation Time. Watch it: Some models will not function in this mode!

Initial Position         (click --options  to see the command details)

  • Watch it: Whatever you define here will overwrite what you define on FGrun page 3. Many people (like me) forget that they defined something here and then wonder (days later) why FlightGear does not accept the definition of an airport etc. on page 3 !!!

Rendering         (click --options  to see the command details)

(Hold the mouse over an item to get hint-PopUp's)

These options define some nice options for how to display things on your display!

And that means: It may affect the FPS of your system -- so you should watch what happens when you activate those!

Time         (click --options  to see the command details)


Network         (click --options  to see the command details)
  • In the upper part you define ports to interface to other programs, see the --options for details
  • The values for "Multiplayer Options"
    • Callsign: Your personal Multiplayer-ID (maximum 7 alphas)
    • Multiplay 1: Define a "mpserverXX", ref. Multiplayer HowTo
    • Multiplay 2: In the center is either the name or the IP-number of your PC
  • Proxy: If you use a Proxy-server define it here!

Input/Output         (click --options  to see the command details)

Here you define the Interfaces to other applications. Open the field "Protocol" to see a list of all available options.

Start with selecting "New" (or an existing entry to edit)
then open the field "Protocol" to see a list of all available options.

  For FGCOM you need

  For Atlas you need 

Avionics         (click --options  to see the command details)

Just define the Navigation Radio-Frequencies.

Notice that you can only preset the "Selected" frequencies - not  (as usual) the "Standby". That way you can preset the Radios direct for startup!

See the detailed description in the part "Radio-NAV"

Properties         (click --options  to see the command details)

Properties are all the values that are used/calculated during the simulation.

In  "menu » Debug » Browse Internal Properties" you can view, change, trace etc. all those values.
Here you can predefine values, so that those values are as you would like to have them at startup. e.g.
  • Set the Parkingbreak, if you do not like to start rolling without telling the aircraft to do so
  • Disable the AI-traffic if e.g. you start in Multiplayer mode
  • Define your Callsign for AI-ATC usage, this is different to the one defined on page 4!
  • Set the frequencies for your radios
  • etc.
To enter a new value start with "New" -- to edit click onto the existing line.

Debugging         (click --options  to see the command details)
The "Debugging Tools" are not commonly used by Users.
Weather         (click --options  to see the command details)
The "Weather" settings are right now changing - have a look at

"GUI Launcher“ for Mac OS X
In Mac OS X  the FGrun looks different from the outside, but is based on the same principles. Also selecting the options is relatively similar but not via 4 pages after each other, but selected in parallel from the front-page.

The settings of the directories is not of any significance, because the "GUI Launcher" is completely integrated into Mac OS X. Thus most settings as on page 1 of FGrun are not needed.

Go to the aircraft-selection by clicking onto the toothed wheel at the right side of "Aircraft" (similar to page 2 of FGrun). You could also click onto "Advanced Features" and then select "Aircraft"

Go to the Airport-selection by clicking onto the toothed wheel at the right side of "Airport" (similar to page 3 of FGrun). You could also click onto "Advanced Features" and then select "Airport" under "Positions"

Activate "Download scenery on the fly" to activate TerraSync (similar to page 4 of FGrun).

Activate "Navigation Map (Atlas)" to activate Atlas (similar to page 4 of FGrun).

With "Advanced features" you reach similar functions like in the FGrun advanced pages.

You then start FlightGear with "Start Flight".

Starting Manually (by Hand!)

There are 4 technical different ways to start FlightGear without FGrun:
  1. Start-Icon: During installation there probably has been placed a Start-Icon onto your desktop and/or a Program-Entry into your Program-menus. You can just use those and FlightGear will place you in a  Cessna C172p onto a runway at KSFO (San Francisco). This is a very easy way to start FlightGear the first few times - but may become boring pretty soon. So you may want to use an additional Option-File.
  1. Command-line: If there are only some options that you want to define, you can type those (together with the Start-Command) into one Command-Line and start. But after some time you probably become very tired of typing all that staff again and again! So you might use the Option-File for additional options.
  1. Option-File: At each start FlightGear is designed to look for this Option-File when starting. That means you can type all your options into a file - and just change a few option-settings from time to time. The drawback here is, that you can have only one Option-File - thus you constantly have to change that file for different events.
  1. Command-File: So you might want to use many Command-Files instead. Those are the same as the Option-File, but also include the start-command(s)! That way you can save as many of those files as you want, for as many events you want. You may e.g. have 1 file for casual occasions (which you change whenever needed) and some more which you just call up for certain occasions/events.

Start with a Command-Line

In case you run into problems, you might type in that line just "cmd" - that will open a command-window in which you type your command. Then, when you start, you can monitor also the Windows processing and see if Windows or FlightGear have a problem with your commands, as written.

Just to verify that everything is fine, start with a simple command like e.g. :

C:\Program\FlightGear\bin\Win32\fgfs.exe ­­--fg­-root=C:\Program\FlightGear\data --fg-scenery=C:\Program\FlightGear\data\Scenery

The above must be written into ONE line and you must be sure that before each option there are TWO dashes! Some systems do join those TWO to ONE on ENTER. If that happens over-type the 1 dash with 2 and then click with your mouse somewhere else - that will end the input without changes!

Open a "Terminal" (Command-Window) and type the command:
(Watch for the correct directories! In the following the "/usr/local/bin/" must be replaced by your $FG_PROG !)

/usr/local/bin/fgfs --­fg-­root=/usr/share/FlightGear/data --­­fg-­scenery=/usr/share/FlightGear/data/scenery

The above must be written into ONE line and you must be sure that before each option there are TWO dashes! Some systems do join those TWO to ONE on ENTER. If that happens over-type the 1 dash with 2 and then click with your mouse somewhere else - that will end the input without changing!

Mac OS X:
Open  “”  and enter into  /Applications/Utilities the following  2 commands after each other, e.g.

cd /Applications/
./fgfs ­­--option1 ­­--option2 ....

In MAC OS X that are 2 commands in 2 lines! Be sure that before each option there are TWO dashes! Some systems do join those TWO to ONE on ENTER. If that happens over-type the 1 dash with 2 and the click with your mouse somewhere else - that will end the input without changing!

Start with an Option-File

As said above: Whenever FlightGear starts up it looks for a file "fgfsrc" in which you can write your options one after the other. Thus you can save yourself lots of typing - you just type single lines inside this file for different occasions. In case you usually change only a few options at startup, you could have all your standard "seldom changing" options in that file - and start FlightGear with the start-command and the frequently changing variable options (like e.g. --aircraft=model --airport=ICAO --parkpos=Ann) - and only the standard options will be written into the Option-File.

You generate such an option-file by opening your standard system editor (for windows the "wordpad"!) and type in the options one after the other:

".fgfsrc“  resp.  "system.fgfsrc“

Start with a Command-File 

The Command-File is the same as the Option-File - except:
according to your Operating System:
See as an example my Command-File, that I used for the IFR X-Country KRHV to KLVK:
    (You could copy those and just change the upper 3 lines if needed! Or change single lines to fit your needs/taste!)
UNIX/Linux: “KRHV_IFR” Windows: “KRHV_IFR.bat Notes
/opt/flightgear/bin/fgfs   \
--fg-root=/usr/share/flightgear \
--fg-scenery=/usr/share/flightgear/Scenery \
--geometry=1280x1024 \
--callsign=jomo \
--aircraft=c172p \
--lon=-121.816320    \
--lat=37.334047    \
--heading=234    \
--disable-real-weather-fetch    \
--enable-clouds3d    \
--ceiling=750:3250    \
--visibility=1000    \
--wind=270@5    \
--prop:/environment/config/aloft/entry/visibility-m=30000    \
--timeofday=noon    \
--enable-ai-models \
--disable-sound    \
--generic=socket,out,10,localhost,5504,udp,fgcom    \
--multiplay=out,10,,5000 \
--multiplay=in,localhost,5000 \
--prop:/sim/frame-rate-throttle-hz=20 \
--prop:/controlls/gear/brake-parking=1 \
--prop:/sim/traffic-manager/enabled=false    \
--prop:/instrumentation/comm/frequencies/selected-mhz=119.8    \
--prop:/instrumentation/comm/frequencies/standby-mhz=125.2    \
--prop:/instrumentation/comm[1]/frequencies/selected-mhz=118.10    \
--prop:/instrumentation/comm[1]/frequencies/standby-mhz=119.65    \
--prop:/instrumentation/nav/frequencies/selected-mhz=114.1    \
--prop:/instrumentation/nav/radials/selected-deg=9    \
--prop:/instrumentation/nav/frequencies/standby-mhz=110.5    \
--prop:/instrumentation/nav[1]/frequencies/selected-mhz=116.6    \
--prop:/instrumentation/nav[1]/radials/selected-deg=114    \
--prop:/instrumentation/nav[1]/frequencies/standby-mhz=116.0    \
--prop:/instrumentation/adf/frequencies/selected-khz=374    \
 "E:\FlightGear 2.4.0rc5\bin\Win32\fgfs.exe" ^
--fg-root="E:\FlightGear 2.4.0rc5\data"    ^
--fg-scenery="E:\FlightGear 2.4.0rc5\data\Scenery" ^
--geometry=1280x1024 ^
--callsign=jomo ^
--aircraft=c172p ^
--lon=-121.816320    ^
--lat=37.334047    ^
--heading=234    ^
--disable-real-weather-fetch    ^
--enable-clouds3d    ^
--ceiling=750:3250    ^
--visibility=1000    ^
--wind=270@5    ^
--prop:/environment/config/aloft/entry/visibility-m=30000    ^
--timeofday=noon    ^
--enable-ai-models ^
--disable-sound    ^
--generic=socket,out,10,localhost,5504,udp,fgcom    ^
--multiplay=out,10,,5000 ^
--multiplay=in,10,localhost,5000 ^
--prop:/sim/frame-rate-throttle-hz=20 ^
--prop:/controlls/gear/brake-parking=1 ^
--prop:/sim/traffic-manager/enabled=false    ^
--prop:/instrumentation/comm/frequencies/selected-mhz=119.8    ^
--prop:/instrumentation/comm/frequencies/standby-mhz=125.2    ^
--prop:/instrumentation/comm[1]/frequencies/selected-mhz=118.10    ^
--prop:/instrumentation/comm[1]/frequencies/standby-mhz=119.65    ^
--prop:/instrumentation/nav/frequencies/selected-mhz=114.1    ^
--prop:/instrumentation/nav/radials/selected-deg=9    ^
--prop:/instrumentation/nav/frequencies/standby-mhz=110.5    ^
--prop:/instrumentation/nav[1]/frequencies/selected-mhz=116.6    ^
--prop:/instrumentation/nav[1]/radials/selected-deg=114    ^
--prop:/instrumentation/nav[1]/frequencies/standby-mhz=116.0    ^
--prop:/instrumentation/adf/frequencies/selected-khz=374    ^


       Notes:  (For a description of all the unique commands see the Appendix)
    1. The directory + the start-command for FGFS
    2. The directories for fg-root and fg-scenery 
    3. Defining a private "VIP parking lot" (instead of the usual "--airport= " etc., see above "Define the Startposition") 
    4. See the "weather cooking" for the "IFR Cross-Country"
    5. --enable-clouds3d is a relatively new option, that may not be in your release yet - and watch it: It uses lots of your Graphics-Power! But it looks fantastic - see the header for the "IFR Cross-Country"!
You can create as many Command-Files as you like with names telling you what they are for.

The Instruments

Many models in FlightGear may have 2D (2dimensional) and/or 3D (3dimensional) panels. The 3D-panels always look much more realistic - but often are less readable! If both panels are available You can select between those two with: "Menu → View → Display Option Toggle 2D Panel“. In the following we use the pretty 3D-Version:

Instrument Panel of a C172
Some of those instruments you can also set by mouse. For that each instrument has areas where you place your mouse-pointer to operate - in the above picture you see those marked with yellow outlines. You switch those yellow marks on/off by "Ctrl+c". If there are multiple areas you usually decrease the values by clicking into the left area - and increase in the right. Often you can accelerate the setting by clicking with the center-button (wheel) instead of using the left button. Some of the dials can also be set by rotating the mouse-wheel.

Please see in the following the standard instruments for all aircraft, explained in a basic model like the C172p. And watch especially the most important of the most important in the "Golden T": Those are the ones you constantly have to keep an eye on: 6, 9, 11, 10!

But of course you need to know (and watch) them all: Here they are with their functions and usage:
  1. Clock:  Shows always the Simulator-Time, which my be very different to your "normal time". See the different options in the Appendix-chapter "Time".
  1. Suction Gauge = Shows the "Suction pressure" which is needed for the Gyros in the "artificial Horizon" (9), "Gyro Compass" (19), etc.
  1. Filling of the left and right Tanks (inside the wings).
  1. Oil.Temp and Oil.Press
  1. Ampere and Volt of the power supply (battery, generator)
  1. Airspeed = IAS (Indicated AirSpeed):

This is the speed within the air, in opposition to the speed above ground (GS or close to TAS).
Notice the typically colored markings:
    white = never exceed speeds with Flaps
    green = normal operation area (notice that with Flaps you may fly slower!)
    yellow = you are not yet damaging the airframe etc. -- but the engine may express it's dislike after some time!
    Red = danger of structural damages (loosening wings or similar)
  1. Turn Coordinator
Indicates the "Rate of Turn" for "L"eft and "R"ight turns. When the controls (especially Aileron and Rudder) are perfectly coordinated, then the ball in the lower part will stay in the center.

When you keep the banking on the first scale-line and the ball centered then you are executing a "Standard Turn" that completes a 360° turn in exactly 2 Min. - independent of your speed, aircraft or whatever! If the speed is higher - the radius and thus the circumference and thus the way to be flown will enlarge, resulting in the same time for a complete circle! Well now: Only the Autopilot will hit that exact time - but the closer you get to that 2 min., the closer you are to being perfect in controlled circling! See also the usage in the chapter "advanced KnowHow".
  1. R.P.M. (Revolution Per Minute)

Because there is no Gear-Box the revolutions are the same for the propeller and the engine!
  • While climbing the RPM may be just a little above the green area
  • While cruising (for longer time spans)  the RPM definitely should remain in the green area
  • During approach and final the RPM is often below the green area
  1. Attitude Indicator or Gyro-Horizon
It's central position indicates already it's importance: It gives you the best and fastest indication of the aircraft-status - it surely is the most important instrument when flying without seeing the real horizon (IFR)!

The line between brown/blue represents the horizon. In the center there is a little dot, representing the nose of your aircraft. This of course should always be on that line, as well in level flight as also during turns. During climb/descent it indicates on the center scale the AoA.

Left and right of that point you see symbolic wings, helping you to level out.

In the upper part you see how much you are tilted: The first 3 scale markings are 10° each, then 30°. At the beginning you should stay within 10-20°!
  • With the black rotary button at the lower edge you adjust the height of the aircraft-symbol in relation to the horizon. During cruise the wings of it should be leveled with the horizontal line between blue/brown) - that way you notice deviations the fastest.
  • The button at the lower right arrests the cage with the gyros etc. to prevent them from getting damaged during bad turbulences. Just push the button in when needed -- and do not forget to restore it afterward!!
  1. Heading Indicator or Directional Gyro
You must correlate this Gyro from time to time with the magnetic compass (17), because the gyros will deviate over time!
  • With the left button you adjust the Gyro to the indication of the magnetic compass
  • With the right button you adjust the red marker to the course you want to fly, in order to visualize deviations fast -- and also as input for the autopilot (if you use it). Watch it: When you change the setting while using the autopilot, the autopilot will always turn the shortest distance (<180°)! Thus: If e.g. you fly (as shown) 280° and change the marker to "150°" the autopilot will turn LEFT! If you want to turn RIGHT you must go in two stages: First set the marker to the right (e.g. 60°) - and just before you reach that heading you set it to the wanted 150! So: If you need to turn into a certain direction, make sure the turn is not bigger than 180° (or cut it in pieces!).
  1. Altimeter
There are many types of altimeters - here you see one with 3 pointers: The biggest one for 0-999 ft, the middle one for 1.000-9.000 ft, and the small one for 10.000-90.000. The altitude shown in the picture is: 00.000+1.000+400 = 1.400 ft!

In the lower left corner you see the rotary button to adjust the QNH, which is indicated in the little window inside the scale on the right side. You adjust the QNH as follows:
  • when on ground on an airport by adjusting the altimeter to the altitude of the airport
  • or by setting the QNH according to ATIS or a weather-report, etc. If that QNH scale is not available (or not readable) you can set it via "Menu → Equipment → Instrument Settings → ALT Setting“.
Some words to the technicalities: The altimeter does NOT really show the "altitude", but the barometric pressure at it. Just because the barometric pressure decreases with altitude it can calculate the altitude you are at, if it knows the difference from the pressure at 0 ft (sea-level) and the actual pressure surrounding you! So if ATIS (or whatever) tells you the QNH (on altitude "0"!) you set that into your altimeter and the altimeter then calculates the altitude based on the difference between the QNH and the actual barometric pressure around you (your plane). Never forget: The altimeter always calculates the altitude based on "0" (sea level) -- so there is no indication at all how high you are over ground - to calculate that (by checking a map!) is the "Pilots-Responsibility" -- and I guess that is YOU!
  1. Vertical Speed

Indicates the speed by which you climb/descent in feet/minute.

Be aware: That indication is always pretty much delayed, because the plane first has to change the altitude to a certain amount in a certain time, before the instrument can calculate the difference over time! So: Do not follow the needle but just control the effect of your doing over time!

  1. VOR 1: See "Radio-NAV", chapter: The NAV-Radio = VOR & ILS
  1. VOR 2: Is a duplicate to the VOR 1.
  1. ADF: See "Radio-NAV", chapter: ADF / NDB
  1. Radio-Stack: For all the Radios needed for communication and navigation: See the chapter: Radio-Navigation
  1. The "normal“ Magnetic-Compass

This is just a magnetic needle, as it is since some hundreds of years. It is very, very simple and thus very, very reliable (except that it does not point to the "Northpole" as shown on maps - but to the "magnetic North", see e.g.

Watch it: That compass is mounted rather free/movable - so you can trust your reading only after flying in a rather stable attitude for some time!

  1. Ignition Switch   :

Click into the 3 areas or use the keyboard-strokes as follows:
  • Center area (="}“) moves from "OFF“ over "Magneto R(ight)" to "Magneto L(left)" to "Magneto BOTH"
  • Left area (="{“) moves reverse from "BOTH“ to "OFF“
  • Right area "START“ (="s“). As also in cars you should keep "START" pressed some time, till the engine rotates freely.

  1. Yoke:
Controls the Elevator and Ailerons

  1. Electrical Switches

The yoke makes it rather difficult to get to those - thus the designers offer you a C172 unique help: "Menu → Cessna C172P → Show/hide yoke“.
  • Taxi Light: Lightens up the runway - use while taxiing
  • Landing Light: Must not be used on ground, except during start and landing! Switch it on when you get the "Clearance to Take Off" and switch it of when reaching cruising altitude, and reverse - you must switch it "off" when leaving the runway! It must be "on" when on approach and/or in a pattern! Also during daylight!
  • PitotHeat: This is no light but the heater for the Pitot, which measures the speed of the air going through it. i.e if there is icing in that Pitot you will not get a correct IAS-reading! You should always switch this on during icy conditions, i.e. when the outside temperature is below 10°C while flying through visible moisture (clouds, fog, etc.)! You should not activate on ground - at least not for a prolonged time, because the sensors may melt when overheated!
  • NaviLight: Switches on the red light on the left wing, the green light on the right wing, and the white one at the tail.
  • Beacon: Is a blinking red anti-collision light. For small planes that is located on the tail-unit - for big ones there often is one on top and one underneath the plane.
  • Strobes: That are white flashlights - to be seen from far distances. They are allowed only in the air (never on ground!). Also they must be switched off when flying through clouds and similar!
  1. Carburetor Heat
    is used in piston-powered light aircraft engines to prevent or clear carburetor icing.  See
  1. Throttle
    is to control the amount of gasoline fed into the engine. See
  1. Mixture

This is comparable to the choke in cars. You change the air/gasoline mixture, because the air-density changes when climbing/descending!

Watch the RPM and speed: When that drops (without obvious reasons!) you should try to adjust the mixture (see part 5 chapter Mixture). Usually you will see a serious change starting above 7000 ft, depending on the weather.

And be sure: As well as within a car you can stall also an aircraft-engine with that. Actual that is the preferred method to switch off the engine (intentionally, on ground!)

24. FPS- (Frames per Second)
You may monitor the FPS by activating "Menu → View → Display Options → Show Frame Rate".

The HUD (Head Up Display)

FlightGear also provides a HUD (Head Up Display) . HUDs are generally found in military aircraft and some very advanced jets. However, FlightGear allows you to use a HUD in just about all models.

To activate the HUD, press "h". Multiple "h" will then change the color, and finally switch off the HUD.

Typing "H" will change the brightness of the display.

Using "i" and/or "I" will change the size of the display.
The HUD shown above displays all main flight parameters of the plane:

Keyboard, Mice, Menus and Joysticks

In the following we will introduce you to the available controls for operating the Simulator and/or the models.

You find a short summary of the keyboard- and mouse-controls also on, which you can download and print.

If you did already start the simulator you can also view those codes by opening "Menu → Help → ...“ and then:
→ "Basic Simulator Keys“ are the ones dealing with the Simulator
→ "Common Aircraft Keys“ are the ones fitting all models
→ "Current Aircraft Keys" are special for that unique model you are sitting in right now

After you start a new model look if there is a new item in the menu-bar, usually with the name of your model. There may be given some very interesting hints to operate that unique model!


You could fly all models just by using the keyboard - but for manipulating the analog controls (e.g. ailerons, rudder, elevator) you may want to use mouse-support. But even better would be a  joystick. But whatever you are using: The keyboard-codes will always be available in addition! And for many actions the keyboard remains the only input-device.

These key-bindings are not hard-coded, but user-adjustable. You can check and change these setting via the file keyboard.xml which can be found in the $FG_ROOT. This is a human-readable, plain ASCII file. Although it’s perhaps not the best idea for beginners to modify this file, more advanced users will find it useful to change key bindings according to their wishes, e.g. to match other simulators. But be very careful: In that case your simulator and models will react different to others - i.e. you might not be able any more to compare problems in your operations with that of your friends, forum, etc.!!!

If you are not afraid of that, here is an example:

You find in $FG_ROOT/keyboard.xml the following:
Code: Explanation:
<key n="33">


<desc>Select first engine</desc>




33 is the ASCII-Code for "!“, that is the technical code send by your keyboard

That is just to tell you (user) what it usually stands for

Describes the functioning plain words (see e.g. the chapter  "Control the Engine".

Start of the Execution Command

Tells where to find the predefined command  (see $FG_ROOT/Nasal)

controls = is the filename (+.nas) » "controls.nas“
selectEngine(0) = is the name of the used routine inside the controls.nas

End of the command
The END (started with "<key..>" and ending with "</key>"!

You could:
And whenever any errors pop up (soon - or in some years):
Remember that you changed the Code -- and also FlightGear or a unique model may rearrange that Code in some future!

Keys to control the Aircraft
normal key
0 / Enter
Bild ▲/▼
Insert / Enter
Pos1 / End
center all
Elevator Trim

Keys to control the Engines
Key Action
 Select 1st engine
 Select 2nd engine
 Select 3rd engine
 Select 4th engine
 Decrease magneto on selected engine
 Increase magneto on selected engine
 Select all engines
 Fire starter on selected engine(s)
 Lean/Enrich selected engine mixture
 Decrease/Increase selected propeller RPM

Keys to control the View-Direction

Keys to control the Field of View
Key Action
Shift- S
Toggle instrument panel on/off
Toggle3D/2D cockpit (if both are available)
Shift the panel in y direction
Shift the panel in x direction
Read a panel from a property list
panel/cockpit hotspot visibility
Minimize/maximize HUD
Change color of HUD/toggle HUD off
Zoom in/out
Cycle view-modes forth/back
Reset view direct to Pilot-view
Increase/Decrease visibility (fog)
Menu on/off

Keys to control the Auto-Pilot
FlightGear supports 2 types of Autopilots:
For the "common ones" you can use the following keys (that may or may not work also on the "unique" AP!)
Key Action
 Toggle altitude lock
 Toggle glide slope lock (NAV 1)
 Toggle heading hold
 Toggle NAV 1 lock
 Toggle autothrottle
 Toggle terrain follow (AGL) lock
 Add 1000 ft. to your altitude (emergency)
 Toggle autopilot heading mode
 Autopilot altitude dialog
Ctrl+T controls your model like a "Cruise Missile“.
Ctrl+U may save you in an emergency!

With an active AP the following NumPad-keys change their function:
Key Action
 Altitude adjust
 Heading adjust
 Autothrottle adjust

Other Keys
Key Action
Toggle parking brake
Apply all brakes
Raise/lower landing gear
Apply left brake (useful for differential braking)
Apply right brake (useful for differential braking)
Toggle tail-wheel lock)
Extend/Retract flaps
Pause Sim
Simulation speed up/slow down
Clock speed up/slow down
Save current flight to fgfs.sav
Restore flight from fgfs.sav
Save screen shot
Exit program
ShortCut: "Menu/File/Browse Internal Properties/"


In addition to the common mouse-actions like e.g.:
FlightGear activates 2 different mouse-modi to be used:
  1. "Normal mode“ - as usual
  2. "Control mode“ - controls the aircraft like a joystick
  3. "View mode“ - allows fast changes in viewing directions
You change between the different modes by clicking the right mouse-button.
(Sorry enough: By doing that you do loose the "normal" functions of the right mouse-button, e.g. open properties)

Normal Mode → Mouse-Pointer: Normal (arrow-pointer)
In this mode the mouse functions as usual - except: You cannot use the right button as used to in standard applications!

Within FlightGear you use the left button as usual to activate buttons, controls, etc. But often you might not see where to click to operate a certain unit! In order to help, you might press "CTRL-c" - that will show the "hotspots" marked by a yellow outline. In those you can:

Control Mode → Mouse-Pointer:  +
In control mode you can control the aircraft controls by moving the mouse. This mode is indicated by a cross-hair mouse cursor.

In this mode
This mode is particularly useful if you do not have a joystick, as it provides much better control of the aircraft than using the keyboard. If you intend to use the mouse to control the aircraft regularly, it is recommended that you enabled auto-coordination, so the ailerons are linked to the rudder. This can be done using the option  --enable-auto-coordination (see Starting the FlightGear Simulator).

Viewing Mode → Mouse-Pointer:  <=>
One more click with the right mouse-button brings you to the Viewing-mode. This mode is indicated by a double-headed arrow cursor.

In this mode
One more click with the right mouse-button brings you back to the "Normal mode".

The Menu-Bar

The menu bar provides access to a variety of options for the simulator and the aircraft. In addition many aircraft have their own menu items, e.g. from just changing their registration to automatically starting its engines, opening doors, Carrier-Hooks, etc.. Those can be found at the end of the menu bar, usually under the name of that aircraft. But also under "Help" you may find unique parts for the model you currently use.

To display or hide the menu bar, press F10. When hidden, you can display the menu automatically by moving your mouse to the top of the screen.

The menu bar provides the following menus and options:



Autopilot (AP)
This menu is only available for aircraft that have the default autopilot configured. Some aircraft may have their own autopilot which is configured through the panel, in which case this menu is disabled.

For technical details see
AI = Artificial Intelligence
The former "ATC/AI" was changed drastically since version 2.0. For details see
The new sub-menus are:
This item is deactivated if you are not connected to a MP-Server via Internet!
This menu contains various options outside the scope of this guide. Here we will only list those entries, which had been included under "File" prior to FlightGear version 2.0:


Could you imagine a pilot in his or her Cessna controlling the machine with a keyboard alone? For getting the proper feeling of flight you will need a joystick, a yoke, rudder pedals, some external engine-controls would be nice too, even a complete "real" cockpit with Pilot-seat would be nice - right? However, the combination of numerous types of joysticks, flight-sticks, yokes, pedals etc. on the market for all the different Operating Systems and manufactures, makes joystick support a non-trivial task in FlightGear.

Not the smallest problem is always listing all possibilities - so I will make it ease for myself: Throughout this book we will use the name "joystick" for all of those externally connected controls - independent of their function and handling! (With the exception of keyboard and mouse!).

For the technical aspect FlightGear has an integrated joystick support, which automatically detects any type of "joystick" attached to the PC and detected by the Operating System. In order for this joystick auto-detection to work, a joystick bindings XML-file must exist for each joystick. This file describes what axes and buttons are to be used to control which functions in FlightGear. The associations between functions and axes or buttons are called “bindings”. FlightGear includes several such binding-files for several joystick manufacturers in folders named for each manufacturer. For example:
If you have a "CH Products" joystick, look in the folder $FG_ROOT/Input/Joysticks/CH for a file that might work for your joystick. If such a file exists and your joystick is working with other applications, then it should work with FlightGear the first time you run it. If such a file does not exist, then we will discuss later how to create such a file by cutting and pasting bindings from the examples that are included within FlightGear.

Just try the following Test! If this does work for you, lean back and be happy!

Testing the Joystick

You can see what FlightGear has detected as your joystick by selecting   Menu » Help » Joystick Information. e.g.:

  • A joystick was detected! That means your Operating System did find an appropriate system-driver and also FlightGear did find a fitting XML-Bindings-File
  • There is only one joystick connected - and that has the ID-number "0" (computers start counting with "0", not "1" like we humans!)
  • The joystick did identify itself as "Mega World USB Game Controlers“. This name is hardwired inside the joystick itself and is transmitted during the "handshaking routine" between system and joystick.
FlightGear also tells us which XML-Binding-file it found for that stick:  $FG_ROOT/Input/Joysticks/MegaWorld/USB-­Game-­Controlers.xml.
(in this example you see a directory-structure as is typically for Linux -- for Windows the beginning of the stream will look different)
  • The joystick has:
    • 5 analog controls: "Axis #0" to "Axis #4"
    • 4 digital controls: "Button #0" to "Button #3"
  • Because they are listed we know that they are functional
    • even if we might not like the function that is assigned to it (we can change it if we want!)
    • and yes: Also "Button #1" has a correct assignment! The designer of the XML-file just forgot to tell us what it is (e.g. "<desc>view cycle</desc>") - but that is just a "nice to have" info for us humans - the system does not care about it! You can correct it if you want!
  • None of the "Axis" is outside its "0-position". Just try it: Move your joystick a little and watch the numbers changing in the upper part of the window.
  • Sorry: But you cannot test the buttons as easy!

Based on that you can decide
If anything needs to be debugged or changed or if you just want to know more about it, got to:

Otherwise just use it and be happy!