2020 LTS Keflavik news post draft

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This is a draft post where descriptions of improvements since FG 2018.3 LTS to aircraft and other features by developers is collected - along with suitable screenshots.

These descriptions of improvements are planned to be released as regular news updates on the flightgear.org homepage. The news updates are planned to be released a week apart.

If you are a developer, you can just hit the edit button, create a section for an aircraft or feature, and type or edit a description. Knowledge of wiki syntax isn't needed for a simple draft.

The most important things are the points about what to write, and some screenshots. Don't worry if wording or English is not perfect, it can be adjusted later. URLs to screenshots can simply be pasted if you don't know how to upload, along with a note giving CC-BY-SA-4.0 permission.

James has said he is willing to review and update the homepage if material is submitted to the wiki, or otherwise handed over.

Screenshot sources:

Feel free to upload to the wiki, or just add the imgur link with a note saying permission is given for use under CC-BY-SA-4.0 for now.
Some of these screenshots may end up being used on flightsim.com (the editor has apparently reached out about trying to cover the last 2-3 years of FG)
  • High settings screenshot collection - The Screenshots at high settings category is a collection of existing /vaguely/ high settings screenshots made since 2017 already available on the wiki.
  • Forum SOTM section - There may be some suitable screenshots in the SOTM section of the forum that have not been uploaded to the wiki yet.
  • Taking new screenshots - It's possible to pause and turn up settings, if you normally have settings lower on an older laptop or similar.

Release post

Volcanic plume and Alouette III screenshot by Thorsten


[ Mention there is 2 years worth of improvements and updates which are too many for any one post? Mention lots updates over the last 2 years since the last LTS? Mention the person who normally does the updates got busy and a lot of progress missed receiving updates? Add sentence at end mentioning there will/may be upcoming dedicated posts about individual aircraft/features? ]

[ Intro screenshot: Screenshot of shuttle cockpit ]

Welcome to Keflavik and Iceland

See our tour of Keflavík, Iceland, and how to re-create the Icelandic setting in Flightgear 2020.3

Flightgear's 2020.3 LTS will move to the world's newest country, geologically speaking, Iceland

Screenshot of Earthview over Iceland

Keflavík International Airport (BIKF) is the featured airport for the LTS. Buildings, roads, and objects such as pylons are available as a separate download [and will/may be added to Terrasync later?].

[Screenshot of shuttle landing here e.g. this, preferably with current keep and showing new airport]

[ Screenshot of Keflavik: e.g. this ]

A land of fire, smoke, and ice Flightgear models several volcanoes with multiple levels of activity: Eyjafjallajökull which disrupted aviation in 2010, Surtsey, and the brooding, powerful, Katla.

Volcanic activity at various locations in Flightgear:

[ [Screenshot of volcanic activity, predating the Iceland ones slightly though ]

There are new regional definitions for Iceland - try turning on overlays to see very high resolution ground detail.

[ Screenshot of terrain detail with overlays enabled ]

There is a lot to discover. You can try the C172p, J3Cub (with G1000), or Twin Otter which include float variants to explore the fjords of the north west, ski variants to land on one of the many ice caps in the south west, or bush tire variants in your adventures.

Few highlights here

Few highlights for which there are really nice screenshots:

[e.g. C172p, list craft with FG1000, new A320 as the glass cockpit airliner in FGAddon with the most detailed systems, Space Shuttle, is the compositor appropriate or is it too low profile right now?, carrier and supersonic jet improvements - Mention new or improved JSBSim aircraft with CFD or windtunnel data]

Flightgear now simulates tides covering and uncovering shallow areas (littoral areas), like tidal flats (mudflats). Tides are caused by the gravitational force from the moon and sun varying from one side of the Earth to another.

Small image of tides, just enough to make out the diagram. Source: wikipedia The /difference/ in the pull of the moon or sun is effectively a force, the tidal force. Water is free to move, so it causes two bulges along the line between the center of the Earth and moon.

When the centers of the moon and sun line up with the Earth during a 'full' or 'new' moon, then the tide effects add - and there are larger tidal forces causing 'spring tides'. The actual peak in tides can be delayed. [ Small screenshot image, just enough to make out the diagram. Source: wikipedia ]

You can see tides as the day progresses - most often you'll see two highs and two lows per day. Change the date, and tide pattern will change. [The sun and moon position for calculating tides is from Flightgear's accurate celestial simulation (ephemeris) which gives the exact positions of planets and stars for the simulated time and date.]

Tidal flats at low tide

Screenshot of Morecambe Bay at low tide

Water covers the tidal flats at high tide - only the environmental clock is changed. The clouds are the same, as the weather simulation is run by the physics clock - you can see how the light is scattered by various types of clouds and hazes depending on sun angle.

Screenshot of Morecambe Bay at high tide

Possible screenshots to accompany highlights:

  • C172p: 1 or, 2 without the labels
  • Helicopters:
1st screenshot: 1 - EC135 now supports ALS rotor wash on grass where individual grass blades sway in the local windfield. EC135 has FDM and stiction improvements as well ref. The FGAddon R-44 also got updated. The EC130's updates haven't been integrated yet it seems.
2nd screenshot if needed: 2 - also covers mention of turbulence near active volcanoes. Alternatively 3, or 3.1 - without label referring to Bell-412 to reduce support requests wondering where it is.
  • Carrier, and supersonic fighter improvements: f14
  • A320: 1 - could use newer cockpit screenshot?
  • If there's a need to mention FG's range of craft from ground effect vehicles, to lighter than air/parachutes/skydivers/human powered aircraft (DASH also FG is used to train operators), to flapping wing, etc. : Pterosaur JSBSim FDM based on papers: 1 or 2.
  • WiP Compositor if we aren't trying to keep it low profile: 1
  • [ See high settings screenshots category ]
  • [See tour post below with an into to Kevlavik and Iceland for more Keflavik/Iceland screenshots]

Closing line and screenshot(s): For example: Say LTS "is launching..." with

this screenshot

and say "...and coming in hot to your [platform?]" with

this screenshot]

GinGin suggests doing two screenshots.

Longer tour section post: Keflavik, Iceland intro, FG settings for Iceland

LTS default airport announcement, introduction to Iceland, configuring FG settings for Iceland

After release: Current release philosophy

Currently placeholder text. For publishing a longer time after the improvement posts.

As of 2018.3 LTS, Flightgear has transitioned two release types:

  1. Long Term Stable (LTS) releases suitable for most users with a new featured airport
  2. Development preview releases

There will be point releases containing bugfixes and minor updates for both release types. For example, 2018.3.6 was the 6th bugfix point release for the 2018.3 LTS - it was released in August 2020.

LTS releases will have bugfixes ported and the build maintained for longer. Development preview builds will be less stable, receive less testing, and are a bit more of a construction site where large structural changes are made to lay the foundations for the future. Some aircraft may not work on development releases. Power users can run multiple installs of Flightgear in parallel.

There are minor improvements planned to the launcher UI in 2020.3 point releases. There are a lot of big changes already underway and planned after 2020.3 LTS, so if you are curious keep an eye on future development previews leading to the next LTS.

After release: Project status

More appropriate for another post a while after the release. This should provide a situation report for people that may be interested in contributing.

Items: WS 3.0, Compositor, OSM2City world build/tech improvements, in-sim UI replacement work, infrastructure for regular world builds, Australia shapefile revamp etc. etc.

Aircraft posts

Developers please add descriptions & screenshots here. These should be for a dedicated newspost with a bunch of high settings screenshots.

It's possible to collect a bunch of aircraft with smaller improvements in one post - for instance if there are high settings screenshots available, making it convenient.

You can mention an entry is <ready> if there's nothing more to be added and screenshots are also linked.

Flightgear 2020.3 Changelog - lot of possible posts.

Space Shuttle

[Screenshot of STS 1 Launch with White Cumulus in background]

Space Shuttle has been in development for almost 5 years now, and "she" is still under work in progress to make her always more realistic and close to the real thing. A lot of official documentations, and performance manuals are still used to benchmark and upgrade what was already very nicely done. Last Shutte Stable release was end of the year 2019, next one might be for the end of the present year.

Meanwhile, the dev branch is fully usable and will be compatible with the 2020.3, with some really nice improvements.

However, it does require already a good knowledge of how the Shuttle works in the stable branch as many features and troubleshooting procedures are not detailled yet in the FG Shuttle manual.

Some of the new things that you can find in that branch are detailled below. For a more extensive review and explanations of the differents points below, you can have a look there: Space Shuttle-Release and Dev Change Log

The "official" launch area of the Shuttle had a really nice visual upgrade. When looking from an exterior point of view, immersion is greatly improved.

[Global view of the Cape at Sunrise]

Vertical view of the Cape

  • Hubble Rendez Vous // Payload Grapple and Retrieval

Until now, it was already possible to perform some rendez vous to ISS, following close to real procedures. It is now doable towards other objects, especially Hubble. A very rewarding challenge, as it pushes the Shuttle operations to their limits propellant wise.

Payload can be grappled again after being released from the payload bay, a game of patience which in real took hours with several detailled and time consuming procedures.


Eileen is a kind of IA here now to assist us in Station Keeping task while working on RMS operations or messing around. She is particularly useful when working on a satelite to grapple.

[CoPilot Assistance for Station Keeping]

  • Performance improvements on SSME and Launch Autopilot

Space Shuttle Main Engine thrust,ISP , and consumption is now within a percent of the real datas. The mixture ratio in real was around 6, and it is what we observe in the sim (6 times more liquid Oxygen burnt than liquid Hydrogen). Hence, Main Engine Cut Off ( MECO) time is matching real one. Plus, the propellant remaining at MECO, called the Final Performance Reserve (FPR) is now within a percent ( 15000 pounds). It makes launch with high payload into a high inclination Orbit (towards ISS typically) really interesting and limitating performance wise, like in real.

An interesting read about that FPR, written by a former Shuttle Flight Controller: Wayne Hale: The key is Mixture Ratio

You can find below some in sim datas compared to real one coming from the Shuttle Crew Operations Manual (SCOM).

[Velocity Vs Time in Sim [Velocity Vs Time in real]

[Altitude Vs Time in Sim] [Altitude vs Time in Real]

  • New systems

Helium Subsytem for the Space Shuttle Main Engines

The Space Shuttle is composed of a tremendous amount of valves and feedlines, going from the External Tank (ET) to the SSME to bring the liquid propellant into the Main Propulsion System (MPS). A lot of those valves are pneumatically actuated, by an inactive gas, Helium.

It allows also to create some inert vacuum in some areas where liquid Hydrogen and liquid Oxygen could be in contact, in the Oxidizer part of each Engines. Finally, it is used post MECO to purge the feedlines with remaining propellants ( 5000 pounds ! ). That system is highly complicated and interesting, with some capacities of Helium crossfeed between engines in case of leak.

More informations there:Main Propulsion System Helium Subsystem

Caution and Warning System (CWS) improvements

[CWS Diagram summary]

The most visible improvement here is a closer to real fault message logic, announced when a parameter is going high or low. A good example is the electrical buses, with low/high voltage somewhere due to a short circuit. CWS is quite complex in the Shuttle. A lof of different kinds of alarms, depending of the seriousness of the failure. Plus it depends which software is loaded in the computer, the primary one or the fascinating Backup Flight Controller, ie. last level of redundance in case of major computer bug.

A good but dense guide about that system might be found either in the SCOM or there: Caution and Warning System guide

The main fault display page

Fault summary display

A quick glance on how it can look with a "simple" shortcut in one of the AC buses. It triggers quite some alarms and messed up a bit everything. Better have a good knowledge of what everyhing mean for a good troubleshooting

Electric short circuit fault messages

  • Better Plasma during Entry

While hitting the atmosphere at Mach 25, a orange-ish Plasma glow can be observed around the Shuttle, causing black out and long minutes of sweating.

Hard to observe in real, we can have a look on it here and there.

Plasma during the hottest part of the entry, when the Shuttle dives into the atmosphere at Mach 24 and 250 kfeetish. Thermal constraint is there the hard boundary to stay away from.

Plasma during entry with Aurora in the background

Later in the entry ( below Mach 15), the glow starts to vanish but the belly shield is still under heavy thermal stress; Dark Maul style.

Hot shield and Moon

  • Interior visual improvements for Glass Cockpit displays (Font / fidelity with the real thing)

Most of the work is summed up here: Space Shuttle-Display adjustments (PFD,HUD,MEDS,DPS...). Already a lot of those changes are available on the Space Shuttle dev Branch.

The main thing here is to iron the visible part of the iceberg by fine tunning the display realism visually wise. As with the other parts of the Shuttle dev, it is based on real documentations (mainly the Data Processing System Dictionnary).

By the end of the year, a new layer of immersion should be available with the completion of that interior display rework.

Shuttle Cockpit ready for a night launch.

[Night Launch Cockpit view]

Orbit reached, time for another batch of softwares and to raise the Perigee

[On Orbit Cockpit View]

Some Shuttle screenshots gallery to finish the update.

STS 1 on the pad, waiting fot the D day

[Sts 1 on the pad]

Almost at the end of the first two minutes, the Solid Rocket Boosters ( SRB's) separation is closed.

Night Launch over Florida

A bit of rest for the crew, after a nominal Orbit Insertion

Shuttle Interior Night Rest

Back on Earth into a Stormy Weather...


...or with a golden sun

White Sands TAEM Sun Halo


New to the 2020.3 release is an updated and improved version of the Airbus A320. First flown in 1987, the A320 is the most produced airliner ever, with over 9,500 built to date. It was one of the first airliners to use fully digital flight controls / fly by wire, and a fully glass cockpit. A320-family-cockpit.png

This aircraft has been recreated by a team of developers over many years, and is now distributed in FGAddon. Among other features, it has a working MCDU (Multi-Function Control Display Unit), which makes it one of the first aircraft in FGAddon to allow proper operation of a modern airliner's avionics. It also has some unique features such as allowing pilots to fetch their flight plans from Simbrief, or to request weather and digital ATIS in the MCDU. A320-family-FPLN.png

In terms of systems, it is one of the most detailed aircraft in FlightGear, as it accurately represents the behaviours of the real Airbus; for instance, each switch, valve, and actuator has its own power supply, and will only operate if it is powered. Thousands of logic diagrams and system schematics have been used to accurately represent the Airbus and to allow for some limited failure modelling. Some indication of the detail might be given by looking at the ELEC page on the System Display, and observing how the frequency of the generators changes as you adjust engine power. A320-family-ELEC-page.png

The A320 also features a ECAM system which monitors the systems of the aircraft, presents failures to the crew, and suggests steps to remedy them. Most of the important failures have their own checklist, for instance the ALL ENG FAIL checklist shown here. A320-family-ECAM-warnings.png

In the future the A320 will be receiving a fantastic new 3D model and a new flight dynamics package -- keep an eye out for the update! Preview screenshot of new 3D model for the A320-family


Add more here

Feature posts



Earthview is a fantastic piece of code that allows us to transition from an Aviation Sim towards a Space Sim with [Vostok], the UFO or [the Space Shuttle].

Already developped for some years now, it had a nice upgrade this year. More informations are available on the wiki page [Earthview wiki] or the forum thread Earthview FG forum.

Amongst others: better normal maps (feeling of ground deepness), bugs fixed, up to 16K textures depending on the season: Earthview world and clouds tiles

Some shots below about that dreamcatcher tool:

[Sunset and diffraction ] [Black knight UFO Shuttle] [500Nm above the World] [South Pole and lighting game] [Good night World] [California Fly By] [Lonely External Tank] [Ready for Orbital Operations Commander]

Add more here