FlightGear Newsletter January 2011

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Welcome to the FlightGear Newsletter!
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First of all happy new year to all of you!

Altough this might be a bit late, we forgot to say so in the last edition of the FlightGear newsletter. 2010 was an exciting year for FlightGear (read the summarized annual) and there is no reason to think 2011 will be any worse. With another release being scheduled, we can finally show the mass what we all have been working on last year. But it ain't that far yet, first there is a brand new newsletter to enjoy!

Development news

2.2.0 Release Status

The next stable FlightGear release (2.2.0) is currently being assembled, with many bugs being fixed by various contributors, in different areas of the simulator - especially relating to JSBSim and resetting the simulator. Lots of work has been done to automate producing release builds (including installers) in a reliable, repeatable way, which will accelerate the release schedule in the future.

The remaining task is gluing the 'base package' tarball into the installers for Windows and Mac, so they form a complete, finished installer. To this end, a release branch now exists for the 'fgdata' repository, and the final pieces of automation are being worked upon. Even with most of the aircraft removed, the base package for 2.2.0 has grown somewhat, coming in at around 400MB compressed - mostly thanks to improved scenery models, aircraft and sounds.

Important FGRun memory fix

FGRun used to keep all loaded aircraft (in one session) in cache for quick re-view on the aircraft selection page. There were cases reported in which the memory usage reached 1GB; slowing down the entire computer tremendously! Since FGRun must stay open during your FlightGear flights, it decreased in-sim framerates. With the fix, FGRun only uses necessary resources.

Experimental: texture mapped line data

Psadro created a local experimental branch for allowing TerraGear to texture map roads, streams, and coastlines. It is in the very early stages, but is starting to show promise. While the TerraGear team's priorities are to optimize and import highly detailed land-class imagery, he thought it would be a good idea to enhance existing polygons as well.

Status updates are available at the TerraGear texmapped line data article.

JSBSim updates

  • Arbitrary Functions in Engine (and other) Models: JSBSim now has the ability to have functions embedded in engine configurations. These functions look the same as the main configuration functions and can run before (pre) or after (post) the main code. They are handy for keeping engine controlling functions organized with the engines they're supposed to be controlling. There is also a wild-card available in the property tag, like this: <p>propulsion/engine[#]/thrust-lbs</p>
  • Experimental Rotor Model: Thomas Kreitler created a rotor model in JSBSim, so its now possible to model helicopters in that FDM, too. His first experimental helicopter is the AH-1S. This model isn't in FlightGear's GIT, yet, but you can find it in JSBSim stand-alone if you'd like to experiment with it.
  • Cooling Support for Piston Engine Model: JSBSim's piston engine model took another step forward in realism by exposing properties to control engine cooling.

Mouse acceleration

Syd and Torsten implemented a mouse acceleration feature. This allows aircraft developers to make their levers/switches controllable by the click&drag principle. Extremely useful for thrust levers for example, where one can click on the lever and drag the mouse forward in order to advance thrust. Allowing for the most realistic simulations with a simple mouse. Amongst example aircraft that currently make use of this new feature is the Seneca II.

New software tools and projects

3D Modeling With Perl

Curt Olson recently leveraged the perl scripting language and a simple spline module to generate a 3d model of a UAV design that would have been hard to model with more traditional approaches Details and pictures can be found at Curt's blog.

In the hangar

Instruments

The Boeing-style CDU as seen on a Boeing 747-400.

Generic Boeing CDU

Gijs commited a generic - Boeing style - Control Display Unit (CDU) to Git. The CDU comes with two textures: a brown one (as seen on the 747) or a grey one (737). The number of simulated pages is growing rapidly and currently include at least:

  • one route setup (interconnected with the well-known FlightGear route manager), from departure via waypoints to arrival airports.
  • various performance data, like takeoff speeds (V1, Vr, V2) and weights.

A wiki article has been set up to explain aircraft developers how to implement the CDU in their aircraft.

New aircraft

A small selection of aircraft of which development started in January.

ATR 72-500

Skyop has started his latest aircraft project, the ATR 72-500. This turboprop airliner currently features a lighting system, an engine control system (autostart), pushback and livery over MP. A 3D cockpit will follow in the upcoming months.

DC-9-32

A group of developers have started developing the DC-9 with the kind help of Buckaroo. Currently, the aircraft still requires animations and some adjustments to the autopilot. However, the cockpit and other parts are almost complete.

Spitfire Vb

A new version of the Spitfire has been added to the hanger. The Spitfire V, although a stopgap version, became the second most numerous variant to be produced. It was widely exported to foreign airforces both during and after WWII. The version modeled here is the B version with two 20mm cannon and four .303 machine guns. The cannon ammunition was carried in drums, limiting the supply to 60 rounds per gun, and necessitating blisters on top and underneath the wing. The particular aircraft depicted is preserved, and is still flying today. You can see a walkround at YouTube.

Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA

Ummon and pjedvaj have started the PAK-FA project. The PAK FA, also known as the T-50, is a fifth generation jet fighter prototype developed by Sukhoi OKB in Russia. It is scheduled to enter service by 2014. The FlightGear version features a new high-poly model and set of animations, along with three liveries. The FDM has been redone in JSBSim and features thrust vectoring control and fly by wire stability augmentation. Cockpit instruments are not modeled yet.

Updated aircraft

A small selection of aircraft updated in January.

The control car of the Zeppelin LZ 121 Nordstern.

LZ 121 Nordstern

The Zeppelin LZ 121 Nordstern has been updated with a new variometer and control car windows and some other details by Anders.

PA34-200T Seneca II

An improved electrical system has been added to the Piper Seneca II by Torsten. All electrical switches and circuit breakers are now functional. The generic attitude indicator (artificial horizon) on the pilot's side has been replaced by a new, much more detailed version, too. Under the hood, many lines of supporting Nasal code were replaced by the more robust XML based property rules.

The PZL M18B Dromader new cockpit

PZL M18B Dromader

The popular AG plane received a big update this month. An improved FDM with load & weight balance, a nice detailed cockpit almost complete, custom flight instruments, new systems, customs sounds taken from a real Dromader, and much more. Read the topic in the official forums for more information.

Scenery corner

This month, we reached 2000 unique models in the scenery database! Help us get to 3000 even faster... Please contribute a scenery model today.

Scenery Models

The highest tower in the world, the Burj Khalifa, former known as the Burj Dubai, has been added to the database. Landmarks have also been added to Lyon, France. Finally, skyscrapers for both Montreal (Place Ville Marie) and Vancouver (One Wall Centre) in Canada have been added.

New York City

Statue of Liberty with magnificient lighting.

A collaborative effort has been launched to model as many skyscrapers and landmarks of New York City as possible. This month, the following New York buildings were contributed, by several different people:

  • Empire State Building
  • Statue of Liberty
  • UN Headquarters Building
  • Citigroup Building
  • MetLife Building
  • GM Building
  • Verizon Building
  • Penn Plaza and Madison Square Garden

At the sametime, Statto is working on detailed landclassing (terrain), so the new buildings will look accurately placed (rather than in the middle of the Hudson).

We still would like as many custom buildings as possible in this area! If you are interested in contributing to the New York City scenery project, please visit the forum.

Eastern Asia

Many buildings in Eastern Asia were added to the database this month, including:

  • Akashi Kaikyo bridge (Kobe, Japan)
  • Ruygyong Hotel (Pyongyang, North Korea)
  • Bank of China (Hong Kong, China)
  • CCTV Headquarters (Beijing, China)
  • Bitexco Financial Tower (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
  • Petronas Towers (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
  • Saigon Trade Center (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

If you would like to fly near them you can use TerraSync or download an updated objects file.

Airports

KCHO under development

Charlottesville Albemarle Airport (KCHO)

Catchatyou made some significant progress since December, after taking a few weeks off. He made the rain canopy (or whatever it's called) almost completely accurate, the building more realistic (height-wise), and he added the cylinder part of the airport. Chatchatyou's goals to get to by February are completing the doors, add-in the second waiting room (external of course), and add the windows to the cylinder.

Samedan Engiadina Airport (LSZS)

REGA helicopter at LSZS (by F-SIG)
Eventually the Engiadina Airport (LSZS), close to Sankt Moritz (Sant Murezzan, in Ladin), is available on Terrasync. You may reach it comfortably from Innsbruck Airport (LOWI) following upstream the Enn River (Engiadina); after the flight you may have a Calanda Beer at the cafeteria aside of Terminal C.

The building have been done with the contribution of HHS, who provided the untextured blend files, and ot-666, who gave precious hints. F-SIG took the screenshot.

For those not using TerraSync the files (including the .stg file) are available for download at http://digilander.libero.it/scighera_fg

Suggested flights

Princess Juliana International Airport (TNCM) at the isle of Saint Martin, is one of the most popular airports in FlightGear. In large part due to the custom objects and land cover. However, St. Maarten is only one of several detailed airports in the region - and, while the approach for TNCM is one of the most memorable in the whole world, the land cover for St. Kitts and Nevis makes it a lovely place to fly.

British Airways, US Airways and American Airlines, among others, all fly into St. Kitts' Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport (TKPK) in real life.

Take off from TKPK in a Piper Cub and make a northward, clockwise circle of the island. Start your descent on the east side of the island, and focus on the small hill which separates the north from the south. Start hugging the coast near the beach and look to the west - as soon as the railroad heads to the southwest, you're about ready to turn for final. Make your right hand turn for final and taxi to the terminal.

If you want to fully explore this whole country, take off in a Beaver, which has a little more speed, and fly a figure eight. Take off from TKPK and circle the airport to the north like in the Cub. Then instead of landing, perform a touch-and-go and turn left over the boat terminal and make for the west coast of Nevis. Enjoy the beauty of the south coast of St. Kitts before circling Nevis. Over Nevis, you have several options - cut your flight short and land at TKPN on the island of Nevis, complete the "figure eight" by heading back to TKPK, or check your fuel and head east across the Caribbean to Antigua (which does not have custom land cover).

Community news

FlightGear on Facebook

Since early December, FlightGear has an official Facebook page. By the end of January 2011, over 1600 people had "liked" it. Please feel free to join the page, if you have a Facebook account.

FlightGear on YouTube

  • There are a few places in FlightGear that can be overlayed with photo-textures. One of those is the Brest area, featured in a VFR flight in the C172.
  • Albicop simulated the Hudson River Landing in FlightGear. Although the New York scenery is far from accurate (it is being worked at, as you can read elsewhere in this newsletter), the video is quite a good resemblance with the actual flight.
  • HHS and ot-666 continuously improve the LOJO heliport, showcased in a video featuring the movable helipads.
  • Active road vehicles are something FlightGear lacks compared to other sims. Luckily there are people trying various methods to implement traffic. One of them is Tuxklok, who placed some nice traffic near Innsbruck, Austria. Definitely something we'll hear more of in the future!

Forum news

The FlightGear forum was updated with a new addon that allows topic starters to mark their topics as "solved". Solved topics receive a little green icon next to their titles. Clicking these icons will bring you directly to the post that contains the answer/solution to the main problem of the topic.

More info on how to use this new feature is available in the announcement topic (recommended to read before using!).

FlightGear Flying Club

The FlightGear Flying Club (FGFC) released a promo video; in the search for new members. Details are available at FlightGear Flying Club.

And finally ...

Contributing

One of the regular thoughts expressed on the FlightGear forums is "I'd like to contribute but I don't know how to program, and I don't have the time". Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that contributing requires programming and lots of free time. In fact, there are a huge range of ways to contribute to the project without needing to write code or spending days working on something.

For ideas on starting to contribute to FlightGear, you may want to check out: Volunteer.

Call for volunteers

The OpenRadar project is looking for a new maintainer.

The TerraGear GUI project is looking for programmers to help create a GUI frontend for TerraGear [1].

The FGFSPM (FlightGear Package Manager) is looking for a new maintainer.

Reminder: Google's Summer of Code 2011

We would like to remind all readers that the FlightGear project is planning to participate in GSoC 2011. However, doing that really requires a fair amount of work, planning and organizing. This is not something that can be done by a single person. It really needs a coordinated team effort, or otherwise FlightGear won't be able to apply/participate at all.

So all users are invited to help us progress further with our preparations for GSoC 2011. If you have any questions or other feedback, please use the forum to get in touch.

Thanks for reading FlightGear Newsletter January 2011!