FlightGear Newsletter August 2010

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Welcome to the FlightGear Newsletter!
Please help us write the next edition!
Enjoy reading the latest edition!


We would like to emphasize that the monthly newsletter can not live without the contributions of FlightGear users and developers. Everyone with a wiki account (free to register) can edit the newsletter and every contribution is welcome.

Development news

More realistic textures on mountains

Shader-artist Gral picked up a new project, after his forest and grassland improvements. This time he improves the look of our mountains a lot, thanks to some "elevation and slope detecting" shaders. They replace the vegetation with rocks above a certain elevation or on steep faces. Transition between the different terrain types are extremely smooth, especially when compared to the usual landcover-transition (eg. between land and ocean) in FlightGear.

The forum provides you with more information, screenshots and updates.

Major updates to the AI system

This month, FlightGear's AI system has received a major update. Until recently, FlightGear contained two major AI systems, oftentimes leading to much confusion. Although one of the systems had been scheduled for deprecation for a long time, early this month the decision was made to remove this system from FlightGear altogether. The other system, known as the AIModels system, has recently also undergone a major revision. One of the weakest aspects the latter system was that aircraft never performed a reasonable approach, but basically just plummeted out of the skies, only to pretend making a reasonable landing (and usually ending up several miles short of the runway).

The revised code generates much more realistic approach paths, and ensures that arrivals will start almost instantly after program start. In addition, the approach paths are set up in such a way that aircraft will be lined up with 90 seconds of flight time (or more) between them. During the revision, several bugs were solved, resulting in a much more stable AI system.

In the hangar

Several aircraft that have been around in FlightGear for many years got updates this month. There is a huge number of aircraft in the FlightGear hangar (over 300!), and while new aircraft are always welcome, there are many existing aircraft that would benefit from some spit-and-polish. Creating a completely new aircraft to a high standard represents a monumental amount of work. Those wanting to contribute, but without the time available to create a truly world-class aircraft from scratch might want to consider improving a favourite aircraft from the hangar instead. The effects are more immediate, and you can improve it one piece at a time.

AC-130 Spectre

Jack Mermod has recently begun transforming Emmanuel Barranger's Lockheed C-130 Hercules into a AC-130 'Spectre' Gunship. The gunship has been released, but will have many more updates to come.

So far, the gunship has been equipped with the following:

  • Two GAU-12 25mm guns
  • One 40mm L/60 Bofors cannon
  • Accurately modeled and functioning flares
  • AN/ALQ-196 jammer and other electronic countermeasures
  • a Battle Management Station, from where weapons can be armed and fired
  • Several screens(in the Battle Management Station) which will display information, radar input, gun camera feeds, and ammunition stats in following releases
  • MANY liveries

You can see the AC-130 topic and download the aircraft here.

The Bombardier CRJ-900 in Blender.

Bombardier CRJ-900

After working on the A320, Skyop is creating his first aircraft- the Bombardier CRJ-900- from scratch. The basic model and new FDM have been completed- tasks still to do include animating the model and adding in other features to make the CRJ-900 suitable for FlightGear 2.0.0

Douglas A-4F Skyhawk

On a smaller scale to Hal's improvements to the Mustang, Stuart Buchanan has been making a number of changes to the venerable A4-F Skyhawk, or "Scooter". Rather than change the existing A-4F Blue Angels model, Stuart has instead modelled a normal Navy A-4F with dual drop-tanks. As well as some minor FDM tweaking, improvements include a completely new exterior and 3D cockpit, and some more accurate flight control systems including auto-deploying spoilers. The A-4F is an interesting carrier-based light attack aircraft, designed on the principle of simplicity and lightness by Edward Heinmann. In particular, by making the wings short, they didn't need to be folded for storage on carriers, which meant they didn't need complex wing folds, and hence were lighter and stronger.

B-29s dropping their load.
Ash plumes rise up from the bombed spot.

B-29 Superfortress

Coming soon. There is a major refurbishment of the Submodel code in the pipeline which will resurect and, hopefully, speed up some old facilities.

The M47-A2 incendiary bombs have been linked to the wildfire system, and generate multiple fires. Unfortunately, at present the hit on framerate is huge. So this might well not make Git. A cut-down version might be feasible. It remains the case that the submodels are not visible over MP.

STOP PRESS

It's in GIT now! The formation is now a 4-ship diamond. The M47-A2 and the M-17 bombs both create wildfires on impact. BEWARE, the wildfires may cause an unacceptable framerate drop after a while, and FG may eventually crash. If you disable Wildfires in the dropdown menu at some point before this happens, you will get most, but not all, of the framerate back.

Eurofighter Typhoon

Some pretty major work has been accomplished on the Typhoon by almursi - some fiddly FDM work has now made it actually behave like one of the most agile fighters in the world, its performance envelope is now roughly equivalent to its real-world counterpart, and a good deal of the missing textures have been added. Algernon has accomplished some rather more minor work, with authentic scale navigation lights added and strobes and beacon in development along with a custom electrical system to power them. Whilst there is still a lot to do, including the flight control system which prevents the aircraft from performing beyond the pilots physical limits - how about 14g turns?! - the feedback on the latest release has been really positive. Try it yourself and post some feedback in the Typhoon thread on the Aircraft Development board.

Fokker 100

Another aircraft that has been updated recently is the Fokker 100. It now has a 3D cockpit and a rudimentary equipment failure control system, as well as a much-improved FDM and Autopilot. At the moment, the Equipment Failure System can only cause engine fires and flap failure. Several new liveries have been made as well. Authors who contributed to this latest phase in development include (in no particular order) Erik Hofman, Thomas Ito-Haigh, Gary Neely, and Skyop.

Helijah Hangar updates

Helijah updates his hangar with new aircraft (mostly WW2) very regulary and pushes them to Git. This month's list includes:

  • BV-170
  • B-35 Peacemaker
  • CA-12
  • Me 209V1
  • Me P.1101
  • Breguet 19
  • Caudron GIII
  • Caudron GIV

North American P-51D Mustang

Hal V. Engel has made some massive improvements to the P51-D. Using NACA (the pre-cursor to NASA) published data, he's produced a very impressive JSBSim FDM. He's also made a number of improvements to the 3D cockpit and the engine systems. Those who enjoy their WWII warbirds will be very interested indeed. Your correspondent has still to manage a take-off from the runway without at least one bounce, but can report that the landing characteristics, while not benign, are at least manageable. This is an aircraft that will really repay some effort on the part of the pilot to get to know, and almost certainly represents the most accurate warbird FDM we have available.

The Short S.23 Empire flying boat Canopus over Le Havre.

Short S.23 Empire flying boat

Anders Gidenstam has added a Short Empire flying boat to FlightGear/git. These aircraft served on the British Imperial Airways' African and Far east routes from 1936 to 1946. The model in FlightGear is work-in-progress but already has some interesting features:

  • Hydrodynamics and static buoyancy (on the water) based on data from fluid dynamics simulation and empirical results found in NACA reports (still has a long way to go, however).
  • A RAF mk.9 bubble sextant paired with a generic walk view (also used by Nordstern and Zeppelin NT) permits celestial navigation.
  • The livery selection dialog also selects the appropriate fuel system for the individual aircraft.

There is a back port for FlightGear 2.0.0 users available here.

AIM-9 Sidewinders on the F-14B Tomcat

Guided missiles are now available for the Grumman F-14B Tomcat in Git. At the moment, only AIM-9s are functional. They lock on the nearest MP or AI target, like in the SEAM mode (Sidewinder Expanded Acquisition Mode) and they follow a constant angle trajectory. When used with Bombable script they have a quite certain effect on the Zeros. When used against an MP aircraft, you will only see the missile explosion and a message with the hit range can be displayed through MP. The author, Xiii, would like to add this feature to the A-10 and maybe the f16 which both use the same nasal framework. But it may take a long-long time. (And don't forget to read the f-14b README.help prior to use the Sidewinders!)

Scenery corner

Animated jetways finalized

An exciting new feature comes to FlightGear with the completion of Skyop's animated jetway system. The first airports to implement it are none other than KLAS and KRNO. A bug is currently preventing the jetways from appearing in FlightGear 2.0.0; when a new version of the system is available through TerraSync within a couple days, an additional fix will be required.

To use the system, taxi to an animated jetway and park your aircraft with your nosegear on the "T" at the end of the marking line. Click the jetway, and if your aircraft has the appropriate values in its -set.xml file, the jetway will extend and raise/lower itself to your door! Updated -set.xml files for the Boeing 737-300, Boeing 747-400, and Boeing 777-200ER can be downloaded from this post of the development thread.

Unfortunately, there are still a few unresolved issues with the jetways. The biggest being that they currently cannot operate independently.

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 parked at Concourse B at KLAS. Concourse C is visible in the background.

Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

Skyop has modeled Concourse A, Concourse B, Concourse C, and the Charter International Terminal at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (KLAS). Unfortunately, the new Concourse D could not be modeled as there was no GPL-compatible satellite imagery available. You can obtain the new terminals via TerraSync.

Reno International Airport

Skyop has also modeled the passenger terminal at Reno International Airport (KRNO). It will be submitted into the FlightGear Scenery Database and available through TerraSync soon.

Wiki updates

Aerial refueling articles

The aerial refueling howto has been updated and slightly cleaned up, to increase its readability. In addition to that, a developers howto has been written, to provide an easy to understand article on how to implement aerial capability on aircraft.

Red-Green Anaglyph OSG Render in action.

Anaglyph: FlightGear in 3D

We all know that certain cinemas show certain movies in 3D. Most of the time the spectators wear those weird looking pairs of Red-Green or Red-Cyan glasses. These glasses divide the two (colored) layers on the screen between our two eyes; thus creating the effect of 3D. Since the switch to OSG, FlightGear is able to generate such images as well!

This new wiki article explains how to obtain or create a pair of 3D-glasses and how to configure FlightGear.

How do I commit changes to Git on Windows?

Three months after our big move to Git, there finally is a tutorial on how to commit changes to Git on a Windows based computer! This allows every FlightGear user/developer to get their edits up in the official FlightGear repository. Let's hope that this will stimulate more people to start developing and sharing their work with the rest of the world.

Read the article at FlightGear Git on Windows#Commiting changes.

Nasal articles

In the aftermath of a forum topic, work has been started on expanding the number of Nasal related articles at the wiki. These articles should help (new) developers to understand the scripting language and eventually write their own scripts.

All Nasal articles are collected in a special category. More articles are welcome, as always, so feel free to share your Nasal knowledge!

What kind of bindings are there?

FlightGear supports a large range of bindings, which are actions that happen on clicking certain objects/menus. For example, when you click the gear lever in the Boeing 777, a binding actually "transmits" the command to the gear. Another example that is widely used is an autopilot rotary knob (eg. for setting the heading). When you click these knobs with your mouse, bindings define what properties are changed and with what steps.

Work has began on collecting all those bindings in a single document. Check out the list!

Community news

FlightGear on YouTube

  • A wonderful example of the possibilities and power of FlightGear, in which FlightGear is connected to some avionics equipment (including flight displays and EICAS).
  • Chances are big that you never saw anything like what is done in this video, before. These people connected a radio controller vehicle to their computer and visualized its movements with FlightGear's jeep.
  • Our home-director, Oscar, uploaded a nice video summarising the KLM fleet in FlightGear.
  • In case you have missed it, a video showing photorealistic scenery in Brest.
  • Despite the bad graphics (clouds and smoke), this Red Bull Air Race video shows once again what an enormous range of different things one can do in FlightGear. A second video was uploaded as well.
  • A new flightgear promo has been uploaded by 'TheMasterofmod'. This Promotional Video focus' on Military Operations and the extensive possibilities with military craft in Flightgear.

Watch the FlightGear PlayList for a collection of all (somewhat) quality FlightGear videos ever uploaded to YouTube.

New way to contact mpserver maintainers

After multiple complaints from the community about the difficulty to get in contact with FlightGear multiplayer server maintainers, a mailingsystem is being set up. So far, only mpserver10 is known to be correctly set up for the new system.

You can contact the maintainer of server10 via admin@mpserver10.flightgear.org. Other servers are expected to be set up soon.

Relaunch of TransGear Airways

This month saw the first event of the resurrected TransGear Airways. The event was planned by Lukosius and Redneck. Redneck and Jomo provided air traffic control services. The event was well received and attended by registered TGA pilots and other unregistered pilots as well. Details are available on the official site. The September event will be the first event scheduled using Yourgod's scheduling software which will allow pilots to plan their own routes within the event.

Update on FlightProSim

Thanks in part to jackmermod, the FlightGear community now has access to the source code of the much-discussed FlightProSim, which will allow for a better and more thorough investigation of the simulator. Browsing through the source directory structure has so far given promising results, but compiling the program itself has been problematic.

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 mis-conception 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.

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.