FlightGear Newsletter February 2012

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This newsletter is a draft.

Feel free to contribute! Or read the latest edition.


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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. So if you know about any FlightGear related news or projects such as for example updated scenery or aircraft, please do feel invited to add such news to the newsletter.

FlightGear 2.6.0 released

Following our release plan, version 2.6.0 of our simulator has been released. Please check the changelog 2.6.0 for what has changed since our last release 6 months ago.

Development news

Heads up: Project Rembrandt

As many of you may have heard already, Fred is currently making huge progress on adding shadows to FlightGear in Project Rembrandt. Now, F-JJTH ported the P92 to use the new system and posted a youtube video demonstrating Project Rembrandt at work. To provide feedback, please check out the the forum thread.

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Cockpit lighting in Project Rembrandt at work (by F-JJTH)


Interview with a contributor (NAME)

In each edition we have an interview with a contributor. Suggestions for possible questions are available on interview questions, you are invited to come up with new questions and interview ideas obviously! Anyone is free to write an interview (with him-/herself or others) for next month's newsletter! If you'd like to help interview a contributor or get interviewed, please do consider adding yourself to the list of interview volunteers! To keep this going and less awkward, we are currently trying to come up with the convention that former interviewees become next month's interviewers.

  • How long have you been involved in FlightGear?
  • What are your major interests in FlightGear?
  • What project are you working on right now?
  • What do you plan on doing in the future?
  • Are you happy with the way the FlightGear project is going?
  • What do you enjoy most about developing for FlightGear?
  • Are there any "hidden features" you have worked on in FlightGear that new users may miss?
  • What advice can you give to new developers who want to get started on their first aircraft/new feature/Nasal script?

More questions are being collected here: Interview questions.

Stay tuned for next month's interview, featuring FlightGear contributor XXXXXXXX

Snapshot releases

Every now and then, easy-to-install development snapshots are created (usually, twice montlhy). These snapshos depict a recent state of the development version of FlightGear. By using them users can test out features that will be included in the upcoming release. Testers are encouraged to file bugs at the issue tracker.

The snapshot can be download via the links at the bottom of this page: http://www.flightgear.org/download/. Updates and feedback can be found at the forum.

Nasal for newbies

New software tools and projects

FlightGear addons and mods

In the hangar

All the way back in May 2011, we addopted a new status-rating system for aircraft. So far, only a few have actually been rated, as can be seen in the list 'hockenberry' set up at Google Docs. If you're an aircraft developer and your aircraft is/are not on the list, please consider rating their status. All you'll need to know/do is described at Formalizing Aircraft Status. If you'd just like to get started contributing to FlightGear, this would also seem like an excellent way to get started.

A new instrument: Vertical Situation Display

Omega95's VSD instrument

Omega95 has created an entirely new instrument type for FlightGear, a so called Vertical Situation Display (VSD).

This was done entirely in scripting space using Nasal and XML animations. He's basically proven everbody wrong who ever claimed that complex instruments couldn't yet be created in scripting space. Apparently, he managed to create this instrument in less than 24 hrs. His first question related to this was about accessing trigonometric functions from Nasal, shortly thereafter he posted screen shots depicting his VSD.

To read up on the whole discussion, please see the forum topic. There's work ongoing to turn his project into a new tutorial for the wiki on creating complex instruments in scripting space: Howto: Implement a Vertical Situation Display in Nasal.

Glider winch launching ropes

A DG-101G during a winch launch.

Before now, FlightGear never showed ropes during winch launching. However, now, you will no longer have to fly gliders while being pulled by some invisible connection between you and the winch.

Gijs started working on an animated 3D rope, attached to the glider and winch. The cable exist of the following parts:

  • Strop (3 m) attached to the glider with a ring.
  • Weak link assembly designed to break apart before the cable or any other equipment fails.
  • Trace (17 m)
  • Parachute so the cable doesn't drop too quickly after releasing.
  • Launch cable the longest part; all the way to the winch.


New aircraft

Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR.1

Harrier GR.1 splash screen

Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR1 is a private project by pjedvaj, it was not intended to replace or update the existing British Aerospace Harrier. It has a detailed 3D model complete with a cockpit, animations and RAF livery. Instruments and HUD are also fairly authentic. The aircraft has working ADEN guns and basic fuel and weight control. The FDM is adapted from the original BAe Harrier, but internal and external fuel tank capacities are modified to match the GR.1 version.

Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Commanche

RAH-66 splash screen

Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Commanche was started as a bounty by sgofferj and developed by pjedvaj but I later withdraw from the bounty. This was my first helicopter project and FDM development is curently in stub (RAH-66 is using adapted FDM from Tatsuhiro Nishioka's Kawasaki OH-1). It has a detailed 3D model, animations and two liveries used to present different variants of RAH-66. Helicopter has a working XM301 cannon controled by joystick and basic weight control for armament in internal bays. AFCS includes SAS, CAS and Auto Hover. You're free to continue the development to fully claim the bounty.

Updated aircraft

Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner

The Boeing 787-8 Splash Screen

The Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner has already been there in FlightGear for a very long time -it has been in the FG official hangar since version 1.0. However, it was created while the 787 was still a prototype aircraft; it did not correctly show many of the 787's actual features like a realistic glass cockpit and accurate instruments.

The new/updated Boeing 787-8 is a community project that features new JSBSim flight dynamics, Vertical Navigation, a realistic 787 glass cockpit, new CDUs, Electronic Flight Bags, TCAS, advanced Nav Displays, Vertical Situation Display, Fly-by-wire and a lot of other neat features. It has not exactly been completed and the project is still running.

You can find out more about the Boeing 787-8 Project HERE or wait for a while till a wiki page is created for it. One of the really good points of this project is how most of our findings and resources have been converted into Wiki HowTos for other aircraft developers to use for their projects.


Cessna 337G Skymaster

General view of the new Cessna 337G Skymaster cockpit

The Cessna 337G Skymaster from the Spain-Latinamerica "Vive FlightGear" factory have received a major update.

The new cockpit is now totally modelled, almost buttons and knobs are functional, animated, and properly labeled for easy identification.

New custom sounds, lights, controls, a Bendix/King avionics pack capable of full IFR and night navigation, 2 new HQ liveries and the first FlightGear's working ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) are part of this great improvement on a FlightGear aircraft.

Liveries

Scenery corner

3D-Model contributors: please read

A (long) time ago, specific instructions were given on how to contribute with 3D-models designing withing FG. That is: I want to create nice 3D models for my airport, submit them to the central database, and have them shipped back through Terrasync. However, it appears that quite a lot of users are still not aware of those guidelines, and sometimes learn about their existence after having created their models. So please, take some time to (re)read them, and inform the people around you who would like to contribute about the existence of those guidelines. This will save you extra time (and your models will be quickly inserted within the database) and this will also save the (precious) times of the poor guy(s) validating all the models at the other end. So, here they are: http://scenemodels.flightgear.org/contribute.php . We also remind you that, to add, edit or delete shared model positions (apart from mass import (that is if you have more than let's say 10 lines to add), you should use our webtools at http://scenemodels.flightgear.org/submission/ .

Shanghai Skylines: FG's New (not-so-)Hidden Gem

Shanghai is one of the biggest city in China and is among the cities with the most number of skyscrapers -this is now also true for FlightGear. 21 models were created over the past few months by JVC, who also modeled the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in Japan and the United Nations building in New York.

A view of the Shanghai skyline
Another view of Shanghai
A closer view from near the Shanghai Stock Exchange

New textures for container ship and freighter AI models

Comparison between untextured and textured AI ships (by Cristian Marchi)

Starting from a hi-res panorama that he made, user Cristian Marchi (aka penta) provided new skins for the two AI ships that populates seas in flightgear. More info on the forum thread.

Airports

Aircraft of the month

Airport of the month

Screenshot of the month

Lightfield-1.1-14.jpg

A P-51D flying at 20.000 ft over Juneau (Alaska) at dawn using lightfield shaders to render the sunrise (see here for the shader package for download).

Suggested flights

Copacabana to San Rafael over Lake Titicaca

Bolivia to Peru. This trip will lead you over one of the highest and deepest lakes in the world towards the highest airfield in the world. It a demonstration of a IFR flight towards a fix and a demonstration how accurate FlightGear simulates air density and the effects it has on aircraft.

Flight and fix SLCC to SPRF

Place your aircraft on the airfield SLCC, Copacabana, with an elevation of 12,592 feet. FlightGear will show snow all around you but that is not very realistic so let's clean up. View=> Rendering Options=> Snow line=> Set to max. (5,000M).

We will fly towards and land at SPRF. If you would enter SLCC and SPRF in Kelpie planner you probably would not be able to find SPRF. To find SPRF I am adding an additional VOR-DME station and for a good fix give you another VOR-DME. Try Kelpie planner to plan this route and compare with this suggestion.

Equipment preparation. Set NAV1 to Juliaca VOR-DME on 155.55 with a radial of 311° (magnetic). Set NAV2 to Arequipa VOR-DME on 113.7 with a radial of 212°. During our flight we will fly with true altitude as set with QNH, keep QNH updated. Arm the autopilot with the heading bug at 311° and an initial altitude of 13,500 feet.

Take off and if you took the wrong RW pull up hard. Take a small tour over lake Titicaca, see the floating islands and try to find the lost golden treasure. Intercept the nearest radial on NAV1 towards Juliaca (about 311°).

Just before Juliaca is a hill so while on lake Titicaca increase altitude to 14,200 feet, the VFR part of this trip is over. After passing Juliaca set the radial of NAV1 to 352° and set the altitude to 17,422 feet. We will fly from NAV1 and slowly increase altitude.

At a distance of about 60 NM set the heading bug on the current course. Monitor the distance to NAV1, the radial of NAV2 and the distance to NAV2. At a distance of 74.5 NM to NAV1, a distance of 140.7 NM and at the radial intercept of NAV2 should be the runway. So, from 60 NM onwards, look outside the window, then at NAV1 and then NAV2 etc.

If you are at 80NM to NAV1 you have missed the airfield but you still won't hit any hills (unless you bank left). Bank right and set the heading bug to 172°. Fly back towards NAV1 and intercept the radial 352° at about 50NM again to repeat the search.

The runway SPRF, San Rafael, has a elevation of 14,422 feet and a heading of 297°/ 117°. Our initial altitude has been set 3,000NM above the RW elevation. That should give sufficient room for navigation.

After you have seen the airfield set the radial of NAV1 to 297°, the heading of the runway (not the course to the runway) as a visual aid. Land on RW 30 (and not on RW 12 unless you are a show-off). Oh, there is a small hill in front of RW 30, just so you know.

Decreasing speed at this altitude can be a bit tricky. The air is thin and does not give much resistance. Next to that, the difference between indicated airspeed and ground speed is very noticeable. The ground speed is much higher as the indicated airspeed.

After a successful landing, try to discover the origin of the Amazon river since we are now at the starting point of that trip.

Aircraft reviews

Wiki updates

Johan G did a great job starting to categorise all images. The sub-categories are listed under Category:Images. Please note when uploading images that it's important to give the file a descriptive name. That'll make it easier for others to find your file and use it in articles.

A good example comes from Michat who has designed new small logos for Aircraft of the Month, Dual Control, Bombable, Soaring, Aerotow and Aerospace aircrafts, allowing you to see at a glance which aircraft has some of those interesting features.

Dual_control Bombable Doing aerotow over the net Soaring Aerospace IAR80.


New articles

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New aircraft articles

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Most popular newsletters

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Community news

FlightGear on FSBreak

Two of FlightGear's developers, Stuart and Curt were interviewed on one of this month's episodes of FSBreak, recorded on 25th February. FSBreak is a flight simulator podcast that discusses recent flight sim developments and reviews. The hosts, Eric and Brendan, spent almost an hour taking about the project with Curt and Stuart. While most of the content won't be new to readers of this newsletter, it was a great way to promote FlightGear 2.6.0 to the wider flight simulation community.

FlightGear on YouTube

New tutorials and screencasts

Forum news

Triggered by the new release, we've had more forum visitors then ever before in the week of 19-25 February! 17,123 people visited the forum in these seven days to be precise. When looking at "unique visitors", only 13-19 February 2011 was a bussier week (9548 against 9076 visitors) (a possible reason for the high number might be that people expected 2.2.0 to be released, which was canceled).

Multiplayer

Virtual airlines

FlightGear events

Useful links

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.

Call for volunteers

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

Did you know

...that you can use expressions to create complex animations of objects in your 3d models or even drive them from multiple properties? Usually, an animation looks like this

 <animation>
     <type>translate</type>
     <property>foo/bar</property>
     [..]more elements[..]
 </animation>

You can add a scaling factor or an offset to it, but that's basically all you can do that way. If you want to animate your object following a complex function, most people create complex Nasal scripts to compute the driving properties, probably not knowing that there is another way to achieve the goal: Expressions. Here is an example for a translate animation depending on two properties and the cosine function

 <animation>
     <type>translate</type>
     <expression>
       <product>
         <property>/my/factor-property</property>
         <cos>
           <deg2rad>
             <property>/my/angular-property</property>
           </deg2rad>
         </cos>
       </product>
     </expression>
     [..]more elements[..]
 </animation>

A rich set of predefined functions is available, including almost all those you have on your scientific pocket calculator.