FlightGear Newsletter November 2009
Welcome to the November edition of the FlightGear Newsletter. Once again, it has been a bumper month for contributions - thanks to all those who typed something up. Particular thanks to Vivian for his detailed description of the recent work on new AI Models.
The range of FG simulations now available is quite astounding: Just this month I took part in a TransGear Airways MP event, enjoyed a beautiful VFR flight through the Swiss Alps in the Cessna 172, continued my on-going quest to master tail-wheel warbirds, and managed to land the F-14b on the USS Vinson. So, this month - try something new!
What's new in CVS
Shader support for Objects
Tim Moore added now support for shaders on objects. This means we can have stunning effects like chrome effect, fresnel shaders etc on aircrafts in a near future. Tim has also integrated the 3D clouds code as an "Effect". This makes editing the cloud shaders significantly easier.
Trains, Boats and Planes (Vivian Meazza)
As the song goes “but not for me”. But now they are for you in FlightGear. In a moment of madness on the IRC Channel I agreed to develop Ground Vehicles as an AI Class. It turned out that a few modifications to the AI Ship class would be a good jumping off point for the new class. I started with trains, because I thought they would be big enough to see easily from an aircraft. A very simple train with just 1 carriage. These are relatively common on commuter routes in the UK. Jon Stockill knew just such a train, and was familiar with a suitable route in Wakefield. (Where’s Wakefield you might well ask – I had to – it’s near Leeds in Yorshire.)
As quick as a flash, he had written a script and extracted an accurate route for the railway. Not only that, but Jon added overhead power support pylons all along the route. That was a bit of a challenge, because originally we had thought that the train could be fairly loosely guided between waypoints on the track, but now would have to run on the track accurately enough to go between them. So I had to add a cross-track error calculation, and after a bit of fine tuning:
The accurate track Jon extracts has a bit of a drawback: it isn’t the same as the one currently in the scenery. We hope that will be sorted out soon, when a few licensing issues are resolved.
Meanwhile, Jon added a nice bus and a bus route also near Wakefield. It turned out that diesel and electric trains weren’t nearly as visible as we had thought. So why not a steam train? That should be easier to see, and there is a preserved railway up in the spectacular countryside of the North Yorkshire Moor which has just such a thing.
Next, Heiko Schulz produced a fine model of the ICE 3 train, and Jon extracted the route from Frankfurt to Essen, but with the addition that it was dual route so that we could run trains in both directions at the same time. The ICE 3 runs at high speed, but the existing train parameters has been optimised for 30 mph, so a bit more coding was needed. In particular the train does not run well at high speed in reverse, so it was necessary to have the trains reset to the start of the track at the end of their hour plus run.
All this is nice eye-candy, but what is the downside? There is a frame rate cost. Provided there are no more than 10 ground vehicles in the scenario this is usually small.
So what about boats? It seemed like a good idea at the time to extend some of the ideas we developed for trains into the MP Carrier scenario. We had some models converted from Savage models lying around, so how about some escorts for USS Vinson. In any case Alexis Bory had a dormant plan for some low-poly aircraft models for the deck park, so it was a good time to revisit the Vinson scenario. First, we added some aircraft to the deck park. Then Alexis took and completely reworked the Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG 7) into something very nice indeed. I worked up a new class: AI Escort. This enables stationing of an escort by range and relative or true bearing. The escort can have patrol range for the station, and can carry out a random patrol of the assigned station.
Then I found a very good model of the AIM9L Sidewinder which has been lying around in cvs for years. Too good: it includes the motor and warhead, and the unseen bolts which attach the fins. Too good to waste though, so after a bit of poly reduction, they got added as well.
Next Alexis wanted a SAR helo which completes the Trains and Boats and Planes theme. So I modified the AI Escort Class (after all a helo is just a fast frigate), and between us we put together a model of the Seahawk H60B. This happily maintains a station half a mile on USS Vinson’s port side.
So, what else? There is also a close escort in the shape of a Ticonderoga class CG. This model isn’t particularly good, so I am working up a new one.
The current Battlegroup is completed by LPD17.
We also added a cruise liner, just to make the Captain of the MP Carrier think about where he was taking his Battlegroup.
What is the downside to the Vinson Battlegroup? Pretty much none. So far, on my system, I have seen no adverse effect on frame rate. Your mileage may vary of course.
Hmm, the Mk41 Launchers are fully featured with cells and hatches. I have a simple model of a TLAM. I wonder if a modification to the AI Ground Vehicle stuff …
What else, where next?
We have a few more goodies in the pipeline. Some US railroad models. We await Jon to extract a suitable rail line for that one. We have some wagons waiting in the wings.
And, if I can persuade Jon to use it, a whole container port. Which comes with its own container tractor, which uses the train code to pull trailers around the dockside. Container ports work around the clock, so there’s some floodlighting just to add a little more realism.
Using the new scenarios
All this stuff is in cvs right now.
- Trains and Bus: Select Leeds-Bradford (--airport=EGNM) airport, scenario railway_demo, fly 165 deg until you get to Wakefield. Look around: there is a railway line to the south of the city, and one to the east. The bus runs out to the west. Look carefully - the trains and bus are very hard to pick out.
- Steam Train: Select Topcliffe (--airport=EGXZ) airport, --ai-scenario=steam_train_demo, fly 082 deg distance 21 nm. Look around: the railway line runs SW from the village of Pickering. You should easily see the steam from the engine.
- ICE3: Select Frankfurt (--airport=EDDF) airport, --ai-scenario=ICE3_demo, hang about a bit, The ICE3 runs close to the main terminal, and is relatively easy to spot.
- Vinson Battlegroup: Just use --ai-scenario=vinson_demo, the various ships are all around. If you use MPCarrier, then the Battlegroup is visible on the radar.
And finally finally
Thanks are due to Jon Stockill, Heiko Schulz and Alexis Bory for their contribution, and for their testing of the code.
In the hangar
See Airbus A340-600 for the main article about this subject.
The Airbus A340-600 is the longest civil airliner in the world, built by Airbus Industries of France. It has just started early development by Liam. Currently it has been modelled, mapped, given a basic YASim FDM, has an autostart feature and livery selection dialog, and lots of other features. Yet it is to be animated suitably before a BETA release is confirmed, which will be before Christmas, to help provide feedback for improvements. For more information on this recent but rapidly improving project, click here to access the A340-600 page, where you can access more information on this promising looking airliner.
See Boeing 767-300 for the main article about this subject.
The boeing 767-300 is still under development by Liam and Prestes, and is currently undergoing animation by asdf. The airliner is starting to look brilliant thanks to the original model by veteran modeler from the Google 3DWarehouse, WilliamT, and with its new default livery by Liam (Thomsonfly.com), it certainly is starting to look beautiful. Since this screenshot was taken, there have been many significant improvements still. Prestes also wants to create the whole 767 family from this model (767-200/ER 767-300/ER 767-400/ER 767F) These will be mostly based around the original 767-300 model, by editing the specifications and detail of the planes to give them the correct FDM and accuracy, shape and length. The freight version will be modelled by removing the cut windows and modifying other specifications for the plane. Animation should be fairly replicate for all of the models and creating the whole group should be a fairly rewarding project. As always, help is welcome from all who are interested- but it is certainly well gaining progress.
Boeing 737-300 news
See Boeing 737-300 for the main article about this subject.
The development of the 3D-cockpit has started and the first half of the mainpanel was added to CVS already. The progress is quite visible, as can be seen on this screenshot. The mainpanel will be finished in the next days, so the Overheadpanel and the Centerstand can follow. Also the FDM was changed a bit, so it matches much more to the real perfomance datas like Vr, B2 Vref etc. It needs still work, as the pointmasses will be corrected soon to match the real locations based on free available real balance and weight sheets. Also the behavior of the speedbrakes and flightspoiler will be changed in the next days, so it comes more and more to the real behavior. Help on programmming is always welcome, especially on the flightdirector, as this has be written completly new!
Cessna C172p news
See Cessna C172 for the main article about this subject.
The C172p is the default aircraft in FGFS. Though the aircraft was updated last year for the 1.9.1 release, there was still a lot of things left to do. Thanks to Dave Perry, the aircraft has now the right position in the air and on ground, and the instruments are now lit. Stuart has added some new tutorials, and improved some of the control models in the cockpit.
That's teamwork, that's FlightGear!
Airport Layouts in the Scenery Database
As many readers will know, Martin Spott and Ralf Gerlich maintain the World Custom Scenery Project, which generates the FlightGear scenery. However, the airport layout information (in apt.dat) was shared with X-Plane and maintained separately by Robin Peel. X-Plane has now moved to a new format that FG cannot currently use, and Robin is no-longer accepting layout updates in the old format (as supported by TaxiDraw). This makes including updated runway layouts in our scenery difficult.
To resolve this, Martin is now including airport layouts as part of the custom scenery. This is great news, as many of the smaller airports around the world do not have accurate taxiways, and updating the layout using TaxiDraw is straightforward.
If you have an updated layout to submit, please contact Martin Spott via the Forums or email. Note that the same restrictions on only using GPL-compatible data to generate the layouts applies - so tracing the layout on Google Earth/Maps isn't allowed.
Dutch airportsairports, including Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (EHAM), Lelystad Airport (EHLE) and Volkel Air Base (EHVK). Taxiways and tarmacs are now correctly placed and up to date. A significant improvement over the previous airport layout is the use of shoulders (concrete borders around taxiways), just as you would encounter at the real airports. The groundnetworks for these airports have been updated or created as well.
This month we've presented FlightGear at the annual FSweekend meeting held in the Aviodrome museum at Lelystad Airport, the Netherlands. This year, we (Durk Talsma, Martin Spott, Torsten Dreyer, Gijs de Rooy and Jorg van der Venne) presented FlightGear there for the fourth time, and on every occasion our presentation is getting bigger and bigger. This year we managed to bring five separate demo stations. Four of these were configured to drive three monitors each, and the fifth one was a FlightGear procedure trainer. In addition, we had access to a wireless modem, and a projector. During the event, a multiplayer event was organized at EHAM, in which a number of booth members participated. Looking back, it seems quite unreal that we managed to bring five individual computers, more than 15 TFT monitors, yokes, joysticks, dozens of cables, several USB hubs, a projector, network switches, a UMTS router, several notebook computers and a coffee maker, hook it all up and have a working multiplayer enabled FlightGear network running.
Next year's event will take place at 6 & 7 November 2010. So mark that space in your agenda and hopefully we will see you (again) next year!
See Howto: Multiplayer for the main article about this subject.
Lately the number of multiplayer servers has seen a large increase. This is a good thing, as these new servers could share the workload with the "old" ones, resulting in faster multiplay. To make optimal use of this, it is neccesary however that everyone connects to the (geographically) closest located server and/or the one with the lowest latency (ping time) or the one that is the least busy. We will all benefit from doing this.
A complete list of the available servers and their location can be found in the multiplayer howto.
Together with the growth of the number of multiplayer servers the number of users rose. Some data:
|Number of flights||2496||22164|
|Number of pilots||184||1046|
|Flight time||20 days 05:36:2||160 days 15:30:11|
Data for each week can be found at http://pigeond.net/flightgear/mpstat/htmls/
Virtual Airline News
Japan Pacific Airlines has celebrated it's maiden cargo flight. JPA has recently aquired an An-225 on lease from Aeroflot, and has started cargo operations. Currently active cargo destinations are Pyongyang, Tokyo (RJTT) and Vladivostok.
 - A new Livery and Aircraft Add-On site, is now open for business!. Enjoy!
UK Flight Experience Bursaries
The Royal Aero Club Trust is a UK charity that, amongst other things, provides annual bursaries for flight simulator enthusiasts to gain their first experience of real flying. The bursaries are open to UK residents aged 16 to 21. This is a really great opportunity to try flying for real (and for free). Details can be found here, and the closing date is 31st March 2010.