New to FlightGear

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Downloading FlightGear

You may download the latest files from

I do not want to compile FlightGear, what can I do?

offers precompiled binaries for download and install on a variety of systems. Current platforms are Windows, Linux, Solaris, SGI, Mac OSX and FreeBSD. These are offered as a convienence and availablility may vary over time.

Note: FlightGear is highly configurable through editable XML files. You are free, and encouraged to, make changes to aircraft flight models and any other feature you wish to change for your personal satisfaction or to share with other FlightGear users. The flight model is not defined in a binary file. It is easy to modify (given enough knowledge). Although the install is binary, most of FlightGear's system is open to configuration through XML files and NASAL scripting.

Does FlightGear come with a printed manual?

You are invited to read "The Manual" online at:

or download a PDF for viewing with Acrobar Reader or printing:

"The Manual" is not always up to date with recent development but provides a good start for beginners. Everyone is welcome to contribute to the manual, at least little experience in LaTeX makes the task easier. Please contact the authors of the manual if you would like to add corrections or whole chapters.

How do I start FlightGear?

From the command line:



to start FlightGear. If that does not work, FlightGear is not in your path. Find the 'fgfs' binary and enter an absolute path to it like


for your particular system.

How do I select an aircraft?

From the command line:

fgfs --aircraft=foo

where foo is the name of the folder the aircraft files live in.

How do I find a list of available aircraft?

From the command line:

fgfs --show-aircraft

will print a list of available (installed) aircraft.

How do I install downloaded aircraft?

Decompress the archive or copy the files into the standard FlightGear /Aircraft folder in the data area. This is typically


In the Cockpit

Finding your way around the cockpit can be daunting the first time.

Where is the 'virtual cockpit?' Not all FlightGear aircraft come with an interior, including a virtual cockpit. (Due to FlightGear being used by various research projects, some aircraft may not even come with an exterior model. Remember, FlightGear is very flexible.) A 2D panel may display over the 3d cockpit if one exists. You may turn this off using the View menu. Otherwise, you should be sitting in the virtual cockpit when FlightGear starts, as long as the Cockpit View is selected.

You may find it difficult to read some of the displays, dials and gauges on the instrument panel. Use the Zoom keys to zoom in on an instrument. The 'x' and Shift-X keys control eyepoint zoom in the Cockpit View. Use the joystick hat (or other controller assigned to this function) to pan the eyepoint to the instrument you wish to read. Then zoom in.

Alternate Method: Click the right mouse button until you get a cursor with two arrows (like this <=>). You can now move your view around the cockpit. Press 'x' and Shift-X to zoom in and out.

Note: Some functions, such as starter or magneto, may be difficult to use or lack "hotspots" to control with your mouse. Especially when flying an aircraft model that is still undergoing development. In this case, look for equivalent controls on a 2D panel or resort to the keyboard. The keyboard controls always work according to the assignments listed on the Help Menu (unless reassigned by an aircraft or configuration). Go to the main window menu, click Help, then click Basic Keys or Common Aircraft Keys.

One of the first steps I take on entering an unfamiliar cockpit is to press Ctrl-C to highlight all the "hotspots" on the 3d cockpit instrument panel. This enables you to easily see where to place the mouse to operate an instrument's controls, buttons, knobs, etc.

Many aircraft offer a help menu specific to that aircraft on the Aircraft Help menu (go to Help, then Aircraft Help.

Where to get help

The quickest way to get help with Flight Gear is to join in the chat room by IRC. You can get details on how to join the discussion at

and the current chat server is

Primary Site: Host =, channel = #flightgear.

but check the flight gear site for the latest information.

The documentation for Flight Gear is sketchy and undergoing constant change as new features are developed. This makes chat the best place to find answers to problems getting FlightGear to run.

The ways for _users_ to get help with FlightGear are:

  • Documents bundled with the release package.
  • FlightGear IRC channel.
  • FlightGear users mailing list.

This should be a page, not a tutorial for people who have never flown before, about how to fly and aircraft instruments, but essential things to know about using FG for the first time.


FlightGear, as of version 0.9.9, comes with a "built-in" autopilot. The Autopilot dialog accessible from the FlightGear toolbar in the main FlightGear window _does not work with all aircraft_. It only works with aircraft that a) do not specify an autopilot b) aircraft that use the default autopilot. When an aircraft does not specify an autopilot, the default is used.

For aircraft that supply their own autopilot, you must use the autopilot controls in the 2D or virtual cockpit. The Cessna comes with a KAP140 autopilot in its virtual cockpit. You _cannot use_ the Autopilot dialog with this aircraft. It has no effect. You must use the autopilot device in the panel.