Hi fellow wiki editors!

To help newly registered users get more familiar with the wiki (and maybe older users too) there is now a {{Welcome to the wiki}} template. Have a look at it and feel free to add it to new users discussion pages (and perhaps your own).

I have tried to keep the template short, but meaningful. /Johan G

New to FlightGear

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Revision as of 23:39, 30 May 2006 by Hellosimon (Talk | contribs)

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Getting Started

Getting FlightGear

You may download the latest files from FlightGear Downloads page. Choose the source or binary files appropriate for your particular system. (Or you may choose the CVS version if you wish to work with a development version of FlightGear).

Getting Scenery

A limited set of scenery comes installed with FlightGear, which consists of the area surrounding KSFO.

In FlightGear, scenery is divided into two kinds of data: Objects and Terrain. Objects are the buildings, bridges and radio towers, etc. that represent three-dimensional structures. Terrain represents the contours, elevations and type of ground you fly over.

All object data goes in an Objects directory and all terrain data goes in a Terrain directory. The location of the scenery and its sub-directories depends on your particular installation.

To download Objects and Terrain for FlightGear, go to the FlightGear website and navigate to the Downloads page. On this page follow the link to download scenery from the map. Choose a block from the map where you will by flying. Once the package has downloaded, extract into your FlightGear scenery directory.

The scenery packages available from the FlightGear website contain both Objects and Terrain for the locations.

You may obtain additional and more up to date scenery Objects as they become available through the FlightGear Scenery Database.

Information beyond this brief overview is available in Installing Scenery.

Getting Aircraft

To download additional Aircraft for FlightGear, go to the FlightGear website and navigate to the Downloads page, then choose [Aircraft Downloads http://www.flightgear.org/Downloads/aircraft/index.shtml].

Once the aircraft package has downloaded, decompress and extract the archived files onto your computer. You may extract to a temporary directory and move them, or extract directly into the Aircraft directory in FlightGear. This is typically


Starting FlightGear

Many users choose to start FlightGear from the command line ("console" or "shell" as it is known to Unix users).

To start FlightGear type on the command line:


and hit enter. This will start FlightGear.

If FlightGear fails to start, it is likely the compiled FlightGear binary software is not in your path. If you know Unix, you may add the location of the binary to your path and try starting again. Otherwise, you may find the location of the 'fgfs' binary and enter an absolute path to it like


The location depends on your particular system and choices you made during compile and installation.

It is important to understand when not using a graphical interface to start FlightGear, your interaction will be entirely from the command line. To see available aircraft, you specify an option on the command line. To specify an aircraft, an airport, multiplayer server, etc. you add an option to the command line when starting FlightGear. Please consult the list of Command Line Parameters . The parameters are also useful to those starting FlightGear from 'fgrun' graphical interface, as it allows you to specify parameters.

Displaying Available Aircraft

From the command line:

fgfs --show-aircraft

displays a list of available (installed) aircraft.

Choosing an Aircraft

From the command line:

fgfs --aircraft=foo

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

Online Multiplayer Flying

See the Multiplayer Howto

Using the Keyboard and Mouse

Users with limited access to a joystick or other controllers sometimes use the keyboard or mouse to control their aircraft. Using the keyboard to fly can be difficult and the mouse is recommended over the keyboard. Other adjustments may be made with the keyboard.

To get help with keyboard commands, with FlightGear running, go to the Help menu, look under Basic Keys (for simulator related commands) and Common Aircraft Keys (for commands universal to all aircraft) and Aircraft Help for key commands specific to your aircraft. A chart displaying what each key does will display.

To use the mouse to fly the aircraft, right click and move the mouse to direct the aircraft, right click again to look around, click again to return to normal.

First Time 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.

Using the Autopilot

To make this very clear for new users: Some aircraft require you to use the autopilot available from the Autopilot menu, which is the original FlightGear autopilot. This is a generic autopilot and as such, many aircraft come with their own specific autopilot, frequently a model of the real life one. For aircraft that provide their own autopilot in the cockpit, you must use the autopilot controls available in the vitural cockpit. This means clicking on the instrument panel in the virtual cockpit. The Autopilot menu will be grayed out and unavailable when the aircraft supplies an autopilot (generally).

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.

Airports and Navigation Aids

When you first start FlightGear, whether from the command line or the graphical interface, you may wonder how do I know what airports are avaialble? Fgrun displays a list of airports, but you will not see details such as Tower or ILS frequencies. You will not find a map showing VORs and their frequencies. Short of finding an actual sectional map for the area you wish to fly, what can you do?

Google Maps and The FlightGear Online Map for multiplayers are both good resources as well as the FlightGear Community Flight Planner.

Getting 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 = irc.flightgear.org, channel = #flightgear.

but check the flight gear site for the latest information.

Email Discussion Group

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.

Getting More Detailed Information

This page is designed to give the user the essential things they need to know about using FG for the first time.

You now know enough to get started with FlightGear. To learn more, you may wish to start at the main page to read the more detailed Getting Started section, or Using FlightGear section or study the Flying Resources to learn more about flight instruments and how to navigate and fly your aircraft.

Also, note that those using CVS version of FlightGear may choose to update their aircraft files through the CVS system.

The following are some issues raised by new users of FlightGear. More detailed troubleshooting and answers can be found in Troubleshooting Problems and the FAQ.

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 you can help



  • Build the latest CVS code or download snapshots (link)
  • File Bug Reports


  • Help new users with downloading, compiling, installing and running FlightGear
  • Provide Ideas & Suggestions


  • C/C++ Coding
  • Aircraft development (3D modelling, textures, FDMs, scripting)