New to FlightGear
Note some parts of this article have not been updated for 2008
- 1 Getting Started
- 1.1 Hardware Requirements
- 1.2 Getting FlightGear
- 1.3 Installing on Windows
- 1.4 =Installing on Mac OS X
- 1.5 Configuring OpenGL
- 1.6 Getting Scenery
- 1.7 Getting Aircraft
- 1.8 Starting FlightGear
- 1.9 Displaying Available Aircraft
- 1.10 Choosing an Aircraft
- 1.11 Online Multiplayer Flying
- 1.12 Using the Keyboard and Mouse
- 1.13 First Time In the Cockpit
- 2 Making the First Flight
- 3 Getting Help
- 4 Getting More Detailed Information
- 5 How you can help
For FlightGear to run smoothly, it requires a video card with OpenGL drivers. OpenGL 2.0 or higher is required for FlightGear 2.0 and later. Most modern PCs support OpenGL, but if you are having trouble with slow frame-rates, see Hardware Recommendations for more information.
You may download the latest files from FlightGear Downloads page. Choose the source or binary files appropriate for your particular system. Or, depending on level technical expertise you may choose the CVS version if you wish to work with a development version of FlightGear. The CVS version typically has more features and can be required by the some the latest developmental aircraft, but can be unstable and is more complicated to acquire and install.
Installing on Windows
After installing FlightGear on Windows a dialog box appears to define file locations.
The first line asks for FlightGear Executable. Use the browse button to navigate to the location of fgfs.exe (in the default setup that is C:\Program Files\FlightGear\bin\win32\fgfs.exe).
The second line asks for FlightGear Root. Use the browse button to navigate to the data/ directory or enter the location of the 'data' directory (in the defualt setup that is C:\Program Files\FlightGear\data). This will populate the scenery box as well.
Once you have defined these default settings, continue the installation as explained below.
=Installing on Mac OS X
Installing FlightGear on Mac OS X is very simple. Just drag and drop the FlightGear icon to the /Applications folder. That's it. The first time you launch FlightGear, its icon on the Dock bounces for several seconds while loading aircraft and airport info. When the GUI launcher appears, select an aircraft and and airport by clicking the "Gear" buttons at the right of the names. Pressing "Start flight" will launch the simulator. You can configure more options using the GUI launcher. see http://macflightgear.sourceforge.net/home/documents/users-guide/ for more details.
If you want to launch flightgear using command-line, launch /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app and type the following.
cd /Applications/FlightGear.app/Contents/Resources ./fgfs --options.....
After launching the GUI launcher, you will have the alias to $FG_ROOT at $HOME/Documents/Flightgear/<version> so you can browse the data folder using Finder.
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.
To download additional aircraft for FlightGear individually, go to the FlightGear website and navigate to the Downloads page, then choose [Aircraft Downloads http://flightgear.org/Downloads/aircraft-2.0.0/].
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 $FG_ROOT/data/Aircraft.
See also Installing Aircraft for more documentation.
Many users choose to start FlightGear from the command line ("console" or "shell" as it is known to Unix users). Alternatively some use graphical interfaces such as Fgrun (FlightGear Launch Control).
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 FlightGear Launch Control graphical interface, as it allows you to specify parameters. If you are using FlightGear 1.0.0 this list may be useful FlightGear 1.0 aircraft names for command line.
Displaying Available Aircraft
From the command line:
displays a list of available (installed) aircraft.
Choosing an Aircraft
From the command line:
where foo is the name of the folder the aircraft files live in. See also Command Line Parameters.
Online Multiplayer Flying
See Howto: Multiplayer for the main article about this subject.
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.
Making the First Flight
One of the most frequent questions novice pilots ask about any flight sim, but more so to FlightGear, is "why is my aircraft turning left all the time?" Although it could be due to wind gusts crossing the runway, it is more likely due to the increased realism FlightGear provides. In a certain other flight simulator, some settings are turned down to make the aircraft easier to fly. This reduces effects such as propeller torque and p-factor, which may be the cause of the tendency to turn to the left (to figure out which effect, you may read more in Understanding Propeller Torque and P-Factor ).
Despite marketing slogans to the contrary, some flight simulators are aimed at a casual game player market, and ship with their "realism" turned down. The realism is always turned up in FlightGear.
FlightGear offers a great deal of realism, which may be confusing to first time pilots.
- "Left Turning Syndrome" for the previously mentioned reasons.
- Compass Turning Error: A compass, when subjected to the forces of flight, tends to turn in the opposite direction for a brief period before settling on the correct heading. This is not a malfunction.
- The Vertical Speed Indicator is also subject to error.
- The Horizontal Situation Indicator is driven by a gyroscope (that is why it's sometimes called a Directional Gyroscope), which is subject to a phenomenon called gyro drift. For a number of reasons, the gyro will drift from its current heading and must be periodically (about every 15 minutes) calibrated to agree with the magnetic compass heading.
Many forces act on an aircraft in flight as well as on the instruments and systems used for control and navigation, and may be counter-intuitive. Pilots must learn to recognize these phenomena and compensate for their effects. FlightGear models instrument errors that exist in the real world.
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 virtual 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 its own 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, or 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.
For help with navigation see Understanding Navigation
When you first start FlightGear, whether from the command line or the graphical interface, you may wonder how to determine what airports are available. 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?
The quickest way to get help with FlightGear is to join in the chat room FlightGear IRC channel.
Email Discussion Group
The documentation for FlightGear 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 Forum
- 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 of this wiki and 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 the CVS version of FlightGear may choose to update their aircraft files through the CVS system.
I do not want to compile FlightGear, what can I do?
Our website 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 at times.
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?
"The Manual" is not always up to date with recent developments but provides a good start for beginners.
How you can help
See Volunteer for the main article about this subject.
- Build the latest CVS code or download snapshots (link)
- File Bug Reports
Debugging & Profiling
- Running FlightGear via valgrind to track down memory leaks
- Help new users with downloading, compiling, installing and running FlightGear (http://www.flightgear.org/forums or on IRC)
- Provide Ideas & Suggestions, see: Feature Requests / Proposals / Ideas
- Help clean up this wiki
- Help provide new contents for missing wiki pages
- Writing documentation! Everyone is welcome to contribute to "The Manual"; having at least a little experience with LaTeX makes the task easier. Please contact the authors of The Manual if you would like to add corrections or whole chapters, you may also simply use this wiki to contribute fixes, modifications and new contents.
- C/C++ Coding:
- provide source code cleanups (i.e. help in the process of migrating over to a primarily smart pointer-based memory management approach using SGSharedPtr)
- provide bug fixes Bugs
- provide enhanced features Feature Requests / Proposals / Ideas
- provide new features
- get involved in any of the other FlightGear-affiliated projects
- Aircraft development (3D modelling, textures, FDMs, scripting)
- Scenery development