FlightGear Newsletter August 2021

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August 2021

We would like to emphasize that the monthly newsletter cannot live without the contributions of FlightGear users and developers. Everyone with a wiki account (free to register) is welcome to contribute to the newsletter. 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.

The new Visual Editor makes editing the wiki as simple as using a Word-processor, and even easier than using the forum as you don't even need to know the syntax for a url. Just hit the 'edit' link and start.

Development news

Note  FlightGear is currently undergoing a lot of huge changes. More importantly: Adopting OSG 3.6+[1], moving to the OpenGL core profile, WS 3.0, Osm2city buildings, Photoscenery and Compositor shadows & lights.

In addition, adopting OSG 3.6 means that the experimental CompositeViewer Support can be more widely enabled and tested[2] (it is already enabled by default on next).

Also, as part of the CompositeViewer effort, Canvas FBO rendering is in the process of being moved out of the scene graph into dedicated viewer-level cameras, which provides better support/integration with OSG threading and fixes the long-standing issue where Canvas textures were being rendered twice per view unnecessarily due to the original new/far camera scheme.

Furthermore, to support Canvas (actually CanvasPath/all SVG handling) on Core profile, the plan is to migrate our Canvas Path backend from Shiva to ‘something else’ (see Shiva Alternatives) which implements the required drawing operations, unlike Shiva, ShaderVG or NanoVG can target Core-profile OpenGL.[3]

It is likely the non-shader code path (fixed-function pipeline) will also go away in the next twelve months (~ early/mid 2022). We tried to communicate this: 2020.3 is the last release that will work on really old hardware: 'next' and future releases will need a more modern machine with an OpenGL 4 / DX12 class GPU.[4] 'next' is work-in-progress: likely 12 or 18 months before it becomes a release. In that time the build dependencies, minimum system requirements, performance baseline and basically everything else are going to change (and keep changing). Of course, we'll try to make it work on as wide a range of hardware as possible, but right now we don't know, and it would be incorrect to speculate or promise anything. (Eg, we cannot say 'an Intel 4000 will work but an Intel 3000 won't - we have no idea!)

If 'next' works for someone, that is great, but if you want stability, stable FPS and compatibility with older hardware, there is an easy answer: use 2020.3. That's what we recommend for everyone who wants to fly and enjoy flying. [5] The macOS and Windows nightly builds are now running OSG 3.6.5, so people can hopefully start testing WS3.0 [6] Also, be aware that the binary builds also switched to OSG 3.6, so that may have an FPS impact as well (either higher or lower…)[7]

2020.3.11 release

FlightGear 2020.3.11 LTS point release is out - see the change logs.

There is now a web-installer for Windows that will update existing installations and will download only changed and new files. This installer is available since 2020.3.9. See the July newsletter for more information and plans.

Upcoming content for 2020.3 LTS

James Hester (frtps) has merged the 1st iteration of improved regional definitions for Australia into branch for upcoming point releases in the 2020.3 branch - that is, a 2020.3.12+ point release. These regional definitions improve the visuals of different types of terrain and vegetation.

The new regional definitions are not available in the next branch as of early September (i.e. nightly builds), as they need a bit of adaptation to account for new changes.

The regional definitions are part of the Australia scenery project. To go with the regional definitions there is also a new detailed terrain (higher resolutions elevation data including cliffs, water, and land classifications). The new terrain is intended to be added to the current TerraSync scenery (i.e. WS2 format) that is downloaded automatically as you fly. The new terrain has been submitted to be added to TerraSync at a future point. The terrain integrates multiple data-sources, and has high resolution water bodies like rivers. The terrain has land classifications that call new visual effects from new engine features frtps has worked on like cliffs and plantations.

To see the full impact of the new regional definitions you also need the new terrain - the current terrain is less detailed, and some land class types will not be visible.

The forum thread has some Terrain available for testing and manual download.

See this forum thread and this gallery for screenshots - from an early WiP test release from an year or two ago to get an idea of what the new regional definitions and terrain looks like.

When this scenery is integrated Katoomba Airfield (YKAT) will likely be one of the nice small airports to visit in FlightGear, as it is a convenient gateway to the Australian version of the grand canyon situated in the Blue Mountains This is a link to a Wikipedia article in the state of New South Wales - sort of like KCGN in the Grand Canyon of the USA.

Get in touch via the forum thread for the Australia scenery project to contribute to any aspect of this project. Also see the github issues tracker.

The road ahead

See Help Wanted.

There are a lot of big projects that are currently under way - see the January newsletter for details for some of these projects. A lot of work (but not all) is already on the next branch (i.e. nightly builds). See the July newsletter for info on an experimental rendering pipeline that has just been added to the next branch, as well as a new project to add Virtual Reality headset support to FlightGear.

There is a lot to check out if you are curious - power users can run multiple installs of FlightGear in parallel. To contribute to any aspect of these projects, get in touch via the "fg-devel" mailing list.

Nightly builds with some of the big changes are available at download.flightgear.org as usual.

Nightly builds and the "next" branch are building towards a "development preview" release currently planned for sometime in the 2nd half of 2021 - see the April newsletter. As usual, plans can change and progress depends on the availability of contributors (including testing).

Please report bugs and issues via the sourceforge tickets system if you come across any on the next branch, or LTS.

New scenery lights

Fahim has merged the 2nd part of work on new lights for use with scenery into the next branch (i.e. nightly builds). See post on mailing-list.

These lights are extremely fast allowing a lot of them to be displayed. This makes them ideal for scenery lights along roads or at airports. The new lights support a lot of features: directionality, size, intensity, automatic activation based on time or visibility, and fading based on haze - as well as diffraction effects due to the eye. They are based on ALS lights. These lights will not illuminate nearby surfaces - that's handled by lightmaps, shader based light-maps, or Compositor light sources.

FlightGear will also be able to read a list of lights from the scenery folder - this can be potentially used in future by OSM2City or Project3000.

World Scenery 3.0 Update

StuartB has a 1st prototype of scenery lights along roads based on Fahim's work - see this screenshot for an example. Note a lot of the road light comes from the light bouncing off the road surface, which is not active yet in WS3.

World Scenery 3.0 (WS3) is FlightGear's next generation scenery - see the January newsletter for an introduction, and newsletters since then for updates. See the April newsletter for details on how the prototype will be fleshed out.

WS3 development is coordinated via the "fg-devel" mailinglist, and you can use it to contribute, provide feedback on performance on your hardware as the prototype is fleshed out, or report bugs.

Virtual reality (VR) support project

There is now a wiki page for the Virtual reality support project by James Hogan (a new contributor, not to be confused with James Turner or James Hester). See the July newsletter for a description. There is now a roadmap showing how tasks are progressing and what is left to do. FlightGear development is coordinated via the "fg-devel" mailing-list and people who want to get involved with any aspect of the VR project should get in touch via the mailing lists.

For people compiling from FlightGear from source, the experimental VR branch is available - see the references to git repos in the source code section of the project page. This branch builds from the FlightGear next branch, and VR support requires the Compositor. See the thread (multiple pages) on the sourceforge mailing-list archive for more information.

In the hangar

New Pro.Mecc Freccia project

SDeAstis, a new contributor with a software/simulation background, has started a project to develop the Pro.Mecc Freccia This is a link to a Wikipedia article, a competitive ultra light aircraft manufactured in Italy. The manufacturer Pro.Mecc Aerospace has been very positive towards the project, and has invited him to visit their manufacturing facility. See the forum thread for more information.

Cessna 172s Skyhawk SP (172p FG1000 retrofit)

The C172p team are quite close to having the C172s Skyhawk SP project merged into FGData. This is a C172P retrofit with the FG1000 glass cockpit. See the forum thread for screenshots and information.

If you want to fly the C172S before the next release of FlightGear, you can download the latest from the github page (direct download link).

Development videos

Updates: Aircrane, Wildfire simulation

Wayne has made a video demonstrating his updates to the Compositor version of the Aircrane, as well as his improvements to FlightGear's wildfire simulation. This version of the aircrane needs the next branch (i.e. nightly builds) - the Aircrane on the 2020.3 LTS branch is very outdated now.

Aircrane, fire fighting, and wildfire simulation in FlightGear next branch by Wayne Bragg

MD-11 autoland test

Octal has made a video demonstrating work on the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 autoland feature. This MD-11 is a massive overhaul done over many years and the version available in the launcher is outdated - the MD-11 is available on github and will be released when it's quite complete like the A320 was. See the Github page for downloads (direct download link) and the forum thread for info/feedback.

MD-11 autoland test

EC135 sound development

Eurocopter_EC135 sound development by MrChillstorm.

EC-135 sound development by MrChillstorm

Scenery corner

Help wanted

Post LTS work

After the 2020.2 release, some work lies ahead to improve the LTS and to help us pave the way for migrating to the OpenGL Core profile - any help would be greatly appreciated.

This may for example include:

Please get in touch via the developers mailing list to learn more. See Post FlightGear 2020.2 LTS changes and 2022.X Release Plan for more details.

World Scenery 3.0

The FlightGear project is in the process of exploring how Virtual Planet Builder can be adopted. For details, see: World Scenery 3.0 roadmap

Aerial (drone) photos for Terrain textures

Wanted: good top-down aerial photos to create textures from to use with the procedural Regional Texturing system. Drones This is a link to a Wikipedia article with cameras are ideal. People with access to drones are in a good position to take high-quality photographs.

A particular need as of 2020 is photos of agriculture (farm lands) from different parts of the world.

Good GPLv2 compatible photos suitable for textures are hard to find, and an easy way is for people to take photos of their region. Flightgear's procedural systems can do a lot with less art content, so photo contributions can strongly improve visuals.

See: How to: take photos of terrain for textures. For examples of final textures: see /data/Textures/Terrain. e.g. UK countryside.

You can get in touch via the Scenery forum or the flightgear-devel mailing list

Photos of trees for textures

Wanted: good quality photos of different trees and vegetation from various parts of the world. Flightgear's vegetation system can handle multiple layers of trees and bushes.

Strong shadows should be avoided. Each tree should be against a background of a different colour: sky (preferably) , clouds , or buildings. This allows the tree to be separated from the background in a photo-editor like GIMP.

See: How to: take photos of vegetation. For examples of final textures: see /data/Textures/Trees. e.g. Coniferous.

You can get in touch via the Scenery forum or the flightgear-devel mailing list.

Submissions of labels for craft

Wanted: Submissions of labels (tags) giving a rough description of aircraft - Metadata tags. A quick read of a craft's Wikipedia page will normally be enough to set labels. This info will be searchable from the launcher GUI. For example, filtering craft by propulsion like single-propeller or 4-engine jet craft, or by a manufacturer like Airbus or Grumman, or by speed like supersonic craft, or craft by era like WW2. A list of tags is here - more can be added if needed. To add tags to craft yourself, the tags are stored in the set-xml file.

A list of FGAddon craft needing tags is here. See this forum thread to submit tags. The flightgear-devel mailing list or the craft's maintainer can also be contacted.

Windows Package Maintainer

The core team needs help from Windows users able to maintain a good working Windows build. This process already exists to support our Nightly and Release builds, but we are seeking additional help to keep it in good working order. The ability to compile FG from source and some Windows batch scripting is a required skill. If you are willing and able to take up this role, please reach out to James Turner (mailing list), or get in touch via the forum [8]


The AI team makes FlightGear more realistic, colorful and lively every month. You can support the development of Interactive Traffic and contribute at the FlightGear AI subforum This is a link to the FlightGear forum..

Community news

Parnikkapore has made a helpful tutorial video showing how to configure keybindings. There is no standardised set of keys in FlightGear, and even common keys are a guideline. This is because different craft can be their own unique creature - with individual systems and differing activities for which an aircraft can be used - so standardisation of controls is impossible. People also have different types of keyboards and other control devices. In the same way an operating system allows different types of programs to have their own controls, FlightGear allows each craft to be itself - as close to reality as possible. FlighGear can be thought of as an operating system for craft simulations, that puts the craft first. To achieve this, FlightGear has a very powerful and flexible way of customising controls.

FlightGear on Facebook

Since early December 2010, FlightGear has an official Facebook page. If you have a Facebook account please feel free to join the page.

FlightGear on Instagram

In January 2018 the @flightgear_sim Instagram account was brought back to life. If you've got nice screenshots to be featured, feel free to contact the maintainer This is a link to the FlightGear forum..

FlightGear on FlightSim.com

FlightGear has also a sub-forum on flightsim.com - just like the commercial flight sims. It is an opportunity to showcase what FG can do, get people curious and answer any questions they may have with regard to the software or the project.

Multiplayer events


Translators needed

En.gif The FlightGear Wiki still needs help for translating it into various languages. If you are interested in making the FlightGear Wiki multilingual, you can start by looking at Help:Translate.
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Zh.gif FlightGear 百科仍然需要志愿者将其翻译为各种语言。如果你有兴趣让FlightGear百科支持更多语言, 你可以查看 Help:Translate.

FlightGear logos

If you want some graphic elements for your FlightGear-related site (such as a hangar or YouTube channel), please feel free to visit FlightGear logos for a repository of logos. And if you have some art skills, please don't hesitate to contribute with your own design creations.


The FlightGear project always needs screenshots, which show features that were added since the last release. These should be of good quality, especially in content and technical image properties. It is therefore recommended to use the best viable filter settings (anti-aliasing, texture sharpening, etc.). More info at Howto:Make nice screenshots.

Screenshot of the Month

If you want to participate in the screenshot contest, you can submit your candidate to the this subforum This is a link to the FlightGear forum.. Be sure to see the first post for participation rules. For purposes of convenience and organization, at the end of the month or after 20 entries have been submitted, a new forum topic will be started containing all shots in an easy-to-view layout. The voting will then take place there.

Thanks for reading FlightGear Newsletter August 2021!