FlightGear Newsletter September 2009

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Welcome to the third edition of the FlightGear Newsletter. Due to the vacation of the editor, this edition is a bit later than we would like.

The newsletter is still a bit thin on contributions, so if you'd like to contribute, please feel free to log onto the wiki and start editing the next edition here. We're still looking for a permanent (or even a temporary) newsletter editor, so if you'd like to get involved, have a look on the Forums.

What's new in CVS

New shaders

Image:SnowAtAltitude1.jpg Image:SnowAtAltitude2.jpg

Scenery around LFLJ with the snow effect disabled (left) and enabled (right).

Recently new shaders have upgraded the visual realism of FlightGear. Thanks to the hard work of Till Busch and Tim Moore, we now see snow on high peaks, rocky steep slopes and reflections in the water.

The new effects can be enabled through the View > Rendering Options dialog.

Improved 3D Clouds

Stuart Buchanan has been working on improving the 3D clouds. This has involved a change in the XML format, as well as various tweaks to the low level OpenGL shader code that generates the clouds themselves.

Particular functional improvements include better distribution of clouds across the sky (no more obvious grids) and better modelling of stratus clouds.

In the hangar

Emmanuel Baranger is probably the most prolific aircraft designers in the FlightGear community. One recent addition particularly caught my eye, as it is an aircraft I've been wanting to fly for some time:- the Boeing-Stearman Model 75.

This WWII-era training biplane is great fun, providing just enough of a tailwheel challenge. It provides an interesting contrast to the Stampe SV.4 biplane trainer, also modelled in FG by Emmanuel. The Stearman is a much heavier aircraft, and it shows in the way that it handles.

As NicQ pointed out in his blog Birds of Gear, Emmanuel is primarily interested in the 3D modelling of aircraft, and many of the FDMs are experimental. If you are interested in tweaking the FDM of any of his aircraft, I'm sure you can get in touch.

Scenery Corner

Image:Maui03.jpg Image:Maui10.jpg
Screenshots from the beta build of the new, still unreleased Maui scenery.

The official FlightGear scenery database now has new custom Hawai'i scenery. Generated from NOAA land cover data, FlightGear now has high quality coverage for six of the eight islands of Hawai'i (Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and Kahoolawe). The south coast of Oahu, including Honolulu, also features incredibly accurate coastline and land cover data created. Hawai'i soon will be a popular scenery area for fans of both civil and military aircraft.

New landmarks are always being added to the scenery object repository. New recent landmarks include the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum in Vietnam to Carrow Road in Norfolk England, the stadium for Norwich City Football Club. Lighthouses from around the UK continue to pop up. Modelers continue to focus on airports, and there are new buildings at EDDP Leipzig, Germany; KNUQ Moffett Field (in the default scenery!); and KJAN Jackson, Mississippi. Next time you're looking for a place to fly, keep these places in mind!

A living community

TransGear Airways

TransGear Airways is a new group of people from the FlightGear community, gathering once a month. At coordinated times, each pilot will depart from his/her respective home base on the "spokes" of TransGears airway network, and convene together at its "hub", before exchanging passengers and flying back to their home base. While realism is one of the aims of the gatherings, everyone is welcome, as long as one is trying to follow more or less realistic procedures.

The first upcoming gathering will take place at September 12th at KBWI. Check the forum for more information and registration.

ATC Simulation

Dave (D-79 on the forum) has been acting as Berlin Tegel Airport (EDDT) ATC for a couple of hours over the last couple of weekends using FGCOM and MPChat.

Your correspondent took part on a recent Saturday and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours under ATC along with a variety of other sim pilots. Dave did a sterling job keeping everything under control, in particular providing excellent vectors to the ILS.

I'd highly recommend those wanting to do a bit more practise under ATC to look out for the next event, or any other advertised ATC. Note that using FGCOM makes things a lot easier, and more realistic.

Details of the next event can be found on the calendar.

Useful links

Speaking of ILS approaches and instrument flying, www.nacomatic.com provides a very convenient source for approach plates in the USA. These are published in the public domain by the FAA, but the default format of a PDF file for each page is a real pain to deal with. This website allows you to download all the plates for a given state or area as a single PDF with sensible ordering.