2020 LTS airport announcement and Iceland intro draft

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This is a draft for a tour article announcing the 2020.2 LTS, BIKF default airport, and Iceland improvements, as well as focusing on settings to enjoy Iceland properly.

What should be the title? "Flightgear 2020.3 LTS: Welcome to Keflavik and Iceland"? It may need 2020.3 LTS to show up in search results.

Volcanic plume and Alouette III screenshot by Thorsten

Welcome to Keflavik and Iceland

FG's 2020.3 Long Term Stable (LTS) release will move to the world's newest country, geologically speaking, Iceland. Keflavík International Airport (BIKF) is the featured airport for the LTS. Keflavík airport is the largest airport in Iceland with 10 million people passing through in 2018. It serves as the international gateway to Iceland, and its 3 km runways are a Space Shuttle emergency landing site.

[Screenshot of shuttle landing here e.g. this, preferably one with current keep and updated airport]

The gateway to Iceland

Keflavik Airport is modeled in detail, including 'The Jet Nest' (“Þotuhreiður”) and Rainbow (“Regnbogi”) art installations at the airport. For Iceland there are also buildings, roads, and objects like pylons for the whole country generated by the OSM2City project. These are available as a separate download [which will be added to TerraSync a later date?]. OSM2City buildings compatible with 2020 LTS have improved visuals and render faster.

[Kelfavik art installation screenshot, Iceland OSM2City pictures]

A land born of fire and ice

A land of fire, as well as ice, Iceland is still growing, and new parts are still being formed under the dancing Northern lights (remember to turn Auroras on and watch!). An example is the island of Surtsey formed in 1963 - and Surtsey's volcanic vents are now modeled in the LTS.

[Screenshot of Surtsey, screenshot of Aurora in Iceland]

Iceland's volcanoes are often strato-volcanoes with their steeper cone shaped sides, as the viscous lava here flows less easily and becoming hard before spreading far. Eruptions can be explosive, as gasses remain trapped. There are some shield volcanoes too, with their the shallower domes shapes similar to the volcanoes of Hawaii.

[Screenshot of a volcano with no eruption?]

Flightgear models several Icelandic volcanoes at multiple activity levels; Eyjafjallajökull, Surtsey, and Katla. Eyjafjallajökull and it's cloud of volcanic ash caused severe disruption to aviation in 2010. Katla is a far bigger volcano located nearby. Past eruptions at Katla have ranged from a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 4 like Eyjafjallajökull, to a VEI of 6 like Mount Pinturbo (1991) or Krakatoa (1883). Scarily Katla is somewhat overdue for an eruption. Screenshots don't do justice to the boiling turbulence of a volcanic plume like Katla. We won't spoil it, so you can discover and appreciate the scale of the forces involved [unless someone has a particularly nice screenshot?]. FG's Advanced Weather engine now models the increased turbulence in wind-fields associated with volcanic activity, so beware!.

Re-creating the Icelandic setting in FG

Iceland has rugged volcanic terrain with glaciers, deserts, ice caps, marshes, fjords and a cool wet climate. There is plenty to discover. The island has only been colonised recently by both nature and people. There are almost no trees, as the young forests were cleared by early settlers. Screenshot of terrain with overlays.

To re-create the stark subpolar setting, remember to turn on overlays which add high resolution 3d detail, and set Transparency Anti-Aliasing to MSAA in the GPU control panel (or supersampling on powerful cards). As Iceland has few trees, people with older GPUs may find they have spare performance and can use overlays in Iceland.

[Screenshot of overlays with transparency AA turned up high like this ]

A place needs 4 dimensions to describe it, 3 in space and 1 in time. Any default setting can only be a moment in time, and in FG the ever-changing cycles of nature is simulated from the Environment > Environment Settings menu. In FG's environment sliders, Iceland is often suited being towards the autumn season with wet ground and moss. The more northern seas away from the south coast can ice up, so remember the ice cover control.

[Screenshots of varying environment sliders. Probably needs to be cropped: summer , autumn later in autumn , snow, puddles lower right quadrant]

Flightgear's Advanced Weather (AW) engine simulates terrain-driven, continually evolving, weather - look under Environment > Detailed Weather > Advanced Weather settings for controls. To recreate the turbulent windfields associated with the rugged mountainous terrain make sure terrain effects and presampling is enabled. The controls for detailed gust controls, cloud shadows, ground haze and structure are also there. For shorter trips you may want to decrease the sizes of distinct air masses and scales of weather patterns, to see more change. There are far more weather variables under the hood than are [can be?] exposed in the GUI, and these are randomised each time the AW simulation is restarted - press 'Apply' to restart. Remember that to recreate Iceland's cool temperatures, the temperature offset needs be lowered to adjust the weather scenarios used AW simulation. As temperatures decrease, rain will turn to snow or hail as appropriate, and with lower temperatures you'll be rewarded with stunning halos and scattering by ice crystals in clouds.

[at least one screenshot of weather in Iceland: red ice crystal halo at sunset like this]

Exploring a new land

You can use craft such as the Cessna 172P/182S/182T-FG1000, Piper J-3 Cub (FG1000 option), and the rugged de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter in your adventures exploring Iceland. Variants among these include support for floats for hopping between the dramatic fjords of the north/east (e.g. Ísafjörður - BIIS), as well as skis and winter kits to explore the many glaciers and icecaps. Some have bush tires to try your luck in the desert areas of the central highlands, or the moss covered lava fields of the south-west. Helicopters such as the Eurocopter EC 135, Alouette III (AI co-pilot can help), Eurocopter EC130/H130, and Robinson R-44 will let you reach a variety of places - some have floats (R-44, EC130/H130) and snowshoes (Alouette-III, EC130/H130) too.

Screenshot of glacier terminus (snout) with ice on the terminal lake

Closing line e.g. Stay tuned for the 2020 LTS release in the next few days