FlightGear Newsletter April 2011

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Welcome to the FlightGear Newsletter!
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Enjoy reading the latest edition!

We would like to emphasize that the monthly newsletter can not live without the contributions of FlightGear users and developers. Everyone with a wiki account (free to register) can edit the newsletter and every contribution is welcome. So if you know about any FlightGear related projects such as for example updated scenery or aircraft, please do feel invited to add such news to the newsletter.

Development news

Atmospheric scattering shader

Zan has been working very hard on an experimental atmospheric scattering shader. The shaders makes use of Sean O'Neil's algorithm. Altough there are some issues with the shader, it looks like it will have a promising future! Some screenshots are available at the forum thread [1].

The shader does some simplifications, but basically tries to recreate physical phenomenom, so the look could be easily modified depending on environmental conditions. But since the values are not so easy to figure out, some testing would be needed for creating nice looking sky for misty weather, rainy weather, cold winter etc. After that, proper equations could be written to transform weather values to scattering parameters.

The shader is not production ready, it has some bugs and terrain (especially fog at horizon) does not match the looks of the skydome. This is a work in process, but might take some times, because the terrain shader is much harder than the skydome shader.

Nasal for newbies

New software tools and projects

FlightGear addons and mods

In the hangar

New instruments

Airbus A340 moving map

The moving map on the Airbus A340-300.

Work on the Airbus A340-300 is going slowly but surely as Skyop and Ampere progress on the model and cockpit. Skyop is currently developing a new instrument, a virtual moving map that displays multiplayer pilots, AI traffic, selected VORs, and terrain elevation! It is hoped that the instrument, which is designed to be reusable across more aircraft besides the A340, will eventually be a viable 3d alternative to the 2d "wxradar" instrument. TCAS and weather radar are on the roadmap to completion. When finished, the instrument will be committed to Git under Aircraft/Instruments-3d.

Unfortunately, the terrain display has several drawbacks. It is very pixelated because FlightGear cannot handle very many terrain elevation calculations at once. Therefore, the map has the ability to display "low-resolution" terrain mode (minimal FPS impact) and "high-resolution" terrain mode (severe FPS impact).

Boeing 777 chronometer

The Boeing 777-200ER's chronometer has been moved to the generic instruments directory (Aircraft/Instruments-3d/chronometer). This allows aircraft developers to easily implement this clock in their aircraft. All related Nasal code was included in the model xml file, so there's really just one file to be linked to! Some aircraft already make use of this clock, including the Boeing 747-400 and 757-200.

There are several advantages in moving instruments to the generic directory, some of which are:

  • Easy to be re-used in other aircraft, all you need to do is link to (and position) the model and on some instruments link to a Nasal file.
  • If someone extents the functionality of a generic instrument, it will be automatically extended in all the aircraft that use it.

New aircraft


Vostok-1 Carrier
Vostok-1 Spacecraft
Vostok-1 Interior

To celebrate Yury Gagarin's historical flight, Vostok-1 carrier and spacecraft were added to FlightGear. In heavy development still, it already allows full orbital flight from lift-off to landing, making it perform the first spaceflight in FlightGear.

Things that make it possible:

  • JSBSim centrifugal force addition made the whole flight available.
  • JSBSim property driven point masses, tanks and engines, and aerodynamic coefficients implementation allow stages changing. Each single stage of the flight has an independent mass scheme, propulsion system, and aerodynamics reactions, so simulation is more or less realistic.
  • Datcom+ with "little wing" approach resolves carrier and spacecraft aerodynamics accurately enough to make flights on real fuel and oxidizer capacities with real g forces, orbit and deorbit paths.
  • Zan's shader makes the earth look pretty enough from high altitudes.
  • FG improvement shifted practical flight ceiling from 80 to 160 kilometers.

In real life, the first human spaceflight was fully automated. In FlightGear, instead controls are completely manual to make it interesting, and to make you understand how it really works.

Authors and developers, since orbital flight is possible in FlightGear from now on, you are invited to make a FlightGear driven Mercury-Atlas project. Low earth orbit flights can be more exact and eyecandy in FlightGear than in any current simulator. And you can be sure it will be free for you and users in any case.

Doctor Who TARDIS

Doctor Who TARDIS

Vinura has started work on developing a Doctor Who TARDIS for FlightGear. The exterior model is almost complete in SketchUp. Click here for the development thread.

Currently, I still need to get the TARDIS colours right as I am only allowed to use 'Named Colours' from Google SketchUp as they can't claim copyright on colours.

Updated aircraft

ATR 72-500

The 3d cockpit of the ATR 72.

After a long 5 months, Skyop has completed the ATR 72-500, which finally features a complete cockpit and aircraft systems. Highlights include an advanced autopilot, hydraulics system, tiller steering system, an interior cabin, and new documentation. The aircraft has been committed to Git and will hopefully be available in the next release of FlightGear. It is now one of the most advanced turboprops for FlightGear, right behind the B1900d.


SriLankan Airlines' Boeing 767

Some SriLankan Airlines liveries have been made by Vinura for the Boeing 767 and Airbus A320.

Scenery corner

Terrain Creation

There are a couple different ways of creating shapefiles for terrain. Here is an overview and hopefully it will help those understand the scenery process a little bit better.

Create the shapefiles by hand

This method has been used for St. Maarten in the World Scenery or Rio de Janeiro custom scenery. In this way, you download a satellite photo or an aerial photo and create the shapefiles by hand by "drawing" on top of the photo.

Create the shapefiles using land cover data

Land cover data can be either vector like CORINE or raster like NOAA. However if the files are raster you will have to convert them into vector using a similar way described below. European CORINE scenery and most large-scale custom United States scenery such as Hawai'i or the Pacific Northwest were created using available third-party land cover data.

Create the land cover data yourself

There is Switzerland land cover data available for both Bodensee and for most of Switzerland which has been created using land cover classification techniques. In this scenery, the developer takes a satellite photo and, using raster manipulation software such as GRASS, manually classifies each pixel in the satellite as a land cover type. After refining the data, the data is turned into a vector format and cleaned again, removing oddities such as cloud cover. This is probably the most difficult type of scenery to create, but can cover a large area most efficiently.

A mix of the last two approaches is usually the most beneficial unless you are using an end-product such as CORINE. For instance, in the new Pacific Northwest sceneries, there are some oddities where rivers start falling under 30m wide. These need to be fixed by hand and then merged which can be a time-consuming process.

If you have any questions about creating your own land cover scenery feel free to ask on the forums.

New terrain

New third-party scenery for the USA's Pacific Northwest (Seattle and Portland, OR) and Rio de Janeiro is now available for download at http://www.stattosoftware.com/flightgear

New buildings

Once again, there are new Eastern Asian buildings !

  • Saigon Center - Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam
  • Mode Gakuen Coccoon Tower - Tokyo - Japan
  • Trade Tower - Seoul - South Korea
  • Koryo Hotel - Pyongyang - North Korea
  • The Center - Hong Kong - China
  • Central Plaza - Hong Kong - China
  • Citic Plaza - Guangzhou - China
  • Menara Telekom - Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia


The generic Concourse C at KDEN was recently replaced with a much better, realistic working model featuring animated jetways. Please enjoy.

RJGG/Chubu Centrair - JAPAN: a new highly detailed airport in FlightGear

Chubu Centrair island and airport

Centrair is classified as a first class airport and is the main international gateway for the Chūbu ("central") region of Japan, and currently is counted among the Top-10 modern airports of the world. Chubu is an airport on an artificial island in Ise Bay, Tokoname City in Aichi Prefecture, 35 km (22 mi) south of Nagoya in central Japan.

Chubu jetways and hangars

Originally a single runway in the middle of the ocean in default FG terrain, have been now developed at a high level of details and realism by Horacio, who has modeled the main terminal (shaped like a "T"), the ATC tower and main hangars sorrounding the airport. A second step considers complete the rest of buildings presents on the island. The terminal and main buildings have been animated with night textures, which complemented with lights and default 3d model airplanes taken from FG package gives the airport a very realistic and fantastic night impression.

Chubu night textures
Closeup of terminal night windows

The main windows have been treated using real pictures to get a photorealistic effect of glass reflection, which gives the model a new approach to 3D graphics in FlightGear development that points to a precise and meticulous work to improve the simulation experience and realism in the models used, both aircraft and buildings. With the exception of the photographs used as an effect, all textures have been developed in a sole and exclusive work from scratch, adding bevels, shadows, lights, noise, color equalization and many other effects to get realism in each textures used.

The island terrain and sorrounding coastline have been developed in an accordingly highly detailed level by Gijs to complete the necesary elements for provide a great new airport for FlightGear, containing all internal roads and railways, which leaves the way open for future works on bridge, parkings and other details of vehicular transport to and from the island.

Details of development and future updates can be followed on the topic specially created on forum. The airport models and terrain will be available in a few days for to be downloaded in Horacio's hangar, and later available on FG models database.

Aircraft of the month

Airport of the month

Screenshot of the month

SriLankan Airlines livery on an Airbus A320 taken at dusk.


Suggested flights

Departing from Brisbane International Airport and heading towards Sydney International Airport at a heading of about 203, you will come across some beautiful scenery.

Aircraft reviews

The Good old Cessna Citation X

I hope to do a monthly review of a specific aircraft. I can't guarantee that I will get to do it every month though because I do have other stuff to attend to.

The Cessna Citation X is by far one of my favourite little planes! Its reaction time is quite quick. The rudder control is very responsive, even the slightest move of your rudder pedals or the mouse and the aircraft's rudder moves. It accelerates quite fast down the runway, building up momentum and then, you lift your joystick up slightly and the nose lifts up just like you want it to.

Regarding the animations, they are extraordinary. They function quite well like for example the flaps, spoilers or the landing gear. The cockpit is quite well designed and has a lot of instruments, just like a real Citation would.

It has a tutorial system built in for people wanting to fly one. This was the first jet plane that I could actually land properly in. It also has several nice camera views, including views from the passenger seats.


I would recommend this plane to people who have already flown planes like the Cessna C172P or the Piper J3 Cub and want to progress into Jet aviation. This is a GREAT little starter plane to get you going.

This has to be one of the best planes that I have ever used in FlightGear!

Thanks for reading! :D

Review By: Vinura

Wiki updates

New articles




New aircraft articles




Most popular newsletters


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Community news

FlightGear on youtube

Forum news


Virtual airlines

FlightGear events

FlyingClub Mayday 1

The FGFC "Mayday 1: Manitoba Rescue" operation was held April 2nd, 2011 at CYAV, Winnipeg/St.Andrews, with seven pilots participating. The scenario stated two of Manitoba's major rivers were flooding, and people were stranded along both, so STOL and helicopter pilots were mustered at CYAV, received assignments from ATC, planned their flights, and notified ATC when they were ready to proceed. A total of twenty missions were assigned, sixteen of which were successfully completed in the space of three hours.

The scenario was based around the idea that pilots should have basic skills in addition to merely flying with an autopilot, and was designed to test both their actual flying ability by not having airports at their destinations, and providing no actual navigational data beyond a map or two. They were required to map their routes in territory unknown to them, then fly those routes in their chosen aircraft, land, report in, then return to CYAV to complete a "cycle." Points were awarded for cycle completion, and points deducted for aircraft crashes. FG Seg faults were not penalized.

Comments back about the operation from pilots have so far been positive. Watch the Multiplayer Forums for the next one; there will be one, but at this writing, it has not yet been decided.

Useful links

And finally ...


One of the regular thoughts expressed on the FlightGear forums is "I'd like to contribute but I don't know how to program, and I don't have the time". Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that contributing requires programming and lots of free time. In fact, there are a huge range of ways to contribute to the project without needing to write code or spending days working on something.

For ideas on starting to contribute to FlightGear, you may want to check out: Volunteer.

Call for volunteers

  • The OpenRadar project is looking for a new maintainer.
  • The FGFSPM (FlightGear Package Manager) is looking for a new maintainer.

Did you know

  • ...that you can fly backwards in a UFO? While holding the brake button down on your joystick or keyboard, increase engine throttle and you should start to fly backwards. A short video can be seen at [2]