Howto:Install scenery

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High detail France scenery
High detail France scenery
High detail France scenery

FlightGear comes with a limited set of scenery. Apart from the Bay Area around San Francisco (including the default airport KSFO), additional scenery can be installed by the user.

If you locate yourself at an airport and see nothing but water, you probably did not install that scenery area (correctly).

Types of scenery

There are basically three types of scenery (in order of detail):

World scenery
Reasonable level of detail scenery spanning the world and scenery objects, such as for example landmarks and airport buildings.
TerraSync scenery
Basically the same as the world scenery. In addition it also contains the latest scenery objects added by fellow FlightGear users to the scenery objects database.
Custom scenery
Non-official scenery covering all the way from small areas to very large areas, often with a high level of detail.

The default scenery is two 1 by 1 degree tiles surrounding the San Francisco Bay area from the World scenery.

CautionDo not mix scenery types in the same directory. It may cause problems like custom scenery being overwritten by the TerraSync or TerraMaster utilities, TerraMaster getting locked etc.

Obtaining scenery

World scenery

World scenery tiles

You can download the official World Scenery terrain from the FlightGear website.

There is also a 4 DVD set available for download via BitTorrent - NOTE THIS LINK IS BAD, which can be a higher performance option for those wanting to download the entire world. And, last but not least, it can be purchased as 3 DVD set from the official FlightGear website.

Downloading from mirrors

A list of mirrors can be found here.

On most of the mirrors, the latest scenery can be found under Scenery-2.12.0/. Downloading from mirrors is often better than the official site, because mirrors are sometimes faster and have more user capacity. Use the graphical interface to find the appropriate chunk. Be careful about confusing N with S, and E with W!! Here is how to find an airport's co-ordinates:

  1. Go to the Wikipedia page for the airport in question (for example, PHNL for Honolulu)
  2. Find the co-ordinates (often at the top or right and side, marked with a small globe)
    • e.g. PHNL is in 21 N 157 W. If it's in the western hemisphere, you should round it up... so you should find the block with W160N20 If the co-ords were 21 N 157 E, you would round it down.. meaning that this location would be E150N20.

Downloading with BitTorrent

There is a torrent file hosted on which you can find here. There is also an alternative torrent (only added a new announcement URL) with a strong seed available.

TerraSync scenery

The TerraSync scenery is automatically downloaded and synchronized as needed while FlightGear is running when the built in TerraSync utility is enabled.

TerraSync on low end machines

When downloading and synchronizing tiles on lower end machines or when having an unstable or slow Internet connection, TerraSync might cause stuttering and/or slow down FlightGear. If you encounter that there are a few ways around it:

  • Simply disable TerraSync and use the World scenery instead
  • Start FlightGear and sit around "in the sea" while TerraSync downloads or synchronizes scenery and then disable it and restart FlightGear
  • Use TerraMaster to download and synchronize the scenery

Downloading with TerraMaster

TerraSync scenery in TerraMaster

TerraMaster is a stand alone scenery manager that can download and synchronize TerraSync scenery. It also makes it easier to maintain and get a good overview of downloaded TerraSync scenery. It is a cross platform graphical application written in Java.

TerraMaster allows the FlightGear user to manage scenery tiles easily, selecting which tiles to download, synchronize or delete, and viewing the downloaded/not yet downloaded tiles at a glance. TerraMaster is highly recommended not only for managing scenery tiles easily especially if you are downloading and managing scenery from a computer that does not have FlightGear installed. The downloaded tiles are put into a folder which can then be copied into the FlightGear directory later on to complete the scenery. It can also download tiles directly into the TerraSync directory.

Custom scenery

Custom scenery is available for certain specific areas. They are distributed separately either due to their license or because their level of detail is not suitable for low-end machines. See Suggested Airports/Scenery for a list of custom scenery projects.

Installing World and custom scenery

Install scenery outside the $FG_ROOT directory. See #Technical details below for an explanation.

Installing via a graphical interface

  1. Open the FlightGear Admin Wizard. On Windows, you can start it by clicking on Start -> All Programs -> FlightGear -> Tools -> FlightGear Admin Wizard.
  2. Click on Select Scenery Source... to select the directory containing the scenery .tgz files.
  3. Click on Select Install Destination... to select the directory where you want to install the scenery.
    • On Windows, it should be a directory you can read from/write to. If you use FlightGear 3.2 and above, the default path (C:\Users\your user name\Documents\FlightGear\Custom Scenery) is perfectly fine.
    • On Macintosh systems, the path should be /Applications/
  4. In the left pane, check the scenery tiles you want to install and click on Install Selected Files to install the scenery.

Alternate installation, GNU/Linux

If you are under a Linux operation system and you are not using a graphical interface to extract the tar archive, you can use one of the two following set of commands in a shell terminal.

cd SceneryDirectory
tar -xvzf input_file.tgz


tar -xvzf 'input_file.tgz' -C SceneryDirectory

input_file.tgz should be substituted with the filename of the archive to be extracted (the filename should be completed with the full pathname or any other valid method so that the shell could find the correct archive).

Alternate installation, Windows

Simply unpack the downloaded scenery into a directory of choice, using software like Winzip or 7-zip. Once done, append this directory to $FG_SCENERY. When using the FlightGear Wizard, you can do so on the first page (previous from aircraft selection). Do not forget to press the "Refresh" button on the airport selection page, when using the wizard.

Note  More recent Windows versions (e.g. XP, Vista, Win7) tinkering a lot with user rights on access level. Therefore it is a bad idea to install and run FlightGear (scenery) to and from C:\Program Files. Find another drive/folder where you, as logged in user, have all neccesary right to read, write and execute the files you installed. Additionally there's a space / blank in folder's name which could cause weird behaviour. Using C:\FlightGear is a nice option.

Alternate installation, Macintosh

Unpack the .tgz file either by double-clicking it and moving the resulting wXXXnXXX folder to the Scenery folder described in the next line, or on the command line:

tar -xvzf 'input_file.tgz' -C /Applications/

Technical details

Scenery lookup and $FG_SCENERY

FlightGear determines what scenery to use by looking at the environment variable $FG SCENERY. There can be more than one scenery path in the variable, for example one path to to TerraSync scenery and one path to custom scenery. Scenery can be overlapping and a tile will be loaded from the first path in $FG SCENERY from which it is available.

Should the paths in $FG_SCENERY not be valid, FlightGear falls back to $FG ROOT/Scenery.

Directories and configuring $FG_SCENERY

Mixing scenery types is almost universally a bad idea, and is unsupported. You should also note that the scenery packaged with the base package/windows installer may not be the latest scenery.

For this reason it is probably better to extract scenery files you have downloaded into a new folder, which we for the sake of this exercise will call $FOOBAR/Scenery. In this directory, create two subdirectories: /Objects and /Terrain. You should untar individual files into the /Terrain folder.

Then you should set up $FG_SCENERY to use the new path:

  • On POSIX Clients
  • On Windows (FGRun)
    Go back to the first page of fgrun, and add the $FOOBAR/Scenery folder to the list.
  • Via a command line option

Directory structure


The Scenery directory will show the following (scenery is shown for completeness and for easy reference to above):

  • Scenery/
    • Terrain/
      • w130n30/
    • Objects/
      • w130n30/

If you download a scenery module called w90n40.tgz from and extract it in Scenery, the result will resemble something like the following:

  • Scenery/
    • Terrain/
      • w09n40/
      • w130n30/
    • Objects/
      • w09n40/
      • w130n30/

Note that the directory structure is already present in the tar archive, starting from the Scenery directory. Note that you have to extract the tar archive in the Scenery directory, not in the $FG_ROOT directory, because the Scenery directory is not present in the archive.


Objects and models can be found at the FlightGear Scenery Object Database.

These objects are included in each scenery release, but as the object database is more frequently updated than the terrain, one may want to occasionally update the Object subdirectory from the scenery objects database between scenery releases.

Another option is to download or update the scenery on-demand by using the built in TerraSync utility described above.

Objects are really part of the scenery and can be found in the Scenery directory under $FG ROOT.

  • Scenery/
    • Objects/
      • w130n30/

Any objects should be installed under the Scenery/Objects directory.


Replaces the former $FG_ROOT/Models; stores all the shared objects.

  • Scenery/
    • Models/
      • Airport/


1rightarrow.png See About Scenery/Airports for the main article about this subject.

As of FlightGear 2.4.0, this directory is used to extract airport data (like runway usage and parking spots) from.

The directory tree might look somewhat overwhelming, but it simply follows the Airports/[I]/[C]/[A]/ style.

  • Scenery/
    • Airports/
      • K/
        • S/
          • F/

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