Interview: Gijs de Rooy

Q: How long have you been involved in FlightGear? What was it that made you join?

According to the forum software I joined all the way back in July 2007. One year earlier I was one of the first users of Google SketchUp, free 3D modelling software. After modelling several buildings in my home town, Amsterdam (and placing them in Google Earth) I started working on Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. By then, Google Earth had a (simple) built-in flight simulator. Amsterdam would be the first airport to be modelled especially for that, that was my plan at least…

While modelling Schiphol, I stumbled across this free flight sim, called FlightGear, that wasn’t a game, unlike Google’s. In one of my first posts on the FlightGear forum I asked for someone to place my models into FlightGear’s scenery. Georg (Heliflyer) placed my first buildings. I took some effort, but I finally managed to place buildings myself. Sadly the guy that introduced me to FlightGear and gave me a hobby that would last up till today, passed away in 2009.

Q: Do you have real world connections with aviation or IT?

Since two months I’m studying Aerospace Engineering at the University of Delft. So far I really like this mix of hobby and study. Before starting this study my only connection with aviation (other than traveling) was a one hour flyinglesson in a twinprop, I got for my birthday. If you have a chance to do such a flight, I’d defenitely encourage you to do so. It’s an amazing experience.

Q: What are your major interests in FlightGear?

One of the things I like about FlightGear is the wide range of things one can get involved with: modelling, texturing, writing manuals, collecting data etc. and of course flying itself. Therefore I have a very long list of interests. However, there are three key parts that I particularly enjoy; being the development of scenery and aircraft and helping others by writing wiki articles and replying to questions at the forum.

Q: What project(s) are you working on right now?

My main development projects right now are the Boeing 747-400 and Dutch scenery. Both can be considered as never finished; there are always things to add/improve.

Q: On average, how much time do you spend working with/contributing to FlightGear?

Until this year I spent roughly 4 to 5 hours a day on FlightGear related things. Now that I’m studying I have less free time, but still several hours a day on average. Most of that time is taken up by non-development stuff, like the forum, wiki and livery database. Over the years I’ve been spending way too litle time on the actual flying.

Q: What do you plan on doing in the future?

I would really like to bring the 744 to a state where a real pilot cannot spot a thing that is missing in the simulation.

Q: What advice can you give to new developers who want to get started on their first aircraft/new feature/Nasal script?

Starting something new is easy, completing it is much harder. I could have never guessed I would still be working on the 744, three years after I started!

I’ve always been telling newcomers to start improving existing features. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the project. By looking into existing aircraft’s files for example, you will quickly find out how those files are linked together and what their purpose is.

And above all: enjoy the process! Things will go slow, will require lots of dedication and you will do a lot of work that ends up being useless; but once you’ve got to a certain level you’ll know it was worth it.

Interview: Stuart Buchanan

Q: How long have you been involved in FlightGear?

I’ve been contributing for the last 5 or so years, and was using it before that.

Q: What are your major interests in FlightGear?

I dip in and out of lots of things. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of years working on the 3D clouds, and before that random vegetation. I’ve created a couple of aircraft (vulcanb2,flash2apittss1c), and maintain a couple more (c172pa4fCub). I also help maintain The Manual. I’m one of the moderators on the forums, and I sometimes remember to write something for the Newsletter.

Like many contributors I spend way more time messing around with things rather than actually doing flights! I enjoy warbirds (the p51d is a big challenge for me), and the c172p or Cub for some easier flying.

Q: What project are you working on right now?

Trying to get more performance out of the 3D clouds! I’m also looking at improving the HTML output of The Manual, so it’s easier to use online.

Q: What do you plan on doing in the future?

Less fiddling, more flying! I have a 14 month old daughter so my FG time has been constrained, and will become more so in the future.

Q: Are you happy with the way the FlightGear project is going?

Absolutely. FG has never been healthier. With all the hard work people like James Turner and others have put into our Jenkins build server we’re now able to produce releases every 6 months. That’s a massive step forward from even two years ago. The range and quality of aircraft in the hangar continues to increase, and Martin’s continual work on improving our scenery infrastructure will pay huge dividends in the future.

Q: What do you enjoy most about developing for FlightGear?

Getting the chance to work with a great group of people, even if I never get the chance to meet them in real life. Coming across a really nicely modelled aircraft or some new feature I never knew existed.

Q: Are there any “hidden features” you have worked on in FlightGear that new users may miss?

Well given the number of people that fail to RTFM, my work on The Manual 🙂

I also think people get used to new features very quickly, so they effectively disappear. When I created the first proper forests (with a lot of help from Tim Moore), it was pretty exciting as we’d never been able to have that density of foliage before. Nowadays we all take it for granted.

Q: What advice can you give to new developers who want to get started on their first aircraft/new feature/Nasal script?

Start small. Modify an existing aircraft rather than create a new one from scratch. It’s tempting to start something new, but the amount of time and effort required to actually create a worthwhile aircraft with any realism is huge. We stand on the shoulders of giants in FG, so you might as well take advantage as much as possible!

Q: What do you do outside of FG?

I have a wife and 16 month old daughter and live in Edinburgh, Scotland. I work as a manager in a software development company (Metaswitch Networks). I’m also a keen climber and telemark ski tourer.

Q: Any real life flying experience?

I own and fly a flexwing microlight (aka trike) from East Fortune airfield just outside of Edinburgh (EG32 in FlightGear).  I’ve got about 200 hours so far and did a 7 day flying trip to the Isle of Wight in the south of England in 2010.

 

FlightGear v2.4.0 Released

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Overview

The FlightGear development team is proud to announce the release of version 2.4.0 of its free open source flight simulation program. FlightGear 2.4.0 reflects over one and a half years of development and incorporates several new and exciting features, as well as numerous bug fixes.

One of the hallmark features of this new FlightGear version consists of a completely overhauled weather module. While it was previously already possible to load realistic weather by downloading (or creating custom) METAR weather reports, the current FlightGear 2.4.0 version takes weather generation an order of a magnitude further by applying the laws of physics to the reported conditions and by determining how the atmosphere interacts with the terrain. This results not only in customizable weather, but also in all the exciting phenomena that occur at the boundaries between different weather systems. Among the numerous phenomena included in the weather simulation are fog layers that are limited in altitude, cold fronts, thermals, cloud formation in updraft winds along mountain ridges, and many, many more. In FlightGear 2.4.0 checking the weather is no longer a luxury option, it is essential for flight safety.

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Adding to the improved visual experience, FlightGear 2.4.0 introduces numerous graphical enhancements. By employing state-of-art computer graphic techniques, FlightGear 2.4.0 is capable of rendering highly realistic mountain surfaces, 3-dimensional cityscapes, or shiny metallic surfaces. Through the application of these new computer graphics, water moves realistically and sunlight is reflected from its surface. Many new aircraft models are so realistic and detailed it is almost possible to see oneself reflected in their hull. If that isn’t enough, FlightGear 2.4.0 can draw a full 3D image, through one of the many stereoscopic rendering options.

FlightGear’s user experience is also enhanced through several improvements to the software. New and extended autopilot controllers have resulted in a dramatic improvement in autopilot stability in many aircraft. Additional cockpit systems such as TCAS, and EICAS systems –as well as other realistic aircraft reactions to the environment– provide unique new challenges and opportunities. And if these systems still can’t prevent one from getting lost, it’s always possible to pull up a moving map, or use the new and improved heads up displays.

Under the surface, FlightGear 2.4.0 also introduces several innovations. A brand new experimental HLA interface layer allows for real time communication between several independently operating modules, either running on a single computer, or on a cluster of networked machines. Eventually, HLA allows for a complete modularization of FlightGear, and its integration with professional high-end flight simulator hard- and software components.

Finally, FlightGear 2.4.0 has a built-in option to keep its scenery up to date and download new scenery areas on the fly. While this was already possible by using an external program, this feature is now incorporated in FlightGear itself. The many new and updated scene models all around the world will keep one busy exploring the world of FlightGear. With a choice of nearly 500 different aircraft, from historical to bleeding edge, from ultra-lights to the ultimate flying heavy metal, there is something to cater to each one’s taste. In FlightGear 2.4.0 it’s no longer the sky that is the limit; it’s the imagination.

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FlightGear 2.4.0 Fact sheet

Program enhancements:

Aircraft operations:

  • A new head-up display (HUD) system
  • An in-sim moving map
  • ATC/ATIS improvements
  • EICAS instruments are available on a selected number of aircraft
  • Improved autopilots
  • TCAS, works with AI and multiplayer aircraft, provides aural warnings for conflicting traffic and is also capable of driving a realistic traffic display. AI aircraft also respond to TCAS alerts and take evasive action
  • Updates to the KLN89 GPS.
  • Tankers now refuel with any callsign, and can enable/disable refueling in flight.

AI system

  • A standalone AI flightplan generator program
  • Approaching aircraft now follow realistic approach trajectories
  • Ballistic objects can be slaved to any AI object
  • Improved AI ballistics behavior
  • More communication / interaction between AI aircraft and ground. Support for multiple frequencies for AI/ATC interaction.
  • Speed-up for AI traffic initialization by means of an aircraft usage statistics collection mechanism

AI Traffic

  • General and commercial aviation traffic at LOWI airport
  • Malaysian Airways / Kuala Lumpur based traffic
  • Traffic for Adria (Croatia)

Flight dynamics

  • A new MIL-STD Turbulence model has been added to the JSBSim flight dynamics simulation engine

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Environment

  • A local weather system to simulate physically correct local weather phenomena
  • Discard of outdated METAR weather information sources and improved METAR parsing
  • New Fog layers with limited elevation
  • Scenery can be downloaded and installed on-the-fly via an in-sim TerraSync interface
  • Specific multiplayer pilots can be selectively ignored

Interface

  • Complete overhaul of the autopilot system
    • New digital controllers
    • Flexible use of input and output values
    • Support for mathematical expressions
    • Usable for generic numeric data processing as a “property rule” system
  • Better integration of separate weather systems
  • New support of draggable 3d objects like throttle-levers
  • Support for textures generated from VNC clients
  • Unified runway selection code that is shared between user controlled and AI controlled aircraft
  • New HLA interface for distributed simulations
  • New on demand loading of Nasal modules
  • New support for external (aka real) Garmin 400/500 WAAS Units

Visual effects

  • Various graphics improvements using shaders, including 3D urban effects, reflections, water, rock textures, lightmaps, skydome scattering
  • Easy GUI-based access to a host of stereoscopic 3D rendering effects
  • Panoramic distortion
  • Persistent contrails
  • New standalone 2D-Panel rendering utility
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Bug fixes

  • Fixed METAR live weather (http requests from NOAA)
  • Fixed many sources of the infamous NaN errors
  • Improved stability by fixing many segmentation faults, deadlocks and memory leaks
  • Improved placement of random objects
  • Fixed inconsistencies with scenery tile scheduling
  • The replay system now works again as advertised
  • The ground proximity warning system (GPWS) works reliably now
  • Runway lights also working with ATI graphics cards now (rendering option to disable point-sprites)
  • Many, many more. See our bugtracker for an extensive list

Highlighted new and improved aircraft

  • A new and highly detailed IAR-80 (a Romanian-produced WW2 fighter)
  • A new highly detailed Piper Cub
  • Airbus A320 Family (318/319/320/321)
  • An improved P-51D, completely remodeled and containing improved flight dynamics
  • Boeing 717
  • Boeing 757-200
  • Bombardier CRJ700 Series (700/900/1000)
  • Bombardier CRJ200
  • Douglas A-4F Skyhawk
  • Improvements to the Boeing 787
  • MiG-15bis
  • PZL-Mielec M18B “Dromader”
  • Short S.23 Empire flying boat
  • The Boeing 737NG Series
  • The Boeing 747-400 and 777-200 have received lots of improvements
  • The Douglas DC-8 Series
  • The Eurocopter EC130 B4 Helicopter
  • Tyre smoke effects on many aircraft
  • Zeppelin LZ 121 Nordstern

Start Downloading!

FlightGear Flight Pro Sim Statement

Version 1.4a

As many people will be aware, there is a (self described) “new” flight simulator product that is being widely and actively marketed at the moment under various names – Flight Pro Sim, Pro Flight Simulator, etc. These “new” simulators are simply a rebranding of the FlightGear open-source flight simulator. However, the marketing tactics of the Flight Pro Sim guys have caused more than a bit of confusion with end users. To help provide some clarity and answer some common questions, we (the core FlightGear development team) felt it was appropriate to make a statement, and provide a FAQ.

FlightGear is an open-source flight simulator that was created in 1996. It is released under the GNU General Public License v2, and as such, it is free to use, modify and distribute with few restrictions. It has been developed with the collaboration of a large number of individuals over the last 14+ years. The complete FlightGear application and source code can be always downloaded for free from http://www.flightgear.org.

Flight Pro Sim is a commercial product that simply rebrands FlightGear. Investigation by a number of the FlightGear developers has found no difference between this and the FlightGear v1.9.1 release other than a change of name. Flight Pro Sim is in no way endorsed or supported by the core FlightGear development team.

Given the similarities between Flight Pro Sim and FlightGear, we would recommend that prospective buyers download FlightGear for free and satisfy themselves that Flight Pro Sim provides worthwhile value for money before purchasing it.

FAQ:

Q: What is the difference between FlightGear and Flight Pro Sim?
A: As far as we have been able to make out, the only difference between FlightGear v1.9.1 and Flight Pro Sim is a change in name throughout the software, and the fact that you have to pay for it.

Q: Is it legal for the makers of Flight Pro Sim to simply re-brand FlightGear ?
A: Under the GNU GPL v2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.html) this is legal, provided that they distribute the source code (or make it available). The main issue that FlightGear developers have is the misleading marketing tactics used by pro flight sim that target unsuspecting users who aren’t yet familiar with FlightGear. This is primarily an ethical, not a legal issue.

Q: Is it legal to sell a copy of FlightGear, whether re-branded or not?
A: Yes, provided the seller is in compliance with a number of conditions detailed in the GPL. In fact, those interested in receiving a DVD containing FlightGear may do so through the main FlightGear website, and directly contribute to the project (though they may want to wait for the upcoming release in the new year).

Q: Has Flight Pro Sim paid any money to FlightGear for the rights to the program ?
A: No. No such payment is required, as FlightGear is GPL software. No such payment has been offered, no such payment has been made. Any claims by Flight Pro Sim that they support the FlightGear project are entirely wishful thinking on their part.

Q: Why do the FlightGear developers allow this ?
A: The freedom to modify and enhance FlightGear is a core part of the project, and of open-source in general. Restricting the modifications that are allowed and what people can do with the software goes against that ethos.

Q: Is there any relationship between the makers of Flight Pro Sim and the FlightGear Project?
A: No.

Q: Has Flight Pro Sim contributed to the FlightGear project at all ?
A: No.

Q: I have purchased Flight Pro Sim. Can I get a refund ?
A: That is something you will have to take up with the distributors of Flight Pro Sim.

 

FlightGear on Facebook

If you are a facebook user, we would love to have you visit our facebook page and “like” us: http://www.facebook.com/FlightGear

Periodically we will post important information and announcements, epic screen shots, cool movies, and items of aviation interest.

You can keep track of all the latest and most interesting FlightGear information on facebook and simultaneously let all you friends know about the coolest and free-est flight simulator on the internet!