Category Archives: Contributors

Interview: Jon Berndt

Q: How long have you been involved in FlightGear?

For over ten years. I’m the development coordinator (and occasionally accused of being the BDFL) for JSBSim. It’s been just a few months more than ten years since JSBSim became the default flight model for FlightGear – although it should be said that in these days a “default” flight model has less (or no) meaning compared to back then.

Q: What are your major interests in FlightGear?

Flight dynamics and control, but I really like the whole aspect of specifying a model in XML (and other) files – a truly data-driven simulation.

Q: What project are you working on right now?

Continued development of JSBSim. There are always things to tweak. Recently, I extended the PID (Proportional-Integral-Derivative) control component in JSBSim to support some work I have been doing.

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

Writing more documentation. Adding more features to JSBSim as needed. And trying to get an official v1.0 release out.

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

I really enjoy seeing the progress being made in the visuals (as a spectator) – in particular I find the Rembrandt project fascinating.

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

Since JSBSim is a standalone project, there are other applications that use it such as Outerra, OpenEaagles, and others. However, FlightGear has the longest history with JSBSim and the most active developer community. It has been both enlightening and exciting to see developers stretch the limits of JSBSim, and use it within FlightGear in ways that were not foreseen previously. For instance, the P-51D that Hal Engel has been developing over the past couple of years (or more?) is very good. Also, the recently published skydiver flight model was an instance of a commercial use of FlightGear with JSBSim that resulted in code being shared with us in the spirit of the GPL. With that said, the most exciting part for me of working with the FlightGear community is seeing the very real strengths of open source development on display, and contributing to that effort.

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

There are many features that are not hidden, but are not known about because they are not yet part of our reference manual.

Q: What is your background in Flight Simulation?

I was graduated from the University of Minnesota (as was FlightGear Development Coordinator Curt Olson). I earned a degree in Aerospace Engineering there and in 1987 I went to work for Link Flight Simulation. I wrote the flight control simulation code for the F-16 as it was migrating from an analog control system to a digital control system. In the years following that I supported the Engineering Directorate at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, working with flight simulators almost continuously since then. Most recently, I went to work for Sierra Nevada Corporation to do simulation and analysis work, as well as supporting some wind tunnel testing, all for the Dream Chaser lifting body project. I have been a member of the AIAA Modeling and Simulation Technical Committee along with Bruce Jackson, author of LaRCSim.

Q: What else do you enjoy doing, besides coding in C++ late at night?

I enjoy playing acoustic guitar (fingerstyle), photography, hiking along the Colorado Front Range, playing catch/fetch with my dogs, tending to a 150 gallon saltwater aquarium, and doing various home remodeling projects. But what I really need is more sleep!

Interview: Sam Clancy

Q: How long have you been involved in FlightGear?

Actively I’ve been involved with the FlightGear project since early January 2011. Simply because my old computer (which my family had had for about 5 or 6 years prior) couldn’t run FlightGear. But after we upgraded… (insert evil laugh here)

Q: What is your forum nickname?

connect is my name.

Q: What are your major interests in FlightGear?

Flying, first of all. My life dream is to become a commercial airline pilot, hopefully somewhere in Europe. I’ve taken my very first steps towards this in real life, with my “TIF” or Training Introductory Flight, but I also believe my prior experience FlightGear, and of course my continued use of FlightGear gives me a much cheaper alternative, for the time being, to gain experience.

Q: Why is it that you are interested in flight simulation or aviation in general?

The fact that it took mankind literally thousands of years to figure out how to fly, in just a century we’ve gone from the Wright Flyer all the way to the Antonov An-225, the Airbus A380, the Boeing 747, the list is endless. I think the fact we got to the moon is pretty good to.

Q: What project are you working on right now?

I think you mean projects, in my case. I’ve actually got three on the go; all of which I am collaborating on (something I love with FlightGears community spirit). They are; the Airbus A350-900XWB in co-operation with Malik Guest (tehwarlock). The Jabiru J-170 (the aircraft I completed my “TIF” or Training Introductory Flight in) with Narendran Muraleedharan (Omega Pilot/Omega95) and Project Brisbane, perhaps the most ambitious, with Lachlan Bruce (spitfirebruce21), Drew Gibson (VH-TIT/FlightGearNZ) and Malik Guest (tehwarlock).

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

I actually don’t know. I just hope I can develop my skills enough to contribute something really good to the FlightGear Project.

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

Overall; yes. Having come in the days of v2.0.0 and at one stage, using 0.9.0, it’s blatantly obvious the progress that has been made in the year or so I’ve been actively involved in the community.

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

A day? Hours. Note the plural form of the word. I don’t have a number, as I’m frankly not pedantic enough to record, but I assume it’d scare me.

Q: Which of the more recent FlightGear developments do you consider most interesting/appealing?

Thorsten’s Local/Advanced Weather; I use it everytime I fly. It’s alot nicer visually then the “Global/Simple Weather” and I think it competes with FSX and REX.

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

The satisfaction you get when something works! Maybe that’s because I’m not the most technically minded, hehe.

Interview: Christian Schmitt

Q: What is your forum/IRC nickname?

Surprise: it’s papillon81. Yes, I’m that guy :)

Q: How long have you been involved in FlightGear?

Acording to my mail correspondence it must have been in 2007/2008 when I became an active part. I was unsatisfied with the state of EDDF in the FG scenery (no buildings, lightpoles everywhere), so I teamed up with a guy who had already started some work there. I ended up creating all of the terminal buildings and improving the airport layout. In those days, not many pilots were flying there. This changed in the months afterwards, which was a big boost of motivation, too.

Q: What are your major interests in FlightGear?

My main interest is clearly the scenery and technology connected with it, like GIS. I started to create some custom scenery, like Helgoland, and after I was granted direct access to the mapserver database, I was able to proxy-commit other peoples work, that started to come in. IMHO, the best FDM or aircraft models are useless if you don’t have a nice place to fly, takeoff and land :) So this area is what motivates me the most.

I do also maintain the Gentoo packages (ebuilds) for the GIT versions of FG, SG and TerraGear. All these can be found in the Gentoo Gamerlay repo.

Q: What project are you working on right now?

Some months ago I was fed up of FG being unable to read apt.dat 850 data. So I started digging into the terragear code. Having no experience with C++, it was a steep learning curve, but to my own surprise I was able to convert the original TG parser to read the runway data and other features from the new format files. I started to implement as many features I was able to. Luckily, Pete was already working on the taxiways and surface features. So we teamed up and eventually merged our work together. Since then it has become a really great project to learn and improve FG along the way for me. I hope it will be put into use for the next scenery version. Before that can happen, we need more testers and bug reports (hint! hint! hint!) :)

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

I will continue to work on Terragear, commit some improvements to the Concorde (my favorite plane in FG) and take care of merge requests. I’d also like to dive more into the FG/SG code and do some adjustments here and there. We’ll see what else the future might bring :)

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

I’m actually very happy with it. The improvements from 2 years ago up to now are breathtaking. Sometimes it is just amazing what features people start to work on, like Project Rembrandt right now. Also, the work that went into the weather and shader system recently is amazing.

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

The fact that we support each other and have a strong community with many very capable people from completely different backgrounds. Knowing that you can build on the work of others and that there is a helping hand in case of problems. Personally I like the FG IRC channel a lot.

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

They should first of all have some experience with FG in general, meaning, they should have used the program for some time. We often have people asking questions that they could answer for themselves just by USING FG a bit with different aircraft for a bit longer than just a day or so. If they identify an area where they want to start developing, they should get in contact with the maintainer(s) and seek advice before investing many hours of work.

Interview: Durk Talsma

Q: What is your forum nickname?

Hehe, guess once. :-)

Q: How long have you been involved in FlightGear?

Almost since the beginning, actually. I first heard about the project in 1997, when I got an email from Curt Olson, in response to a posting on the usenet newsgroup rec.aviation.simulators.

Q: What are your major interests in FlightGear?

I like the open nature of the project and the possibility to contribute at various levels.

Q: What projects are you working on right now?

I am actually doing several different things for FlightGear. My main project is developing a fully integrated AI air traffic system that contains autonomous vehicles, an ATC system that interacts with both AI controlled aircraft and with the user controlled aircraft. In addition to that, I am one of the editors of the main website, editor of the FlightGear facebook page, involved in the release process, code committer, and organizer of the annual FlightGear booth at FSWeekend in Lelystad (EHLE). In addition, I have recently taken over the administrator role for taxidraw.

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

I don’t expect the AI system ever to be finished, so I’m fully concentrating my coding efforts on this project.

Q: Why is it that you are interested in flight simulation or aviation in general?

As a kid I was fascinated by space travel, the Apollo missions to the moon, etc, watching every program on TV, and reading every book I could lay my hands on. As a six-year old, I visited Schiphol (EHAM) airport for the first time, and that sparked my fascination for the big jet airliners. Kind of like every kid at one stage, I wanted to become a pilot. My real interest in aviation didn’t start until I was nearly 20 though, after visiting an airshow at Leeuwarden airforce base (EHLE). This was around the same time as when I got my first PC, a second hand 286DX, which I bought from a relative living in Germany, with a 40 Mb hard disk and 1 Mb of ram. It had a German version of Microsoft Flight Simulator 4.0 preinstalled. So, in addition to learning to “fly” I learned the German word for “crash” as well.

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

Yes absolutely. We are currently in the process of further improving our infrastructure, by setting up things like the release plan, formalizing the rules for commit access, aircraft maintenance, and we’re brainstorming about feature requirements for the long term. Firm ideas are present for modularization of the FlightGear code, and some ideas for an integrated launcher GUI have recently been coined in a very informal setting. It will certainly take quite some time before these plans are all realized, but I think that the project is more vital and alive as ever. I’m also just amazed at some of the recent developments, such as Frederic Bouvier’s project Rembrandt, Thorsten Renk’s, local weather system, or Martin Spott’s ongoing efforts to build a unified infrastructure for scenery generation.

Q: What do you enjoy most about contributing to FlightGear?

I think there are a number of aspects that I really enjoy. One of them is the collaboration with other people. Being part of the development team, we’re all pretty much equals, and regardless of one’s age, background, occupation, political or religious conviction, we all share something we like and like to collaborate on. That is really enjoyable. It may also happen that somebody just jumps in and finds a solution in no time for a problem that has been cracking my brain for ages. For example, Adrian Musceac, recent work on generating AI traffic patterns was really something amazing. Likewise, I enjoy the interaction with many other talented people, such as Brett Harrison, who’s just so amazing at making convincing liveries. Obviously there are many other talented people around whom I really enjoy working with and it’s a shame I can’t name them all. Secondly, I also really enjoy having the privilege of being the first to experience a new feature for the first time. I was the first person ever to see the sun and moon appear in a desktop Flight Simulator, and that is a little bit special.

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

Yes, my original contribution to FlightGear was some code to calculate the position of the Sun, Moon, and even the planets. Both the sun and moon are pretty much taken for granted now, but back then (in 1997) FlightGear was the first PC based simulator that actually had a physical rendering of the sun and moon! Nobody will probably even see the planets, but I got the code almost for free, once I figured out how to calculate the solar and lunar positions, so their a little bit of an Easter egg. After finishing the celestial code, and before starting the AI traffic system, I initiated many projects that I subsequently handed over to others. As such, I have extended the time calculation code to deal with local time, and to allow the user control over the time of day, and implemented the original graphical user interface (GUI) system, and the original 2D cloud layers.

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

Be optimistic, be naïve, be realistic, and start modestly. Set yourself an attainable goal! I should probably explain what I mean by this. When we started out, back in 1996-1997, we were what I would now describe as incredibly optimistic in the sense that we believed that we could pull this off, but we were also somewhat naïve in the sense that we really didn’t have any firm idea about the challenges that lay ahead. But, we were able to pull it off, so this shows that we were right after all. But, if you want to contribute don’t start with your magnum opus. Before starting out, take some time to familiarize yourself with the project, get to know the code base, data structure or workflow. In addition, making a good first impression helps. Over the years we’ve seen a tremendous amount of grand ideas and not many of them have materialized, so we’re naturally a little apprehensive you may not find an immediate warm welcome, but if you do come up with a well thought-out idea, you may convince the development team, especially if you can substantiate your ideas with some working code to back it up.

Q: Have you previously used other flight simulators or simulation software in general?

Well, as mentioned before, I started out with FS4, and have pretty much had every version since then, until FS2004. The latter version got me interested in the AI system. When I started playing with the FS2004 equivalent of the ATC system I and began to notice its programming flaws. Determined that I could do this better, I started drawing out my own plans, and since than, I haven’t really touched any other simulator.

Q: How does FlightGear compare in your opinion?

I like FlightGear better because it’s a platform that is constantly moving. I almost exclusively run the cutting edge development version, so occasionally you’re in for a little surprise. Be it positive or negative. But that keeps things a little exciting to me.

Q: Do you remember what first got you interested in FlightGear? How did you learn about FlightGear? In other words, why did you actually download and try FG?

Yeah, that’s a long story. I was reading the usenet rec.aviation.simulators quite frequently at the time, had been exploring Linux for a few years, and finished my C++ programming course at university. This was around 1997, so the Linux distros weren’t as advanced as they are these days, and you still had to do quite a lot yourselves. One particular afternoon, I came across a usenet posting, which read “OPEN LETTER TO ALL FLIGHTSIMULATOR DEVELOPERS”. This was around the time that Microsoft FS97 was the latest version, and many users were dissatisfied. The original poster wanted to write a letter, on behalf of every dissatisfied user, to ask for a better version, asking the big game companies to incorporate their wish list. I responded to the thread, stating that if we really wanted a sim of our own, we should probably do it ourselves. I remember being a little anxious, because I wasn’t sure whether I would actually be able to substantiate that claim, if we were to follow it up. So, a few days later, I was actually a little apprehensive when I opened up my mailbox and found an email from a guy named Curt Olson, inviting me to have a look at, what would eventually become the flightgear.org website. Well, the rest is history I guess…

Q: What was your first impression about FlightGear?

That’s a really interesting question, because there was no FlightGear so to speak of. When I joined, Curt had hacked together a few proof-of-principle demos; the one I downloaded was called linux-demo-0.0.7.tar.gz, if I recall correctly, and it consisted of a small sample of elevation data from a chuck of terrain near Arizona, source code of a primitve (by today’s standards) OpenGL based viewer, a copy of Bruce Jackson’s larcsim FDM, and a simple keyboard interface. But it was exciting to get it to compile, and run!

Q: Compared to other flight simulation software, what are FlightGear’s major benefits in your opinion?

It’s scalability, open architecture, and the fact that it can be a great test bed for ideas, as well as the fact that there is no need for third party add-ons. By bringing every suitable user contribution into a single repository, we essentially create our own add-ons, and in the long run that should remove the burden from the end user to search for extensions.

Q: Do you think it is necessary to know how to program in order to contribute to FlightGear?

No way. In fact it never really has been a requirement, even in the old days when there was a lot more emphasis on C++ development, we already had a need for non-coding developers. Think about documentation writers, etc. These days, the balance is actually really shifting away from programming to artwork. The FlightGear world is essentially still largely an empty place, so we really have a need for high-quality buildings. Many of the exciting developments going on right now are in the development of new scenery textures, 3D modeling, and livery painting. These are actually skills that I essentially lack, so I have a lot of respect for the people working in these areas.

Q: Have you ever used FlightGear professionally or for educational purposes?

I once tried in my previous job, but the computer we bought for the project had serious overheating issues, so the project never really came off the ground. In the mean time, I found a different job, so the project was shelved.

Q: What about FlightGear as a “game”, do you think it can be used as such?

Probably, I like to use FlightGear purely for fun, so usually I just make up my own challenges, such as performing a bad weather landing, taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier, or playing with my latest AI/ATC code. Once finished, the ATC code will add a little bit of a game element, because it will expect you to fly specific routes, arrive at specific locations at a specific time, so as not to clash with other traffic etc etc. The system isn’t finished yet, but with some hacking I did quite recently manage to complete a traffic circuit under guidance of the ATC system, and it’s quite tricky to do right. So, there are some “gamey” aspects of FlightGear that are quite realistic and hopefully challenging. Having said that, I see absolutely no need for any formal gaming rules, or game like features such as setting off explosives and the like. Like many of the other developers, I like to keep FlightGear civil(ized). I don’t object to simulating military aviation though, as long as it doesn’t serve the purpose of glorifying death and destruction.

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

Hard to say, it varies quite a bit with my day job requirements, but I think on average maybe one or two hours a day.

Q: Which of the more recent FlightGear developments do you consider most interesting/appealing?

There are quite a few. Of the individual projects, I really think that project Rembrandt (Frederic Bouvier’s shadow rendering code) is really exciting. But so is the new effort to unify all the shaders, the atmospheric haze and scattering, and Thorsten Renk’s local weather. I’m also quite happy with the progress we made with the AI traffic/ATC system, even though it’s not finished yet. But, what I think is perhaps even more exciting are some of the long-term infrastructural changes we have recently discussed. I can’t say too much about that yet, because many of the ideas haven’t been formalized yet, but making FlightGear more modularized by making use of HLA technology, and perhaps a more integrated GUI and launcher program are some of the exciting developments that I can see happening in a few years from now.

Q: Is there some feature that you’d truly like to see in FlightGear one day?

Yeah, there are some. Obviously, I’d like to see my own project come to it’s full potential, but in addition to that, I would like to see full scenery development of the polar regions of our planet. One year ago I visited Antarctica in real life, and this is just a very exciting area for flying. I’d also like to see the possibility of lower earth orbital space flight, more seamless terrain textures.

Q: What do you think could be done to attract even more new users and contributors to FlightGear?

Establish a good balance between developing new stuff and doing some public relations work. For the project the key question for survival is not to attract many users, but to attract potential contributors. Obviously, the way to do this is to attract many users, and to hope that there will be a few potential contributors among them.

Q: What about interacting with the FlightGear community? Any tips/experiences you’d like to share?

Nothing really special; just use your everyday courtesy, and keep realizing that we’re all volunteers. I’m usually not that active on the forum or mailing list, but I can tell from 15 years of experience that an intelligent and reasonable response is far more likely to create some momentum than a hurried response that is written in a spur of emotion. Also, I have observed that there is hardly any relation between action and words on either the mailing list or the forum. So when your new to the community, just hang around, get to know the characters and try to establish whom you can trust to be a knowledgeable source of information and who just raises a lot of dust.

Q: Have you ever recommended FlightGear to other users, friends/family?

Not really, my friends and family aren’t really into flight simulation.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Yeah, have a lot of fun, and if you can try to contribute something to the project.

 

Interview: Olivier Jacq

Q: How long have you been involved in FlightGear?

I’ve been following FG closely since FlightGear 0.9.8. So, checking on the Wiki, this already dates back to… 2005!

Q: What are your major interests in FlightGear?

At first, I was using FG as a “casual” user, mainly contributing positions in my local area (Brittany) and especially the Brest area (cause I’m not that good at 3D modelling!). So I would say my major interest is in definitely in the scenery side of FG – and HHS choppers!

Q: What project are you working on right now?

This is HIGHLY confidential! But because Christmas is coming soon, I’ll give you a small written preview on this early present! Still under development, I’m working on automated scripts to add/delete/update shared or static scenery objects/positions within FG, in order to ease the actual submission process, both for the user and the scenery maintainers. The tool to add unitary positions is now in production (see below)!

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

I have at least a few months before all scripts are finished and under production, so I think when they’re all done, I’ll take some time to use them and add more objects positions into FG myself!

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

I am especially happy to see the latest developments in FG, as the release plan and the many works going to make the scenery better: shaders, weather, and especially scenery which needs to be regenerated and enhance (have a look at the apt.dat 8.50 work in the forums, it’s awesome!). FG is really becoming better and very much comparable to other sims.

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

FG is relying on so many exciting parts: GIS, 3D modelling, database, web, network… and there are so many advanced technologies to implement (eg radio propagation early support)… it’s amazing and there is no other software where all this is needed but flight sims. A real concentrate of technology!

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

I was at the origin of the photorealistic scenery for Brest. To be precise, I had the idea and asked for the permission to use the data (as it is CC-BY-SA). Then Nels and others have been working on the patch for SG, etc.

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

Well, they have to check that noone is already working on it, or to get in contact with him. Most of all, I would advise them to start on small projects first. For instance, a LOT of cockpits need enhancement. So try to make existing aircrafts better, rather than try to build yet another one from scratch. Keep this for later and focus on what needs to be enhanced now. FG will then look so much better to our fellow downloaders.

Q: Have you previously used other flight simulators or simulation software in general?

I remember having a flight simulator called “ILS” on my TRS-80… and next I moved, as a lot of people, on Microsoft Simulator when I was 7 or 8 on 10 Mb hard drives ;-)

Q: Do you remember what first got you interested in FlightGear? How did you learn about FlightGear? In other words, why did you actually download and try FG?

FG was the only free and open source advanced flight simulator I found under GNU/Linux, so when I decided to moved my computer fully to GNU/Linux, the choice was quite easy. Its success and improved quality over the years confirmed this choice was good!

Q: Compared to other flight simulation software, what are FlightGear’s major benefits in your opinion?

Apart from the fact that it is free and opensource, I would say that its central scenery database and mapserver is one of its major features, compared to other flight sims where you have to download here, download there, add patches, etc… what a mess it becomes on your hard drive after a few years of addons!

Q: Do you think it is necessary to know how to program in order to contribute to FlightGear?

Not at all, contributing to scenery object positions is for instance very easy (it’ll be even easier after my script goes in production ;-). So everyone should be able to contribute to FG (in a proper manner), that’s the way to success!

Q: Have you ever used FlightGear professionally or for educational purposes?

I’ve been talking about it in my job, so show its quality, even sometimes compared to professional ones I have seen there. I would definitely recommand a stronger relationship between FG and professional/educational worlds.

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

For a few weeks, I’ve been working for around 3 to 4 hours per week developing scripts. It’s been a while since I haven’t been having a flight in FG!

Q: Which of the more recent FlightGear developments do you consider most interesting/appealing?

I would definitely vote for the work on fgfs-contruct and 8.50 data format support. The anaglyph support is amazing too.

Q: Is there some feature that you’d truly like to see in FlightGear one day?

I hope sometimes we’ll be able to add GPL-photorealistic pictures on top of actual layers. Looking forward to OSM-based roads scenery release too and multi-core support.

Q: What do you think could be done to attract even more new users and contributors to FlightGear?

The fact that FG software is not localized into other languages can be a real drawback for some users and is often shown as such when magazines or forums talk about FG. If this support is added back, I will definitely work on the French translation!!

Q: What about interacting with the FlightGear community? Any tips/experiences you’d like to share?

As many others, I regret the way some people ask for features like: “do this aircraft, I NEED it”, or don’t even have a look at the Wiki or forums archives to get an answer to their questions. Ask politely, try to understand the way FG community is organised, search for archives, don’t pollute threads and everything will be better!

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

The future of FG belongs to you: each of you can make it better, whatever your skills or interests are. So don’t say: this is missing, try to add it or ask the community what you can do for help!

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.