The FlightGear Manual

Michael Basler, Martin Spott,
Stuart Buchanan, Jon Berndt,
Bernhard Buckel, Cameron Moore,
Curt Olson, Dave Perry,
Michael Selig, Darrell Walisser,
and others

The FlightGear Manual
March 8, 2015
For FlightGear version 3.4.0


1 Preface
 1.1 Condensed Reading
 1.2 Instructions For the Truly Impatient
 1.3 Further Reading
I  Installation
2 Want to have a free flight? Take FlightGear!
 2.1 Yet Another Flight Simulator?
 2.2 System Requirements
 2.3 Choosing A Version
 2.4 Flight Dynamics Models
 2.5 About This Guide
3 Preflight: Installing FlightGear
 3.1 Installing scenery
  3.1.1 MS Windows Vista/7
  3.1.2 Mac OS X
  3.1.3 FG_SCENERY
  3.1.4 Fetch Scenery as you fly
  3.1.5 Creating your own Scenery
 3.2 Installing aircraft
 3.3 Installing documentation
II  Flying with FlightGear
4 Takeoff: How to start the program
 4.1 Environment Variables
  4.1.1 FG_ROOT
  4.1.2 FG_SCENERY
  4.1.3 Environment Variables on Windows and Mac OS X
 4.2 Launching the simulator under Unix/Linux
 4.3 Launching the simulator under Windows
  4.3.1 Launching from the command line
 4.4 Launching the simulator under Mac OS X
  4.4.1 Selecting an aircraft and an airport
  4.4.2 Enabling on-the-fly scenery downloading
  4.4.3 Enabling Navigation Map (Atlas)
  4.4.4 Launching FlightGear - the simulator
  4.4.5 Advanced Features
  4.4.6 Launching from the command line
 4.5 Command line parameters
  4.5.1 General Options
  4.5.2 Features
  4.5.3 Sound
  4.5.4 Aircraft
  4.5.5 Flight model
  4.5.6 Initial Position and Orientation
  4.5.7 Environment Options
  4.5.8 Rendering Options
  4.5.9 HUD Options
  4.5.10 Aircraft System Options
  4.5.11 Time Options
  4.5.12 Network Options
  4.5.13 Route/Waypoint Options
  4.5.14 IO Options
  4.5.15 Debugging options
 4.6 Joystick support
5 In-flight: All about instruments, keystrokes and menus
 5.1 Starting the engine
  5.1.1 Piston Aircraft
  5.1.2 Turboprop Aircraft
  5.1.3 Jet Aircraft
 5.2 Keyboard controls
  5.2.1 Aircraft controls
  5.2.2 Simulator controls
  5.2.3 Autopilot controls
 5.3 Mouse-controlled actions
  5.3.1 Normal mode
  5.3.2 Control mode
  5.3.3 View mode
 5.4 Menu entries
 5.5 The Instrument Panel
 5.6 The Head Up Display
6 Features
 6.1 Multiplayer
  6.1.1 Quick Start
  6.1.2 Other Methods
  6.1.3 Troubleshooting
 6.2 Aircraft Carrier
  6.2.1 Starting on the Carrier
  6.2.2 Launching from the Catapult
  6.2.3 Finding the Carrier - TACAN
  6.2.4 Landing on the Carrier
 6.3 Atlas
 6.4 Multiple Displays
 6.5 Multiple Computer
  6.5.1 Setup
  6.5.2 Basic Configuration
  6.5.3 Advanced Configuration
 6.6 Recording and Playback
 6.7 Text to Speech with Festival
  6.7.1 Installing the Festival system
  6.7.2 Running FlightGear with Voice Support
  6.7.3 Troubleshooting
  6.7.4 Installing more voices
 6.8 Air-Air Refuelling
  6.8.1 Setup
  6.8.2 Multiplayer Refueling
III  Tutorials
7 Tutorials
 7.1 In-flight Tutorials
  7.1.1 Cessna 172P tutorials
 7.2 FlightGear Tutorials
 7.3 Other Tutorials
8 A Basic Flight Simulator Tutorial
 8.1 Foreword
 8.2 Starting Up
  8.2.1 MS Windows
  8.2.2 Linux and other unices
  8.2.3 In the dark?
 8.3 The First Challenge - Flying Straight
 8.4 Basic Turns
 8.5 Taxiing on the ground
  8.5.1 Airspeed
 8.6 Advanced Turns
 8.7 A Bit of Wieheisterology
  8.7.1 Engine control
  8.7.2 Wings and speed
  8.7.3 The flaps
  8.7.4 The stall
  8.7.5 The trim
  8.7.6 What direction am I flying?
  8.7.7 A look around the panel
 8.8 Let’s Fly
  8.8.1 A realistic take off
  8.8.2 Landing
  8.8.3 Engine Shutdown
  8.8.4 Aborted Landing
 8.9 Dealing with the Wind
  8.9.1 Crosswind Take Off
  8.9.2 Crosswind Landing
  8.9.3 Taxiing in the Wind
 8.10 The autopilot
 8.11 What Next?
 8.12 Thanks
 8.13 Flying Other Aircraft
  8.13.1 How to land the Cherokee Warrior II
  8.13.2 How to take off and land the Piper J3 Cub
  8.13.3 How to take off and land a jet
  8.13.4 How to take off and land the P-51D Mustang
  8.13.5 How to take off and land the B-52 Stratofortress
9 A Cross Country Flight Tutorial
 9.1 Introduction
  9.1.1 Disclaimer and Thanks
 9.2 Flight Planning
 9.3 Getting Up
  9.3.1 Pre-Flight
  9.3.2 ATIS
  9.3.3 Radios
  9.3.4 Altimeter and Compass
  9.3.5 Take-Off
 9.4 Cruising
  9.4.1 The Autopilot
  9.4.2 Navigation
  9.4.3 Mixture
 9.5 Getting Down
  9.5.1 Air Traffic Control
  9.5.2 The Traffic Pattern
  9.5.3 Approach
  9.5.4 VASI
  9.5.5 Go Around
  9.5.6 Clearing the Runway
10 An IFR Cross Country Flight Tutorial
 10.1 Introduction
  10.1.1 Disclaimers
 10.2 Before Takeoff
  10.2.1 Flight Planning
  10.2.2 VHF Omnidirectional Range
  10.2.3 How High Are We Really?
 10.3 Takeoff
 10.4 In the Air
  10.4.1 George I
  10.4.2 MISON Impossible
  10.4.3 George II
  10.4.4 Staying the Course
  10.4.5 Yet More Cross-Checks
 10.5 Getting Down
  10.5.1 Instrument Approach Procedures
  10.5.2 Nondirectional Beacons
  10.5.3 Procedure Turn
  10.5.4 Chasing the Needle
  10.5.5 FOOTO Time
  10.5.6 George III
  10.5.7 ILS Landings
  10.5.8 Intercepting the Localizer
  10.5.9 Intercepting the Glide Slope
  10.5.10 Touchdown, Almost
  10.5.11 A Confession
  10.5.12 Touchdown, Not
  10.5.13 Touchdown
 10.6 Epilogue
11 A Helicopter Tutorial
 11.1 Preface
 11.2 Getting started
 11.3 Lift-Off
 11.4 In the air
 11.5 Back to Earth I
 11.6 Back to Earth II
IV  Appendices
A Missed approach: If anything refuses to work
 A.1 FlightGear Problem Reports
 A.2 General problems
 A.3 Potential problems under Linux
 A.4 Potential problems under Windows
B Landing: Some further thoughts before leaving the plane
 B.1 A Sketch on the History of FlightGear
  B.1.1 Scenery
  B.1.2 Aircraft
  B.1.3 Environment
  B.1.4 User Interface
 B.2 Those, who did the work
 B.3 What remains to be done

Chapter 1

FlightGear is a free flight simulator developed cooperatively over the internet by a group of flight simulation and programming enthusiasts. "The FlightGear Manual" is meant to give beginners a guide in getting FlightGear up and running, and themselves into the air. It is not intended to provide complete documentation of all the features and add-ons of FlightGear but, instead, aims to give a new user the best start to exploring what FlightGear has to offer.

This version of the document was written for FlightGear version 3.4.0. Users of earlier versions of FlightGear will still find this document useful, but some of the features described may not be present.

This guide is split into three parts and is structured as follows.

Part I: Installation

Chapter 2, Want to have a free flight? Take FlightGear, introduces FlightGear, provides background on the philosophy behind it and describes the system requirements.

In Chapter 3, Preflight: Installing FlightGear, you will find instructions for installing the binaries and additional scenery and aircraft.

Part II: Flying with FlightGear

The following Chapter 4, Takeoff: How to start the program, describes how to actually start the installed program. It includes an overview on the numerous command line options as well as configuration files.

Chapter 5, In-flight: All about instruments, keystrokes and menus, describes how to operate the program, i.e. how to actually fly with FlightGear. This includes a (hopefully) complete list of pre-defined keyboard commands, an overview on the menu entries, detailed descriptions on the instrument panel and HUD (head-up display), as well as hints on using the mouse functions.

Chapter 6, Features describes some of the special features that FlightGear offers to the advanced user.

Part III: Tutorials

Chapter 7, Tutorials, provides information on the many tutorials available for new pilots.

Chapter 8, A Basic Flight Simulator Tutorial, provides a tutorial on the basics of flying, illustrated with many examples on how things actually look in FlightGear.

Chapter 9, A Cross Country Flight Tutorial, describes a simple cross-country flight in the San Fransisco area that can be run with the default installation.

Chapter 10, An IFR Cross Country Flight Tutorial, describes a similar cross-country flight making use of the instruments to successfully fly in the clouds under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).


In Appendix A, Missed approach: If anything refuses to work, we try to help you work through some common problems faced when using FlightGear.

In the final Appendix B, Landing: Some further thoughts before leaving the plane, we would like to give credit to those who deserve it, sketch an overview on the development of FlightGear and point out what remains to be done.

1.1 Condensed Reading

For those who don’t want to read this document from cover to cover, we suggest reading the following sections in order to provide an easy way to get into the air:

Installation :  3
Starting the simulator :  4
Using the simulator :  5

1.2 Instructions For the Truly Impatient

We know most people hate reading manuals. If you are sure the graphics driver for your card supports OpenGL (check documentation; for instance in general NVIDIA graphics cards do) and you are using Windows, Mac OS-X or Linux, you can probably skip at least Part I of this manual and use pre-compiled binaries. These as well as instructions on how to set them up, can be found at

If you are running Linux, you may find that FlightGear is bundled with your distribution.

Once you have downloaded and installed the binaries, see Chapter 4 for details on starting the simulator.

1.3 Further Reading

While this introductory guide is meant to be self contained, we strongly suggest having a look into further documentation, especially in case of trouble: