RogerBW's Blog

Fun with Flightgear 07 September 2020

I've been playing with Flightgear again, now with a decent joystick and rudder pedals.

(I got my hardware purchase in just before all joysticks and pedals vanished from Amazon because of the new MS Flight Simulator release, which is nice.)

Given that I'm running Linux, MS Flight Simulator isn't an option (and given how much of the new version has to be rendered by remote machines it's effectively spyware too, if only in terms of the general area you're flying in, though I suppose most gamers are used to much worse). X-Plane is still going and available for Linux, and I think I technically still own a copy, but it's still commercial, and many of the interesting aircraft are payware too. Flightgear is entirely free and open source, and so are all its add-ons.

Flightgear aims for realism in its flight models first, prettiness later, which suits me very well.

Here's an approach to Rayne Hall Farm airfield, near Braintree.

Not pretty. Nor is the modelling desperately precise; the airfield isn't really on a little lump of ground like that, but the modeller assumes that all airfields are flat. Here is what it actually looks like (looking from the other end, and with snow).

On the other hand, the aircraft cockpit is an accurate 3d model of the Cessna 337 I'm sim-flying, almost all of the switches work as they should, the flight dynamics are pretty faithful, and – OK, note where the plane is facing compared with the runway. That's not because I'm incompetent. Down near the base of the propeller disc, directly above the altimeter, you can see the windsock near this end of the runway. At this point my aircraft is actually moving directly towards the runway; the skewed angle is because I'm compensating for the crosswind, and I'm going to touch the runway at that same angle and have to put on a hard left rudder as the wheel contact changes my direction. That's the sort of thing I care about more than how accurate the airfield looks.

And that's the actual weather (not exact modelling but with the right wind, cloud cover, etc.) that was happening there on the morning when I was simming the flight.

FlightGear is also remarkably open and easy to interface with. I've been writing code to read the scenery files for airports, navigational aids, etc., and make them into overlays in the Viking GIS software, as well as to talk directly to the simulator and track my progress. So here's the track from that flight, overlaid with basic runway information (details taken from the simulator's database rather than OpenStreetMap that I'm using for orientation, so they don't quite match):

I was able to pick up the A120 on my way out of Andrewsfield, the previous airfield, then follow it by eye to the major road junction in Braintree, turn north, and look around for the Rayne Farm strip.

For something a bit more complex, here I'm about to start my descent across New Brunswick in a Cessna Citation X (I prefer the light business jets to the big airliners, because they can go to more interesting airfields) on my way into Boston. Black lines are high altitude airway routes, the labels are intersections and navigational transmitters, and the red line is my planned route. The code which generates my flightplan can dump it in Flightgear's native format for use by its routeing engine as well as in something that Viking can read.

This is a simulator, not a game – by which I don't mean to deprecate either, but simply to say that any challenges are ones you set yourself. There's no standard ladder of things to try; there's just you, the aircraft, and the world. (Yes, all right, multi-player flights are possible, but not on the big networks like VATSIM – essentially because Flightgear is open and everything else that talks to the VATSIM communications system is closed, so anything that would work with both Flightgear and VATSIM would allow bad actors to inject spurious data into VATSIM by means of a "fake" Flightgear.)

So my personal rules for keeping things interesting are:

  • that I start at the nearest airport to where I live (which used to be London City, but is now Wycombe Air Park) and expand my range from there. I don't fly out of an airport until I've flown into it, though not necessarily in the same aircraft or always starting from the last place I landed.
  • that I use current real time (though I'll allow myself some time acceleration on long flights while I'm basically just waiting for the autopilot to take me from waypoint to waypoint), and real weather unless I'm deliberately making it worse.
  • that as far as I can find out about them I obey real-world airspace restrictions and procedures.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1