You can now take to the skies in the latest release of the free, open source flight simulator, Flight Gear. Highlights of version 2.12 include a cockpit tooltip system for new users, an improved air-to-air refueling system and continued development of the Canvas rendering toolkit.
Thanks to the efforts of its worldwide community FlightGear is constantly under development. The newly released version 2.12 brings improvement to usability and to realism.
The FlightGear project dates from 1997 so its fleet or aircraft already numbers more than 400. The changelog reports that a broad range of AI aircraft have received a fresh paint job and that the Airbus A320 and A330 have been remodelled. Three aircraft are listed as being new and improved: Mudry CAP 10C; Tupolev Tu-154B-2 and the Schleicher ASW 20 Sailplane:
Top of the list of major enhancements is one that affects aircraft modeling:
- A new tracking animation provides an easy way for aircraft developers to animate complex kinematic systems like gear scissors or landing gear doors attached to struts. The animation can be implemented in Blender and then exported to FlightGear.
As is usual with a new release of FlightGear, attention has been paid to the external scenery and to lighting effects:
- Icebergs now appear in the arctic seas.
- Deciduous trees shed their foliage if they are above the snowline, creating a convincing winter look.
- The climatic snow line moves up and down as you fly around the world.
- Basic weather is now integrated with Atmospheric Light Scattering.
- Clouds are placed more realistically when using detailed weather modelling.
Atmospheric Light Scattering
- An ultra-high quality shader has been introduced, algorithmically generating detail down to the centimetre scale.
- Autumn colors are now simulated from the middle of summer through to the beginning of winter.
- Low visibility conditions are now more realistically rendered.
- Trees move with the wind.
- Surf is now visible below steep sea-cliffs.
For users there's better performance, including resolving lag at startup faced by Windows users, and portability, with restored support for older systems without GLSL shaders. The checklist feature has been expanded with new tooltips to provide feedback when you hover over a switch or lever. Also to help with cockpit familiarization, users can request that the relevant control is highlighted. In addition a virtual co-pilot can execute checklist items on behalf of the pilot and tutorials are auto-generated from checklists providing a virtual instructor to guide you through completing the checklist.
For multi-player games, the transponder instrument system has been overhauled, making it easier to use and allowing more realistic ATC interactions in which id (squawk) codes now matter! The new AI features introduced in air-to-air also provide for a more realistic experience with configurable fuel flow rates, the refuelling "envelope" centered on the drogue/boom position and the probe position on the receiving aircraft being taken into account when calculating whether contact has been made.
Whether you want to use a flight simulator or be involved in its development FlightGear seems to have a lot to offer.