If you've only ever played flight simulators in their basic, combat form, then FlightGear might at first seem a little tame. After all, there are no dogfights here, no precision bombing raids, no infantry support missions. Why bother?
Give it a try, though, and you'll find this amazing open-source project has plenty of challenges. Like learning how to take off, for instance, by mastering fully operational 3D cockpits of a wide range of aircraft, from the 1903 Wright Flyer, to various light aircraft, a Boeing 747, Airbus A320 and more.
Once in the air you'll encounter realistic weather, and an accurate sky model where the sun, moon and stars are all positioned correctly according to your location. Not sure where you're going? There's plenty of choice - the full scenery set (which requires more than our starter download) covers more than 20,000 real world airports.
If you've chosen a long distance trip then the flight could take a while, but there's plenty to enjoy along the way. The scenery also includes major lakes, rivers, roads, railways, cities and more. This is even lit up realistically at night, with cities glowing brightly and headlights visible on roads, helping you follow landmarks to reach your destination.
And then, of course, you'll have to land. This can be almost as tricky as it is in real life, as you must locate the correct runway, follow the approach lighting and take account of changing runway elevation (you didn't think they were all flat - did you?) It's far from easy, but once you begin to master the program, it's very rewarding: you'll feel like you've really learned to fly.
Version 3.2 brings:
•The JSBSim flight dynamics model now has support for ground effects like bumpiness, solid-ground detection and adjusting of friction factors. Additionally, bogey type contact points sink in non-solid surfaces, making it no longer possible to ride on water.
•Orbital rendering using textures from the NASA Visible Earth project
•Additions to the Atmospheric Light Scattering (ALS) rendering include:
•an experimental framework to render cloud shadows on the ground (requires Advanced Weather)
•a new agriculture effect allowing to render fields without tiling artifacts
•a new forest effect to simulate managed forest, varying tree size by patch
•sparkle and fog effect on runway lights
•An experimental aircraft package manager allows the download of new aircraft, and changing the current aircraft in-sim.
•Windows users are now able to use the scroll wheel in dialog lists
•Improvements to Canvas, FlightGear’s scriptable 2D rendering system
•A new fully-interactive Nasal GUI console based on Canvas has been added: Interactive Nasal Console
•Nasal documentation is now included
•Boeing 757-200: Improved autopilot and additional systems, like hydraulics and pneumatic. The aircraft comes with two engine options.
•North American P-51D: All new highly accurate external model based on factory blueprints.
•Tupolev Tu-154B2: version 3.1
•A text-to-speech system based on flite+hts_engine has been implemented, which is used for ATIS and other messages.