The FlightGear Manual

A Boeing 747-400 taking off from KSFO, San Francisco, California, USA

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

Revised by Jörg Emmerich
  September 2011, for FlightGear-­Version 2.4.0
February 2012, for FlightGear-Version 2.6.0,   see a list of changes on

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 explore what FlightGear has to offer.

There is little, if any, material in this Guide that is presented here exclusively. You could even say with Montaigne that we “merely gathered here a big bunch of other men’s flowers, having furnished nothing of my own but the strip to hold them together”. Most (but fortunately not all) of the information herein can also be obtained from the FlightGear web site located at

This version of the document was updated for FlightGear version 2.6.0. Users of earlier versions of FlightGear will still find this document useful, but some of the features described may not be present.

We kindly ask you to help us refine this document by submitting corrections, improvements, and suggestions. All users are invited to contribute descriptions of alternative setups (graphics cards, operating systems etc.). We will be more than happy to include those in future versions of "The FlightGear Manual" (of course not without giving credit to the authors).

About This Manual

  • FlightGear may be used like any other plaything to move with some kind of modeled-aircraft from one location to another and just having fun -- while actually it is a very detailed Flight-Gear-Flight-Simulator (FGFS) in which you can simulate the whole complex environment of flying aircrafts of all types behaving like real aircrafts
  • Covering this very large area requires a whole lot of learning - which often is not really wanted and/or required for the first steps into this Simulation Environment. So we try to offer a guide which covers everything - but is structured also as a reference, that allows you to start with a minimum of reading and offers step by step enhancements.

    The "Parts" of the Manual

    You navigate through the Manual by mouse-clicking into one of the tabs in the top-menu-bar. Those are introducing more and more "KnowHow", going from left to right. On top of each "Part" you find a "Table of Contents" that brings you to the chapter of your interest. Of course it is suggested to first browse through it from left to right and top to bottom, just to see what is covered. Within all chapters you will find lots of "Links" that reference other parts of the Handbook and/or to external references. You can always return from those by clicking your browsers "page back/forth" icons - or, if you want to start again with the index, just click into the menu-bar again.

    You do not need to work through the chapters as we propose in the following for those people that rather "try first - then read":
    If you rather want to "read first - then try" then you may use e.g. the sequence
    then start with the "First Solo" and follow the tabs to the right.
    Or you may try any other sequence you like. All chapters and single tasks do reference to each other - so you should not get lost!

    We suggest for those who want to "first try - then read" the following sequence:

    Further Reading

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

    External Literature

    There is an immense amount of Literature available about flying - even free in the WEB. Here we will just list a few we found helpful to extend the knowledge provided by our FlightGear Guide:

    And some more interesting links:
    And again: There are many, many more. Ask you friends: Probably everybody has some favorites from which you can choose.

    About FlightGear

    If any of these questions apply to you, PC flight simulators are just for you. You may already have some experiences in using Microsoft’s Flight Simulator or any other of the commercially available PC flight simulators. As the price tag of those is usually within the $50 range, buying one of them should not be a serious problem -- given that running any serious PC flight simulator requires PC hardware within the $1.500 range, despite dropping prices.

    Yet Another Flight Simulator ???

    With so many commercially available flight simulators, why would we spend thousands of hours of programming and design work to build a free flight simulator? Well, there are many reasons, but here are the major ones:
    Let us take a closer look at each of these characteristics:
    ”You can do anything with the software - except make it non-free”
    Without doubt, the success of the Linux project, initiated by Linus Torvalds, inspired several of the developers. Not only has Linux shown that distributed development of highly sophisticated software projects over the Internet is possible, it has also proven that such an effort can surpass the level of quality of competing commercial products.