After more than 11 years of development, Flightgear 1.0 has arrived.
Flightgear can be played on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, as well as other *nix platforms including FreeBSD, Solaris, and IRIX. Distributed under the GPL, Flightgear is one of the first major Free Software games and has become a flight simulator that rivals it's commercial counterparts. It is a stellar example of enthusiasts coming together to create something for the community.
The scope of the Flightgear project is, as you might expect for a game 11 years in the making, nothing short of impressive. Whilst it does fall short in a few departments when compared to commercial flight sims, in others it is unequalled. Having no full time developers and being of such high quality is a testament to the dedication and organisation of it's development team.
Flightgear has a pluggable flight dynamics model with 3 primary options, giving the enthusiast an opportunity to find a flight model that they feel is most accurate and/or fun. The integrated flight dynamics model is optimized for implementing plausibly behaving aircraft without requiring heaps of hard-to-acquire aerodynamic test data. Another is based on an FDM originally written by people at NASA. Quite impressive detail that most players probably won't appreciate.
Flightgear comes with an extensive and accurate database of world scenery. Over 20,000 real world airports are included in the full scenery set. Runways come with markings, lighting, taxiways, some sloped with variable elevation, the latter a feature missing from most commercial titles. The world scenery fits on 3 DVD's - pretty detailed coverage of the entire world with accurate terrain based on the most recently released SRTM terrain data. Scenery includes lakes, rivers, roads, railroads, cities, towns, land cover, and nice scenery night lighting with ground lighting concentrated in urban areas (based on real maps) and even headlights visible on major highways.
You can fly seamlessly around the world, as scenery tiles are paged (loaded/unloaded) in a separate thread - minimize the frame rate hit when you need to load new areas and keeping memory requirements realistic.
FlightGear implements extremely accurate time of day modeling with correctly placed sun, moon, stars, and planets for the specified time and date. Taking the 'term' simulator to another level, the sun, moon, stars, and planets all follow their correct courses through the sky and the [correctly placed] moon is illuminated by the [correctly placed] sun to get the correct phase of the moon for the current time/date, just like in real life.
Getting onto the aircraft, and you can fly a variety of aircraft, from the 1903 Wright Flyer, strange flapping wing "ornithopters", a 747 and A320, various military jets including the A10 tank buster, and several light singles.
Flightgear even can do fully animated, fully operational, fully interactive 3d cockpits which even update and display correctly from external chase plane views - although only a few aircraft have had this implemented thus far. Impressive nonetheless.
Despite the unbelievable attention to detail, Flightgear can be played on a rather modest PC. However the better the PC, the better it looks and runs so those with the latest, greatest 3D cards can still enjoy the extra beauty and a smoother experience.
I grabbed a few of the nicer screenshots from the Flightgear 1.0.0 gallery.
The Flightgear feature list contains more in-depth analysis of the Flightgear features and is where I grabbed most of the above info - I'm in the business of Free Softare game information rather than Free Software game reviews. ;-)