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As a kid, I’ve always loved to play with flight simulators. I still do today, except the ones we get to enjoy today are way more advanced than what I got to play with about 13 years ago (although the same applies to all games). While today’s flight simulators are much more advanced, they also carry a price tag which not everyone may want to pay. So what’s the best free flight simulator known to man? FlightGear of course!
FlightGear may not be the most advanced flight simulator game out there when compared to other commercial solutions, but it’s still highly capable and can provide as much fun and realism as the commercial solutions. Additionally, FlightGear gets better with each release, and this latest 2.6 release packs another powerful punch following the 2.4 release.
You can find the download page here. If you’re a 64-bit Windows user, please look at the “Code Improvements” section for an installation tip.
A lot of code improvements have gone into this latest FlightGear release. For example, FlightGear now has the ability to automatically place planes in correct parking locations at certain airports. Additionally, you can also see a highlighted path on the ground for you to follow for taxiing to your selected runway. Certain software models have also been changed to work better with multi-core CPUs, and load times have been reduced by only loading those parts of the airplane that are visible. The flight dynamics model that FlightGear depends on also got a “major overhaul”.
There also used to be a separate 64-bit installer for Windows that you can add on top of the original 32-bit installation, but these have now been merged. You can choose to include the 64-bit binaries by unchecking the “Force 32-bit installation on 64-bit system” option during installation.
FlightGear also includes some changes that you can see. There are many new or updated AI aircraft and liveries, all of which can now make sound as well. According to the release notes with a bit of humor, “AI controlled pilots have received extensive landing training and now make a more realistic approach and vacate the runway when able.” Clouds have also got yet another update and render even more realistically with no performance impact.
There is also a new replay system in place where you can start the replay and then take control of the plane at wherever you pause the replay. FlightGear says this is very useful for practicing things like approaches over and over by rewinding and taking control of the plane again.
There are also three planes that FlightGear highlights as much improved including the A-26 Invader and Polikarpov I16, but the most improved one seems to be the Boeing 777-200ER. Be sure to check that plane out when you can. Other improvements including a more realistic sea, rocky steep slopes, wet runways during rain showers, and so on.
Of course, these aren’t all the improvements in FlightGear, but I find these to be the most noteworthy, and yes there are plenty of noteworthy ones. Thanks to FlightGear’s open source nature, it will continually improve until it becomes one of the best simulators in the business. Until then, I still think it’s a decent flight simulator game worth everyone’s time.
What are your thoughts on FlightGear? What would you like to see added or improved? Let us know in the comments!