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Import MSFS aircraft tutorial

The first part of the Silent Wings developers toolkit is out, and to get started we present a small tutorial on how to import a 3D aircraft model originally created for Microsoft® Flight Simulator™.

Please note that this tuturial is for relatively advanced users, and if you have any problems, direct your questions to the developer forum.

First of all, you need the GngModeler development which can be downloaded here:

Windows version

Linux version

For this tutorial we’ll use the excellent Astir CS model by Max Roodveldt. This can be downloaded from the following link:


The Astir CS is very similar to the G-103 Twin II already in Silent Wings. Therefore we just make a copy of the twin2 folder under Silent Wings\data\aircraft and rename it to “astir”. You can delete the old “grob.gng” and “grob_cp.gng” as well as all the texture files from the "textures" directory as these will be replaced by the new astir 3D model and texture files.

Load the 3D model

Next, we open the GngModeler application and load the 3D model file. Select “File, Open” and browse to the “Grob G-102 Astir CS\model” directory where you installed the Astir package.

You will now be presented with a dialog box with some flags that can be checked. We want to do the outside 3D representation first, so we select “Outside model” and “No shadow”.

You can now inspect the model, move the animated parts, delete stuff you don’t like, etc. Rotate and zoom with the mouse, and use the arrow keys to move the model. See the GngModeler manual for details. In this particular model, the pilot model face texture is not imported correctly. Find the face geometry node by moving down the node list until the face is highlighted. Right click the face node, and select “Properties” and go to the “Color” tab. Here you can set the Ambient and Diffuse color components to white. Now the texture will be correctly rendered.

Compress textures

To improve the performance of the 3D rendering we’ll make compressed textures for this model.

Select “Edit, Compress Textures” and you’ll be presented with the following dialog box

Now, select all the textures in the list, and check the “Generate mipmaps” and “Overwrite files” options. The “Generate mipmaps” option is important to avoid stuttering on some graphics cards, especially ATI cards. Next, click the “Compress Textures” button, and a set of “.dds” files will be stored in the “Grob G-102 Astir CS\textures” directory.

Generate Triangle strips

To optimize rendering of the 3D model, we convert all triangles to “triangle strips”, right-click on “Grob G-102 Astir CS” in the node list on the left. Then select “stripify” from the pop-up menu.

Save model

You can now save the model; select “File, Save” and browse to a suitable location. Call the file “astir.gng”.

Making the cockpit model

The Astir has separate graphics for the cockpit model and the outside model. We now repeat the process by restarting GngModeler and loading the Astir MDL file once more. Only this time we select “Virtual Cockpit” and “No Shadow” on the MDL parameters dialog box.

The virtual cockpit model has some instrument panel polygons that aren’t imported correctly. Find these polygons by moving down the node list and delete all ugly polygons.

Installing the aircraft model

You have now produced the file “astir.gng” which is the 3D model file, and a set of texture files, ending in “.dds”.

Copy the “astir.gng” file to the “astir” directory you created to begin with, and the dds-files to the subdirectory.

Open the file “aircraft.dat” in your favorite text editor, for example Notepad. Find the sections called “ext_visual” and “int_visual”. Change the “file” entries to “astir.gng” for both these sections.

Change the “aircraft_type” to “Astir CS”

Create icon file

Create a 100 x 100 pixels PNG image and save it as “icon.png” in the astir directory. This icon file will appear in the aircraft menu in the Silent Wings flight planner.

You will now be able to fly the new aircraft and see the 3D model. The aircraft is not finished yet, though. We still need to fix the aerodynamics, the instrument panel, as well as the gear configuration.

These are topics for the next installments in this series of tutorials.