Just making the blue channel white should work as well, though not quite as well.
In RGB normal maps, red and green channel are used to store U and V normals information, while blue channel stores an elevation data map of a sort. In more sophisticated normal map rendering, this elevation data is used as well as the actual normals information, while FS2_Open and most games only use the actual normals information on the model geometry.
At least as far as I know.
A working conversion of normal map back to height map would be fairly useful anyway, and I can probably think of some uses for this sort of plugin... thanks for the link!