x+s+r // kmbs + ayers rock

xsr ayers m

Two payware files today, Turbulent Design’s brand new (to X-plane) KMBS International, located in east-central Michigan, as well as a somewhat older file from Down Under: Rim & Co’s Ayer’s Rock/Connellan Airport. Both are smaller airports with a decidedly commercial focus, but beyond that these two files couldn’t be more different. KMBS serves a limited commuter clientele headed to Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, or Minneapolis-St Paul, while Connellan Airport at Ayers’ Rock serves one of Australia’s primeir tourist destinations with non-stop flights to Sydney Melbourne, Cairns, Brisbane and good ole Alice Springs. That said, let’s jump right in and take a look at these two…

KMBS hdr

I’ve been looking forward to this release ever since Turbulent’s Idaho Falls released late last year. I bought from the Turbulent Store so of course browsed through all their Fsx/P3D files, and when I laid eyes on this one it was love at first sight. Cue flash card: WARNING: SOURCE BIAS! Well, yeah. So? Any long-time user of Xp (of any version) looking at this terminal and not getting hot flashes needs to find another hobby. Knitting, perhaps?

Well, when the teasers popped on Threshold over the weekend I was ready to rock and roll, so when the announcement flashed on my Threshold feed I went straight to the Threshold Store and pulled the trigger. No pause to browse, no hesitation, just did the deed.

Installation was straightforward, everything all in one folder and in she went, straight into Custom Scenery. Open her up, not one error – and after the last several files I can not tell you how much I appreciate Turbulent’s simple execution – with the end user first in mind. I opened the X-Craft E175 and looked in the terminal windows…

And just about lost it. This team is one class act.

So yeah, source bias. How do you as a reader account for it other than to realize expectations ran high on this end – and after just a minute or two every expectation I had was blown right out the window. This file isn’t perfect, no airport file is, not really, but this one comes so close it leaves you kind of breathless. Gone are all my expectations that big airports are the best. After Idaho Falls and then Fly Design’s Two Polish airfields – and now this file, you’re going to want to reconsider that paradigm too.

So, just where the devil is this airport?

KMBS GE

So, distances? Well, in the Beech 1900 it’s a little over an hour to O’Hare, and that’s the farthest afield. In other words, this airport will provide short-flight CRJ-200 nirvana. In winter conditions? IFR, baby! – all the way!

The modeling of the terminal is  scrumptious, and I’ve never used that word to describe anything in X-plane. This isn’t a terminal fit for a flight sim; it worthy of an architectural design firm’s CG walk-thru. The only things NOT modeled are the bathrooms and two janitors closets. It’s just an outrageous tour de force, period. Everywhere you look, from the car park and passenger drop-off areas to the ramps and aprons, this is as good as it gets. Note the sidewalks and built-up curbs in and around the car-park; ramp detail minimal but believable; and the painted apron markings. All first-rate.

KMBS 2

And it just gets better at night. Everywhere you look – you look and SEE inside. The only thing missing? People. None, nowhere in sight, and even a few strategically placed would help lend scale…but look at these images…!

KMBS 3

The interior? Well, again, the only shortcoming is the lack of people, but the rest is simply audaciously perfect, even the carpeting and the recessed light cans in the ceilings. HVAC registers? Check! Departure and arrivals monitors – everywhere? Check! Doors with scuffed kick-plates? Yup. Baggage claim carousels? Like – duh… Security point. Coffee bar. Herman Miller seating… Perfect. Just perfect.

KMBS 4

Another oddity? From the inside, textures on the windows show carts and such, but not your aircraft, and at night the windows turn blue so you can’t see out at all. I don’t know why, but I think it would be nice to be able to see out, night or day. With a few people standing at the windows looking out, this would  make a great setting for people who like to make videos of their flights.

Another minor drawback? Street lighting as you approach the airport – and around the airport entry proper – is lacking. You can make out the light-pole bases on the ortho, and even the shadows of light poles on the street at the entry, but no light poles. The area around the airport is a little too dark at night as a result, and the fix is simple enough.

Still, there isn’t a better airport file for X-plane out right now. There are a bunch in this league, however, including DDs Warsaw, Fly Design’s two Polish airports, Short Final’s KABQ, and Turbulent’s Idaho Falls, and all this points to a vibrant future and good momentum for X-plane going into the important summer sales period.

Oh yes, there’s more to this airport than just the commercial terminal, but I guess you  knew that. There’s a nicely modeled tower/fire rescue station as well as a large GA/bizjet hanger/ramp area, and taking off from here you’ll get to see most of it:

KMBS ga

Note: no smeary orthos with smudge-stick cars? No smeary window textures? Great lighting, excellent ramps (though no static aircraft), and great surrounding details? All at a price LESS than many recent files that get nowhere close to this level of quality? And a location in the heart of the American Midwest?

Well, I picked up my copy at the Threshold store for about 25 buckeroos, and I highly recommend you do too.

//

Ayers hdr

I saw this at the Threshold Store and decided to pull the trigger on this one, too. Simon and I started to model this airport back in v9 and I was curious to see how Rim & Co chose to model this airport terminal, because while it looks simple enough it’s actually quite a complex little building, especially the roof. There’s also a basement level with inclined ramp access from ramp side, and they chose not to model this feature. I completely understand, as X-plane doesn’t like underground features. Other than that, the only other design shortcoming concerns the lack of trees that shade the ramp side of the terminal building, and yet – I understand that decision, too. Why build and texture this building only to hide it all behind a bunch of rocks and trees? Well, because that’s the real way the airport looks? Yeah, maybe. I guess.

So, where is Ayers Rock?

Ayers GE

A little perspective? Auckland is roughly 2800 nmi distant, most Australian airports 1300-1800 nmi. Perfect for medium range aircraft, or the 752 from NZ.

How ’bout a few images now? Just for fun?

Ayers comp

You’ll recall this developer, Rim & Co., made the St Helena Island file we enjoyed so much last December, and this file is quite similar in feel. A nice airport and huge ortho coverage are included, and the airport looks quite good night or day. That, to me, is the hallmark of a superior file and this file is a winner in that regard. You’ll also find lots of animated action on the ramps, especially the biz jet ramps, and there are people all over this airport! Hallelujah!

We’ve gone over massive City-VFR files for Melbourne and Sydney the past couple of weeks so maybe now is the time to think about adding this file to your Custom Scenery folder. This makes a perfect 2-3 hour flight in anything from the 733 to the A319, and even the Dash-8 Q400 or Saab 340 makes sense here from a few airports. And I hate to admit this, but this is probably as close to Ayers Rock as many of us will ever come, and the landscape here is ably presented, enough to make the experience worth the time. As such, this makes an immersive and very interesting flight opportunity, one you might want to take up from time-to-time, and we recommend this file as another Must Have…for off the beaten path adventures in X-plane.

Of course, we look forward to what comes next from both these developers. Their work is redefining the quality of the experience we enjoy in Xp.

Ayers Rock, too, is available at the Threshold Store, as well as via other outlets.

That’s all for today. We’ll continue looking over both these files, adding insights this weekend. Until then…adios – C

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x+s+r // edlp + quick-takes

Major update to the FF752 so run your updater. EDDH is on sale at the Org – which is usually a pretty good indicator that a major revision is about to release. Just Sim’s EDDC Dresden is on sale too, so maybe a good time to pick up these two.

Pfeffer has been busy lately too, cranking out a new EDLP as well as revising his EDDV Hannover. EDLP Paderborn is new, however, and man-o-man is this a sweet file. Custom buildings, good textures, unexpected architectural elements, extraordinary rock-wall features, and particularly good ramp and apron markings. Lots of winter charters from here but LH regularly flies to EDDF and EDDM. Modified from aeroSOFT’s gateway airport, this is as good as freeware gets, so don’t pass this one by.

EDLP

Pfeffer’s EDDV Hannover came in for an update too, and when I opened up here this is what I found: the stairs and a catering truck did NOT come from the JarDesigns GHE package. All I can say is “it’s about time!” This airport is closing in on payware quality too, so get it onboard if you haven’t already.

EDDV

LEMG Malaga came in for some work and this one is getting good too. Note: BA flies to London City from here, and Delta to JFK; the list of carriers and destinations is surprisingly long. Nice update, well worth the download.

LEMG

Oh…a lot of these images were taken with the Toliss A319 sporting a new cockpit texture set. It’s much lighter and less blue-green, and here are two more to consider. Installation is simple, but back-up your originals.

319tex

WMKK Kuala Lumpur v1 is worth adding to your Asian files, and there are so many gates and terminals here it’s astonishing. Lots of cargo ramps, too.

WMKK

Night textures a little on the simple side, but the airport works well and looks good in daylight. Below, ramps are busy…and well detailed.

WMKK2

KSQL San Carlos may not sound all that interesting but look over the image immediately below. Follow the runway to the buildings off in the distance under the hill; that’s KSFO. Off to the right, that’s downtown San Francisco. “Behind the photographer” you’d come to Palo Alto in a couple of miles, and San Jose in about 30 miles. NOW does this look a little more interesting? No? Well, KHAF Half Moon Bay is a couple of miles west of here, and if you’re still not interested perhaps you should take up knitting…

KSQL

Never heard of the Gold Coast? That’s Melbourne, Oz to you blokes up north, and this is one city file you don’t want to miss.  Catch this hot & fresh revision while it’s still on the racks.

Gold Coast

And we’ll wrap up this post with Cami De Bellis’ latest, NGTU + Butaritari Atoll, the fourth in her Kiribati series. Her lush tropical airports have consistently been some of the most colorfully accurate in X-plane, and her latest work is no exception. She remains a priceless asset to the X-plane community.

CDB3

What sets this work apart is X-plane’s auto-gen housing (i.e., Rancho Cucamonga Estates housing) is nowhere to be found. Instead, you’ll find thatched-roof houses and cinder-block commercial buildings, and all of it accurately placed on a nicely detailed ortho.

We’ll see you next time, and thanks for dropping by – A

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x+s+r // kbzn + skcg (and a few more)

Word out earlier today that Frank Dainese & Co are finishing up their latest mountain-masterpiece, and this time we’re going to get Monument Valley, Arizona. If for some reason you are unfamiliar with this part of the southwest United States, well, you probably haven’t watched enough John Wayne movies. Such timeless classics as The Searchers was filmed here, among the many John Ford/John Wayne pairings. If you’ve seen Clint Eastwood’s The Eiger Sanction this area figured in the first half of the movie, but if you’ve ever flown over this area in X-plane you know it is extremely disappointing, to say the least…so having this area ably represented in X-plane will be nothing short of fantastic. Maybe they’ll try the Grand Canyon area next time out? Or Jackson Hole & The Grand Tetons?

A few images from the preview they posted earlier today, you’ll recall the first was used in The Eiger Sanction:

MonVal.jpg

MonVal 1

MonVal2

All you need with that last image is the soundtrack from Rio Bravo. Wow. Can’t wait.

//

Another airport from out west posted today, a freeware version of KBZN Bozeman, Montana, and this one ain’t bad.

KBZN

This is a big Delta/Sky West airport, but don’t dismiss this one as too small. Look over the list of carriers and destinations here, and note the deep connections available here too, from SeaTac to Long Beach to SLC, DEN, ORD, and MSP. In years past this was a big 733 airport; these days you’ll find an occasional 738 but by and large this is CRJ-200 territory. The airport is a much more popular gateway to Yellowstone National Park, too, and in the winter skiers come to tackle Big Sky’s spectacular slopes. Bozeman has inherited a new name over the last 20 years, too: Bozangeles…because a bunch of movie stars call the area home, and even a retired shuttle commander lives there, too. Nice scenery library airport, and I’d recommend you try this one; get it here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/44767-kbzn-bozeman-yellowstone-international-2018/

And don’t forget the other Yellowstone gateway airport: Idaho Falls, by Turbulent, and the file was recently picked up by the Org so now you can buy it there.

KBFI

This is one of the best payware airports in Xp, and a total Must Have file. KBZN only makes it more so.

A new freeware airport and city file for Cartagena, Columbia came out Thursday, and you’ll want to look this one over:

SKCG

The airport could use a few tweaks but it gets the job done. File here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/44783-cartagena-xplane-11/

Another city file is out, part of the Germany VFR series and this time for Nordhausen; this one will be reasonably close to EDDP Leipzig-Halle. The local airport, EDAO, is not modeled and not in the download manager.

DM VFR

Get it here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/44759-nordhausen-vfr/

Another CDB file for Kiribati, and another slice of Polynesia to fill out the area in Xp. Smudge-pot landing lights? Really? That’s a first, and very cool!

CDB

File here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/44732-ngtm-tamana-island-kiribati/

Finally got around to upgrading my DD NYC Airports Vol 1 to version 2 (which includes JFK, LGA, and Teterboro, NJ). I’ve only looked at JFK but the taxiway and ground textures are a major improvement and make it worth the minor cost of updating this file. It’s at the Org.

KJFK

Also took a look at Mike Wilson’s Xp11 version of his 707-320/420 file, and ya know, it ain’t bad. Maybe about where Jack was with his 732v1; the cockpit is looking decent, and the exterior texture set is quite an improvement:

707

If you want to round out your classic Boeing stable, this file is getting there. You might check it out, and even though it still has a way to go it’s got that old Boeing feel. This one too is at the Org. and it just looks right at home taxiing the ramps at Kennedy. Sounds good, too.

Later, and have a good weekend.

 

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x+s+r // news & freeware

KRAP hdr

When Turbulent released KIDA Idaho Falls a few months back we finally got a taste of what we might find coming to X-plane if the expected wave of FsX developers did in fact migrate some product our way. If you’ve not tried it yet that’s understandable, because KIDA is a world class airport file so far off the beaten track (in the USA, anyway) it may have been hard for some people to justify the purchase – and that’s too bad. The main terminal building has some of the best modeling we’ve ever seen, and it’s a small airport so performance is spot-on.

Well, looking over on Threshold yesterday we learned that Turbulent is on track to shake up the market once again with their release of KMBS, Michigan. This file will, as we’ve mentioned, fit into the midwest route network we discussed last autumn, directly linking Michigan to major hubs in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. From these hubs, of course, the world is your oyster, but so far there’s been little action in Michigan save KTTF Custer Gateway, which is, in the end, an insignificant GA airport when viewed in terms of commercial aviation.

KMBS features great architecture and the model by Turbulent reflects that, right down to the fully modeled interior:

turb 2

This facility is geared towards ops by RJs, especially CRj-200 type aircraft, and the super detailed jetways are set up accordingly:

turb 1

Turbulent’s KMBS is the type of airport X-plane has been desperate for, and it’s one we can’t wait to see in action.

//

Also seen over at Threshold, word that a new Beechcraft is in-development, this time a King Air 350, and with a file that looks detailed enough to challenge Carenado’s place as best GA aircraft developer in X-plane.

//

So, two hopeful trends emerging this week, with KMBS being the best news we’ve seen in a long time. Stairport’s Daytona Beach was, as we concluded, a mixed bag – yet on balance it’s a good fit for people who like to fly in and around Florida. I’m not sure it’s a Must Have for people, say, who prefer Europe or Oceania, as its utility is somewhat limited regionally, but for folks who like to fly Delta’s SE route network it’s a nice addition. Anyway, it wasn’t the knock-out punch we might have been hoping for, so…we have high expectations for Turbulent’s KMBS.

And so, on to the day’s new freeware: if you like to fly Delta’s western routes, Sioux Falls, South Dakota was a nice addition last week, and what more could you ask for? Well, how about two more on Delta’s Rj net: KGSP and KRAP, so let’s take a look at those two now.

KGSP

KGSP Greenville-Spartanburg Regional serves the all-important BMW manufacturing facility in South Carolina, and hey, the beemer plant is even included in this file, too! Note: this airport file is also for Xp11.20 or newer, as the latest Laminar library objects are used. Looking at the image just below, these appear to be quite nice. The main terminal building appears to have an interesting texture set, as well. The view from the ‘pit? Great!

KGSP

Get KGSP here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/44721-kgsp-greenville-spartanburg-for-xp-1120/

It’s a long drive from, say, New York or Boston to Rapid City, South Dakota, and not a very pretty one at that (except in winter). Make the drive in August and you can add miserable heat to the reasons not to make this trip, yet early each August thousands of lunatics get on their Harleys (count me among that number once upon a time) and zero in on Rapid City, as this is the last stop before hitting Sturgis, the little town almost on the Wyoming border where every August a few billion Hawg riders congregate to see how much chrome can possibly added to a stock Harley. Also in the area: Deadwood and the Mount Rushmore National Monument. Also not far away, Devil’s Towers, Wyoming (Close Encounters, anyone?), so before you write off an airport around here as irrelevant you might consider there are a few places to explore around the region. Note: Devil’s Tower is a joke in Xp…won’t somebody please take care of this?

KRAP Rapid City Regional uses Xp11 library objects too, so here’s yet another piece of the freeware puzzle that tells you Xp10 is fast fading into irrelevancy. Decent little airport, too, with the Big Three legacy carriers all working out of here and, interestingly enough, KIDA Idaho Falls makes a nice GA hop from this area – as you’ll overfly the Tetons on that route. Another factoid? Many attendees at Sturgis have their bikes shipped to the rally and arrive at…you guessed it…KRAP.

KRAP

Get all the KRAP you’ll ever need right here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/44690-krap-rapid-city-regl/

Quick-takes

Rio

This freeware SBRJ Santos Dumont in Rio will never take the place of GlogallArt’s excellent payware file, but if you don’t fly to Rio frequently enough to justify picking up a payware file this is a decent scenery library file with nice Xp11 compliant features.

St Mary's

EGSE St Mary’s has been revised again! Worth adding the new version, too.

HINC

HNIC is a hospital-rooftop helipad just up the hill from LFMN Nice. Interesting approach, worth picking up, though the ortho is a little off-putting.

Last Word

Carenado’s F33A release over the weekend got us thinking about Carenado’s other Bonanzas available in X-plane, and while these models represent an interesting spread of capabilities, only the F33A is currently fully Xp11 compliant. That said, the version 3.2 V35 model (V models have the split “butterfly” v-tail arrangement) is a perfect initial GA training aircraft, and this acf could even see you through the early phases of instrument training. The current F33A bridges the gap between the V35 and the A36, which is a stretched six-seater. Carenado’s v3.2 A36 is equipped with a modest glass panel, the Aspen Avionics EFD 1000. While in theory an interesting choice for this aircraft file, in practice there’s not enough documentation for this unit, and real world manuals are of little value as the unit in the acf has limited functionality. This panel also includes 2 Garmin heads but no radar altimeter, another curious omission.

If I was going to hop in just one of these (real) aircraft to fly across the US (and assuming a light payload) I think I’d go with the F33, which might explain why Carenado chose to convert this file to Xp11 standards first.  The F33A has a nice selection of old school instruments just perfect for simple – you might even say bulletproof – operations, and I’d sooner fly cross country with VOR/NDB instruments that any glass cockpit, though a Garmin backup wouldn’t be a bad idea. If all you do is VFR over short distances, the A36 is overkill, and even the F33A is a little over the top, too. The V35 is perfect for this pilot. That said, the A36 has air conditioning, so if hot KRAP is on your plate this summer you won’t lose your cool.

Bonanzas.png

Both models imaged on the GA ramps at Daytona Beach; night panels on these v3.2 versions are just functional, by the way, and some manipulators are dodgy.

Carenado also just released their Saab 340a for that “other platform,” and it looks quite nice. The big question? Will that file make it to X-plane anytime soon? If so, how will it differ from the Leading Edge 340? I think it would be an interesting decision on Carenado’s part to port this one, too. Time will tell, I suppose. As Goran said recently, competition is good. To which we might add: competition spurs developers to take chances, to really lay it all out there, and that too is a really good thing.

We’ll see you next time. Keep cool – A

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x+s+r // first look: carenado f33a bonanza

F33 hdr

Carenado’s Bonanza models have been my “go-to” files for GA goodness ever since they released their first model for Xp, but then again, I grew up in these things and by the time I was a teenager I knew Dad’s A model inside and out. I did flight training in a C-150 but always looked forward to going up with Dad so I could get my hands on that airplane – even if only for an hour or so. The difference between a Beechcraft and a Cessna (or Piper) is like the difference between an old Chevy and a new Mercedes, too. Everything about the Bonanza felt rock-solid while everything inside the little Cessna rattled. The -150 felt like a kite in a crosswind, while the Bonanza just powered through messy air, and IFR in the Bonanza was a zero stress affair because she was 1) equipped for it, and 2) such a solid platform that it was always easy to work the panel.

Carenado’s file will never be able to fully translate that rock-solid feel – indeed, no acf can – if only because these are impressions, and impressions can’t be modeled. No joystick and rudder in a desktop flight-sim will ever be able to realistically convey how the slipstream over the ailerons feels. You’ll never pull back sharply on the yoke and feel butterflies in your gut as the Gs push you down…just the nature of the beast, ya know?

But Carenado give you a physical model that goes a long way to getting you there, to putting you in the cockpit. This is Immersive stuff…

In Texas, during the summer months of July and August, when you taxied out to the active in the Cessna you opened both windows to let some air in; in the Bonanza all you had was the little hatch set in the pilots window and the main door, so Beechcraft included a little detent that would hold the door open just a little – and you could taxi with the door open, enough to keep the air moving over your sweat-soaked face and forearms, anyway.  That was enough to keep from cooking yourself.

Carenado manages to model many of the most important details with subtle precision, and hardly anything is ever left off. In the luggage compartment below you’ll find a couple of small nylon duffels and a windbreaker someone tossed in at the last moment. Minor detail, you say? Not me… That’s the type of detail that hits home, that tells me the person modeling has been there and done that. It’s pretty cool, really.

You can see elements inside the lightbulbs, decals on the windows, the make of tires on the mains (Goodyear), and all the detail takes me back to the sixties and seventies. Again, pretty cool for a 26 buck program.

F33 1

I enjoy the panel on this model. It’s really very well equipped for IFR, right down to the radar altimeter and HSI with integrated LOC, DME, and GS, all coupled to the AP. The Garmin of course is a pop-up model, but now so are the AP head as well as the ALT head. Just click on their face and there they are, ready for work…

The only downside? You’ve got to disappear the yoke in order to see the throttle and mixture; better to have a dedicated hardware unit for such things anyway. In practice, this F33 feels rock solid and climbs with authority. Flying IFR will be a no-nonsense experience too, because all the controls and manipulators work as advertised.

F33 2

Working the model into a stall, she held true through 60 knots then the nose gently dropped; power on and you’re out of the stall. Not realistic, but pretty close. “Stalling” in a climbing turn was even less realistic, as the aircraft never truly entered a stall. The nose leveled and dropped slowly, and that was it.

Flying an ILS into EDHI, the AP held LOC and GS until about two miles out (still 1500 AGL); at that point the aircraft lost lock on GS and drifted down fast; I had to disconnect the AP to finish the approach. I’ll try a few more approaches and see what happens, and report in a future post.

Below, flying over EDDH on the way to EDHI…stall tests and final approach.

F33 3

All of the little niggling bugs in v3.2 are gone now, and the panel lighting is back to the best GA in Xp. To me, this is the first truly satisfying Carenado in v11, though the Beech 1900 comes close. Maybe its just that this aircraft file feels so much like what I remember a Bonanza feeling like?

And…is that such a bad thing?

If new to X-plane, or to flight simming in general, stick with the default C-172 until you know which way the pointy end goes, then move on up to this Beechcraft. Unless you really aspire to much more, like flying heavy metal or an SR-71, you could have a serious long term relationship with this file and never look back. It’s all you need to get you through your PPL and instrument rating – in style. But by then…you’ll be ready for your multi-engine…and so on…

Anyway, this is close to X-plane perfection. Maybe a few issues left to iron out, but it’s a new model and that’s usually the case.

Hasta later and adios – C

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x+s+r // hamburg & area

xsr hamburg

It was the best of times, and the worst of times…

If you ever want to get an idea of what aircraft files are selling really well, check out the number of liveries available at the Org for the file in question. If there are a handful, well, that’s probably the same descriptive the developer has in mind when he goes over his royalty cheque for the month. Yet, if hundreds of new paints appear within the first week or so of a new models release, you can be sure the developer is a really happy camper. Unless, of course, you’re talking about the default 738 (or the Zibo variant), but, then again, the default 738 is a payware quality aircraft file masquerading as freeware, and when modified appropriately the file approaches the highest levels of quality. Good thing, as PMDG has apparently given up on X-plane once again. Look on a few forums concerning PMDGs DC-6 and you’ll see it referred to as “abandonware.” As in: make a commitment – then poof…we’re – gone.

Once upon a time we had two really interesting developers working on a variety of heavy metal files – the X-plane Freeware Project and XP Jets. The XpFreeware Project kind-of-semi-morphed into IXEG, while XP Jets succumbed to the oldest force in the market…someone beat them to the draw. Take a look at their 777 cockpit renders someday, because they’re beyond excellent and they make the current 777 look a little, well, ‘interesting’ in comparison. After three years of development, and all the while the developers kept saying “we won’t be rushed,” ‘another developer’ came out with their own payware 777 and XP Jets just quietly folded their tent and faded away. Well, they were true to their word – they wouldn’t be rushed – and the free market came along and ate their breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s more to this story, of course, and most of it is beyond ugly, yet even so the bottom line is almost a Darwinian parable: you compete, knowing people are out there gunning for you, or you just fade away. Dog eat dog, neh? Not pretty, but that’s the way it is…and not just in X-plane.

If you look at the XP Freeware Project’s site two aircraft feature prominently; a 733 and a 752. We obviously know what happened to their 733, yet their more interesting file – the 757-200 – languished until “another developer” came along and put that work to rest, too. We hear from time to time that someone is working on the remains of the XPFWP 752, but stories like that have been turning up regularly for years now. Who knows, right? Take those rumors with a grain of salt or you’ll go crazy.

Back before all this came down, something like ten years ago, Simon and I were advocating that designers needed to form teams, large teams, in order to crank out files at the unheard of pace of a new release more than every few years. Yet aircraft files were fast becoming so complex that modeling soon represented less than a tenth of the work in a new file, while systems and textures grew into monstrous creatures consuming more and more development resources. In other words, manpower. So, while learning how to use Blender was seen as a way to turn this hobby into a profitable venture, learning how to code complex avionics suites was soon even more important and that’s not so easy to learn. Needless to say, only a few people are bright enough to master all of these various disciplines, hence…the idea of teams seemed logical. Yet many aircraft designers resisted the idea then, and even now.

Yet some people did form teams, while a few remained solo players – until the market either took them out or forced them to retreat and rethink their strategy. Now, Flight Factor has become a team oriented developer and the results speak for themselves. Still, a few solo developers still work their tails off yet are hard pressed to keep their files current, let alone work on new projects, and this is due to Xp’s relentless update cycles. Year old files are routinely made non-functional (or worse…truly obsolete), and the work is endless – and thankless. Still, we see new solo developers come along from time to time, and yes, they pour their heart and soul into a project only to get crushed by a competitor they never knew they had, usually a big team out to dominate the market.

Yet in the world of aircraft for flight sims, notably heavy metal files, just because one aircraft file has been made doesn’t mean the market can’t stand another. Look at the A320, or the 737, or all the various Piper singles. And I would have to assume, based on the number of new liveries that appear for the Flight Factor A320 that this is one of the best selling files ever. Then again, so was the IXEG before it.

The point of all this?

Lots of people love the current 757, 777, and even the 787, yet a very vocal segment of the community detests them. So? If you’re an aircraft file developer, don’t let the presence of, say, a 787 already in the Xp market stop you from developing and marketing a new version. And the same goes for scenery files, too – to a degree. While there’s little need to duplicate an airport that already has a very good, up-to-date file, in truth there really are comparatively few “very good” files out there, especially when compared to the constant need for new files. Let’s look at a “for instance” now, too.

Mr X has made superb freeware airports for KBOS and KSFO, among others, but what if Fly Tampa came along and said they’re going to make their KBOS file available in Xp11, and with all 11s rendering options put to good use. I suspect many people who regularly use the current KBOS might be skeptical – until the finished product actually hit the market, anyway. Then, if the new file exceeded expectations I think Fly Tampa would have a runaway hit on their hands. If the file was a “dud” I suspect the market for add-ons might actually contract a bit, because there’s a synergy that happens when a brilliant file hits the market. Excitement generates, or, more importantly, regenerates interest among long-time users whose interest has lagged.

So, what if a developer new to the scene brought in an exceptional 787 or A350 to market? Do you honestly think that just because there’s already at least one existing 787 or A350 file that this new version wouldn’t sell – and sell very well? Well, it’s possible, I suppose. Maybe war will break out in the Middle East tomorrow and draw the US and Russia into open conflict, too. Or maybe the Great Depression v2 will finally hit. Yeah, things would change, but if the status quo holds, if the market for flight sim add-ons remains generally strong, there’s always room for something better. There always has been and there always will be.

But…something better. Let that sink in, would you?

Do we need FsX conversions no better than what we had in Xp – seven years ago?

No, we don’t. We need the really hyper-detailed files, both aircraft and scenery, that have been the bread and butter in FsX for decades. And yet…why aren’t these files showing up?

Well, we’re going to look at a few files around Hamburg, Germany today, including aeroSOFT’s EDDH and a new, freeware Hamburg Finkenwerder (EDHI). Also in the immediate area, we’ll look at a comparatively ancient freeware file for EDHL Lübeck-Blankensee, as well as a freeware Lübeck VFR City file, an historically important city as well as the birthplace of the writer Thomas Mann. I’ll have a few things to say about the EDHL Lübeck airport file, too, perhaps relevant to the above rant, re: the dubious quality of a few recent FsX payware conversions. These four (native) files represent a series of snapshots in time, too, from early v9 to the current state of development in Xp (v11.20), with both payware and freeware represented. Stick around, because you might find the view constructive.

So, if you’re ready let’s jump in. First up, and for no good reason I can think of, let’s look at a bunch of recent paints for the FF A320 and the default/Zibo 738. No links, just a sampling of whats come out for these two important files over the past few weeks…

Freeware vs payware. That’s always the dilemma, isn’t it?

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New paints for the FF A320 Ultimate

Just focusing on lesser known carriers here, as in my mind this shows the breadth of interest this superior file has generated.

FF320paint

Most of these A320 paints are for “off the beaten path” carriers, yet even the new KLM seems almost an oddity – if we included all the 320 paints for major carriers…well…we don’t have the bandwidth! Below, the 738 at Toronto, and check out the KLM below (note the eyebrows?). It’s the number of weekly, indeed, daily releasees for these two files that’s impressive. I wonder…should EADT concentrate on redeveloping the x737 files to LEAP/MAX versions? Before that wonderful team goes the way of XP Jets?

738 paint comp

The Southwest variant is “Tennessee One,” and the Swissair is the “1980” variant. The blue and teal BA Boeing House variant is gonzo, yet all three stand out as files to get, and keep.

Now…let’s take a look around Hamburg, starting with the aeroSOFT payware EDDH.

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EDDH Hamburg

This was one of aeroSOFT’s first files for Xp, and I’m not at all sure this file has been updated since. The airport terminal buildings are nicely modeled but the textures are dated and of very low resolution. The lighting looks state-of-the-art…for Xp v9…with Lit Textures (ugh) the main visible feature, and so the buildings are dim and the ramps almost dark. Ramps, taxiways, and roadway textures are hopelessly dated, as well. The apron areas adjacent to the main terminal uses muted colors and as a result the markings there are barely visible (see images, below); let’s not even mention the lack of ground equipment on the apron. Still, the airport file is more than useful, in the same way any one of a number of freeware files are useful. This is NOT, however, the level of quality you’d expect in a payware file circa 2018…because it needs a serious update.

The city surrounding the airport is not modeled, of course, but I think looking over the two images just below the case could be made that, like as at JustSIMs UUWW, developers ought to consider modeling out from the main airport property about a quarter mile. Obviously, as you can see below, the land around the real airport is not sub-Saharan grassland, yet this is the same texture set that surrounds the airport in Bamako, Mali we looked at last week. This texture set is too drought-stricken in appearance to show up at a northern, coastal European airport (and yes, AlpilotX’s v4 mesh is onboard, and it does little to help matters here). Beyond mere aesthetics, the nature of the city around an airport often defines the character of the approach (TNCM, anyone? Or San Diego’s KSAN?), especially on short finals. Having a uniform parched savannah does little to help this when the approach should be over a densely-packed cityscape, and Xp is not going to magically do that for developers…they’ll need to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Why?

Because many better freeware developers do.

And if a payware developer can’t surpass a freeware developer’s file, why bother? Maybe it’s time to take up knitting?

EDDH ge comp

From low angles of view this airport still works; from overhead the curved roof textures are very indistinct (e.g., blurry), and night window textures on the main terminal building are not at all sharp. Building models, on the other hand, are uniformly excellent, so only a few textures and surfaces need updating – with sharper PBR materials.

EDDH 1

The last three images above show the ramps and apron area, and these are dismal. One look at the same area, at the real airport, ought to be enough to convince you more work needs to be done on this file.

EDDH ramps

Ramp markings, clutter, lighting – all need revising. This airport had problems when it was released (years ago), yet nothing’s been done to update the file. Contrast this with Fly Design’s EPKK, which has been revised twice since its original release – two months ago. Then…consider what we wrote above, about competing or fading away.

But, on a brighter note…let’s move north a few miles, to EDHL Lübeck. This airport file is comparatively ancient (released 29 March 2012, and revised just once, two days later) and it was one of the last files we reviewed before the original x+s+r went into hibernation. If you look at the area in Google Earth you’ll find no housing estates near the airport, just a few farmhouses – and a lot of farmland. Can anyone say “exclusion zone!” And yes, there’s no HDR lighting (only Lit textures…ugh) but the little terminal building is nicely modeled and has decent photo-textures on the entry side. In short, with a little work this could be a showcase airport. In short, this late v9 early v10 airport still holds its own against many recent payware files, and, well, that’s troubling.

EDHL

More recently, a Lübeck VFR city file came out, and it includes the Travemünde beachside resort area. Yes, the four masted barque seen above (The Passat) is actually moored there, and yes, the high-rise hotel is really on the beach; what’s not included in Travemünde is the beachside boardwalk and carnival area, nor the nearby WWII submarine pens. The Lübeck file includes a fair number of important landmarks (yes, important); Lübeck was once the most important city in the Hanseatic League, a trading cartel that stretched from Russia to Belgium and, eventually, took-in merchants and bankers in London. The League, started in the 1200s, might be called the progenitor of the modern merchant-banking system and was the most important such organization in the world, right up through the opening years of the 20th century. And, oh yes, the ‘hansa’ in Lufthansa derives in part from the Hanseatic League (original members were referred to as Hansa), and again, Lübeck was one the most important members. Bruges, Belgium was, as well.

So, with two freeware files the ancient city of Lübeck is ably represented in Xp, and despite the age of the airport file the results are really very good. But…what if a payware developer came in and updated this airport, or any one of a number of such airports in Xp? Would it sell? When a decent freeware file exists? Perhaps. If the quality presented a compelling case, and if the price was not egregious.

One last file to consider today, a new EDHI Hamburg Finkenwerder, which includes the Airbus final assembly and finishing center as well as some riverfront detail, including containerships and a marina almost right under the final approach.

EDHI

This file is fairly representative of the quality found in most freeware these days. It relies on scenery libraries so “gets the job done” with efficiency, but not the absolute level of hyper-realism that’s supposed to define good payware files (think KABQ and UUWW).

So, what we end up with around Hamburg is actually fairly representative of what we have in X-plane more generally. Older, not-revised payware files of questionable quality mixed in with a hodgepodge of old and new freeware files – and many of which are as good as their contemporary payware companions. This is the state of play in X-plane, circa May 2018.

Yes, aircraft files are, by and large, more detailed and some are even revised frequently (advantage: large teams) while in the scenery department things are still relatively bleak. We need lots of new files, but as important, a lot of existing files need updating or replacing. With add-ons like x-enviro and TerraMAXX hitting the market, the platform has never looked better, yet development seems to be moving forward at a trickle. It just seems to me that the Fly Design’s paradigm might be the most workable, and profitable. Make smaller airports of extreme quality and make more of them, too. Sell at a lower price and hope to make up the difference on volume, not margins. If you can churn out four to five files a year instead of one or maybe two, percentage favor you as one might be a real hit.

Oh, before I forget…the image at the top of today’s post is from GloballArt’s CYYZ Toronto, and yes, that’s meant as a little bit of irony.

And so, yes…it was the best of times, and the worst of times…

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x+s+r // kdab + lmml + mwcr + cdb

xsr day

We’ve seen several previews of Stairport’s KDAB Daytona Beach, Florida, so we were a little curious about this one. Until we saw the sales images at the Org, anyway. Those just about killed my curiosity, but then I remembered the previews actually looked decent so went ahead and pulled the trigger. And then, while waiting for the file to work its way through the Cuisinart and into my CS folder…a new tdg file came out, this for Malta, the island citadel in the central Med. A few minutes later, Grand Cayman popped, then a new file by CDB, and my day officially went from quiet to bat-shit crazy.

As we get closer to the month of June we should start to see new releases picking up a bit, for both payware and freeware files. Nothing new about that, but will we see a deluge of new work from FsX ‘crossover’ developers? That’s the big question, isn’t it? For developers missing the early summer rush the next big windows are around the first of September and the end of November. These have traditionally been the few big periods when the market heats up a little, so early June is kind of a big time, and one where a lot of people will be watching, with interest, to see what happens.

So, let’s head to northeast Florida, to Daytona Beach, an American mecca for NASCAR drivers and hawg riders from all over the good ole U. S. of A.

Oh…Carenado released the new v11 F35 Bonanza late last night. More soon.

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KDAB Daytona Beach is aeroSOFT’s latest scenery file. Made by Stairport Sceneries, the final release file is available at all the usual outlets; the price is 29 buckeroos, which seems a little above average for this sized file. To be justified, the quality would need to be on the extremely high side of the equation, so what do we have here?

Well, the exterior model is decent and includes all kinds of skylights, and these skylights (glass-covered roof openings) reveal a substantial amount of effort has gone into modeling the terminal building’s interior. Another bonus? The massive Daytona Motor Speedway is modeled, yet curiously this centerpiece is not lighted, not even a little, so what could have been a real asset to the file ends up being a black hole at night. If your computer can handle HDR you’ll be gratified to find all kinds of PBR/reflective surfaces, including the windows seen in the set below. The interior modeling is very well done but ultra dark window tinting is used and as a result the interior is barely visible from the cockpit – under any condition. Static aircraft are included (yea!) but apron markings are a little hard to see. Ramp and taxiway textures are good, but again, markings need work. Parking lots have cars, but the lots are created from smeary orthos…

So, what we end up with here is a mixed bag. I suspect users in Xp who like flying to this part of Florida will want this file, regardless. Ditto Nascar fans and anyone who’s been to Race Week or did a ritual Spring Break in Daytona while in college, and that includes just about anyone who’s ever owned a Harley.

KDAB

Pros: good model, bonus racetrack included.

Cons: this file really falls apart after dark.

A small secondary grass strip/gated community is included with the KDAB file. FD90 is located just west of the city proper; interesting choice though I’d have to wonder why this was included. I guess it’s there if you want it, and it’s a separate file so you don’t have to install it…but consider this. With all the little ponds around the area you have to wonder if an alligator will find its way out onto the runway.

KDAB2

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tdg’s latest is another ultra useful Mediterranean airport; all we’re missing is an up to date Gibraltar and a few airports in Algeria and Tunisia, and possibly Cairo, then we’d have an up-to-date Med Network that we could have only dreamt about five years ago.

And of course some of the city is modeled, a few port highlights, too. Night lighting is perfect, car parks are worthy of a master class on how to model such things, night window textures are basic scenery library specials while the overall attention to detail is exemplary. Take a spin around the island, too. There’s no telling what you’ll find.

Designers from aeroSOFT ought to emulate tdg’s style, in more ways than one, too.

LMML

Get the file here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/44654-lmml-malta-international-airport/

 

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MCWR Grand Cayman

[note: this is NOT a review of the file from Runway 26 Simulations]

This fanciful freeware file by Skylark2992 is a riot of color and a kaleidoscope of shapes and textures. You might try this one just for kicks, but read the installation notes carefully before trying to run it. No night textures or lighting on the ramps, no parking lot detail.

MWCR

File here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/44639-mwcr-grand-cayman-airport/

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If you don’t know who or what CDB is, maybe this scenery isn’t for you. As is her custom, this is just one more perfect snapshot of a tropical paradise, captured by her perfect imagination.

NGTA

Get it here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/44640-ngta-bonriki-intl-airport-kiribati/

And…chapter two! Or, two from CDB in one day, too…

NGMK

File here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/44664-ngmk-marakei-atoll-kiribati/

Have a good weekend – C

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