Back in the day, back when this “Review” first opened its pages…way back in XP V8 as a matter of fact, we began focusing more and more on scenery reviews…Simon & Chip even made a few files of their own to share…until they realized how little time that endeavor left for other things…like having any kind of a life to call their own. So, they shuffled off to other parts of the SIM, notably to reviewing Carenado’s ‘then-new-to-XP’ GA aircraft files – which by late v9/early v10 were being ported to X-plane at an alarming rate and releasing in a steady stream of creativity. Thank you, Dan K.!
Well, all things being equal (a dubious claim) the three of us still have an overwhelming interest in scenery files, but that’s only natural, I think. When it comes to the nature of flight simulation in general, programs like MsFS, P3D and XP tend to represent two main areas of interest: flying within a general aviation context, or flying somewhere within the vast realm of commercial aviation. Developers, be they aircraft file developers or scenery file developers, have tended to focus, some almost exclusively, on one of these two realms, with some subtle differentiation evolving along the way – such as developers who’ve focused on bush flying, or others on so-called heavy metal aircraft (airliners), and, of course, the truly crazy developers concentrating on flutterbugs (aka helicopters, who are only flown by crazy people). Within these divisions, further breakdowns of interest occur, with some developers focusing exclusively on just one type of aircraft file (Carenado, STMA, etc.) and those who concentrate on just one type of Heavy Metal file (IXEG, Flight Factor, Peter’s Aircraft, et.al.)
Oddly enough, this same basic dichotomy has pretty much held true for scenery developers, with some focusing on GA airports and others remaining focused on the commercial end of the spectrum. Of course, there are a few developers who make scenery files for both types of airports, and we may well see more taking that path in the future as MsFS/P3D developers move into XP, but today we want to look back at the work of one man, a small body of work that is nonetheless excellent. If you fly GA aircraft in XP, especially around the East Coast of the United States, my guess is you’ll want these files on your computer, and as Marc Leydecker made a few smaller commercial airports too, you just might want to include one of these in your Custom Scenery folder, as well.
Back in the day, we were huge fans of airport files developed by Freddy De Pues. He made gorgeous airport files – from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle – and for years they were the class of X-plane, period. His files were always free (or, what’s called a freeware file) and they really set the bar high for those who came along later, first in version 10 and later, on into v11. When we recently decided to stick our noses back into X-plane, one of the first things we did was check out Freddy’s latest files, and we’re seriously impressed with the work he’s been putting out the last few years. That said, we noticed a little note on the bottom of his site mentioning Marc Leydecker, so we dug around a little and found some of his old files, too. Now, keep in mind we’ve not been nose deep in the Sim for almost six years, so we’d not seen these files – until recently – so these may be old news to you…but not to us. That said, there are always people new to XP who have no idea what’s out there, or what to do next, so this post is for more for them than you old-timers out there.
The first thing most newbies want when they switch off the SeaTac demo in XP is a bunch of decent airports to fly in and out of, and if you like flying on the US East Coast there are a few nice files out there, notably those produced by Mr. X. Then there are Marc Leydecker’s files.
And…well, holy guacamole.
The cockpit image above, taken out the front office window of the Carenado Beech 1900D, shows one such airport, and, well, we thought it time to poke around a little bit and see what’s up with this developers work.
Oh, a few more things to get out of the way before we head out…all these airports are located in the so-called Tidewater region of Virginia, the tidal estuary region along the banks of Chesapeake Bay, so if you fly around the Chesapeake region (Maryland to the Carolinas) you’ll NEED/want these files, but even if you simply only putter up and down the east coast you’ll find yourself coming back here more than once. These files are so good you want to come back.
Second point? You’re going to be sorely disappointed if you open these files and still have the default World Airports file still in your Custom Scenery folder. Nothing will look right, and default lego-brick buildings will fill out your view.
Dreadful…simply dreadful…because a better world awaits…
Middle Point Regional is located about 90 miles south of Reagan National (aka that little town known as the Swamp, or Washington, D.C.), and roughly 30 miles east of Richmond, the capital of Virginia. About 50 miles to the south you’ll run into Norfolk, Virginia, and you’ll soon note that Mr. Leydecker’s scenery files are all located in this general region, i.e., very close to Norfolk/Newport News, and therefore reasonably close to the nation’s capital.
The (real) airport in West Point, Virginia boasts of recent strides in developing new facilities for corporate jets, and it looks as though the main (terminal) building could serve modest commercial traffic as well, so I used the Beech 1900D for many images made here. As you can see, the terminal building is fairly small, but I’d guess it serves GA & corporate needs well enough for a small airport. Here’s a decent YouTube video of the final approach – a video that also shows off the buildings modeled in this file to good effect…
So, what’s the main point you note so far? That the models used in the construction of this scenery are faithful to the original, right down to the parking lot? That was my first impression.
For example, here’s the view in XP…
…and here’s a view from an image posted in Google Earth:
…and another view, this time back in XP, with, roughly, the same angle of view:
And please keep in mind…this is a freeware file, okay? A stunningly accurate, not to mention whimsically prosaic freeware file, with deft little touches everywhere you look, like flags waving in the breeze and lawnmowers cooling by a taxiway. I was kind of surprised I couldn’t smell all that freshly mown grass, ya know?
This airport compares, and reasonably so, I think, to the recently released KTTF Custer Gateway file we reviewed last time out – with one caveat. This file includes the airport, and limited development of the surrounding town (West Point) and countryside, and little has been developed beyond that, and, certainly, you wouldn’t expect to find local detail to the extent found in a good payware file. Still, take a good look around. If judging by absolute fidelity to the real airport facility is your primary criteria, this may well be the best little freeware GA file in X-plane.
Below, some construction activity is going on on an old, unused runway; indeed, Leydecker’s scenery files include lots of (moving) construction equipment. Very immersive, very important when making good, chaotic files…
And even the trees used are very well suited to this coastal environment. One taxiway seems to take a pastoral meander through the trees, too, which only adds to the romance here.
When a photo-real construct such as Marc Leydecker’s KFYJ is joined with an equally accurate aircraft file, such as Carenado’s Beech 1900D, the end result is somewhat difficult to distinguish from the real thing, I think. Assuming the price for the scenery file (er, free) doesn’t get you down, what have you got to lose?
Of course, when it gets dark out things can get dicey, and here’s where you tell the pros from the pretenders in the scenery development biz. Realistic night textures don’t just happen…they’re made…and it takes experience. If the developer doesn’t know his stuff…well, guess what? The scenery file is usually a dud. Or worse – a waste of time – or money.
So, take a look at these images, and be honest with yourself. Is it live, or is it Memorex?
(above) landing lights on and, (below) they’re off here.
Below, note the distressed asphalt on the ramps.
There IS some development in the local town, West Point, Virginia, and the stacks and cranes will provide some VFR reference points, but again, these resources aren’t developed to payware standards circa 2017. Still, this is over and beyond what most freeware developers include.
So, yeah, consider this icing on the cake, a very good cake, but it’s time to move on to something a little bigger. A lot bigger, as a matter of fact. Let’s swing on over to Richmond, Virginia and take a look at KRIC Richmond International.
KRIC is a large regional airport serving the capital of Virginia. The three remaining major carriers (DA, AA, UAL) operate out of here, too, as do Allegiant, JetBlue, Southwest, and Spirit. Delta, American, United each operate regular service as well as smaller, affiliated regional jet service through Delta Connection, American Eagle, and United Express. Most service is regional (Atlanta, Charlotte, BWI, etc.) though the majors operate to destinations as far away as KDFW, KORD, KBOS, and KDEN. Service to Atlanta, Charlotte, Boston, Chicago, and Dallas are the most frequent – and popular here.
Facilities for CAT III ILS are here, as well as older, more conventional ILS/LOC/DME approaches. Of course, RNAV approaches are available for all runways.
The main terminal building is the focal point of Mr. Leydecker’s scenery file, but equal attention is paid to the air cargo annex and the adjacent military facility. Air Force One frequently practices touch and goes here, making the easy 90-mile hop from Andrews AFB for practice runs.
Here’s the real facility, by the way:
…and here is Leydecker’s scenery file in X-plane:
Of course, the construction equipment located all over the place is hard at work.
Now let’s check out the air cargo ramps and warehouses…
And as these ramps usually come alive in the middle of the night, let’s see what they look like in the dark!
But, what about the rest of the airport at night…how does it look?
Well, as you can see, it’s reasonably well lighted and the textures don’t wash out, so I’d call it first-rate rate work. I’m not sure if these files have been optimized for XP11, but even if not they still look reasonably good.
Ah, and what’s that orbiting the airfield? The Goodyear blimp – again? Well, turns out the blimp is a fixture at all Mr. Leydecker’s airports. Whimsical, yes, but appreciated too. Just another layer of immersive chaos to add to the festivities…!
So, a word about performance.
This file has been aggressively optimized and with settings dialed down a bit the scenery load was only around 600mb, so there’s plenty of headroom here. When settings were cranked-up and a complex ACF added, well, you can guess what happened next, right? Still, the EADT x737-7 puttered around the pattern with a reasonable 30 FPS on fairly rich settings. For a large, complex airport file with so much detail, this is a remarkable performance.
My conclusion? Along with Mr. Xs KBOS, this is one of the best freeware files on the US East Coast, and a must have for 737, MD-80, A320 and 757 operators.
To round out today’s post, let’s take a quick look at two more general aviation airports – both located nearby, still in the Virginia Tidewater region. Next up…
KPVG is located just a few miles from Norfolk, VA, therefore convenient to the naval shipbuilding yards located there. As such, I’d guess there’s a fair amount of corporate jet activity at this airport, and Mr. Leydecker has seen fit to add a few more whimsical touches (the patio cafe is a nice, very visible addition) to the affair, and, of course, Mr. Goodyear’s blimp makes an appearance, too.
First observation? This is a deceptively large airfield, and the file has facilities to handle everything in the powered GA realm, but corporate jets and turboprops will feel right at home here. The terminal, again, complete with outdoor cafe, resides in the center of the airport – with the outdoor cafe the most visible landmark on site.
Mr. Leydecker’s vehicle mix is spot on, too, with no blurry blobs showing up here. All the cars and trucks in his files are razor sharp, so good choices were made here, and many add to the sense of dynamic realism by moving about the premises.
There are workshops for cargo and biz-jets here, and ramps too, as well as seemingly hundreds of GA hangers, and all of them very well done. The photo-real textures seen below are but one example of the attention to detail you’ll find everywhere around this project.
So, moving on, the last file we’ll look at today is…
This is another Tidewater GA airport, this one located on the James River (does Pocahontas ring any bells here?), home of the first permanent British colony in the New World. And here’s a nice orientation on YouTube, if interested, and you’ll note the approach is over the water in the video; compare what you see in the video with what you find in the scenery file.
Once on the ground, you’ll find that once again Mr. Leydecker has created a faithful replica of the original, right down to the famous cherry blossoms that dapple the spring landscape – and even Charley’s Cafe has the umbrellas out, too.
Oh yes…the Goodyear blimp is here, too, so the whimsical side pokes through to good effect, as well. You’ll have to look at the scene below closely see what I mean…
And this next image is more like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting than a scenery file…
A kid standing by the ramp, daydreaming. Looking at all the “what ifs” that lie ahead, perhaps, just waiting for the right choices to be made.
Bravo! Well done!
You’ll find charts included with the downloads, but they may be dated. Richmond, of course, has a bunch of ILS approach plates, but what about the rest of these airports? Well, yes, turns out there are RNAV approaches for all, and even a few VOR approach plates for a couple of the runways, too, so you’ll be able to use these files under both VFR and IFR conditions – even if all you have are steam gauges in an old Piper.
So, where do you get these files. Well, try Fred’s site, over here.
There are a few more airports to check out on Marc’s page and we’ll look them over, but for now, let us know what you think of these. Yes, we know these files have been around a while, and yes, they’ve been reviewed more than once, but another opinion never hurts, does it? Anyway, thanks for coming along, and we’ll see you around next time.