We’re going to continue our journey around the Baltic region today by looking at a fairly diverse series of airports covering, of all things, Poland. Now…before you slip off quietly to another web-site…before you dismiss Poland out-of-hand as someplace you’d never fly in X-plane, let me digress a bit.
One of the most satisfying things I’ve done in XP over the years is to make short hops around small and medium sized airports, and in a very limited geographical region. When Santiago Butnaru (of Nimbus) first started making scenery files, he contacted us to beta-test his earliest efforts – and they were all in a fairly small region in central Colombia. Well, I had little interest in the region at the time but thought – why not give it a try? So we got to it, and in no time I found myself immersed in a truly ‘adventurous’ series of flights all around the Andes. And I say adventurous advisedly, as what I was doing was going way outside my geographic “comfort zone” by flying in a part of the world I’d never flown in before (as in: the real world). And that’s a good thing, too. One of the best things you can do to improve your skills as a pilot is to immerse yourself in new situations, and in unfamiliar territory. You gain a new appreciation for how deep into a rut you can fall.
So, we began to push other freeware developers to concentrate on certain regions, and we ended up with a number of small airports around central Texas, then another developer began working (quite independently of us, by the way) on the region from Louisiana to Florida (these were made by Fred over at NAPS). Now, what’s good about this is you end up with a fairly realiastic network airports to fly out of, and airports you might reasonably expect to use as a student pilot. So, for instance, working out of Dallas (where I learned to fly), we had a network that extended from Addison Airport (in North Dallas) to Big Springs out in West Texas, then Fredericksburg, in the Texas Hill Country. There were lots of smaller airports created to fill in the gaps, and try to recall this was before Laminar instituted the auto-gen concept, so all we had to work with was a runway and NAVaids. Having good airports to work out of was simply the next step, but each had to made, one by one.
Simon and I made two airports in central California, on either side of the Sierras, one in Mammoth Lakes, CA, the other in Mariposa, CA., and from there we could hop across the Sierra – and fly right over Yosemite National Park on the way. Others pitched in and we widened the network, allowing for really good GA training flights to take place all over California.
One of the first airports we covered when we restarted the blog was KFFT Custer/Gateway, and the developer envisions creating a network of airports for much the same reason we did…to create a unified networks of airports you can use for training. They promise to bring Detroit online soon, and that will be a big step forward in creating another training region here in the US.
Hence, Poland. Or, to be more precise, Drzewiecki Design already has a network of 12 airports designed, packaged and ready to go – all in one tight geographical region, so all you need to add are charts (provided in the downloads), an aircraft you want to practice in, and some spare time on your hands. You can make your segments a half hour long or a couple hours, it’s your choice – and when you land you’ll end up at an interesting airport. Sorry, no place to hop in for soup and a sandwich…you’ll have to make do in your own kitchen, but if it’s immersive training you want, you can get it right here, right now.
So, don’t dismiss these airports out of hand just because they’re in Poland, because you just might be surprised how satisfying it is to use XP to explore new areas and regions. You never know where this might take you, by the way…but being open to new experiences isn’t a bad thing.
So, in the spirit of exploration, let’s head on over to Poland, to Volume One of Drzewiecki Design’s Polish Airports series. Northern Poland, as a matter of fact, to an airport named after one of the most influential revolutionaries of the 20th Century.
If you were around in the late 80s, Gdansk and Lech Walesa are a part of your vocabulary. You remember, don’t you? The Gdansk Shipyards, a union organizer – Lech Valesa – who stood up to the Soviet Union? A trade-unionist who stood up to the Russian juggernaut and ended up destabilizing the entire Soviet Union? That Lech Valesa?
Well, this is airport number one in Volume One of Drzewiecki Design’s three part Polish Airports series, and for good reason, I guess you could say. Beyond the various historical imperatives associated with this man, it’s an interesting airport, both architecturally and geographically, so let’s get started.
Airport buildings compare nicely to what’s in GoogleEarth, so A+ on that score.
But do note: these exteriors are photo-textures; the interiors of these buildings are NOT modeled as was found at EPWA Warsaw//Chopin. The exteriors are convincing enough, especially in daylight, but the files do not appear to be taking full advantage of the XP11 HDR feature set, as when loaded with textures set to high and HDR active, your framerates are going to take a huge hit. I mean…glacial framerates.
And here (above) is the downside of phototexturing. repetitive textures with no control over light intensity. Note that as bright as that interior is, there’s no spillover onto the ramp. In fact, the ramps by the 733 are black as night. Score? I wasn’t impressed, yet.
But…for a small airport you might not use a lot, it’s more than adequate.
And the daylight/twilight textures are really quite good. The view from the “front office” is certainly good enough for day use, I think.
Now, here are a few images with HDR and textures set to Max. Framerates? Don’t ask, as the Sim was not flyable at these settings, at least, not on my vintage 2017 Mac (5.5Gb on the GPU).
The downside here? Besides framerate issues with settings at MAX, there’s not a lot of activity on the ramps, and on moderate settings my framerates were still slow, like in the hi-20s slow. Now, on to the second airport in this first series of Polish airports…
Second in volume one, EPKT Kotowice started out as a German built military airfield in 1940, and it’s almost right on the border with Germany so you can easily grasp the strategic value. Today, an assortment of passenger carriers work out of here, including Lufthansa, RyanAir, TUI and, of course, both LOT and WIZZair. DHL works cargo to EDDP, a bonus as AeroSOFT’s EDDP is one of the great airport files in XP11 (more on that one, soon).
There are passenger, cargo and maintenance facilities here, and the large hangers are very well executed.
Pardon the foggy conditions…real weather socked me in. Anyway, the terminal uses photo-textures, and while these are garish and bright, they again lack depth. I guess what I’m trying to come to terms with is simply this: the fully modeled interiors at EPWA really impressed me. I’d like to see the developer update these files to include more of this kind of detail.
That said, these buildings match what’s on GoogleEarth quite well.
So, on to the third airport…
EPLB Lublin is a small commercial facility in SE Poland, and there’s not a lot going on in this scenery other than a couple of shutterbugs taking pictures of a Saab 340 on the ramp. In the real world, the architecture here is neo-modernist with tinges of the dytopian-post-apocalyptic. In other words, it looks a little like a suppository, only somewhat bigger. There’s still some limited commercial activity here, though after Lufthansa pulled out in 2016, RyanAir, LOT, EasyJet and WizzAIR are the only remaining big-league players.
The night phototextures are simply dismal. Blurry and dim, and they look like a rush job, until…
You turn on HDR and dial-up texture quality, then…look out!
Still, the ramps are too quiet, the area a little too dark.
But this file comes alive with HDR active.
Okay, still some framerate issues here despite the small size of the facility, but with high enough settings this airport is interesting. Good for RJs and turbo-props, as well as 737/A320 class aircraft. Next up…and the last airport we’ll look at today…
This is another gorgeous architectural gem, and another file that simply comes into it’s own with HDR and textures set to high or max. The problem, again, is brutal framerates. First, let’s look around with setting in the moderate range.
The Rotate MD-80 is on the ramps here, and framerates with settings moderate are in the low-20s. That’s to be expected as the MD-80 gobbles up framerates…
The terminal, above, isn’t real clear, and the louvered wall, below, is similarly murky, but again, settings are moderate here.
The thing to focus on in the next few images is the large text behind the “glass.”
And, again, note the smeary textures (below) with settings at moderate levels.
Now, let’s check these areas out with settings dialed up to MAX:
Yeah…that’s more like it!
But then again, the framerates are taking a big hit, now down in the teens with the Carenado Beech 1900D.
Still, from just about any angle, you can tell this file has been lavished with some serious attention. This terminal building is simply gorgeous, and even though the interior isn’t modeled it’s hard to tell it isn’t…because the phototextures are THAT GOOD!
I don’t know about you, but the image above looks like it could be a photograph taken at the real facility, and even from the front office of the Carenado Beech 1900D, the facade looks much more clear than before, when imaged with lower settings.
So, what I think we’ve found so far is a group of airport files that are tantalyzingly close to perfect – all that’s lacking is a GPU with about 11Gb on it. 16Gb would be even better, but I have my doubts that an 8Gb card will allow you to run these at MAX settings AND still have decent framerates in a moderately complex acf like the IXEG 733 or the Rotate MD-80. The Carenado 1900D was melting my GPU at MAX settings.
So, are these files worth the trouble?
Yes, I think so. If you fiddle with your settings, get them dialed in for the acf you plan to use, you’ll have a great geographical area to train in…assuming you have 4Gb on your GPU to begin with. If working off a 2Gb card, or, God forbid, even lower, I’m not sure I’d bother. You might be able to get the 172SP off the ground at lower settings, but I wouldn’t swear to it.
Next up, in a day or so, volume two in the series. We’ll see you then.
Oh, and thanks, Ollie! Appreciate your mentioning us, but we’ll have more on that soon, too.