There are few places in the world as rich in history and, indeed, the very fabric of civilization, as Austria. Located at a crossroads of cascading political dynasties and often caught between powerful mercantile forces, Austria has been shaped by subtle civilizational forces for thousands of years, and the very idea of Cultural Diffusion may well have been thought of with Austria in mind.
In X-plane, Austria forms the bedrock of some of our earliest moments in the Sim, as the LOWI Demo Area has long been one of the first places newcomers go to check out new environments. Without a firm idea of the geographic context of Austria, however, you may end up losing out on some truly interesting experiences that await in Xp, and we’ve put together this ‘review’ with this idea first in mind. Once you understand the central position of Austria within the greater context of Europe, including its role in developing global trade over the millennia, you’ll have a better idea of the role Austria can assume in your journey through X-plane. This is Europe, after all, but Austria’s past is intertwined with Asia and the Near East in lasting ways.
In the image above, Austria resides in the lowermost portion of this part of Europe close to both European capitals as well as eastern Europe, and you’ll note that Austria, in its present guise, is not exactly huge. Its political boundaries have changed frequently, and most recently did after the end of the 20th-centuries World Wars. Vienna, long the capital of various Austrian empires, resides furthest to the east, pinned on the map as LOWW, for Wien-Schwechat, while for purposes of this review LOWI Innsbruck will provide our westernmost pin in Austria. The distance between these two points is about 250 statute miles, just a little more than the distance between KJFK New York and KBOS Boston, Massachusetts, yet packed within this space is some of the most gorgeous scenery on earth and, as mentioned, evidence of a many-faceted culture that spans thousands of years. Let’s zoom in a bit now…
All roads lead to Wien (or Vienna) and, indeed, each of the smaller Austrian commercial city-airports feeds into LOWW Wien-Schwechat – and this despite having one of the best passenger rail networks in the world. Vienna’s LOWW is one of the most important air destinations in Europe, yet not – primarily – as a tourist destination. London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Zurich handle more tourist travel, while Vienna handles more business-related traffic, as befits its place as a bridge between Europe and Asia. Oddly, no North American carriers fly to Vienna these days save FedEx and UPS, while Chinese and Russian carriers, as well as the major European carriers all have heavy operations in Vienna, including the new Middle Eastern flag carriers.
This review is going to cover, in this order: 1) “feeder” operations between Vienna and Graz, Klagenfurt, Innsbruck, Salzburg, and Linz; 2) a few General Aviation airports, notably Zell am See (but there are more available, as we’ll point you); and then, 3) a brief look helicopter operations within Austria – and all of these within the framework of existing airports available for X-plane 11. We’ll end by going over a few of the more interesting regional connections available from Austria to the rest of Europe, including Nice, Barcelona, Paris, Oslo, Dusseldorf, Helsinki, and Tallinn.
Let’s begin where Austria begins, in Wien…
LOWW Wien-Schwechat is home to Austrian Airlines, and this national carrier handles all non-stop OPS to North America, including Atlanta, New York, Newark, Washington Dulles, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Francisco, as well as Vancouver and Toronto up north. They also cover Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Buenos Aires, as well as Sydney and Melbourne. Looking over their route network, I don’t think there’s a major city in Europe they DON’T fly to. Austrian does this with a remarkably small fleet, consisting primarily of A320s for short haul flights, and a handful of 767 and 777 for long-haul OPS. They have no twin-aisle Airbus equipment and are only now picking up their first E-195s for short-haul work.
To my mind’s eye, the new control tower at LOWW is fascinating. In some images, the structure looks massive, in form almost like an ancient Babylonian Ziggurat…only taller. A lot taller…like 385 feet tall…
Here’s the view in Xp, from the freeware file by the Austrian X-plane Design Group, which we’ve used for this review.
Massive, isn’t it? And here’s another look:
And one more, with a little perspective. This tower is the same height as a 35 story office building, BTW:
Now, let’s look at the real deal:
But…what’s with the white stuff? It almost looks like fabric…?
Ah, there’s a good explanation…but how did they do that?
As Mr. Spock would say…”Fascinating…”
And…a couple of views from up there…like, again…from a 35-story-tall skyscraper…
And a view of the ramps from up there. Nice 733, eh? Do we need that livery in Xp, for the IXEG .acf? I thought so too.
Okay, let’s move on to the file’s other details, in XP11…
Above, an overview; below, a 733 departing…
…and turning onto the runway…for a pilots-eye view.
An overview of the ramps…below.
And below, part of the new Star Alliance Terminal.
With all kinds of clutter on the ramps! Excellent!
And…a 733 departing…by dawn’s early light…
Lauda Air ceased to exist in 2013, but for more than 20 years co-represented Austria in the long-haul international market. The carrier was absorbed by Austrian Airlines, who still use the name in the packaged tour market.
More ramp detail, below, and one gripe. The many of the blue window textures, seen above, are very smeary, even with settings at MAX. Textures on jetways, below, are crisp and clear when settings are dialed up to Max.
Again, good, crisp detail seen most everywhere else. Excellent, in other words, including docking aids at terminal gates.
The Design Group’s file has complete installation instructions (simple) as well as basic airport background information, but no charts. But, as charts are, these days, so easy to get your hands on there’s not much reason to include them anymore. Anyway, here’s the current overview, which will give you an idea of the size of the airport:
Similar in scale to EDDF of EDDH, I think, and perhaps close to Heathrow in overall size, this is a major airport. Aerosoft had a version posted, but it’s no longer in the catalogue. I’d look for an updated version from them soon.
The Design Group has also produced a VFR landmarks file, as well as a Vienna city file, which includes skyline detail and some important objects. As we’ll see, these files add an immersive layer to XP. Below, from the middle of Vienna, not the castle in the distance.
And more skyline detail, including TV and radio transmission towers.
And two words concerning European art assets in Xp11.10.
Below, along the road from Zell am See towards Munich.
But wait a minute! It looks like the Austrian Design Team has been adding regional specific art, as well, including State Railway trains. Light rail, inter-city, as well as freight consists, so keep an eye out, because these are accurate – and you’ll see them all around the country!
One more thing to consider. A lot of these airports do NOT have jetways, so an .acf with ground support like the FF757/767 are nice to have, yet these two aircraft may be too big for a most of these smaller airports. That makes the Rotate MD80 kind of a must-have file here…assuming you want your passengers to have a way to board.
Okay, let’s move on and take a look at some of the other “commercial” airports in Austria that feed into LOWW. How about a quick look at an old friend first, only this file brought up to date.
Yes, this is the LOWI payware file by JustSIM. The Austrian Design Team also has a freeware version, too (you’ll see the link on the LOWW page, link above), but I wanted to check-out freeware and payware files for this review, see how they stack up.
In this JustSim file, you’ll find lots of small details not included in the default XP scenery, and the night textures are much cleaner.
Back in v9, we had a file called LOWI Extended that incorporated similar features, including the parking garage, but this file goes much deeper…and the quality is excellent.
Details around the airport are improved too, and there’s a well-developed Innsbruck city included.
There’s good clutter on the ramps…but that concrete sure looks clean?!
So, all joking aside, the crisp textures make this a standout file, and for me, worth the price.
Austrian flies to Vienna and Frankfurt from LOWI, while BA hits Heathrow. Among the airlines working out of here – and that fly to airport’s we have in XP – are S7 to UUDD, Finnair to Helsinki, SAS to Oslo, Transavia to EHAM, as well as FlyBE, TUI and easyJet to various airports around the UK.
Linz Blue Danube, located in northern Austria, is found just about halfway between Vienna and Munich. Austrian Airlines flies to Vienna and Dusseldorf from here, and RyanAir to Stansted. There are a bunch of smaller carriers offering seasonal charters to warm winter destinations around the Med, too.
This is another JustSIM file, and was recently updated to Xp 11 compliance.
Texture-work is again excellent, and the ramps are detailed and cluttered.
You’ll need settings dialed UP to get all the clarity out of this file, and framerates dipped into the 20s – and lower – when World Objects were MAXed out.
Add a complex .acf and framerates here will require “the balancing act…”, e.g., choosing between performance or “good looks.”
I was interested in a couple of things I saw here, too. Night textures have been tweaked a bit, and parked, static aircraft have glowing cockpit lights on, and it looks like JustSIM has gone out of their way to make night OPS here as immersive as possible.
LOWK Klagenfurt resides on Austria’s southern border, the border with Slovenia and Italy. Austrian handles the chores to Vienna, easyJet to UK destinations, and EuroWings to Hamburg and Köln/Bonn.
This is yet another JustSIM file, and this file has not been updated to Xp11 compliance. Even so, it looks reasonably good in 11.
Though I’d say some ramps are quite dark at night. Perhaps more lighting in the next update?
The main terminal and cargo area seen below are decent enough, though there isn’t much ground clutter, but this is often the case at smaller airports. All in all a decent file, and note, the Austrian Design Group has their own freeware version of this file, too.
A very nice environment around the airport, too, mainly residential, yet the city area is worth taking a look at, as well.
LOWG Graz is a freeware file from the Austrian Design Team, and while the main terminal design is captured nicely, some of the surrounding details mar the overall effort, notably the ortho parking areas.
These kinds of compromises are made to avoid hurting performance, yet when so close to the main area of the airport I think it detracts a bit too much. Clearing out the 3D nature of trees and cars so close to the action hurts this file.
Anyway, this airport could just as easily serve as a decent GA gateway to flights around southern Austria, which means the Austrian version of the Alps, and with the VFR landmarks package added, this opens up a few more twists. For instance, one of the more interesting landmarks in Graz is this old clock tower, located on a hill just north of the city center:
So, I wondered if I might find this landmark in town. I loaded up the default C172 and headed almost due North, and as the city center is only about five miles away this was not a long excursion. You’ll need to set World Objects to MAX to get the best effect, but framerates will take a hit.
Without World Objects increased, you’ll see a bunch of roads and a lot of grass, but dial it up and the city springs into action…
And yes, there it is! And Xp11 does a great job of filling in the area with plausible renderings of European objects, with modern touches thrown in for good measure. Yet the addition of VFR landmarks lends a whole new dimension to this file.
Use of a mesh to place the clock tower necessitated an exclusion zone, hence, no trees – not without resorting to placing a few thousand custom objects…and watching framerates tank into the basement…
Still, this was a treat to see so well executed in Xp.
While the Austrian Design Group has a freeware file of LOWS, I once again opted to get a payware version and ended up with JustSIMs version, now in an Xp11 compliant version.
Reasonable framerates for such a deep file, and if you add the FF 763 you’ll want to keep Objects in the midrange, and no shadows, or you’ll tank. You’ll end up with a really nice looking airport that looks like this at night.
Lot’s of details in this file, including the massive, and visually complex, parking garage.
This airport is integrated into a small business park, and all of this is included in the file.
LOWS straddles the line between a mid-size airport serving a medium-sized city – and a larger airport serving a much more complex market. Salzburg may well be one of the top-ten tourist destinations in Europe – due to it’s proximity to world-class skiing, as well as its association with, for many people, the motion picture version of The Sound of Music.
The airport is the second busiest in Austria and a huge variety of airlines provide service to most of Europe – and many destinations beyond. For interesting airports available in Xp from here, try Aer Lingus to Cork or Dublin or airBaltic to Riga, or even BA to London. SAS, Finnair, and Norwegian are good options for Helsinki and Oslo, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Salzburg is famous for, among other things, this cat who used to write music. Went by the name of Mozart. Born here, on a street called the Getreidegasse. Close to a bunch of churches, and one of the best hotels you’ll ever stay at, the Goldener Hirsch. This is, generally speaking, what the area looks like at night.
I was, of course, curious. Had the Austrian Design Group modeled this area too? Could we be that lucky?
Well, yes, they have, and it just looks excellent. I mean, WOW!
The area lacks night lighting in Xp11, but…WOW!
Many, many thanks from this reviewer. This city, this area, has played a very big role in my life, and it was nice to see this turn up in Xp.
Now, let’s look at a few general aviation airports, and all of these come from the Austrian X-plane Design Group (www.x-plane.at), and do note, if you don’t speak the local language this page opens nicely in Google Translate.
LOWZ Zell am See is the latest GA airport released by the Group, and this is a nice file, I’d evem say this is a “must have” file. It’s location in central Austria, and deep within the Alps, makes this an interesting, if challenging, airport.
Zell am See is another one of those places that figured prominently in my life so this is, once again, very nice to see.
The red main terminal building is easy to spot from a distance and generally speaking it looks good. I’d guess this one was modeled in SketchUP; the roof textures atop the control tower are funky, a little too transparent (below), but other than that this airport is just about perfect.
There are multiple hangers, and read the complete installation instructions for a few surprise Easter eggs. Also on hand, a helicopter base for rescue operations at either the nearby ski area or up on the Kaprun Glacier.
Nearby towns and villages look to be auto-gen, but I saw several trains on area tracks sporting accurate railway markings (OSB). I think local GA flights to nearby airports the Design Group has provided will serve you well, but add an .acf like the TMB850 or a King Air and all of a sudden you’ve got realistic options to Munich, Frankfurt, and Zurich.
No commercial service here, but there’s big money in this town. Vacation homes on the slopes, if you know what I mean. This is a low-key place like Aspen used to be, and that’s why this airport is where it is. Good place for turboprops and light jets, and the surrounding mountains are breathtaking.
No ILS, no IFR OPS, so keep that in mind.
LOAN Wiener Neustadt / Ost is a large, multi-use GA airport, and there is a helicopter rescue facility on site. I haven’t delved into this part of the Design Group’s effort yet, but they’ve included rescue scenarios with many of these ‘helicopter facilities’ – expanding the practical use of these files exponentially. Each relevant file has detailed instructions about the included scenarios, and many include a separate “incident site” file to expand operations further.
LOAU Stockerau is a small airfield with castles and such nearby; I downloaded perhaps a dozen small GA airfields and was impressed with the accuracy found. With regional charts in hand, Austria becomes a GA playground, perfect for piston singles, ultra-lights, and training OPS. Next, with the VFR landmarks package added, the game is on to find all the hidden treasure…
But all this is sort of a prelude to what comes next…
Because the guys in Austria are seriously into flutterbugs, aka helicopters. Again, there are too many files to include here, perhaps dozens, and these helicopter sites include airfields, hospitals, state and local police facilities – all involved with medevac OPS. With the inclusion of rescue scenarios in Xp…well, the options become limitless, don’t they?
LOAM is a small heliport in Vienna Meidling, near the Wienerberg Bridge in the heart of Vienna, and is used by the Austrian State Police as a base for the helicopter squadron. As the facility is located right in the middle of Vienna, you can imagine what the framerate hit is if you have objects dialed up to MAX.
No hospital here, just a police training facility.
But the day and night textures used are first rate.
Oh, this is the new Dreamfoil Bell 407 for XP11. This is a stunning file, visually as well as operationally, and though it’s fairly demanding on framerates, with external settings dialed back this is a smooth operator. There are baskets and slings, too, for rescue OPS.
This isn’t a complex panel for deep IFR operations, but it’ll get you from here to there under most conditions.
Below, the default Sikorsky S76 at LOAH KH Horn, a huge hospital complex associated with the University of Vienna Medical School.
Again, these are but two of literally dozens of files that await at the Austrian site, from commercial airports to grassy general aviation hideouts, and then enough helicopter landing sites to keep you busy for months. With shorter legs than many of the ones we developed for our west coast US runs, Austria offers unmatched beauty and a wide variety of operating conditions in Xp – for training, or just for fun. With the addition of VFR landmarks as well as the available helicopter rescue sites, we hope you’ll take advantage of all the opportunities that wait for you here.
As for my experiences in XP here, LOWI to EDDM is one of my favorite heavy IFR runs, as getting out of Innsbruck in really snotty conditions is a good way to get your heart pumping. I’ve also found that the Salzburg run to EDDS or EDDL is a perfect one hour hop – for when you don’t have all afternoon to spend in Xp. If you have two or so hours, LOWW to Heathrow, Oslo or Tallinn will keep you busy, but when you have extra time on hand, my favorites from Austria include LFMN Nice and LEBL Barcelona or LEVC Valencia. Better yet, all three make a nice milk run and you can spend hours working this group into a single days work.
Oh…If you find these freeware files useful, consider a donation to the AT Design Group to offset the cost of running their website.
As always, thanks for coming along. We’ll see you next time. – A