Three things to cover today: 1) first, we’ll take a quick look around KIDA Idaho Falls, then, 2) more of the same, only this time we’ll head back east and take a look at two small airports in Massachusetts, 2B2 Plum Island & 6B6 Minute Man.
These three new files are the first payware offerings by two established names in the FsX community, iBlueyonder, and Turbulent. As such, expectations are running a little high that they’ll bring something new to the platform – perhaps something exciting – so let’s dive right in and see if these three live up to all the hype.
First up? Let’s head out to Idaho, to the land of – potatoes…?
Okay, let’s get right down to it, to the real question burning in all our minds. Why Idaho Falls? I mean, really…if you were an FsX/P3D developer just making the leap to X-plane, why would you put your first airport here?
It’s a fair question, and maybe even a good one, too, so let’s try to look at a few answers as we work our way through this review. Your next question, “Is this file worth a damn?” is far easier to answer, and we’ll answer right up front, too. Yes, it is, but again, let’s work our way through that part of the equation slowly, too.
If you’ve looked through our multi-part West Coast Regional Airports review, you already know part of the answer. KIDA is, in one respect, a small airport out in the inter-mountain west – that area between the Rockies and the Sierra/Cascade mountain ranges. It is, in another very real sense, one small part of a larger network used by feeder airlines working in to and out of both Denver and Salt Lake City. Currently Delta Connection and United Express link the majors to KIDA, with Delta/Sky West funneling passengers to KSLC, and United Express taking their fair share to Denver International. There’s another player here, too; Allegiant – and they’re trying to bust up the near-monopoly the three legacy carriers (and Southwest) have by nipping at their heels in places like KIDA; so, Allegiant flies direct to Las Vegas, Phoenix, L.A., and Oakland – while the majors don’t (they make you change planes in Denver or Salt Lake). Also, take note, Delta/Sky West also flies directly to KMSP Minneapolis/St Paul, which will feed into the Midwest regional traffic scheme we covered in our first regional write-up, tying the Custer Gateway scenery to not only Detroit but to KORD and KMSP, too. That’s a big deal in my book, by the way.
In one of those earlier write-ups, we mentioned that KIDA serves a fairly diverse need. First, local residents and their travel requirements, but this is augmented by two significant tourism sectors. The first group? Summer seasonal tourists headed to Yellowstone National Park. The second? Skiers. One group headed to Jackson Hole, Wyoming (one of the best ski areas in the world), with another group going to the Grand Targhee Ski Area, one of America’s last undiscovered gems – with low prices and stunning views everywhere you look…(below).
Turbulent’s KIDA will fit into this niche perfectly.
If your interest is flying RJs or turboprops in X-plane, you now have a perfect, and I do mean Perfect airport to base out of. One that can readily tie you directly to a wide variety of route networks, such as: KIDA – KLAX – KSFO – KIDA, or perhaps KIDA – KDEN – KABQ – KIDA, or even KIDA – KMSP – KIDA – this using a 737. All of these airports are now well-represented in X-plane, meaning you can, with just a little investment, have a perfectly immersive aircraft flying to one of several excellent airport files all over the American West. As we discovered in our regional reviews, there are literally hundreds of route permutations in the west and there is again, literally, something for every interest.
Yet, KIDA fills one additional niche, the need for a really well-detailed training airport, whether for General Aviation needs or for transition training, for student pilots making their first foray into instrument and multi-engine OPS. Runway 21 has approach plates for both RNAV and VOR/DME instrument approaches, and in winter you can just about be guaranteed truly snotty weather! YET…what makes this airport favorable for training is the wealth of VFR landmarks in the area, things like rivers and highways that help keep you oriented.
Turbulent has also provided an ortho-mesh – which quite accurately conveys the variety of agricultural development around the airport. Idaho Falls is, well, it ain’t much for nightlife but it is a regional transit hub for transporting agricultural produce (potatoes) to places that, well, do things with potatoes, and if you eat at Mickey-Ds or Burger King or even 5-Guys, odds are you’re a regular consumer of Idaho potatoes – even if you live in the UK or Munich or even Beijing.
Long-time users of FsX or P3D will forgive us poor sods over in X-plane, because we haven’t had airport files like this come along very often. When we do, we tend to trip all over ourselves while tossing out adverbs and adjectives like “gobsmacked” and “best ever” – so we’ll try not to sound so over-the-top today. Really, we will.
Yet, when you first approach this work it’s hard not to be impressed. The main terminal building houses the control tower, and, from a distance, it looks rather “ho-hum, just another tower.” Until recently, when you moved closer to such buildings you had to find kind of a sweet spot, that point where things look great – but beyond which things look pretty grim. I guess XP is rendering detail much more efficiently these days, because the closer you get to this building, the better it looks…
If you have a hi-def monitor, preferably 27 inches or greater, you’ll see what we mean when you look around at all the small, dark nooks and crannies. There are no missed textures, no bad joins – just a whole lot of precision artistry. Everything from the lights used to the trucks on the ramps: it’s all simply perfect.
If I have one gripe, it’s that it looks like you could eat off the ramps. They’re immaculate. They look brand new. Personally, I like it this way, but I know there are others who judge a scenery file a dismal failure if you can’t see oil spills all over the place. That said, again, I like the way this looks…to a point. Some use, some wear and tear is nice, if only because “too nice” looks a little unrealistic. Still…I like this. Sorry.
Okay, enough of that. The ramps are well marked, there are two Jetways, and the ramps are, actually, quite well lighted. They are NOT cluttered, but then again an airport like this is unlikely to have ultra-cluttered ramps. There’s just not that much traffic…usually a couple of early morning departures, maybe a mid-day too, then a couple of evening arrivals. That’s all she wrote, folks, so clutter ain’t an issue.
So, oh yes…night ramps?
When I write about ramps being too dark…this image (above) is what I mean when I say the ramps perfectly lighted. If you were walking around out there, you could see that rattlesnake basking on the warm concrete just after the sun went down. Or the Coke can someone dropped, which you don’t want your number one engine to ingest. Ramps are BRIGHT for a reason.
Other than just looking good, that is. But, yeah, these ramps do look good.
Oh yes, there’s a minimalist interior in the terminal, but watch those seat-backs…
So, a word about the weather out west. KIDA is not at sea level; it’s roughly 4700MSL. The general area is on the western slope of the Grand Teton mountain range, and as such the weather is generally unpredictable, but high winds are a given. If you’re flying with METARs, or some other “real weather connector” in X-plane, you’ll get your fair share of high winds AND heavy t-storms here. In winter, SNOW, and quite a lot of it, too.
I flew a couple of patterns while making this review, and using Carenado’s Cessna 340 (a favorite file) for the second and third landings, I began to get the local landmarks dialed-in. The freeway network is a good first thing to get down (note the Y-formation?) and, in daylight, the river will help, too.
On my last final I noticed something quite fun, and I’ve used green arrows to indicate what I’m pointing out here. Below, you have no clue yet, do you?
But when you pass over…two cop cars working either a wreck or a bad traffic stop. I mentioned this sort of random chaos years ago, and just brought it up again recently…and, well, you know what happened, don’t you?
Yup, I looked. I also drifted off centerline and damn near stalled fifteen feet over the threshold!
So? My final score for KIDA?
Perfect. Nothing I would change. Framerates were decent unless I set everything to MAX, then they were almost reasonable, like high-teens to mid-20s. Textures? Perfect. Lighting? Perfect. The place looks like what I recall it looks like, not from some book or online image, but from having flown in and out of there a few times. Also, I’d say it integrates perfectly with our western regional concept, and, as such, I’d call this a “must have” file.
In other words, a 10 out of 10.
Now, let’s head back east, to Massachusetts. In fact, just a stone’s throw north of KBOS Logan International, but no worries, mate. We’re flying Cessnas today, and keeping our altitude down in the weeds. So, let’s see what iBlueYonder, another FsX/P3D developer – and a newcomer to our scene – has in store for us in X-plane.
iBlueYonder bills these two as part of their Hundred Dollar Burger series of airport scenery files, and let’s just set the record straight right here, right now. No, they don’t serve hundred dollar burgers in these joints. They’re usually about $5.95, a buck more with fries, add another buck and a quarter for some iced tea. Back in the 70s & 80s they started calling these airport burger joints hundred dollar drive-ins, ’cause that’s about what a burger costs – by the time you add in all the costs associated with driving a Cessna around on weekends. These days? My guess? It would be more like a five hundred dollar burger.
So sit back under that umbrella and sip on some tea while Gladys goes and gets your burger. Maybe work out where you’ll go next. Meanwhile, don’t forget to take a look around…
First impressions count, and even from up here you can tell something’s a little different about this file. The trees look good…no, better than good. So does the grass around the runway…even that little dirt road looks clear, and it’s all quite believable. In fact, it looks a little like you took a photograph of the place from your Cessna, doesn’t it…
And…I think that’s the point.
Because once you’re on the ground you know you aren’t in Kansas anymore. No, even the foliage is just perfect, from that Ironwood tree to the sagebrush in the planter, and yes, even the birch up by the building doorway. Fencing? Perfect. Rotating beacon? Yup, as good as the real thing. And hey…a red Mini Cooper. Now we’re talkin’…
Hangers? The right size, the roof…a little too rusty for my taste, but that’s New England for you.
Even the fuel pumps look perfect, right down to the hose draped over the concrete curb.
So…fuel up and head out…but do your weights and balances and calculate your balanced field length carefully here…’cause those trees are a lot closer than they look from the other end of the runway.
Yup, I made a few take-offs and landings here, and under a variety of conditions. Right now, we’ll head directly to 2B2 Plum Island…
It’s in the Laminar/Garmin 430, too, and it gives you a baseline course of 70º and roughly 35 nmi, or you can fire up the ole VOR and tune it in to Lawrance, then hit the 90º radial once you pass.
Either way, you’ll be skirting along the north suburbs of Boston, and below you can just see (under the blue arrow) downtown skyscrapers, while the yellow arrow points to KBOS. You can stay legal VFR by checking-in and keeping down in the weeds.
When you arrive, I suggest you take a look around before trying to land. First thing? This airport ain’t the easiest thing to spot…I recommend looking over the sectional, noting the shape of that tiny island a couple hundred yards offshore…
Next thing you’ll want to be aware of? The farmer on the east side of the airport has put up a fence blocking off the runway undershoot area, and just for good measure he’s parked his C-class motorhome and a bulldozer out there – in case you get snarky and want to make a point.
Anyway, what’s left ain’t a whole helluva lot of runway.
Everyone has advice for handling this kind of situation. Mine? Low and slow. Keep about 150AGL and 10-15 above stall, then cut throttle when you pass the farmer, being ever so careful to smile while you shoot him the bird, then flare over the fence, ét voila…you’re there…
By the looks of this place, the burger will run you four and a quarter, but the waitress will make your day (gee, Dad, what did he mean by that?)…
AND oh yes, there’s the BATHROOM!!!
So, there’s a certain kind of ethos that goes along with buying files like these. It’s that thing, you know, kind of like riding a horse. Don’t fence me in. Instead of bridling up your horse you’re taking your Cessna (or Piper, or Mooney, or yadda, yadda, yadda) out for a long walk. Maybe to a campfire in the mesquite…
Me and my dad? It was Addison Airport out to a place called the Lowake Inn, out in West Texas. A restaurant out in the middle of nowhere, not even a paved road into the joint, on weekdays ranchers flew in for lunch; on weekends characters from Dallas and Ft Worth, even Midland/Odessa flew in for a steak and salad. They were cutting up the steaks out back – kind of fresh, if you know what I mean. Then we’d load up and groan our way home…’til the next time.
So, these two files woke up some memories – and in my book you can’t do better than that.
That said, Minute Man is the “better” airport file, but only because it’s a little deeper. Plum Island is all about that New England beach thing, flying out to the island and walking over to the lobster pound off the highway by the beach. Eat a lobster roll and some corn on the cob, maybe toss down a couple of Cokes before walking back and flying back to wherever. Yeah, I get that.
The thing is, there aren’t many files like this in X-plane. Santiago/Nimbus just released one not long ago, his Lufker – Spadaro (1N2) Airport out on Long Island, and that might make a pretty good threesome…assuming you want to keep flying a piston single in the same region. Using Minute Man as a base of operations, you can fly just about any piston single or twin from there, but adding Plum Island makes this a special situation. The C172 is a much better option for 2B2, or any old taildragger, for that matter, but running from 2B2 to 6B6 then on to 1NS might just be a perfect day in X-plane. Give it a try and let us know. Maybe we can compare notes…like who had the best cheeseburger…?
At any rate, I’d say 6B6 rates a 10/10, while 2B2 gets a 9.9, but only because they ain’t got no indoor plumbin’ out there, and I saw me a spider in that porta-potty. Note: these iBlueYonder files are now available at x-aviation.
Y’all have fun. We’ll seeya in a couple of days, and thanks for droppin’ by. – C