Just in time for the weekend, it’s time to look at two more interesting freeware files that we ran across this week, and let’s start off by looking at one so far off the beaten path you might not know what to do with it.
We ran across this one via a reference over at FlightDeckX, concerning an FsX payware developer who’s intent on porting their current files to Xp. MSK Productions released this file last summer, and it appears they’re still working on a new file for Xp: OPKC// Jinnah International Airport, Pakistan’s largest and busiest international airport, which is located in the coastal city of Karachi. There’s been only the slightest effort to get files located in this region to X-plane before, and I’d say any campaign to introduce such files will probably face an uncertain future, and that’s too bad. To us, Xp has always been about exploring lesser known parts of the world, and that’s why so many of our posts over the years have been focused on covering airports way off the so-called beaten path. And that’s also why many of our posts go into cultural details, too.
Yet, even the term “beaten path” is loaded with cultural dissonance, isn’t it? Gwadar, Pakistan, may be off “my” beaten path, or “your” comfort zone, but this place certainly isn’t for the people who live there, and the businesses that depend on this airport for their survival. And as Xp grows into new markets, these files may make a huge difference to many people as the adopt the platform.
Anyway, let’s drop the philosophy and take a look at the area in GoogleEarth:
The facility is quite near Pakistan’s border with Iran, and so not far from the Straits of Hormuz. It is, in other words, quite near the epicenter of a very volatile part of the world. PIA flies here, and in the recent past carriers from Oman have too, and plans are afoot to invest a quarter billion dollars enlarging the present facility, so someone obviously sees a future for this part of the world. It doesn’t hurt if we sit up and take note of these things, too, does it…?
Anyway, let’s take a look at the scenery file for X-plane:
There’s one runway, one terminal building/VIP lounge, and one “operations” center/control tower, and the buildings you see in the file very accurately depict what’s on the ground in Pakistan.
When looking this file over, words like “minimal” and “spartan” will likely come to mind, but once again these terms are rife with overt relativism. I can’t even begin to count how many pilots I’ve known over the years who’ve ended up working in the Middle East, and who have, quite literally, ended up working routes that included facilities just like this one. Hence, the DHL and LH Cargo paints. When you put on the uniform for one of these types of carriers, you’d better believe you’ll see more than your fair share of airports just like this. Sure, this isn’t the glamorous part of flying; it’s more the “meat and potatoes” reality of commercial aviation, and pilots have to learn to operate well off the beaten path if they want to succeed in this world. Your comfort zone, in other words, means little to your employer. Your ability to adapt, to overcome and get the job done means everything out here.
This file represents a real part of this world, the world of far-flung commercial aviation. These sun-baked, pitted ramps and taxiways, far from cities like Munich and Paris, are where a vital part of the action takes place. If you get into aviation, these kinds of ramps will become, over time, all too familiar.
So yeah, this is a part of what x+sim+reviews has always been about. Not simply about files and daydreams about faraway places, we’ve worked out there and want to pass along that vibe, and that’s why files like this will always feature in our work.
The real world, the world out there, is a big, nasty, and ultimately fascinating place full of never-ending wonder. If you’re to succeed as a pilot “out there,” you have to embrace it, all of it.
Now, another freeware file right back in the middle of Germany. A big, fat file full of dazzling, vibrant life – and so good it’s getting close to payware quality.
Hannover, Germany, is right smack-dab in the middle of my comfort zone, too. I lived and worked in Germany a few times, spent a year studying in Bonn, flying Frankfurt to Berlin back in the bad old days, and I’ve passed through these halls more than a few times over the years, too. Hannover is in the center of Germany’s industrial heartland, so traffic in and out of here is decidedly different than what you run into in Munich and Frankfurt. This is an airport with a Purpose, not a fancy tourist’s gateway, and Pfeffer’s EDDV Hannover v2.0 reflects that. Let’s start out with a look around the real airport.
Below, a close up of the Maritim Hotel, the on-site airport hotel that connects to the main concourse via a glass walkway. Note parking structures to the left with solar panels on the upper deck.
Now, let’s slide into the scenery file and see what’s up.
Above, the ramps – at night; the hotel is the “anchor-like” structure left-center. Below, the hotel is the blue structure, center, while the foreground is filled with photo-real commercial/warehouse structures you’ll find all around the airport.
Below, the real tower:
And, the tower in the scenery file, external stairway on the right in this image:
Next, the real airport’s ramps:
And some views from the file, night ramps first:
Right off the bat – these repetitive yellow window textures are off the mark. It’s simpler this way, but it just doesn’t look good.
Ramp details are otherwise excellent.
In the image above, note the floating red artifacts.
And above, a floating silver artifact.
I’d say the main buildings are a little too green, and again, the repetitive yellow window night texture detracts from the overall success of this file, yet the physical structures of the various buildings look fairly accurate. Ramp details are very nice, too, everywhere you look:
Autogate hardware seems misplaced at a number of gates, however, so, as a result, they remain non-functioning. Below, the guide-on is located behind the Jetway vestibule…
And so is just visible under only the most extreme viewing angle:
The single biggest visual detraction in this file, to me, is the airport hotel. Here it is, as seen in the file:
This “cartoonish” structure simply does not belong in a file like this. “Ah! But after all, it’s only a hotel!” you say? Well, it’s a huge part of the visual landscape of this airport and, as we’ve said a few times over the years – the success of any file depends on the strength of the weakest visual element, and this structure simply detracts from, not attracts to, the user’s experience of this file. Let’s compare it to a few images of the real airport, just to see what the developer is up against:
The glass is a darker slate blue, almost black at night, not the surreal pale blue hue seen in the file.
And the sides and rear of the hotel are much more nuanced than the structure in the file.
And, again, here’s that overhead view from G-Earth:
This building is central to the airport’s structure, and is, in fact, linked to the main terminal via the glass-covered walkway seen above. Getting this building into X-p shouldn’t be too overwhelming a task, but I think it would pay big dividends in the file’s overall success.
There are lots of “artifacts” dangling in the air, especially around Jetways, and the repetitive window textures ought to be re-thought. When combined with a more accurate color scheme on the main terminal buildings, this file would achieve payware quality status.
As it stands now, this is a more than useful file, and when combined with the Hannover-VFR package, this becomes a very nice area to fly around – if your machine can handle the size of the two files with Objects set to MAX.
These “VFR” files are really wonderful, and they add yet another dimension to Xp’s growing appeal. You might think these types of landmarks of limited use for commercial airliner drivers, but I’d dispute that, especially if you’re using Xp as a real-world training adjunct. These are the types of structures that lend familiarity to an area, and when you’re first starting out every little bit helps…
Lots of rail yards in this one, churches and sports stadia, too.
Power plants are always good to have in any VFR package, as they’re good reporting points for GA drivers.
At any rate, there’s lots to see in this file, and between the VFR package and Pfeffer’s Pfile, we’d rate Hannover a 10, a must-have addition to your Custom Scenery folder.
As for Pakistan? Well, if and when more airports for the area make it into Xp, this will be an interesting new region to explore. With only one airport on hand as of now, I’m keeping my copy as a “just in case I need it” file. Hopefully, we’ll have more to work with, and soon.
That said, have a nice weekend flying. If something pops we’ll try to get a quick look out for you. If in the US and back east, stay warm you guys! Bundle up and stoke the fires, and we’ll seeya next time. –A