Let’s get something out of the way right up front. We’re mean pricks, real bastards.
Why else, in the dead of winter, after two weeks of brutally low temperatures and record snowfalls, would we post something – anything! – about an island in the Caribbean? No pirates, even, just a bunch of sunshine.
Like I said. Real pricks. Sorry, c’est la vie-vie.
So, sitting here in the midst of X-plane’s January doldrums we were digging through some new freeware releases at the Org, looking for that one gem that might be worth exploring and, lo and behold! As the Ghostbusters used to say – we got one…!
skycycle’s TLPC George Charles airport, located in the capital city of Castries, St Lucia, lies in the eastern Caribbean, smack-dab in the middle of the Windward Islands. Like most of the islands in the eastern Caribbean Sea, St Lucia isn’t a large island, but it is volcanic in origin and there are some quite tall mountains here. Two of the more famous mountains in the Caribbean are located here as well, the Pitons, and monied interests from New York and Boston have been wintering-over for decades at the Rodney Bay Resort on the northern tip of the island.
Here’s the island, in GoogleEarth:
TLPC lies on the west coast, and you can just make out the runway in the image above, about 1/3rd the way down from the northern tip. TLPL Hewanorra International, Vieux Fort, St. Lucia, lies on the southern tip, and we’ve included this file in today’s overview of St Lucia, as well.
The Pitons, below, are located on the SW coast.
And, the Pitons, as rendered in X-plane 11.11:
Below, the Rodney Bay Resort area:
And skycycle’s Rodney Bay:
TLPL and the southern tip, below:
And a couple of images in Xp, with the TBM850:
If you’re looking for a GA single to make the trip from, say, Florida to the eastern Caribbean, this is your airplane. Don’t take our word for it, either. Take this dude’s word for it:
Our focus today is on TLPC, so let’s take a look at the real airport first. This is a waterfront airport, to say the least, with regional turboprop service and a few Helo-sightseeing operators based here, too. Oh yes…no taxiways, just turnaround at the end of the runway.
The main terminal building, such as it is on the island:
And, in Xp:
This is the view of the hillside (below) from the opposite end of the runway.
The runway ends, there’s a sharp drop-off to a road below, then a steep hill awaits – beyond. Do NOT try to salvage a bad approach here in anything larger than a light single…just go around. Oh, just to the left in this image is the local cemetery. “There’s always room for one more,” seems to be the message you should take away from this airport, and that’s what interested me about the file. There are more difficult approaches in the region, but this one invites complacency. It looks easy. In fact, it is easy – if you set up your approach “just so.” Here’s the threshold area (below), and note the helo area. It’s not marked as such on the ground, and there are fixed wings parked here in other images. There’s also a fixed wing FBO just across the runway. Note, also, no undershoot area:
The model for this file was constructed in Xp & WED for version 9 (assume 9.70), so there are real differences in what this file looks like in v9.70 and in Xp11.11. First, a lot of houses in this file might rightly be called houseboats. Many houses are IN the bay, and the runway threshold area is quite malformed. If you undershoot at this end of the runway you’ll crash and burn.
Another result, the helo pads are canted a little, so set down easily.
In practice, landing here shouldn’t be as difficult as it is. The runway isn’t really that narrow, but it feels that way because it’s hemmed in by trees and parts of the city. And in the image below, note the cruise ship off to the right. Yes, there’s water on three sides of this airport…and two trees on the right side of the threshold that make it necessary to cheat to the left a little.
In the SSG E170, using reversers and on the brakes hard I used less than a third of the runway on my third landing, so practice helps here. And knowing where the trees are helps, too. My first landing produced a spectacular bounce when I jerked up to miss the trees – in low light conditions.
I’ve only taken off to the west – not wanting to mess with that hillside just yet – and at over 6000 feet this runway can handle 727’s and DC-9s, so ATRs and Dash8-Q400s are no problem, mon. I’m looking forward to using the Leading Edge Saab 340 here. The little E-jet is a perfect match, however.
There’s plenty of ramp parking when you get here, and those stairs that come with the SSG file are much appreciated at airports like this.
You’ll find the buildings used in this file are right out of the OpenSceneryX playbook; no surprises, not too detailed – but they get the job done.
I made a few circuits of the island by Bell412 and in by TBM850, yet this is another file that was seemingly made with the JetRanger/407 in mind.
It takes less than an hour to make the run, much less if you don’t stop to smell the roses, and I went south through the central highlands, then cut SW to the pitons my first trip. A stop off at TLPL, then a run up the east coast to the northern tip, then south by Rodney Bay before getting back to TLPC completes this circuit. With AlpilotX’s v4 mesh onboard the scenery was very immersive, the beach areas nicely done, a real highlight.
When you get back to Castries (you can tell by all the cruise ships in port) it all comes together. This is a fun file and offers a lot of exploration – with no cash outlay. It IS at heart a v9 file, so no, it doesn’t have glossy PBR textures and wizz-bang lighting… That said, I still had a blast here, and recommend you give it a try. If you have a helo, this is a Must Have file (well, two files), and if you’re willing to stop in Puerto Rico for fuel, this is a fun run to KMIA in your TBM850, too.
The airport has all kinds of charm…
…and the town of Castries is kind of nice, as well.
Again, if into helicopters, this is a file you’ll come back to.
That said, we’ll see you around the campfire, Bucko. Have fun, and thanks for dropping by… – C