x+s+r // essa stockholm arlanda & ev55

essa hdr

I don’t know what’s happening to freeware developers these days, but it’s like they got it into their heads that they could start making freeware files as good as payware – maybe better, even – and get away with it, like, forever. Leading the charge is tdg, a freeware developer whose list of completed projects is, well, staggering. There are now thirteen (yes, 13) pages (yes, you read that correctly) of his FILES at the Org. Freeware, all of them. You can see a progression in the quality of these files, too, from EGNT Newcastle, in 2014, to today’s release – ESSA Stockholm Arlanda – and it makes me wonder. What’s the end game here? Build an audience like Mr. X and then go payware, or just keep making freeware?

If this guy was building scenery libraries of his own I could almost see him taking the payware route – but he’s not. No, right up front, in all his files, we read the long list of scenery libraries he’s used and that puts an end to that speculation. So, if he wants to make freeware files, so be it; he’s apparently set out to make the best possible files and, as mentioned, you can see a steady progression in the quality of his work over time (and pardon me, but I’m using the pronoun ‘he’ unadvisedly; I hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s identity here).

We looked at his ESSB Stockholm Bromma v2 a few weeks ago, and recently compared his Ibiza file with two others (last week), and we concluded his work is, generally speaking, as good as some pretty expensive payware – despite his reliance on scenery library objects.

In his release notes for this ESSA file, tdg states “This was one of biggest builds I’ve done and the most requested…”, so when you consider he’s put together some extremely large and very complex airport files over the last four years, you kind of have to sit up and take note when someone makes a statement like that. If his files looked like Lego-brick airports maybe this wouldn’t be so impressive, but that’s the thing…they don’t. Sure, some are better than others but, by and large, those released over the past half year-or-so have reached the point where it’s hard to draw a line between his files and decent payware.

So, first things first, let’s look at the real airport and put it in context – first within our Baltic regional network.

ESSA GE Routes

Note, it’s about 2600nmi to the Canary Island airports we looked at last weekend. A little closer to home…it’s less than 250 miles to either Oslo or Helsinki, 800 or so to Heathrow, more than 900 to Paris Orly, in the 700s for EDDF, EDDM, or LOWW. Madrid is about 1600, Rome a little more than 1200, and Newark, New Jersey (service by both SAS and UAL) is, roughly, 4100 miles.

ESSA GE 1

Here’s the airport in GoogleEarth, with NORTH to the RIGHT.

And a terminal diagram:

ESSA diagram

All the major European carriers work out of here, while both SAS and Norwegian Air Shuttle use Arlanda as a hub. The airport is notable for a couple of reasons: 1) they have a 100% open policy, despite snow conditions, and; 2) the ramps and some taxiways are heated via a complex geothermal network of circulating water. The 100-man strong snow-cat crew is at work – constantly – when heavy snows hit, and the airport’s policy is simple: at least one runway will be open, all the time. With CAT 3A autoland, that makes Arlanda a 24/7/365 proposition. And no ice on the ramps is always a great thing!

ESSA LH A320 SNOW

Below, the main tower, at night, with a little snow on the ground:

ESSA real control tower

And here’s an oddball area I found both in the file and in GoogleEarth imagery of the airport. Note the roadway through the lake leading to the threshold. There’re HIRL lighting towers on this roadway…

ESSA GE runway road

…but, apparently, no exclusion zone on this file’s underlay, resulting in this:

essa runway undershoot road

While this may be an error, it’s a pretty cool one. I mean…can you imagine? Those would be the best spotting homes, ever! There’s a rail express link to the city center, a la the Heathrow Express…called the Arlanda Express (clever, huh?):

ESSA ArlandaExpress

And, this is what it’s all about. Getting people here:

Stockholm old city

Now, let’s look at tdg’s file, because it’s good. And yes, it may be his best yet, which is saying something – but don’t take our word for it. Download the file (right here) and decide for yourself.

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I’d recommend opening Xp at someplace like Oslo or Helsinki and flying into this ESSA – just letting the experience of the place sink in slowly.

There’ve been a few ESSAs in Xp over the years (the last I recall was a v9 file), but this is a horse of a different color. If you’ve been waiting for this one as long as most of us have, you’re about to be a very happy camper.

ESSA 1

You’ll look at the image below and see some telltale signs of Lego-brick terminals and groan, but hang on, you’re not there yet. Oh, take a look at the roof details (blue arrow) and ask yourself – “Is this a Lego-brick terminal…”

ESSA 3

Swing around, take a look at the parking lots and garages, at the airport hotels and the control tower. There’s a huge amount of detail here, and even for a scenery library airport, this file will hit your GPU pretty hard. You don’t get something for nothing. Ever.

But some things are worth the price, even if they’re free.

ESSA 4

Now the interesting stuff. This is a v11 file – only – and it comes in two flavors; with and without static aircraft. If you’re using WT3 that question has already been made for you; if you’re not, do download the version with static aircraft. tdg has loaded the ramps with relevant aircraft/airlines, and the ramps look great filled out this way.

Now, ask yourself this: have you ever seen a Lego-brick terminal that looks like this?

ESSA 5

Or this?

ESSA 6

Note: the cylindrical details on the roof (above). And…how ’bout some ramp detail? How many freeware files offer this level of detail?

ESSA 7

ESSA 8

Lighting? Yup, this too is just about perfect. Now, start concentrating on the night-window textures, starting with the image above. See any smeary blue textures? Do you, on the other hand, see interior detail and real depth?

ESSA 9

You’ll start to pick it up everywhere, too…

essa 10

ESSA 11

You’ll also begin to pick up more reflective detail, too. In the image above, the left-side arrow points to a half-dozen reflections on a series of louvered panels. The right arrow, very good window textures.

essa 12.1

You’ll begin to have a few of “those moments” around here, too. You know…the “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” moment – when you about fall over – as you realize you’re looking at something very special. Maybe even something better than the twenty buck file you bought last week.

essa 12

Here’s a thought. The next time you run across a payware file that’s not as good as this one, why don’t you tell the developer to do a better job, and that you’re not going to buy their stuff again until they do.

Why?

Compare this work to, say, a certain payware file on the Norwegian coast. You remember, the one with the crappy parking garage and poor lighting? Why isn’t the work in that file as good as this? Why did you (not to mention me) pay for inferior work?

Because developers can. There’s little real competition and we’re, in effect, starving for good files. But when a freeware file beats a payware file in areas of basic quality, something’s wrong. We – you and I – need to be more discriminating buyers. But – and let this sink in – it’s just wrong that payware developers are offering files with mediocre details.

ESSA 14

It’s wrong because developers like Mr. X and tdg have blown the freeware paradigm apart. In the recent past, freeware in X-plane meant either poor quality or Lego-brick cookie-cutter airports that were, well, boring. Take a look around this airport file, a very close look, then ask yourself this… Are you bored? Have you bought a payware file recently that was not as good as this one?

See what I’m getting at?

It’s time to starting demanding more from developers moving into X-plane. Don’t settle for mediocrity just because some FsX developer starts porting their ten-year-old files over to Xp11.

tdg’s ESSA Arlanda is a 12 on the 10 scale. It’s a total Must Have file. Period.

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A couple of other fun files to catch up on now.

The first is simply called Monuments Pack 1 v1.0, and it’s decent enough to grab now – and to keep an eye on. I’m NOT going to show you examples of each hidden treasure, though I managed to find them all, as this file is set-up almost like a game of hide-and-seek…

Monuments 1aa

Above, this is EG51 Hermitage Airfield, located adjacent to a small farmstead. It’s a quiet, very special feeling place, too:

Monuments 412

In this download, you’ll find a set of directions to a series of monuments. Three located in the UK, one in Egypt. Simple NAV exercises, you might call them. But a couple aren’t as easy to find as you might think. I recommend a helo, but do try a fixed wing. Nothing fast, mind you…

Monuments 1

…as some of these are difficult to see until you’re right on them. And yes, three are British Heritage sites. The group below is not:

Monuments 2

Again, print out the read-me (very detailed, quite informative) and give it a go. My guess is you’ll keep these onboard, too.

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UUOO hdr

Another file from X-plane-Russia worth adding to your collection just came out. UUOO Voronezh is located not quite 300 miles south of Moscow, about 800 miles from ESSA Arlanda, and close to 1300 miles from Dusseldorf:

UUOO GE

This is a combined civil/military airfield, as well, with nice static a/c on display.

UUOO 1

UUOO 2

And the figures in the image above are animated! Nice touch!

UUOO 3

Lots of high-powered radars here…

UUOO 4

And great attention to detail. Foliage, lighting, ramp detail and surroundings, all well executed. Another 10 out of 10 for the Russian Team! Real artists at work here!

UUOO 5.png

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EGHU hdr

There’s something about the southwest…of England. Clotted cream on warm strawberry scones, hot tea and honey, maybe a long walk on the Cotswold Trail, or out in Cornwall. Hard to beat this part of the world…

EGHU GE

And a few pleasant aerodromes out this way, too. More than pleasant, really. Downright nice, and a nice bit of whimsy can be found out here, too.

EGHU 1

We’ve seen a few files like this one over the years, but when we run across one this good it’s worth sharing. So, here it is. Consider it shared.

EGHU 2

Lots of hidden details in this little airport, so get out and walk around, check out the hangers, take a chair out of the sun…

EGHU ev55

And take a look at the heavily revised EV55 Outback that came out today!

EV55 hdr

You’ve seen this one, I’m sure. The EV55 Outback is an interesting new aircraft, developed by Evektor-Aerotechnik in the Czech Republic. There’ve been two prototypes built for flight evaluation, and a third static testbed, with the first flight in 2011. The company failed to secure financing and the project is on indefinite hold, though with certification still hoped for in 2019, the company is searching for a white knight.

EV55 real x2.1

As you can see in the image above, there’ve been some mods made since this aircraft file for X-plane was first presented…

EV55 real x2

Most notably to the wingtips.

ev55 green i

But the real magic has yet to take flight…a three panel G1000 suite as seen in this mockup, below.

EV55 real panel

In a 14-passenger configuration, this aircraft could compete against the Beech 1900D and the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan and, as it’s not pressurized, could do so at far less cost.

ev-55-14pax

With this wing/engine configuration, the -55 reminds me of an updated MU-2, and one can see this aircraft slipping into a short/thin route network – routes where even Rjs can’t turn a profit.

ev 55 real 1

Regardless, with robust landing gears and out-of-the-box STOL capabilities, this is a more-then-interesting new aircraft.

ev-55-tail-03

And we’ve had a decent version for X-plane for a while, that has a panel that looks like this:

EV55 1 old panel

For some reason, however, this file just never piqued my interest. This panel looks flat and uninteresting – and with small, barely legible instrumentation I never made the purchase.

EV55 .1

Still, it’s an interesting looking aircraft, and every time I passed by it at the org store I paused and gave it another look…

EV55 2

EV55 3

Anyway, something happened this afternoon that made me think twice about this file.

EV55 4

And no, it wasn’t the nice, operating passenger doors…

EV55 5

Or the robust, well-modeled landing gear…

EV55 6

Or even the precision exterior model…

Not even the aircraft’s nimble STOL performance could reel me in…

EV55 8

But you know what got me? What tripped my trigger?

EV55 7

Laminar’s new three panel G1000 suite.

Is this file perfect? No, not yet, but the developer seems to be working on it – which is a good thing for a new developer. The panel needs better, more adjustable lighting, the side-cockpit windows need tighter modeling, and I’d get my panel looking EXACTLY like that mockup as soon as I could.

The take-off and landing performance is in the same league as the Thranda Kodiak, cruise speed is in the near-200 KIAS range, and the ease of use of the G1000 is something that takes NO getting used to. After three hours in the .acf this evening, all I can say is this is a fun, easy to fly twin – with really gonzo IFR capability.

Flying around southwest England in the Ev55 was as good as it gets, and we’ll have more, soon.

So, have a good weekend, and we’ll see you soon if something new comes out.

Later – A

 

 

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