More blisteringly good freeware this weekend – if you missed these two head on over to the Org and check ’em out ASAP. Let’s start the day looking over things in the German heartland, in Köln, the city on the Rhine with the most overwhelming – not to mention imposing – cathedral in Christendom.
The cathedral, IF it was included in this file, would be located right about under the Jesus Nut in the image above. The Jesus Nut, you ask? What’s that? Well, it’s this huge nut that fastens the rotor assembly to the prop shaft, and the saying goes…if that nut fails the first words out of your mouth will be something like…”Oh, Jesus…”
Anyway, that church ain’t there. It would be nice if it was because it’s the most stunning thing about the city of Köln (aka Cologne, to Americans). Hopefully one day soon we’ll have a City File to cover this area, but before getting on to the airport file let me just add this. The cathedral in the city is about the only thing missing from the freeware airport file. This latest version is simply stunning and so close in detail and quality to top-tier payware, well, it’s incredible. Let’s dive in and take a look…
Almost immediately after opening this file it’s apparent that EDDK is a huge cargo facility for both FedEx and UPS. While DHL currently has no air ops listed, CargoJet is a big operator here. On the other side of the airport, you’ll find (as usual these days) no US flag carriers, though Eurowings does currently fly to KRSW Southwest Florida as well as KSEA SeaTac. There’s (as expected) a ton of activity to the Med and to the many Spanish islands off the North African coast.
Currently, of the European national flag carriers, only Austrian serves Köln with direct flights to Wien (Vienna), but regional low-cost carriers offer about 10.3 x 10 to the 27th power flights around Germany and to nearby cities outside the country.
You have to keep in mind that EDDK also serves Bonn, and that Bonn was, until the 1990s, the capital of West Germany – so, at one point in time this facility served the capital of “Germany” and it’s attendant diplomatic corps. Pan Am was, of course, a fairly big operator here, but those days are long gone…
The airport has been modernized and re-purposed since German reunification, with air cargo OPS taking over much of the activity at the airport. Let’s take a look around…
Ah, the airport is named Konrad Adenauer, after the first post-war chancellor of West Germany.
There is, additionally, a rail terminal here, integrated into the airport:
This is something that just hasn’t happened in car-crazy America, which is happily killing off the last vestiges of its once noble passenger rail network…in favor of “better” e.g., more costly freeway networks. Now, onto the scenery file for X-plane:
Again, air cargo OPS are in your face all around the central part of this airport. Thankfully, developer Cedric Gauche has included enough detail here to fill at least three additional airports – so you will NOT be able to gripe about a lack of ramp clutter here.
You can see hints below at what we’re dealing with here. Incredible detail – everywhere you look…from animated traffic to asphalt repairs…and most of these details are the equal of current gen payware.
Look at the windows on the terminal building (below); these are louvered constructs and I can’t even begin to imagine how much effort went into this detail.
When talking about night textures and lighting effects, the obvious comparison here is to the Larnaca file we reviewed a few days ago, and I’d point out the image below as a case study in excellence. There are multiple texture sets visible here, and a wide variety of lighting types employed to impart depth – and it all works beautifully.
And the other side of the terminal (above), showing the same differentiation of texture class and lighting. Again, this helps create depth in what is, essentially, a 2D construct. And speaking of window textures, check out the image below. Perfection?
I’d say as close to perfect as I’ve seen in freeware.
Let’s look around here at night now, first at one part of the air cargo facility…
…and then, the passenger terminal:
First thing to note about the passenger terminal is the upper section, the tiered balcony structure and the balance of light and shadow employed in the texturing.
Also, in the image above and about even with the 737s cockpit glass, the night textures on that glass window-wall. See any weird, smeary blue or opaque textures here?
I don’t either.
You’ll also note, in the image of the control tower above, texturing to give the appearance that human beings actually work up there.
Ramp details? Taxiway lighting and markings?
All just about perfect. I taxied around the entire facility in this 737-7 – twice – and never had a problem finding my way around.
Compare the image above with the image of the real terminal further up…the one with the UPS advert over the parking area. There are multiple parking facilities here, all decently detailed.
There are also maintenance ramps and hangers everywhere, as well as a small GA area and an even smaller military ramp here.
Xp11s default road network into and out of the airport is excellent and adds to the overall success of this file:
Yes, the highway signs are in German. Are they accurate?
Looking around in Google Earth Streetview, most would appear to be. Though the image is dark (below) grasses in green spaces around taxiways are also really well done.
So…this is one of those airport files you don’t want to miss out on, and if you fly around western and central Europe this is a “Must Have” file. One the freeware scale, this is beyond a 10 out of 10, and you might want to keep this one around just on general principals. Yup, it’s that good. So is EADTs 737-700, for that matter.
You can find the file here.
Now, let’s take a look at a region that’s near and dear to my heart. Of course, Simon and my son had to carry me back to get help last time we were there, as yours truly damn near went into cardiac arrest while walking along the North Rim Trail. Still, it’s a favorite spot, and I’m very familiar with two of the airports in this next package.
I’ve never been a fan of how the canyon is rendered in Xp, and it still appears just as terrible in v11 as it did in v9. Smooth, smeary rim walls and looking not at all like the real thing, and even a recent attempt with AlpilotX’s v4 mesh was no better. I’ve seen orthos that come close in screenshots, however, so…maybe someday. You’d need a 3Tb drive for such a large installation, I reckon.
Today we’re next going to look at a package of five airports that are located around the Grand Canyon. Four of them are very good, bordering on payware quality, while one is, well, I’ll not spoil that for you. Let’s take a look around the area in Google Earth before we look at the scenery files…
Here’s the basic lay of the land, and note P52 way down at the bottom of the image, because it’s part of this file too.
And here’s how the area fits into the regional network we built up around the west last November. The Grand Canyon area (circled, in orange), with KGCN as a focal point, is about 160 miles north of Phoenix Skyport, and about 280 miles from KABQ Albuquerque. It’s 370nmi to KLAX, 330 to KSLC Salt Lake City, and a short 150 mile hop to Las Vegas. The red arrows above are to destinations such as SeaTac, Chicago, and Dallas, each around a thousand miles distant.
richardantoine’s Grand Canyon Tour v1.0.2 is, as mentioned, a file with five airports arranged in a tour of sorts, though maybe a game with a surprise ending might be a more appropriate way of describing the “tour”… So, let’s begin – by looking at these airports in no particular order (as I don’t want to give anything away)…
Yeah, sure, I had to start here, as it’s an old sentimental favorite…and this airport is, indeed, very old (it was first established to carry passengers to the canyon in the 1920s), though over the years its undergone some serious changes. One constant…? Because of the altitude, and the heat, the runway here has always been a long one – 9000 feet since I’ve been using it. For years there was only a unicom – even when Hughes AirWest was flying here in F-27s – and there’ve been some spectacular near-misses as a result (runway incursions and incidences of two aircraft landing at the same time – from opposite ends of the runway); there have also been fatal accidents involving sight-seeing helicopters as well as fixed-wing aircraft crashes in the canyon.
ra’s file has taken the premise of the original file and expanded it to include a bigger heliport and more interesting control towers, as well as filling out the area around the airport (and – as this IS the United States there is, of course, a Pizza Hut nearby).
In the image above you can make out the heliport, and there are a half-dozen or so pads here and all I can say is it’s a tight fit and there’s almost no lighting at night so landing a helo after dark is not advised here… Below, the heliport is just over the instrument cluster.
Yup, that’s dark.
It IS possible (I just managed) but it wasn’t fun.
It IS a little easier in daylight…
…and, as there’s a lot to see around the area why bother with night OPS?
Airlines OPS are few and far between these days, but FedEX and UPS manage to hit this spot a few times a week, though my guess is this is C208 territory.
Nevertheless, the airport’s passenger ramps are detailed with RJs and turboprops, and as with the rest of this file, this area is detailed nicely.
It also looks like the developer spent a lot of time on grasses and foliage.
The excellent little control tower by the heliport (above) is NOT the main tower, and the developer has seen fit to put another great tower here; in fact, it may be one of the most interestingly detailed in X-plane. Why? Well, let’s take a look:
Yeah, I’m not going to make this easy on you…but the area around the tower’s base is nicely detailed at night (above) as well as in daylight.
But…did you just see what I did? No? Look closer…
As in…a completely modeled interior, complete with red/green “go/no-go” lamps? And, uh, what’s that I see? Chairs and computer terminals…just like a real control tower? Uh, uh, do they…
Why yes, they do. If you get up close and personal you’ll see those screen aglow, and while I didn’t go inside and walk around, each monitor appears to be displaying relevant information.
Payware developers take note: this guy just rained all over your parade – because this freeware control tower is better than just about any payware tower I’ve seen to date. Get the file, open it up at night, and study… No smeary textures, no blacked out glass…just real, visible detail. Framerates? No issue for me here.
Next up, GC West, and take note of this airport – as there’s an interesting feature located about 1.3 miles north of the runway (well, 12 degrees magnetic); and yup, this is where the place below is supposed to be located…
It’s called the Grand Canyon Skywalk, and it’s a local tourist trap, er, scenic overlook, that has become something of a hit by virtue of it’s remote (well, very remote) location.
If this object is located in the file I didn’t see it – but anyway, I thought this information might be useful if at some point someone does make a file. Or, maybe I’m just blind as a bat and missed it…?
Next on this magical mystery tour is 1Z1, which resembles nothing so much as trailer park – with a runway:
If you peek at this one in Google Earth it looks a little like two earthworms racing – under a flat rock.
Way down south, not far from Flagstaff, as a matter of fact, you’ll find P52 Cottonwood (and cottonwoods are a type of tree found along streams and rivers out west; when they pollinate in early summer they give off a bloom that looks like floating balls of cotton, or snow…depending how many trees are in the area). And…this is an interesting airport file, too…with all kinds of details to round it out.
This looks like a small retirement community grafted onto a small airport, which it probably is, but this is also a nicely done WED airport that will fit in well with the New Mexican airports like Santa Fe and Soccoro we looked at a month ago. Flying from Texas to Soccoro to P52 for fuel would be a natural if flying on out to SoCal in a small Cessna, so take a look and keep this one if you think you’ll make a flight like this sometime.
There’s one more airport in this package but, ya know what? No images today. I don’t want to spoil your fun. It’s just a run down dirt airstrip in the middle of nowhere interesting, but you should try to find it. Don’t open up there, whatever you do – as the whole thing will be lost on you.
Anyway, this is a nice little collection of airports. If you fly out west, you’ll want to get hold of this group…and on the strength of innovation seen in KGCN’s control tower, this one gets a 10 out of 10. Yup, a must have file, one other developers – even payware developers – would do well to look over.
Later… – A