x+s+r // ktex + telluride colorado

KTEX hdr

Open up the Carenado Beech 1900D at XCodr’s new KTEX Telluride Regional and be prepared to be impressed. The image above is with all rendering options set to MAX levels, with shadows and parked aircraft checked as well…but then – a hard case of reality sets in.

KTEX 1

Framerates: 0.79.

That is not a typo. Framerates: less than one. This is a gorgeous screenshot, no doubt about it, with the Carenado’s panel looking like an image came straight from a Canon EOS 1Dx Mk II. Shadows? Perfect. The hangers, ditto, and even the snow-capped mountains in the distance look very much like the real deal at 7:20 in the morning. I spent the past few years living not far from here, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and I’ve flown these mountains all my life. Not in Xp, but in Barons and Bonanzas for the most part, but also in C421s, even a Falcon 20 for a while. I’ve flown into KASE and KTEX in both summer and winter, most before GPS and RNAV made these approaches easy, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve attempted landings here only to find them closed due to low visibility, causing a divert to Grand Junction or Denver.

Telluride’s approach has often been described as perilous – and that’s bullshit. The airport is high, but Leadville, a little to the east, is higher – indeed, much higher – and I’ve been forced by weather to drop into that one more than once, too, before flying over Independence Pass into Aspen. The runway here is just that…a nice long patch of asphalt with no real obstacles to clear on THE approach to 09 – just a dramatic cliff under the approach as you flare. It’s very pretty, almost dramatic, but, generally speaking, not particularly dangerous.

It can get dicey in deteriorating weather, but so can Des Moines, Iowa. Flying in Iowa is, however, not like flying in the Rocky Mountains, but more on that in a minute.

X-Codr’s file might be labeled by some as “Bloatware” but I’d strongly take issue with that characterization. It IS full-featured and it IS designed for people using high-end “gaming” systems – computers with dedicated video cards having at least 8Gb VRAM onboard – but that’s no reason to call the file bloated. Although the minimum specs listed at the Org show 2Gb, with 4Gb recommended, I’d say that with a 4Gb card you’ll be running this file with lowered rendering settings – at least if you want to keep framerates in the 20s; I have no idea what it would take to get this file running with a 2Gb card, but I doubt the results would be pretty. I’d say find a nice freeware file if that’s the case, and save up for a more powerful system – because flight simulation is, in general, headed in the direction of hyper “UHD” realism. You just won’t get there with a five-year-old system running a 2Gb graphics card.

Well, why is this even an issue? Because, after all, this is a small airport – so what’s the problem? Well, like KTTF Custer Gateway, all the objects around this airport are custom made and highly detailed – many on the inside as well as outside. But there’s more here than an airport, too. You don’t get this level of detail without paying a price, and, in this case, the price comes in the form of extra VRAM needed to maintain framerates.

After poking around a bit the big culprit seems to be the main terminal building, but several areas around the file cause real problems with rendering options dialed up.

KTEX 8

KTEX 4

KTEX 5

Again, FPS are highly dependent on settings in this file. Extreme settings, by and large, cause extreme performance issues.

KTEX 6

But do note the pavement details.

KTEX 7

And the quality of the objects used, like this baggage train.

KTEX 9

I do question the included interior modeling as the windows are so dark the interior just isn’t visible, day or night. So…there’s no point, and this may be one of the trouble areas causing the performance hit. If the objects WERE visible, well, maybe. As they’re not? Why?

KTEX 13

Taking off on 27, as soon as you clear the threshold area you’re a thousand feet AGL. It’s quite fun…

Next, let’s get the particulars out of the way…

The one downloaded folder includes four files that will reside in Custom Scenery: the airport; ski lifts (yes!); overlay, and; mesh. The download, at 2.8Gb, is big; the files will take-up almost 5Gb once on your drive. Load-times are long, drawn-out affairs, too, and our recommendation is simple: start off with graphics settings very low and work your way up to the level you’re comfortable with – loading with the aircraft you intend to use here most often. Don’t delude yourself into using a 737 or A320 here, either; KTEX is NOT that kind of airport. Smaller biz-jets DO use this airport frequently, but Great Lakes Airlines uses turboprops here, almost always 1900Ds, (they do have a few EMB-120s) on their flights to DIA and Phoenix. If you want to use this airport for commercial flights, buy Carenado’s 1900D and enjoy the scenery around the region, because X-Codr has provided some interesting options with this file.

//

Four Seasons? No…Three…

When you open X-plane with this file loading, and assuming your installation is NOT tracking real dates & times, you’ll want to make sure of the date you’ve got set. Why? Well, because this file includes a summer as well as a winter texture set – but it goes one step further still, offering an autumn texture set as a third option. If the date set is January and it opens in mid-summer…

KTEX 2

…then do a scenery reload (under Developer), and you should see this:

KTEX 2.1

Note, the time above in each image is 07:23. Also, note that even in summer you’ll frequently experience temperatures near freezing in the early morning here, and overnight temps will often be much colder, again, even in mid-summer. Autumn comes early to this part of Colorado; peak foliage season is usually over by the end of September, and when you open the file in September or October you’ll find nearby stands of aspen trees a bright golden color. Just to the east of Telluride, you’ll find Colorado Highway 550, otherwise known as the Million Dollar Highway, as well as the Durango-Silverton Railway, and if you’ve done either of these you’ll understand my mentioning them now, but the region is often called America’s Little Switzerland – and with good reason. Flying the region between KTEX and Denver will reward you with awesome alpine vistas, and once we have a working KASE in Xp11, flying Colorado will become a truly rewarding experience.

KTEX 550

Above, Highway 550. The last time I rode this I was on my BMW R1200GS. Coming around the curve ahead I met a large moving van, the driver apparently terrified and taking up most of the road. That is called a “high pucker factor” encounter for good reason! I took Simon over the road later that summer and he was duly impressed.

KTEX 1200

KTEX is located near the so-called Four Corners region, north of Durango and Mesa Verde National Park (famous for its well-preserved cliff dwellings). Though I’ve been there a few times, when I took Simon there it was fun to experience his ‘first-timers’ reaction. This is a very cool place to visit if you make it out west:

KTEX MVNP

For a taste of flying in this region, make sure you have both the KGCN Grand Canyon file (we reviewed last week), as well as this KSAF Santa Fe file, then fly the Sangre de Christo mountains north from Santa Fe to KTEX; refuel there and fly over the Grand Canyon before landing at KGCN; use a light twin or a fast single like the C210 and enjoy the view. If you have orthos for the region, prepare to be amazed – as this is what most people think of when they imagine the Old West. For a treat, try to find the Shiprock.

KTEX GE

Oh, before I forget, while there’s just one runway here, there is, in truth, only one approach. 09 is it, folks. And all takeoffs are on 27, with few exceptions.

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I’m sorry to say that, if you aren’t running a hyper-fast gaming machine, your first experience of this file will likely be disappointing. That said, don’t give up. You should, as mentioned, find a good performance setting and not worry too much about the effect it has on the scenery. Why? Well, even at low to moderate settings, the objects and textures X-Codr employs still look very good. You will give up HDR effects, but the runways, taxiways, and buildings all will look just fine. If you do have a high-performance machine, just light the file off and have fun.

I loaded this on my MacBookPro first, with its 5.5Gb chip-set, and I had real trouble with anything beyond moderate rendering settings – with any angle of view encompassing the main terminal building causing a rapid drop in framerates. I mean, for example, from 29FPS to 2 FPS. The problem was worsened by checking shadows and static aircraft, and for some reason, summer was worse than winter. With these checked I taxied from the terminal holding just above 10 FPS; when I turned onto the runway (in the C172) and the terminal came into view…well…see for yourself:

KTEX 11

KTEX on the runway

A drop from near fourteen to a little over one. Take-offs and landings are a farce at these settings…yet once you roll past the terminal FPS jumps back up to flyable. Below, the same thing on approach. Once the terminal comes into play (again, with settings dialed up) framerates grind down to near zero.

KTEX 15

The solution? Un-check shadows and static aircraft, drop rendering to moderate, HDR to mid-range, AA to minimal, objects to the mid-range and finally, reflections all the way off, and suddenly this file was firing along anywhere from 29 to 45 FPS, and the airport still looked good! I was impressed with this aspect of the file, and, as a result, I think most people will be able to get real use out of this file. Obviously, if you have a beast running a powerful graphics card you’ll be able to pull a lot more detail from the file, but what’s nice here is that you have the option to use it with a lower powered card. AND you have the option to use multiple seasons, though using the winter option requires thought. The area covered is small, and there’s a jarring transition between plain textures and winter. That said, there are options for getting a Winter World into Xp.

One other surprise element in the file is the included resort and ski area, and this is covered by the included ortho, and is also full of custom objects, including skiers and ski lifts. Let’s hop in the 407 and take a look…

AAnTex1

Yup, HDR is set in the low range here, so lot’s of pavement effects – and FPS was holding in the 20s with objects at MAX, so the flight was smooth, with no chugging noted.

AAn tex 2

Approaching the base area at the ski area below, FPS still quite good despite all the custom objects.

AAnTex 3

Heading up the mountain, below, for the summit (seen circled in blue);

AAnTex 4

The summit. There are multiple ski lifts up here, and a few skiers, too. Next…

AAnTex 5

…the trip down…at night:

AAnTex 6

Many ski areas are now including a night skiing option, though the few times I’ve tried it the strange shadows were somewhat troublesome – and it can get so cold at 10,000 feet, at night, that skiing is just not comfortable. Some ski areas have attempted to address the shadow issue by adding light towers on both sides of the lighted trail, reducing all shadows. The cold? Hah…! More parkas!

Below, now about halfway down the mountain.

AAn Tex 7

And, nearing the base area again, with the airport now clearly visible again:

AAn Tex 8

AAN TEX 9

And here’s the scene – looking back from the airport to the ski area. Just awesome!

AAnTex10

And, above, getting ready to crash and burn again.

So, conclusions?

Tough call. Is this a “must have” file? What do you think?

Well, first, consider this. How many files do we have in X-plane that come anywhere near this in quality AND versatility?

Not many.

How many ski areas are built up in X-plane?

Well, this is the first I’ve seen built-out to this level of detail.

How many developers do we have that are willing to hang it out so far over the edge?

Not many, and admit it, that would be the honest answer.

So, assuming X-Codr worked his tail-feathers off for months do you reward that risk by ignoring his work?

You might, but if you do such files will rarely, if ever, be seen in Xp again.

Is this file worth it, even if you discount that last paragraph’s implications?

Why, yes, it is.

KTEX ought to fit into most anyone’s X-plane ambitions. You can use this for GA flights all over the American southwest or the Rocky Mountains. You can use it to fly commercial turboprops into DIA or Sky Harbor (and why not KABQ, just for fun?). You can use a flutterbug up here and have a blast, too.

So…? A Must Have file?

Yup…I think that’s a justified call, despite the potential performance issues. A little work finding “the sweet spot” will reward you time and time again. Santa Fe, KABQ, KGCN? All great files, all within an easy hour or two flight time, depending on aircraft.

That said, we’ll see you tomorrow – A

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