A fantastic new airport in Poland.
A second look at Helsinki’s massive Metropolitan VFR package.
Welcome, to x+sim+reviews, where we do our level best to make life as confusing as possible! As in: “Just how much money can I spend on add-ons for X-plane?” We’re here to help you make the best possible decision!
Maybe, but…you know how that goes…?
Anyway, we’re off, like a herd of turtles…!
Once upon a time Simon and I tried to build a couple of airports for X-plane 9, and we eventually released two in California. They broke ground in two areas; we included a visibly modeled passenger terminal interior and Simon developed a grass texture that’s still in use today. Still, the FPS hit was significant at our KMMH, and though a few thousand people downloaded the files I’m not sure they were a big hit. Hard to imagine…most people had video cards with 500Mb, or half a gig. There was no way to make anything so complex work with such skimpy GPUs, but, like they say…that was then, and this is now.
When I saw the promo images for FlyDesigns latest file last week, for EPSY Olsztyn-Mazury, I knew someone had finally accomplished what Simon and I set out to do almost ten years ago. Still, what I had in mind was nothing compared to what this development team has accomplished, and I’m going to come out and say this right up front: this airport file is close to the absolutely most perfect airport scenery file I’ve seen in more than fifteen years, and at 10 Euros (12.75USD), this file is a screaming bargain. If you fly in central Europe or in the Baltic region, this file is a 10 out of 10 total MUST HAVE file…and then some….but more on that in a minute.
Let’s run through the basics first.
Location is everything. As nondescript as this airport seems – at first glance, anyway – it has had a colorful past, up to and including playing a significant role in America’s War on Terror in the immediate post-911 era. Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair is located nearby, as well, and Germans built the airport in the early 1930s, when the region was still a part of greater Germany. I suggest you read the Wikipedia entry to get oriented to the fascinating history of the region, and this airport.
Concerning airlines and destinations, read this entry, from Wikipedia. The short version? Try using the Saab 340a on flights to Berlin-Tegel and Kraków (see our review, last week), an A320 to London Luton, the 738 to London Stansted, or try Warsaw in Jack’s Dash-8 Q400. Note: though the current airport facility is brand new, the airfield has been active since the 1920s.
The airport file developed by FlyDesign adheres to the basic design evident in photography of the site, and almost to a “T.” There is, indeed, no need to post images of the real facility here, because this model appears so accurate. And when I say this, I mean both the interior and exterior appear to be almost 100% accurate. I would need a tape measure and a survey team to find any discrepancies…that’s how good this file looks.
Let’s start be looking at one end of the main terminal, at dawn.
The same area, now at night:
And again, only this time, from the interior:
And this is just a taste; you’ll find the same quality, and attention to detail, everywhere you look.
The parking lot and entry facade, in day or night, is perfect:
And, as local governments raised money to link the airport to existing rail networks, this new station-platform has been included in the airport’s model:
And this is the only area I think could use a little something extra. Like a static train with passengers loading or unloading? But, I digress…
More exterior details? Okay… check out the air-conditioners…
Or…you can see through the glass roof skylights to the ramps beyond!
Maintenance and air cargo building, snow-plow and a small pad for flutterbugs, too. Now, let’s turn out the lights and look around some more:
Now let’s go inside, where all the rules get tossed into the rubbish bin…
You can get up close and see the linen pattern on these light fixtures’ shades, or read all the signage. It’s pretty cool, any way you look at it. Or…you can go through security!
Once you know where to look, you can see all the places this team used textures to optimize performance, yet they’ve in no way compromised the visual impact of their model. If you’re worried about frame rates, you needn’t be. This file will hit you about the same as any other similarly sized airport. I was surprised how good performance was, considering the detail involved.
Even with an über-complex file, like the LES Saab 340a.
So, who’s this file for?
Anyone flying around eastern Europe, from Poland north to Finland or west to Berlin or Dusseldorf, and this is a good place to use the Saab 340 or the CRj. I’d say the A319 would be perfect here, too.
If you rarely fly in this part of the world , that shouldn’t keep you from buying this one. The huge DHL base at Leipzig Halle is close enough for 340 flights, and Köln for FedEx or UPS in the 737/7. There’s a GA ramp by the fire station, too…
And this will make a perfect cross-country training stop on training flights. There have been very few airport files conceived to radically break with the traditional paradigm of nice models – but with opaque window textures. DD with their current string of airports such as Warsaw Chopin and Washington National come to mind, but neither have been designed or executed with the inside completely visible from the ramps AND the parking lot. I think of the small terminal on St Helena now, as that one would have benefitted from this approach.
A point of conjecture is in order here. If this team can make it work, shouldn’t more scenery developers try to experiment with this same approach? Indeed, wouldn’t it be fun to make the attempt on your next small airport project? Rather than model a few bare rooms, why not make something that really comes alive, like this one does? What makes this file so special…is the inside and exterior are a part of the whole…from the moment you pull up on the apron. It’s the most immersive terminal I’ve run across to date. Yes, it’s that good!
As both Xp and computer hardware become more capable, maybe now is the time to break out of this old box. FlyDesign has done it here, and they’ve succeeded beautifully. Can other developers make the break? Choosing the right airport will make all the difference, but look this file over carefully, see what they’ve pulled off here…because its almost magic.
Anyway, this hits all the right notes, and is the best small airport file we’ve seen, so buy accordingly. The file is currently for sale at the developers own web-store, here. I had to ask for a MacOS compatible file; the developer got one off to me without delay. We wish them all the best, and hope their next project is as interesting, and exciting, as this.
After our helicopter romp in the snow last week, the Helsinki Metropolitan VFR file really opened our eyes. Most freeware city files take a few buildings from the SketchUP or Google3D libraries and drop them into X-plane’s default scenery. It’s quick and it’s inexpensive, and the results are decent enough, sometimes dramatically so. This file, by FAsimulations, takes a different approach, however. They’ve constructed a large scale reproduction of the entire city of Helsinki, and put it all on top of a huge ortho – so what you end up with is a re-creation of the original city, and the results are almost staggering. Once you throw in the winter file you have the best city file ever created. Nothing else comes close, and though DD’s New York City file is a masterpiece, you should not confuse these two products. While not as intimately detailed as KTTF Custer Gateway, what you have here is a massively detailed urban environment…not a couple of über detailed streets and a power plant.
In the image above, that’s EFHK off to the right, and it’s worth noting that this is hapet’s freeware airport, our favorite freeware file last year, and it works well with this package, too. Just go into scenery file ini and put hapet’s file above the all the files in this package and you’re good to go. A few images from hapet’s file next:
Now, let’s head into the city and take a look around…
In this image…a rail yard, large and small arenas, and a university, complete with hospital – and with a heliport. Go into Google Earth and compare images. Its close…real close.
Some areas are simple orthography, with little object placement noted, but these areas are well away from the city center and look okay from pattern altitude. Most of the built-up areas are near the waterfront and just inland a mile or so, but the overall area covered with objects is huge. You might run this file on a middle-weight computer, but if running a complex acf you’ll want more brute horsepower. I’d say if you have less than 4Gb on your GPU you should think about this purchase very carefully. You may get it to work, with compromises, but not with serious heavy metal.
I would guess that someday TruScenery will make an EFHK scenery file. It’s their home base and the only airport of note they haven’t tackled yet. I sure hope so, anyway. If they should, my guess is it will integrate with this package nicely, but again, you’ll want a computer with brutish power to run it.
This file serves a couple of purposes, I think. The first, most obvious, is that it looks wondrous coming into EFHK, day or night, with this file active. It dawns on you, and quite suddenly too, that what you’re looking at is the real city…because it does not look like auto-gen. Default auto-gen scenery makes every city look alike, and that is most definitely NOT the case. And, as Helsinki is one of the more interesting cities – visually – in Europe, with a captivating waterfront during summer months, the view is impressive. (Its like the people here live to sail, which makes them my kind of people!)
The second use? Getting down close to the ground in a helo – and sightseeing… Helsinki VFR is one file made for doing just that…!
The third? Get in that helo and go looking for pads to land on!
This file is available at the OrgStore, here. Read the installation instructions carefully; the developer answers questions with hardly any delay. Oh, the file is currently on sale, less than 20 bucks.
That said, we’re going to wrap this one up tonight. Hasta later – C