So…here’s Part II of the TNCM review we began late last night. We’ll look over TFFG Grand Case today, and finish up this weekend with our usual “nuts & bolts” look at TNCM. That said, let’s jump in and take a look at the French side of the island.
Ah, yes. The island of “Saint Martin” is actually divided in two, with the southern half (roughly speaking) “belonging to” the Netherlands, and the northern half to France. Yes, there are border crossings. Yes, this border is for real, and France takes her overseas territories more than seriously. When Hurricane Irma hit the island last autumn, France was first on the scene picking up the pieces, and rapidly, too (rather unlike the US response in Puerto Rico, I might add). Here’s how the island looks from overhead, with the two airports pinned in yellow. Incidentally, for US English speakers, the island is not pronounced ‘Saint Martin.’ The correct pronunciation sounds more like San Mar-tan, with the a in ‘tan’ rather soft.
The airport in Grand Case (on the French speaking half of the island) is much smaller than TNCM and is geared towards short, inter-island commercial hops, as well as handing local and regional GA traffic (with some over-flow biz-jet ops from TNCM noted). You can island hop from Florida in the TBM850 or King Air class aircraft, too. Check your range and shoot for Puerto Rico, refuel, then hit St Thomas VOR in the US Virgin Islands on your last leg. Rough flight, but doable.
There is a small terminal at the airport, and it’s fully modeled – inside and out – in this file. The roof in the model displays variations from what’s seen in satellite imagery but, as the developers did on-site research I will defer to them; the roof may have been renovated since the last overheads were taken, and there’s another consideration as well. Hurricane Irma laid waste to this facility. Its current operational status is currently unknown, as the official site shows no current commercial activity. Not surprising as Irma slammed this part of the island the hardest.
The model is exceptional in places beyond the terminal, too. Both the fire station and the little line-shack with the spiral staircase are quite nicely modeled and textured. Lighting is first class, too, as you would expect after looking over TNCM. Look at the fire truck, below. This is just one example of the benefits that accrue with on-site photography of a model’s elements. Oh yes, the asphalt is really very well done, too…but somebody needs to pull some weeds…
As with TNCM, interior lighting is consistently “subdued” (inadequate?) everywhere you look, but that’s about the only fault noted here at night. To be fair, this may have a lot more to do with the available lighting assets than anything else. Hopefully, the devs will take care of this at some point.
If this whole file has an Achilles Heel, it’s the ortho. It breaks down rapidly under a thousand feet AGL and becomes a blurry mess under 500AGL. The developers keep things from breaking down too badly by placing appropriate objects in most coastal resort areas, but move inland to the villages where the locals live and it’s all ortho, all the time, and man, does sit look bad at low levels, and I’m not at all sure using exclusion zones for most of the roads on the island, as well as for these smaller villages, wouldn’t yield better results. The roads (image below, lower right) are a real mess, and Xp does a better job than this. It would be a real pain in the keister to pull this off, however. I’d chalk this one up to one of the necessary compromises you have to make from time to time, but I was hopeful these orthos would be better. The big question? Are they better than auto-gen? Well, yes, they are. End of discussion?
Still, object placement saves the day – as long as you stay near the coast – and the foliage used on the island is nothing short of astonishing. If you’ve been on this island you’ll know what I mean.
Anyway, this island is comparatively small and it takes little time to circumnavigate the entire island – 15 minutes, tops – in a flutterbug, though you could slow down and check out a few sights, maybe draw that out some.
We’ll finish up this weekend, but in the meantime, check out this little GA airport near Lake Zurich. The file is billed as a GA gateway to the Swiss Alps, too. Can’t wait to try this one out for a day or so.
This LSZX file is located here, by the way. Give it a try!
Well, we’ll see you next time. Remember…carburetor ice goes ‘in’ to off on takeoffs, and watch those cowl flaps!
Hasta later – A