x+s+r // lira + nzmb + orbx / egcb

xsr 738 LIRA 1

Three seriously interesting files today, one of them being, or course, the first truly new Orbx release for X-plane. Interestingly enough, the other two files – both freeware – could be as significant – at least for a few people – as the Orbx release.

First up today, LIRA Rome Ciampino, and this file marks the return of tdg to our midst after a few weeks absence. Sheesh, amigo…you have been missed! Where the hell were you…and was she worth it?

LIRA hdr

I do hope the developers behind aeroSOFT’s Rome Fiumicino don’t mind tdg’s return. Odd he chose to make the other Roman airport too, don’t you think? Well, perhaps the aeroSOFT team will look this one over, and learn a thing or two. God only knows they might try.

If nothing else, tdg’s airports are human-scaled. This sense of scale is vital to the success of any airport scenery file, too. While aeroSOFT’s file is devoid of any sense of scale, you’re immersed in scale here, in tdg’s latest. People, ground service vehicles, cars and buses, static aircraft, trees, and monuments all lend visual cues that define this airport as a human space. aeroSOFT’s Rome, on the other hand, reminds me of a mausoleum: a cool, austere place where people just don’t fit into the scheme of things.

So…assuming you want to fly into such a place near Rome, now you’ve got one. Once again, our thanks to this developer for saving the day. With his Florence and Sicilian files now onboard, we now have a good spread of airports to use in Italy. I suspect aeroSOFT’s Rome will find it’s way into the rubbish bin now, unless someone manages to salvage the file with a massive updating.

Below, the relationship between these two airports with central Rome. Fiumicino is on the coast and southwest of the city; Ciampino is southeast of the city and, notably, experiences fewer fogged in days. This airport was Rome’s primary international airport until 1960, and it remains the preferred airport for government and business aviation. There are limited GA facilities here, though a fair sized air cargo ramp.

Rome airports

LIRA chart

As usual, tdg’s buildings are approximations; he relies on modified scenery library objects to create his airports so you will NOT end up with 100 percent accurate reproductions of an airport. Is this ideal? (shrug) I don’t know…what do you think? He creates very useable freeware files with a minimum of unnecessary detail. I stress the word unnecessary, too, as his files are anything but bare-bones affairs. Still, there’s no waste and framerates are usually quite good.

In these first four images, check out:

  1. roof detail, buses, cars in lots;
  2. varied ramp textures, ramp markings, trees (varied heights);
  3. appropriate static aircraft, DC3 monument to US Army Air Corp;
  4. air cargo ramps with appropriate aircraft and cargo handling gear.

LIRA comp 1.jpg

Night textures? Simple, but not smeary blue smudge windows. HDR lights on ramps.

LIRA comp 2n

Oh yes, Ryanair and WIZZair are the only two carriers operating here, but of course between these two they fly just about everywhere on earth. And then some…

LIRA Ncomp 2.1

So? Recommended? Yup…10 out of 10, and it’s at the org.


NZ city

kiwi_the_iwik’s few files are centered on the Aukland, New Zealand region, and he released a helicopter facility as well as a revised city file today. These files are meant to complement either orthos or AlpilotX’s latest UHD mesh (there are separate downloads for each); the UHD mesh is used here. Significant? Yes. He’s bringing a whole new level of detail to this important urban area, and when you open up at the helicopter base it’s hard to keep your jaw from bouncing off the desktop.

An easy 10/10 Must Have file.


EGCB hdr

Very mixed feelings about this file – initially. When looking over the promo material on Threshold my first impression was “(yawn) I think I’ll skip this one,” so I guess I didn’t see anything I wasn’t expecting. “A run down pre-WWII era grass-stripped airport? I doubt I’ll ever use it, so why buy it?”

If that sums up your feeling after looking over the promo images, welcome to the club. But guess what? We’re probably in a minority, because a lot of people will buy it simply because its Orbx.

Still, this airport will, in my opinion, hold little interest to anyone not making GA (training?) flights in and around the Midlands area, maybe to York or Newcastle, or perhaps over to Liverpool. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon, and certainly better than self-abuse, yet the question remains… Why would you bother when there are already so many good grass-stripped airports around the UK? And I mean freeware, of course.

So? Why, indeed? Well, let’s take a look, and image by image:

  1. Okay, I get it. Nobody does grass like Orbx does grass. I looked at this first image and my first impulse is to get my lawn mower gassed up.
  2. I have never seen such a perfectly dilapidated building. Close your eyes. Can you see the rats scampering around the broken boards? Perhaps running up your legs?
  3. I look at that control tower and I see Gregory Peck in Twelve O’Clock High.
  4. That last image? Don’t you see Harrison Ford moaning and rolling his eyes as he says: “We’re going to need a bigger lawn mower…”

EGCB comp 1

Night lighting?

Are you kidding? Two fire-flies would put out more light than the one light bulb hitting the parking lot.

EGCB comp 2

Of course, by now you may be getting the idea that there’s more to this file than a small, run-down grass air-strip. Yup, actually a lot more, though it’s not immediately apparent exactly what’s what. You’ll need local knowledge, or a really good map, for all those answers. The images below?

  1. A BMI 319 departing EGCC to the NW;
  2. Arriving from the north for EGCC, both above EGCB;
  3. The GMP helo (Greater Metropolitan Police) base;
  4. I don’t know what this is, but with a tennis court and a swimming pool…may I join?

EGCB comp 3.png

More details? Look below:

  1. Barton Locks on the Manchester Shipping Canal, airport in background;
  2. Nearby stadium where old men watch boys in shorts run around kicking balls;
  3. Note the car park ahead? From here you can’t tell if this is an ortho or a modeled lot with placed objects;
  4. You have to get within a few hundred feet before you can be sure this is an ortho. This is what’s meant by the term “hi-res ortho,” by the by. Compare this to the car park in the Montego Bay, Jamaica scenery we reviewed yesterday. Try not to laugh. Unless of course you bought the file. Then…feel free to cry.

EGCB comp 4

So…now we get to the real meat of the matter. Look at the image below, and note EGCB bottom right. Now, a few inches above centre-fuselage you’ll just see another airport, and this is EGCC Manchester International. And all of this city detail is, of course, available when you depart or arrive EGCC, and for me this was the deciding factor.

Will I use EGCB? I suppose – now that I have it – I may from time to time. Those odds increase if Orbx does in fact release a large area UK landforms file. I’ve been looking at the forums, I’ve seen what’s being hinted at, and I am seriously intrigued.

EGCB end

When you get right down to it, I reckon I’m not so different from most people flying in X-plane. I like heavy metal files but quite often find myself wanting to spend time in something simpler, usually my Waco. Problem is…flying VFR in Xp can be dull. Like, central France looks just like central Texas. But…what would happen if all of a sudden you had a country-sized landscape that looked like what you see just above? A landscape that reveals subtle differences based on reality, not an algorithm developed in an office in South Carolina.

I’d love to fly that shipping canal, from lock to lock and all the way to the sea. Or fly from Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway – about a hundred feet above Hadrian’s Wall. Or even buzz the locks at Fort Augustus on my way to Loch Ness.

I could get excited about flying GA again, ya know? And that’s why I pulled the trigger this time. I want to experience that, even just a little, right now – and you can too, right now, just a little, with this file.


So…rate this file?

No way.

It’s Orbx and ratings just don’t apply – not really. What can you compare a file like this with – or to? Nothing – not really, though I suppose the case can be made someone might compare it to what’s available in FsX or P3D. Not me, however. Never been there.

The only “rating” I can justifiably apply is simpler still. Did this file live up to expectations? My expectations, of course, as I could hardly know yours.

Well, yes. In fact, it easily exceeded those few minimal expectations I held. EGCB is what it is, a small grass airfield with a couple of nice hangers and a fun control tower. Ditto the  GMP helo-base and the club-house area. Very nice. But it’s the area beyond the airport that grabbed my attention. Still, I found EGCB to be something quite special. Never, not once in more than a decade of flying in X-plane has a file made me want to break out my lawn mower. And yes, I’m kidding – but not as much as you think. I say this because this is the best grass airfield I’ve ever used in Xp. It looks and feels convincing.

I also kept thinking of another freeware developer while using this EGCB. Scottish Wings, and his prosaic, almost Arcadian landscapes dotted with cows and foxes and, yes, an airplane or two. Until Orbx releases their greater UK files, EGCB will fit in nicely with a few of Scottish Wings freeware airport files, and that will make for some seriously phun phlying.

‘Til next time – C

This entry was posted in First Look, Scenery: Europe, X-plane Orbx scenery and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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