x+s+r // thoughts on orbx kvuo, japan

xsr hdr

Adrian’s recent inflections on Orbx’s announcement and how “useless” their new KVUO Pearson Field might be left me thinking a little about that airport, and then about the differences between real world flying generally and in X-plane more specifically. And…I keep thinking about the 70% figure being bandied about recently: that 70% of Xp users are GA fliers and who may be inclined to stick with simple GA aircraft (which I take to mean the default Cessna 172). How many of those users will ever buy a payware scenery file, or even one or two GA singles? How many try X-plane and never even buy a joystick – only to give up in frustration? How many have never flown before and are simply curious what it might be like to fly an airplane – if only in a sim? It would be nice to know the answers to these questions, especially if I was trying to develop payware files of any sort, because that’s a huge block of users and my immediate concern would be simply this: if this group isn’t going to be an active part of the market for add-ons, can they safely be ignored? Or look at it another way…what kind of break-out add-on product would entice this huge group of people to take the next step and buy even a relatively inexpensive payware file?

Well, Orbx is one of the savviest players in the flight sim market – at least if name-presence means anything at all – and their fans are legion. And so far Orbx has released three files and each in a radically different part of the world (Chicago, the UK, and Oz), so they’ve not been particularly direct about trying to concentrate their efforts on one part of the world – yet. One might hope that such a concentrated effort will come in time, but assuming that might take a few years, where does that leave us?

Well, that leaves us with trying to fit Orbx’s latest offering, KVUO Pearson Field, into our existing network of good airports in the Pacific Northwest, doesn’t it?

So? What was one of the best GA airports released there in the last year or so? Well, my vote went to AirFoil Labs KAWO Arlington Municipal, just north of Seattle. Its well detailed and has all those visual training aids to help visualize how to fly a nice pattern, and when we reviewed that file we commented that the airport, as visualized by the developer, was an almost perfect training airport. And yeah, it still is, too.

But suppose you’re literally using Xp to learn to fly? You start in ground school, then get your 20 or so hours of instructor time out of the way before you solo, then you build more hours in the pattern before the next big milestone comes along…your first cross-country flight. Assuming you’re using KAWO for basic flight training in X-plane, the not quite 200 nmi flight down to KVUO Pearson Field is kind of a complicated but visually appealing VFR cross-country flight. Take off and fly right over SeaTac, then skirt Mt Rainier and Mt St Helens before dropping down to the Columbia River and landing in Vancouver, Washington. Or spice it up and fly over the Cascades out to Yakima, Washington before heading SW to KVUO. The point is, if you look at KAWO and KVUO as a team the two seem made for one another, and I’d hardly call either useless at that point. And with a detailed towns under the final approach areas? Again, KAWO and KVUO sound just like what’s needed for super-immersive training flights.

So, one last point, and it concerns that 70% group once again.

KVUO is almost a nightmare airport in the real world. It’s located just a little more than two miles from Portland International, so real world OPS are colored by all kinds of considerations that simply don’t exist at most other GA airports. KPDXs heavy commercial traffic – with all that wake turbulence and noise abatement procedures too, let alone the often unpredictable nature of the windy weather in the Columbia River Gorge all conspire to make KVUO a very tricky little airport, yet…does all that complication really apply in X-plane?

The short answer? Yes, it can, but only if you decide you want it to, and you’d really need to know about METARS and VATSIM to make all that happen…so, you’d really have to “work at it” to invoke all those parameters before those factors showed up in Xp. So, if you’re in that 70% group…if all you really want is two sweet looking GA airports and maybe the default Cessna 172 to putter around in, then you can have a scenic flight between two nice GA airports and not be out a lot of money. You can then add increasing layers of complexity over time if you so desire – or not – and if Orbx adds more airports in the region you’ll be ready to go – if and when. So…maybe we have the best of both worlds here?

So, no, I don’t see KVUO as useless. I see it as part of an evolving training region, and maybe some of the 70% out there will be tempted to see it that way too. Now…THAT would be something, wouldn’t it?


KVUO hdr

So, here we are…in beautiful Vancouver, Washington. If unfamiliar with this area, just recall that the US Pacific coast is made up by three states (from north to south): Washington, Oregon, and California, and Vancouver, Washington is located on the border between Washington and Oregon, and literally just minutes north off Portland, Oregon – a major metropolitan area. As such, you really need to consider KVUO Pearson Field as a suburban airfield that is in fact located in some very congested airspace.

You then note this is Class D airspace, so it is heavily restricted. Again, you’ll need to be very aware of the location of KPDX Portland International when using this airport under real-world conditions, because noise abatement rules are in effect, as are heavy wake turbulence protocols – and somewhat complicated arrival and departure procedures, too.

KVUO sect

Again, you’ll need to be aware of the operating protocols for KPDX arrivals and departures, as this is a very busy international airport:

KPDX plate

Because these two airports are just 2 miles apart they can confuse GA pilots new to the area. Here’e a video of an approach from the south, overflying KPDX and which reveals just how accurate this new file is:

Again, make sure you understand the spatial relationship between these two airports!

KVUO Portland context

Now, lets look at Bill’s latest masterpiece.

You’ll find all the detail you’d expect in a high-end payware file, including excellent foliage, good looking hangers and OPS buildings (with decent night lighting on hangers and windows), great paved surfaces and signage/markings, but what sets this file apart is the amount of detail (and effort) put into the facility’s surroundings, i.e., the town of Vancouver, Washington. You’ll first note the green highway bridge, and its spot-on accurate. Of course, you’ll also note Mt Hood off to the east as you circle the pattern and check out the town. This is a treat so fly low and take your time.


As you might imagine, night textures are basic but above average in quality for a small GA airfield, though I’d say KTTF Custer has better night textures – but only by a very small margin. If headed north to KAWO Arlington Muni you’ll turn left once you pass the big green bridge (Interstate 5) and head for the Olympia VORTac (113.4), then on to SeaTAC, Everett, and finally KAWO. You’ll fly along the Rim of Fire, aka Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier, then Mt Baker, which will loom as you descend into Arlington. An alternate low level return route would be to fly low over Puget Sound, then follow Interstate 5 south to the Columbia River. Either is quite scenic, even in Xp.

In the third image below, arrows mark KVUO (white), the two primaries at KPDX (red), and downtown Portland, Oregon (in blue, far right). You’ll again note proximity and alignment of KPDXs runways as you turn north and head for KAWO (last two images).


So, what we have in orbx/iBlueYonder’s KVUO Pearson Field is a nice suburban airport located in and around some inordinately complicated airspace. It’s not a beginners airport, in other words, at least not if flying under real world conditions. If you’re not, if you are just puttering around with no ATC and with real weather not a factor, then this is just another GA airport – albeit a very nice GA airport – to fiddle around with.

In the end I suspect that more than a few instructors will want to use this airport to help go over more complicated arrival and departure procedures, so that may well be the ultimate utility of this file. The hyper detailed area surrounding the airfield places this file among a select few airports in X-plane, too, with KTTF Custer Gateway and KAWO Arlington Municipal the other two currently available files that offer this level of fidelity to the real world. If you place a premium on this sort of visual experience you’ll want this file.

Anyway, Bill has turned out yet another Must Have file, and it’s at the Orbx store.


After tinkering around Sapporo and Tokyo, it felt like time to check out a few other recent scenery files that have popped up around Japan over the last few months – and man-o-man, is there some good work out there to look at!

Japan is a fascinating place for a regional network in X-plane, too. With shorter overall distances than much of the E.U. or the U.S., and with an almost daunting geographical diversity (you can fly from raging blizzards to near-tropical conditions in the course of a morning). You can focus on short RJ flights or on fifteen hundred mile flights covering open water. You’ll see volcanoes through distant mists, looming over quaint seaside villages or the largest cities on earth. And now, you’ll find a handful of really good airports to call home in Xp. And I don’t know, perhaps like all good explorers who must from time to time push out into the unknown, maybe its time you tried something new, too?

We’ve recently looked at four airports in Japan, so lets move south a little today. Osaka, Japan is served by three major commercial airports, RJOO Itami, RJBE Kobe, and RJBB Kansai, and we’re lucky to have both RJOO and RJBB in X-plane. Let’s take a quick look around RJOO today, and we’ll hit RJBB in our next post.

RJOO Itami is the so-called domestic airport serving Osaka, and consider this city is the second largest metropolitan area in Japan, so it’s easily as large, and congested, as New York City. Itami is located inland and is surrounded by a dense urban landscape, and while it’s not a huge airport check out the densely packed aprons.


On the chart below you can make out the close proximity of RJBB and RJBE (which also handles domestic operations).


We’re looking at BriceB’s RJOO file today, and do note this is an Xp11 only file and it uses a bunch of scenery libraries; the results are impressive, and even night textures are quite nice.


The list of airlines and destinations served is somewhat short, but encompasses most of the airports available in X-plane. As such, if you want to make RJ, 737, or MD80 flights around Japan, this is a great addition to get on board, but check out this video to get an idea of the variety of aircraft that fly into this airport.

If international long-haul flights are your thing, you’ll want to join us next time when we look at RJBB Kansai. In the meantime, you’ll fine BriceBs RJOO file right here: https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/41938-rjoo-osaka-itami-international-airport/

We’d call this a Must Have file for anyone serious about flying in and around Japan. That said, we’ll see you next time – C




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