x+s+r // Peru x 3 v1.1

xsr SPSO hdr

Recall if you will a lengthy review of airports in Chile we posted on 31 December of last year, covering two major payware files in and around Santiago, as well as several freeware files in the region? Well, here we go again, although with a shorter excursion this time out. We’re going to look at three airports in Peru: one payware file and two freeware files – and all three have a little symbiotic relationship going on.

And, oddly enough, the payware file – for SPSO Pisco International – was made by the same team to just released TNCM Princess Julianna. So, right away you know the pedigree is right up there – and this file doesn’t disappoint in most regards, either. We’ll also look at SPJC Lima and SPZA Nazca and, as mentioned, these three files are almost like cousins. Let’s break it down and see if we can’t clear this up.

Peru GE

Lima and Pisco are coastal cities and not at all far apart; in fact, SPSO typically serves as Lima’s IFR alternate. SPZA Nazca is, however, quite different, but let’s not jump too far ahead. When I went digging around for these files it didn’t take long to figure out that there are, literally, dozens of airport files all over Peru, and yes, we’re working our way through them, one by one. Of course we’ll present our findings, and soon, too. In the meantime, let’s head down to Pisco and see what’s what.

SPSO hdr

When you first open this Airworthy Designs payware file you can feel the similarity to TNCM, like the teams “artistic DNA” developed here and the experience is now a part of all the work to come. I would encourage you to get in a flutterbug and take a close look around the surrounding city-scape too, as it’s just an amazing piece of work…right down to the wash hanging in the sun to dry behind more than one casita. Frankly, I love this level of detail – even though you can argue such things are superfluous to a flight simulator. These details make a place like this feel more “human” – and that’s not really such a bad thing, is it? The experience of sitting alone at your desk and “flying” tends to be a little dehumanizing, so being reminded of the humanity behind the experience of flight isn’t something to be shunned. Anyway, we applaud Airworthy Designs’ commitment to bring this level of detail to the X-plane universe. Their work is like the next best thing to being there.

SPSO comp 1

While not a particularly big airport, SPSO packs a lot of activity into a small space. Alongside the main passenger terminal you’ll find a small air force base, facilities for GA aircraft as well as flutterbugs, office and light commercial developments, as well as two tank farms. All of this “stuff” is sitting on a nicely detailed ortho, and as this is a waterfront facility the surf-line looks particularly interesting from approach altitudes. The surrounding desert landscape is almost bleak looking – then you notice all the small cone volcanoes in the distance and the place begins to feel more than a little exotic.

SPSO comp 2

The main passenger terminal is nicely modeled inside and out, and with place-names like Burger-King and Subway prominently on display (and Coke machines, too!) the interior almost begins to come alive. I say “almost begins to” advisedly, as there just isn’t enough of a human presence to make it all come together. Understandable, too, as these 3D human figure objects can be very resource intensive. That said, there was no falloff in FPS when pointed at the terminal so I think all the fat has been cut away. The lighting, both interior and exterior, is okay, there are a few Cessna Caravans on the ramps for the Nazca run, but I was left wondering why the real airport has been so well developed for such a thin market. I guess there’s a heavy tourist presence here, and that was the justification?

SPSO comp 3

In the approach image above the city is dazzling. Just consider this: it’s all custom. No Rancho Cucamonga Estates tract housing…just an authentic looking Peruvian town. And most of these objects are optimized and used repetitively through an internal library, so the FPS fallout is minimal.

SPSO end

Taken as a single airport SPSO is nice enough, but I doubt most users in X-plane will have little interest in a file like this – UNLESS they take a look at this airport in a larger context. Peru has experienced a kind of tourist renaissance over the past twenty-plus years, and political stability brought real economic gains to a much larger share of the populace. This stability has fostered the development of a robust infrastructure network to move visitors to such varied national treasures as Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines, as well as the almost magical city of Cuzco. Literally millions of people a year come to see these special places, and Peruvian government officials had the foresight to get ready for the rising tide.

Once you consider this greater context SPSO Pisco begins to make a whole lot of sense, and it’s just about then you realize that Chile is just to the south, and that there are literally dozens of great freeware airports available in both these countries. With just a little effort you can build a vast airport network that links several major South American cities and that spans coastal plains, high deserts, and the magnificent Andes. Looked at from this perspective, SPSO begins to look really quite attractive.

Lima, Peru’s principle city, lies just to the north on the Pacific coast, and if you don’t know much about this city that’s something you should consider changing. Lima is just about the oldest European settlement in the New World and has a cosmopolitan vibe that puts it on par with many European cities – and there’s a great freeware file for the main airport. Let’s take a quick look…at SPJC Jorge Chávez International.

SPJC

This file is near-v10-payware quality, though some of the night textures are a little fanciful, and it appears the developer has added a few touches around the city, too. The scene at this airport is International, with all the big North American and European carriers getting in on the act (list here), and while real big heavies are the name of the game, there’s some regional action here as well. Why? Well, all those tourists enter the country here, then fan out to a number of smaller airports nearer the tourist hot-spots.

And we’re going to look at just one of those smaller airports next.

So, are you familiar with the Nazca Lines?

Nazca 1

There’s a file that covers the highlights out in the desert near this airport, and the developer of the file made a video of his efforts; you might watch this if even remotely interested, and you can read more about the Nazca Lines at the link above.

 

This file features a HUGE ortho, and the results are impressive. Try this “Experience” is a GA single, or a flutterbug, first; then look at the scene from higher altitudes. This is one of those files your kids could use for a social studies projects at school!

Again, the point is NOT to look at these airports individually, but rather as part of a greater system linking Lima to a far-flung empire of tourist meccas. As such, the three airports we’re looking at this time out present a wide assortment of opportunities, yet the Nazca Lines represent just one such opportunity. Peru is a multi-faceted jewel, however, and there’s a lot more to see in X-plane. Later this week we’ll look at some of the other more important airports in the region, then wrap up this mini-series with more ideas on how to best utilize these assets in X-plane. We’ll post links to all the files in the final entry.

As always, thanks for coming along. We’ll see  you again soon – A

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x+s+r // LRCL Cluj International

xsr LRCL hdr

With the release of new files slowing to a trickle, it’s time to look at a few file we’ve had onboard for a while but never had time to review. We’ll look at one such new release today, and it’s a file that came out only a month or so ago, too. It’s off the beaten path – a little – but when you look at the location in Google Earth it may prove a little more convenient than a first glance conveys.

LRCL subhdr

LRCL Avram Iancu Cluj International is located in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and even a cursory look at the map below shows this airport is about as far east as Helsinki or Istanbul – in other words, right in the middle of the European action. Paris and Moscow are only 900 nmi distant, while Warsaw is less than 400 nmi. Bucharest and London-Luton are the two most traveled destinations, though the list of airlines and destinations is fairly long, only with WIZZ Air playing the Ryanair role here (they seem to fly everywhere).

LRCL ge

A new control tower is in the planning stages, and there’s a new runway already complete and in-service. Below, the old terminal building – which now sees duty as a customs and immigration point of entry.

LRCL real 1

Reading over the file’s information, TerraMAXX integration is standard, and though there is an included winter file you’ll not need to use that if using TerraMAXX. Bravo and well done!

LRCL comp 1

The ramps (above)  are just about perfect for an airport of this size: cluttered, but decently so, and certainly not too cluttered. The good thing? Everything you see out there fits into the scene, from buses to fire fighting equipment to loaders. Static aircraft are perfect, as well, with WIZZair and TUI aircraft filling out the spaces. And, as you can see in the last image just above, there’s been a good amount of custom object placement in the neighboring cityscape. Once again, Bravo!

Night textures are a high point here, with very little in the way of smeary windows seen. In fact, once you start looking around you’ll find that there are many areas inside both major passenger buildings with modeled interiors, though the control tower’s textures are somewhat less convincing. The good news? Framerates remain decent despite the extra modeling.

LRCL comp 2n

Ramp lighting? Perfect. Interior model lighting? Very good, bordering on excellent. Parking lot and entry area details are similarly excellent.

LRCL comp 3

TerraMAXX integration is seamless and only a few objects (trees) remain green. The new terminal building (with the orange girders, below) has the most visible interior elements, and while good there are no people visible inside the terminal, or even near the departure gates.

LRCL comp 4

In the last image above, the blue taxiway is actually the old runway, now re-tasked. I had no trouble taxiing or taking off in either the Toliss A319 or the SSG 748i Freighter.

So, what we have here is an extremely well conceived and executed airport file that at first glance seems so far off the beaten path it’s just not going to prove useful. The reality is, however, somewhat different. With most central European destinations around 500 nmi distant, this file will provide a nice, two hour diversion from your usual route preferences.

Is this file worth it? Well, consider this. The price is less than 14USD, or about half the going price for a typical file in this size range. You’ll get a modeled interior, excellent textures, great runway and taxiway lighting, a partially modeled city-file, and integrated TerraMAXX compatibility.

So, once again…is this file worth the price?

Yes. In fact, it’s an easy 10 out of 10 Must Have file – and one that’s not as far off the beaten path as you probably thought. If you routinely fly to Greece, Turkey, Larnica-Cypress, Israel, or London-Luton, this is a file you won’t want to be without.

Have a good weekend, and we’ll see you next time – A

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x+s+r // tfff + ljlj + ehmz + eprz + 10u

xsr LJLJ hdr

Something new: see the Norwegian Wood item up above in the header? Click that link for an ongoing summary of all files in Norway, including download links and images. More than 20 so far, and we’ll be updating it as needed. Sweden and Finland will be added to this list next, so keep checking back if interested.

More good freeware to go over, so get out your notepad and sharpen those pencils! Ready? Let’s hit the road, Jack…

TFFF c1

skycycle continues rounding out his Eastern Caribbean airports with his latest rendition of TFFF/Martinique. Nice custom objects and not so nice night textures (a bad case of the smeary-blues on the windows) define this effort, but this file is worth keeping around if you want to build a regional network with, for instance, TNCM as a major anchoring hub. You’ll also want to check out several of skycycles other files if that idea interests you.

TFFF GE

Located about  halfway down the Windward Island chain, or halfway between Antigua and Grenada, this part of the Caribbean is smack dab in the middle of Hurricane Alley. Though on the leeward side of the island this airport has been pounded before. The smeary-blue window textures, straight out of Xp v9.0, are awful; the highway signs below that image show a cutoff for Austin, Texas off of Interstate 10 (the exit involved is in San Antonio, I believe), which is kind of funny and I assume an X-plane issue. And yes, that’s Rancho Cucamonga Estate housing just below, on the left; there’s not much in the way of custom object placement off the airport’s grounds, in other words. C’est la vie, and certainly no big deal.

TFFF c2

That vintage Varig paint on the Toliss A319 is cherry. A few European carriers fly here, but this is in the North American target zone. An odd carrier? Norwegian Air Shuttle – flying here from Ft Lauderdale, JFK, and Providence, Rhode Island! How’s that for off the charts weird.

Full charts are available through all the usual sources.

TFFF LOC10

We’d say this is a decent enough file to keep on hand; it’s not payware quality but neither is it dreadful. Until a good payware file is available, this one will do to get the job done.

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LJLJ Comp 1day

I can remember versions of this file in v9 that were among the best freeware files we had. Well, a freshly revised version sporting a few Xp11 features is out and guess what? This file will rank as one of the better freeware files in X-plane yet again. If you don’t believe that…just study the image below – and all the little included details: the DHL freighter with loaders; the parking lots; the commercial buildings behind the terminal area; the brightly lighted ramps with enough animated carts and trucks to make things interesting. Look at the larger image above: seen better ramp markings? Good cars in the lots, decent window textures (night and day), and all on a custom ortho that does not detract from the overall effect at low level. Only issue? Not compatible with TerraMAXX.

LJLJ 1

Location? Just east of Venice, Italy, just south of Austria, and Adria Airways connects this airport to almost all of Europe, including (insert drumroll here) Corfu.

LJLJ GE

And yes, all the major charting packages cover this one, too.

LJLJ ILS30.jpg

This airport file offers serious quality yet framerates are still decent. And yes, this is STILL a favorite file around Chaos Manor, enough to earn a 10 out of 10 on the Must Have scale, and easily in the same league with more than a few payware files. You’ll find the file here.

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EHMZ

Located on the Dutch coast quite near the borders of Belgium and France, this is a real sweet GA file. If working your way up the coast from Normandy to the North Sea or Baltic is your idea of heaven (it’s one of mine) you’ll want this file onboard. It’s an easy “must have” file. Get it here. No menu for the restaurant on hand, however.

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EPRZ

This looks a little like a WIP file with the dark passenger terminal a little unsettling, but otherwise, and for the most part, this is a decent small commercial airport. There are GA ramps and air cargo facilities, in addition to the medium sized commercial terminal. The airport, which is located in Southeastern Poland, is serviced by LOT (non-stop to Newark, New Jersey!), Lufthansa – to EDDM, Ryanair (service to everywhere [and then some], including Corfu), as well as TUI (ooh – Corfu, too), so don’t ignore this one. I’m adding it to my Polish network, and you should consider it, as well. Get it here.

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10U.jpg

If you happen to be possessed with an overwhelming desire to fly to the absolute middle of nowhere, this file ought to make your shortlist. Sort of near Elko, Nevada (!!!) and SW of Twin Falls, Idaho (!!!!!) this is an abandoned WWII AAC emergency landing field turned over to the local Indian Reservation and redeveloped as a GA airport after the war. If flying from Idaho Falls to the San Francisco Bay area this will be near your route, should you run low on pusholine. Get it here, while supplies last.

So, I hear the fat lady singing, and I’m gonna beat feet while I can. Later – A

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x+s+r // the dangerous isles

xsr tuamotu

My-oh-my, but it does feel awfully quiet out there this week. Maybe after the latest episode of the Trump & Putin Show, everyone is digging bomb shelters.

Well, a long period of inactivity then last weeks frenetic burst of new scenery releases – with, indeed, two of the most consequential new releases in ages. And then, on the freeware front, the 737-9 “Ultimate” posted as a public beta and I happily downloaded the file and opened her up – and instant crash. Yup, I missed the “not Mac compatible” blurb in the release notes. But of course, why should it be? Well, a pox on your house, you terrible fiends! I’m making big fart sounds and hoisting a single finger salute, just for you!

Anyway, the new week started with a whisper, but it’s only grown more quiet since – with only a few notable freeware files coming along so far. Anyway, whatever, this happens from time to time. Odd too that both tdg and ruifo have been so quiet…perhaps a developer came along and snatched them up? Anyway, let’s take a look at the best files out this week – so far, anyway.

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So, yes, the Dangerous Isles? Where’d that come from?

Polynesie xpfr

Well, we have to drift back in time to find our way back to that answer. When sailing ships left the old world for Polynesia (and, eventually) Australia hundreds of years ago, these ships rounded Cape Horn then sailed up to Valparaiso (Chile), where they replenished stores and took on water, then, due to the prevailing winds, these ships typically worked their way up the West Coast of South America to approximately 20º south latitude. Loading all the water on board they could carry, these ships then waited for a weather window and eventually took off for Tahiti. There was another option, of course: leaving Europe bound for Panama, offloading cargo there and returning to their home ports in Europe; their cargo would then be transported overland to the Pacific side of the Isthmus, where other trading vessels would reload these cargos and take off for Tahiti – by way of the Marquesas – and, if needed, from there on to Australia or New Zealand.

Whichever route to Tahiti was taken, whether direct from Valparaiso or via the Panama/Marquesas option, these ships had to make their approach to Tahiti by traversing a line of low-lying island “motus”, and these islets were not very well charted. Most are only a few feet above sea level, and while many are uninhabited, most are devoid of vegetation. And – most are ringed with shallow coral reefs. Sailing on the trade winds, often carrying full sail and barreling along at more than 10 knots, more than a few of these ships plowed into these reefs and “motus” in the dead of night, and those not taken by the white-tipped reef sharks that range these islands found themselves marooned on what could charitably be called a desert island – with no food or water and little to no shelter or other sources of food, beyond what could be caught in the sea, or… Finding rescue by passing traffic was, as you can imagine, an infinitely small possibility.

So, these islands, known today as the Tuamotus Islands, came to be known as The Dangerous Isles.

And now, they’re in X-plane, too.

Consider first, the two files extent by xpfr in the region; their original French Polynesia (nee Tahiti) file (link here and last updated in 2011) and their much more recent Marquesas file (link here – this last updated 13 March, so not quite a month ago). Look at the “map” above and note that most of the airports in this latest Polynesie file are in the part of the Tuamotus Group that lies on the rhumb line between Papeete and the Marquesas. Ideally, then, you can see this new file serving as a refueling stop for GA flights between the two larger sets of islands and airports in the Marquesas and Tahiti.

I only opened a few of these new airport files and found a bare-bones minimum of development, and at a few nothing more than a runway and a windsock. A couple of the larger airports are near settlements and Southern California style Rancho Cucamonga Estate Housing (i.e., default auto-gen) is all you’ll find, so no, there are no custom orthos, no custom palm-thatched cottages or anything original looking. There are runways, a few Laminar Lego-brick objects – and nothing else.

So? Why bother?

If you want to extend your explorations of French Polynesia to the most remote settings imaginable you’ll appreciate this file, and that’s about all there is to it. Literally. So, just like those poor ship-wrecked souls hundreds of years ago, you too can experience absolute isolation, even in X-plane. If nothing else, this file provides a little food for thought along with a good excuse to work on your NDB nav skills.

Link here.

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And here’s another file pretty far off the beaten path.

UHHH

The developer states: “I would like to welcome you at Khabarovsk International Airport. My hometown and one of the most largest airport at Russian Far East. NOVY, base airport of Aurora Airlines (part of Aeroflot group), and ETOPS airport of the flights from China and Korea to USA and Canada, from Europe to Taiwan and Japan and back.”

So, if puttering along in your twin-engined wide-body and all of sudden the do-do hits the fan, this airport may well be the closest thing to survival you’ve got. And, so, it’s a good thing Prin’s file is more than adequate to handle all your needs, from ILS to catering to fuel and maintenance hangers, welcome to far eastern Russia. Two files provided, one airport, the other OSM data, and just FYI, the airport sits on an ortho and winter as provided by TerraMAXX does not cover the airport proper…other than that, this is a very nice, 10/10 file. Link here.

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Jena

A new City-file released Monday, this time for Jena, Germany.

Say what? Jena Who?

Well, strange as this may sound, but Jena might very well be considered the epicenter of German intellectual development, and dating back to the 1100s too, yet the real turning point for the city happened in 1806, during the height of the first round of Napoleonic conquests. From Wikipedia:

Around 1790, Friedrich Schiller University became the largest and most famous among the German states and made Jena the centre of idealist philosophy (with professors like Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Schiller and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling) and of the early Romanticism (with poets like Novalis, the brothers August and Friedrich Schlegel, and Ludwig Tieck). In 1794, the poets Goethe and Schiller met at the university and established a long lasting friendship. Consequently, the reputation of the University and the Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach as particularly liberal and open-minded was enhanced. On 14 October 1806, Napoleon fought and defeated the Prussian army here in the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, near the district of Vierzehnheiligen. Resistance against the French occupation was strong, especially among the students. Many of the students fought in the Lützow Free Corps in 1813. Two years later, the Urburschenschaft fraternity was founded in the city. During the later 19th century, the famous biologist Ernst Haeckel was professor at the university. The expansion of science and medicine faculties was closely linked to the industrial boom that Jena saw after 1871. The initial spark of industrialization in Jena was the (relatively late) connection to the railway. The Saal Railway (Saalbahn, opened in 1874) was the connection from Halle and Leipzig along the Saale valley to Nuremberg and the Weimar–Gera railway (opened 1876) connected Jena with Frankfurt and Erfurt in the west as well as Dresden and Gera in the east. Famous pioneers of industry were Carl Zeiss and Ernst Abbe (with their Carl Zeiss AG) as well as Otto Schott (Schott AG). Since that time, production of optical items, precision machinery and laboratory glassware have been the main branches of Jena’s economy. Zeiss, Abbe and Schott worked also as social reformers who wanted to improve the living conditions of their workers and the local wealth in general. When Zeiss died in 1889, his company passed to the Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung, which uses great amounts of the company’s profits for social benefits like research projects at universities etc. This model became an example for other German companies (e.g. the Robert Bosch Stiftung).

That said, Jena is an interesting addition to the select group of cities included in the German VFR series of city-files. It’s a modestly sized city full of famous old-name optical industries (Zeiss, Leica), and it sits in a narrow valley and so almost out of sight until you’re right up on top of it. It is NOT served by a major international airport, either; the closest airports are EDDE Erfurt-Weimar (see below) and EDDP Leipzig-Halle (one of the best payware airports in X-plane, BTW), so you’ll need to grab a flutterbug or slow GA single to sight-see around this city in X-plane. I stumbled across EDDE yesterday while looking for airports around Jena, and I’m glad I did. Let’s take a quick look at this file, now already a couple of years old and NOT updated to v11 compliance.

EDDE

You’ll have noted the interior of the main terminal is modeled? There’s also an issue with the exclusion zone between the terminal and the parking lot, but the results (just above) look pretty good at night. The parking garage is a standout model, too. With a little work this file could become really quite interesting; failing that, I’m sure a payware developer could ‘start-from-scratch’ and have a blast with this little airport, perhaps turn it into a real gem.

The Jena file is located here; the v10 freeware EDDE is here.

Two more airports to look at now, and that’s about it.

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LSZL.jpg

A small GA & military airfield in SE Switzerland, this LSZL file has many ultra-accurate custom objects and is in an extremely useful location.

LSZL ge

LSZL (yellow circle) is almost on the rhumb line from Lugano (red circle) to Zurich, linking two aeroSOFT airport files; the “other” Locarno (blue circle) we reviewed a month or so ago, is a Pilatus facility.

Overall, a nice addition to the area, and well worth having onboard. Link  here.

Now…last, but not least…

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ENST.jpg

ENST Sandnessjoen/Stokka is located about halfway up the Norwegian coast, say roughly halfway between Bergen and the North Cape area, and it lies on the first air route serving the Norwegian coastal fjord-lands. Widerøe services the airport these days, and flies to Bodø, Brønnøysund, Mo i Rana, Mosjøen, Oslo, and Trondheim from here. After that…it’s last stop is for Yodenheim and the Frost Giants.

ENST GE

Here’s the real main terminal, by-the-by:

EN GE real

And a few more images – in winterblue, but note, TerraMAXX is blocked by what appears to be an almost meaningless ortho from doing it’s thing.

en comp

Anyway, I think you’ll enjoy this one. The surrounding terrain is stunning, and the airport is very good freeware. Link here, in case you missed the one above.

And that’s all, Folks! We’ll see you soon, and thanks for dropping by – A

 

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x+s+r // corfu?

xsr Corfu 2 main hdr

Fly Tampa’s Corfu file includes much more than an airport, though during our first look the other day we focused almost all of our effort on the airport and its immediate surroundings – and in so doing, we failed, at a very fundamental level, to convey the true scope of this file. We’re going to try to cover a few of the other, more important aspects of this file’s depth in this post, and yes, this is just a heads-up, but we’re also going to take a brief trek into the realm of metaphysics along the way…so buckle up, and let’s go exploring.

corfu 2 sub hdr

Probably the first thing you need to do, before you try to follow along this trail, is open up your browser and ask Google “what are the things to see on the island of Corfu?” You’ll end up with something that looks a little like this:

Corfu google map

You’ll soon learn that the island is about 38 miles along its longest axis, from SE to NW, and that tourism is the island’s mainstay. There are famous beaches everywhere, a number of very nice beachfront hotels, too, and not far away there are water parks and amusement parks and everything else a vacationing family might need or want on a weeks long vacation. There are, as well, a number of important historical sites on the island, including churches, museums, and the relics of antiquity scattered about – and you’ll find the locations of these places on Googles map…and no, I’m not going to fly from place to place and take screenshots of these places as I feel sure the effort would be as boring for you to read as it would be for me to produce. If you get this file, and I wholeheartedly think you ought to, such an effort would only serve to diminish your own experience of Corfu.

Your own experience of Corfu?

I bring this idea up as something odd hit me while I was puttering along the north side of the island a few days ago…an uncomfortable thought but somewhat pressing, in its way.

When a developer takes the time to bring all of this detail “to life” within a flight simulator, we end up with something well out of the ordinary. X-plane and, indeed, all flight simulators, render a place like Corfu in layers of default, i.e., generic or auto-gen scenery, from villages and roads to trees and mountains, and in this scheme one island looks pretty much like another – given that a few parameters, such as latitude and elevation, shape and influence the end results; as such, consider the default rendering as a machine rendering, and not a human interpretation of the physical setting. There’s often little available in this default layer to impart the necessary realism to offer a convincingly immersive experience of “place” – e.g., in the rendering of an island like Corfu provided by a sim utilizing the default rendering objects and meshes, you can hardly distinguish Corfu from, say, Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California. The sim simply isn’t programmed to provide that kind or level of detail.

So, when a developer, in this case Fly Tampa, comes along and replaces all these default assets with custom objects and layers, we end up with something extraordinarily different from the default. Our simulations, in such cases, delve deeper into the realm of “artificial reality,” in as much as what’s on the screen is no longer the product of algorithms – but more like an artists recreation of place. And note, we used the words “artificial reality,” and NOT virtual reality, but more on that in a moment.

Now I’d like you to picture a kid, maybe fifteen years old – or quite possibly eighty years on – sitting in a wheel chair. This person is at his or her desk, flying in a simulator like X-plane – and this kid is immersed in the “place” onscreen. To paint a more complete picture, let’s say this kid has a terminal illness, perhaps leukemia, and has a very short, let’s even say a very finite lifetime ahead.

This kid, or rather, this human being, is experiencing the world through the images on his desktop, through the immersive power of a flight simulator like X-plane. Almost all this human being’s experience of the greater world beyond his or her room will come in the form of interactions provided by the sim. You following me so far?

Consider then, for a moment, what a file like Fly Tampa’s Corfu means to this human being. Change it around a little and imagine a seventy year old man dying of heart failure, perhaps a retired pilot trying to relive the things he did forty years ago. What do you think a file like this means to someone in his position? Before you answer, try to imagine yourself in that place, in that frame of mind. I know its hard, but try.

Interesting, isn’t it? Putting yourself in someone else’s place within Xp?

Consider sitting in an airliner departing Corfu and looking down at the landscape as the aircraft takes-off and climbs for the clouds. As you look down at the earth you are experiencing pure sight, i.e., photons are bouncing off the earth and these photons reach your eyes, or more properly, the retinae on the backs of your eyes, and you register the reality on the ground through an elemental photonic transfer of information. The illusion of immersion is complete because you “know” that the landscape below is “real,” yet in another sense your hands aren’t in the dirt. Photons are reflecting reality on the backs of your eyes.

Now let’s go back to our fifteen year old sitting in a wheelchair at his desk, looking at very detailed recreations of place outside of his very detailed virtual aircraft. Not default auto-gen scenery, mind you, but a highly developed landscape such as that found in Fly Tampa’s Corfu file. As such, we have reflected photons of the island captured on a sensor and stored on a drive somewhere, and they have been – in time – transferred to this kid’s computer and are now bouncing off his retinae. Yes, there is a difference, a quantitative difference, in this transfer of photons. We instinctively understand this difference and call it by its proper name: reality – yet consider at the same time that we, individually, invest thousands of dollars in resources (hardware and software) to recreate reality on our desktops, and we do so not to escape reality but to bring the experience into our lives. We’re calling that VR, by the way.

So, all this got me thinking about something called The Experience Machine. At one point in my life I used to teach philosophy (and ethics) to undergraduate students, and one of the basic concepts we talked about in Philosophy 101 is the nature of reality. This takes you back to Plato’s Cave (in The Republic), but in the course of things we always engaged in a little thought experiment developed at MIT in the 60s called The Experience Machine, and it goes a little something like this:

A new machine has been developed that allows for the indexing, storage, and retrieval of  human experience, and it’s been called The Experience Machine, or EM. The EM has been developed with teaching and training in mind, too. Imagine the applications such a machine could enhance: a brain surgeon could pass along the most complex procedures and the trainee would literally experience everything the brain surgeon experienced, including sights, sounds, smells, touch and even the emotions and memories the surgeon experienced while performing the procedure. A pilot could record all her experiences on a flight from Paris to New York, and a trainee could relive everything about the pilot’s experience of the flight in such detail that there would be, literally, no difference at all in the experience received. The knowledge the trainee was exposed to would become a part of the trainee’s experience, too, and the experience would not pass through as, for instance, a film or television show might, so the trainee could now act with that level of experience as if it was, in fact, his or her own experience.

Sixty-plus years ago all this sounded quite far-fetched, though the idea of the EM made its way into popular culture through movies like Brainstorm and countless others, yet when discussing the nature of reality in a philosophy class, The Experience Machine takes on another layer of complexity, especially when you start to consider the nature of “right” and “wrong.”

Say, for instance, you record someone’s most intimate moments and pass them on – and everything about the experience will convey. Is that right? If you record someone’s murder? If you record the experience of death? Is it ever “right” to record these things? Put another way, does recording and transferring this experience serve a lasting, beneficial service to humankind? Obviously, preserving the experience of a brain surgeons attempt to remove a glioblastoma from a terminally ill person is a worthwhile endeavor, as is recording any number of other experiences. Can you imagine experiencing Neil Armstrong’s descent down the lunar lander’s steps that first time, his last hop  down to the surface of the Moon? Would you enjoy reliving that experience?

So, it hit me while “flying” along Corfu’s northern coastline a few days ago…just how far away are we from finding ourselves in an X-plane equivalent to The Experience Machine? We are starting down that road even now, of course, with the advent of VR in our sim, and yes, this is but a tiny step but it is nevertheless a real step in that direction. What if the next step is to market a situational file you can download, say a VR presentation of how to program an Airbus FMC is presented, and presented in such a way that you can follow along in X-plane with your .acf pre-programmed to allow you follow along with the presentation? Laminar already has the Avion app that records real flight parameters for playback in X-plane; what happens when someone takes the next step and records a real flight in VR – for playback in X-plane?

So…no big deal?

Alright, now consider what this kind of experience means to the kid in the wheelchair, and tell me it’s no big deal. That human beings experience of the world is going to be defined by his or her experience in a program. And yes, this Corfu file may well be an important step along the way to this level of experience transfer. If so, can you begin to see just how important a file like this is – if not to you, then, perhaps to a fifteen year old boy in a wheelchair?

Just something to think about the next time you’re on final approach, looking at the mountains and sunsets as you cross the threshold…

//

So, it’s Fly Tampa’s Corfu. Not…Fly Tampa’s LGKR Corfu. There’s a difference, but I missed it the first time ’round. Maybe because I’ve never flown in FsX or P3D I didn’t know what to expect, yet if that’s so maybe I have a better understanding now. Anyway, it was time to pull out the Bell 407 and do some exploring, so I spent about four hours flying around the northern half of the island last Sunday – and as weird as this may sound, I feel like I’ve hardly scratched the surface.

Say, how many 26 dollar airport files have you bought that give you this much “bang for your buck?” The St Helena file that came out over Christmas boasts a great little airport and a nice island to explore, but that island is a tenth as big as Corfu (though the price was truly affordable). Then there’s the elephant in the other room…xpfr’s Marquesas freeware file – which offers several islands and airports to explore, and again, for zero dollars. Still, I’d argue that Fly Tampa’s file is so gorgeously rendered there’s hardly any comparison to made with anything else on the market. Yes, TNCM comes close, but there’s also one key player yet to be heard from: Orbx. Just what level of detail will Orbx bring with their first real scenery package, and at what price point?

Now, here’s one more thing you might stop and think about, too. Having just spent 26USD on AeroSOFT’s Rome – as underwhelming a payware offering as I’ve seen in some time – here we have Fly Tampa’s Corfu, with not just an incredible airport file onboard, but a hyper-detailed 40 mile-long island thrown into the mix, too – and for the same price. That alone ought to give you pause, but also consider the equally vast TNCM file released last week, priced only a few dollars more and that also includes two detailed airports and a huge ortho with custom objects that cover not quite a hundred square miles. What is wrong with this picture? Has someone, somewhere decreed that all payware airport files will now cost 25$ or more? I’m sorry, but in the universe I live in, when Corfu is priced at 26 bucks, Rome is worth – maybe – 15 dollars, while files like EDDF or LSZH are so nicely detailed they seem worthy of their much higher price tags. aeroSOFT used to get this, too, with their BIKF Keflavik file very realistically priced.

So, a total of six hours spent in this file and I’ve yet to explore the southern half of the island. If you look over the Google map above you’ll find a bunch of stuff concentrated around the city of Corfu, yet even items more scattered all around the island. With six hours spent so far, can I assume I’ve got at least four-to-six more just to complete the circuit? And speaking of value, that doesn’t count how many times I’ll fly here over the years ahead, does it?

1aa corfu

Let’s take a quick peek at a few prominent features up north, then we’ll look at LGKR again – looking at those night textures one more time.

Departing the airport northbound, heading for the bay east of town, we run across the headlands with all kinds of impressive looking fortifications, including a Neoclassical museum, then we’re off to a small island just offshore.

aa corfu 407 1

We can already see what appears to be a huge granite dome-like structure far across the bay, and as we close on that formation all kinds of surrounding details emerge – notably hotels.

aa corfu 407 comp 2

Huge waterfront hotels are flanked by serpentine roadways that lead up into the mountains above the beach, and you’ll note that at almost 3000 feet MSL you might just find snow up there at certain times of the year. You can read more about this highest peak on your Google page, and you should definitely explore the mountaintop area before heading back down to the beach.

aa corfu snow

In time you’ll wind your way back to Corfu, and remember to take time and explore that headland area more closely as you approach the airport to refuel.

aa corfu around town

Note the football pitch by the airport, too. It’s right there in Google Earth, of course, and it’s here’s as a picture perfect replica. All of these features are lighted, and the case could be made the overall effect is more interesting at night, too.

aa Corfu town comp night

Check out the area around the runway threshold too, as, just like at TNCM, this is a favorite spotters locale.

aa Corfu edel md80 comp

Now…about those night textures? Simple repeating patterns are used and, frankly, I can’t tell whether the ones we see here are from this airport or from an office building in Timbuktu. This feature remains the least successful part of FT’s file, and I wonder why they chose this area to cut corners. This is, after all is said and done, an airport in a flight simulator, and this one detail would seem, to me at least, to be the one area you wouldn’t lose focus. Yes, the textures used a sharp and otherwise without fault, but this is a very small building so why not build out the interior a little more, or give the scene a little more drama through the use of realistic images of features like departure lounges and security checkpoints, or even a baggage claim area, anything visible through the real airport’s windows. As it is, this building could be a university library or an insurance company facade in Iowa, and in fact it looks like just about anything but an airport terminal’s interior.

Again, odd choice here.

aa Corfu night textures

Other than not having static airliners here, the ramps are marred by the parked pushback trucks – because often they’re parked right where they shouldn’t be and make taxiing up to the gates a more complicated affair. Further, when I call them up through the main menu they don’t respond – which is no big deal because these ramps are designed in such a way that a pushback should rarely be needed. So, again, why are they there? With the Better Pushback plug-in becoming the new standard in Xp, I’d ditch these assets asap.

Also, there are two powerful floodlight towers on either end of the main terminal building, but this leaves a huge black hole in the middle of the main tarmac area. Is this the arrangement at the real airport? If so, that explains the situation; if not, the center part of the apron is very dark.

The night textures on the upper control tower windows are almost disgraceful, by the way. This is pure freeware quality, circa 2008. Bad choice.

aa corfu ramps night 2

So…a curious mix of the good and the not-so-good are on display here. A great island file, and a very good airport – in daylight anyway. The night textures look ‘good enough’ from a distance to keep this from being a major issue, but again, I have to wonder why the developers chose to spend so little effort on this one crucial part of the airport file.

Still, this is – overall – an excellent file and, as was the case with TNCM, Fly Tampa’s coming to Xp marks an almost revolutionary change for users in this sim. Fly Tampa takes a very good airport file and adds a tremendous amount of surrounding detail, detail that’s fun to get out and explore. There have been a handful of small Canadian airports that take this same approach, and both Tom Curtis and Mr X have too, with KSFO standout efforts by both. Still, there’s something different about this file, and while I dislike using the word “better” – that’s exactly the word that keeps coming to mind. “Better” – in that Fly Tampa has not relied on auto-gen atop a coarse ortho, but a whole lot of custom objects that fit into their surroundings – because, I suppose, many are duplicates of real buildings. We see that in our so-called VFR city files all the time, but again, this is different. This is a unified package ready to go, and the results are self-evident.

Because Xp’s default auto-gen terrain is nowhere to be found, the entire island feels more authentic, and that’s something that serious developers need to take into account going forward. The lessons this file teaches are instructive for most developers, too, and I hope they’re paying attention. Going forward, at a minimum I’d say almost all existing X-plane scenery developers need to consider including more city features around their airports – if only because so many developers from the FsX universe are bringing these details when they come to X-plane. Still, this approach makes more sense. When you control what the area around your airport scenery file looks like, you are in a better position to control how your file is going to be perceived. In X-plane, what that too often means is your airport will end up surrounded by American-style suburban tract housing – what we’ve been deriding as “Rancho Cucamonga Estates” style housing for years…and if you’re building an airport file in California, well, you’re in Good Shape. If not, if you’re developing a scenery file in, say, Copenhagen, having an airport surrounded by houses that look like they came straight from a Los Angeles suburb is not exactly a good thing for your project. Maybe spending another week on your project finishing out the area around your airport will be time well spent?

Remember this. Once your project is posted and for sale, it becomes an enduring part of your legacy, so think about how you want your work talked about and remembered. I doubt anyone associated with Fly Tampa is ashamed of this work, if you know what I mean. I wouldn’t be.

Anyway…food for thought. Later – A

aa corfu end

 

Posted in Opinion, Scenery: Europe | Tagged | Leave a comment

x+s+r // epwa v2 + freeware

xsr fw hdr

It’s not been such a well-guarded secret around Chaos Manor, but Drzewiecki Design’s EPWA Warsaw Chopin is one of our favorites airport files, and the louvered/slatted Ground Control tower is, to our eye, anyway, the best such structure in X-plane. So, yes, on top of TNCM and Corfu this week, along comes a completely revised v2 for EPWA – and all of a sudden my poor wallet is beginning to feel a little like someone taking a ride in the back of an ambulance – at about the time the paramedic shouts “Hey, Joe, better step on it!” – as he pulls out the paddles and shouts “Clear!” And we’re only a week into April!

But there’s some good freeware coming out too, and we don’t want to ignore that side of the equation, or things may get way out of balance. So, we’ll look at a eclectic collection of a files today, including airports in mid-America, Africa, the Canary Islands, the Inner Hebrides, as well as a decent new commercial airport in central Sweden – right after we look at things in Warsaw. Oh, and some fun stuff out west, too.

//

EPWA hdr 1

No charts, no maps, and no list of airlines and destinations today, just the liner notes and some images. We covered all the rest back in November – but that was a half past a year ago, wasn’t it? Oh dear, but time does fly so fast these days, even in X-plane.

Anyway, here’s the changelog, just FYI:

⦁ Most up-to-date airport layout

⦁ XP11 AI/ATC compatibility

⦁ Lighting done from scratch

⦁ Helicopter apron

⦁ All gates with moving jetways and VGDS

⦁ New ground traffic

⦁ New specular maps for all objects

⦁ New vertical signs

⦁ New static aircraft

⦁ Animated elevators at some gates

⦁ Walking people inside the terminal

⦁ Many smaller issue fixed, like autogen, default roads, etc.

Drzewiecki Design released several videos to accompany this release so do drop by Threshold and give them a look. And yes, you read that correctly: moving elevators. Watch the videos!

epwa tower

Take a look at the image above, a long look.

The tower? Improved, with new lighting in the control room. See new ramp activity? Yup. The glimpse inside the A319 through the open aft doorway? Very kewl, and the aircraft adds contextual action to the scenery. All are impressive in their own way, yet my guess is your eye probably went to the brightly lighted passenger concourse first.

I guess the fact of the matter is simple. This file is a case study in how to put together a totally immersive airport file for a flight simulator. ANY flight simulator. That this file is available in X-plane…? Yikes…aeroSOFT’s EDDF and Short Final’s KABQ have been at the top of the Very Best list since last December, but I guess their reign had to end someday. The incremental improvements in this file vary – from subtle to in your face – but taken as a whole the improvement in quality of the various elements in this file add up to a most impressive airport. When you add it all up, when you put all these elements into one seamless package, the results are almost shockingly lifelike. If EDDF and/or KABQ can integrate interior elements as impressively as what you’ll find here, well, yes, we can talk…but for now, as of early April 2018, this is probably the best large airport we’ve got in X-plane. If you disagree, look over these images and think about it a while. EDDF is close, KABQ is closer still, but the scale here is deceptively large, and all of it is exceptionally well-detailed. Just study the details in these images first…start with the auto ramp just below…look at the change of incline near ground level. No short-cuts here. No lazy excuses, just technical perfection.

EPWA comm comp 1

In the middle image (above) you’re looking “up” through an opening in the roadway/parking deck in front of the Marriott; now look at the image below and you’ll note the rectangular opening – in front of the Marriott. Now, look at the matrix of interconnecting roadways, and on multiple levels, around the Marriott. Can you find any messed up roads, any unnatural curves or sudden drop-offs? I couldn’t. The fact of the matter is simple, too. You could use this airport file in X-plane to give someone directions on how to drive from downtown Warsaw to the airport Marriott…and now, think about how many files you have in X-plane that sport this level of accuracy. This is really impressive detail.

You can also hold up this airport file as a benchmark. This is the type of detail every good developer needs to be striving for.

EPWA ramps comp

So you pick up glimpses along the way, but the main event here is the interior of the terminal building. Sorry, but as definitively excellent as the exterior and all the rest of this airport is, the interior is shockingly “in your face” – especially at night, and the immersive nature of the sight is something you need to experience personally in order to fully appreciate the effect.

We’ve tried to make the point, and for several months now, that modeling a terminal’s interior is a pointless exercise if the interior elements are hidden from view. From the pilot’s view, that is, as she or he pulls up to the gate. I can talk about this until I’m blue in the face, but the odds are you won’t know what to make of this statement until you pull up to this airport at night, either in X-plane or in your own A319 at the real airport. Assuming you don’t own an A319, why don’t you try it here first and see what I’m trying to get at. When you pull up to this gate, Gate 14 at DD’s EPWA, and you see “people walking along up there” – I’d like you to also imagine this file with a series of smeary blue window textures, too – and then you tell me which you prefer. Now, assuming you like what you see, why are you willing to settle for expensive payware files that offer you the smeary blues instead of lifelike realism? I know, I know, because only a few developers are making interior models…but if you make your feelings known, guess what? Things will change.

epwa int comp

And so, when you get tired of sloppy roadways and bogus control towers, let the developer know you’re tired of their nonsense, too. And maybe, just maybe, things will begin to change. In the end, you get what you settle for, even if you settle for junk.

This updated file represents “the way things should be,” and none of us should settling for less.

epwa day comp 1

I’m sure there are a bunch of people who’ll look at this file and say something along the lines of “so what?” or “who cares?” And yes, while I understand where you’re coming from the point that needs to be made here is a far simpler one. This file, and files like this, were not made for you. If you’re the type of user who is content with the Gateway Airports included with X-plane, and even simple freeware files, then yes, these files will most likely mean nothing at all to you – and that’s fine. No one is judging anyone here. X-plane is a flight simulator, and you don’t fly airports. You fly TO and FROM airports. Yup, we get that too.

If, however, the immersive factor of an accurately modeled and rendered file is important to your experience of X-plane – whether it be an airplane or an airport package – files like this EPWA package, or even the recently reviewed EPSY file by FlyDesign – really do make a difference in how X-plane is ‘enjoyed.’ Purely subjective terminology, true. Just like one Scotch whiskey is as good as another, or one cigar, or even that a Ford Focus is just as good as a Mercedes S-Class sedan. From a simple utilitarian perspective, these are all valid statements, too.

But…look at the image below and let me know if the sight doesn’t make you drool. If it doesn’t…well, maybe you should take up knitting.

epwa 737 pitvu

Oh, a word about framerates. I have the Warsaw City file installed, and that nasty bugger is one of the biggest framerate hogs I’ve ever run across, so be careful if you decide to install both of these files. That said, the City of Warsaw looks very nice with this airport installed, yet I’m reluctant to recommend the City file. You’ll need a real brute to run EPWA with the City file onboard, as the City’s objects are close to the airport and that proximity effects everything that happens around EPWA… Together, these two files make an impressive combination, but they put a staggering load on your GPU.

The updated v2 EPWA file is available from multiple outlets; I got mine at the Org., and with a 70% discount through the v1-to-v2 upgrade program, my cost was about seven buckeroos. Can’t beat then with a California roll…

//

Freeware Follies

ESNN

I like this file – a lot. Nice feel when you land and taxi up to the gate. Be careful opening up here with a larger aircraft like the 738, however. As you can see above, lower right, the nose is too far into the parking area and the wing is inside the Jetway. Oddly enough, if you reload the .acf the aircraft placement is suddenly correct, and framerates improve significantly.

Nice building details, good peripheral details too, especially the parking lot and entry area. Night is a mixed bag, however, with the simple window textures a smeary yellow. Still, as this is a WIP file we’ll keep an eye on this one and let you know what develops.

ESNN 2

Link here.

//

URRP ru

From Xp-Russia, here’s URRP Rostov-on-Don. Well done exterior with very nice interior detailing and decent ramps. Good night lighting on the ramps and solid runway & taxiway details make this a solid effort. Located in SW Russia and very close to the EU, the airport is served by most Russian carriers, and Czech flies to Prague, while Greek carrier Ellinair flies A319s to, get this, Corfu! Have fun with this one!

Link here.

//

GMMN

An incremental update to this important file, looks like more city/shipping details were added and the terminal area just gets better with each update.

Update your file through the link here.

//

KDSM

This one’s still in the early stages, but it looks promising – worth keeping an eye on, anyway. Still pretty bare bones, but always nice to have an airport in Iowa.

Link here. We’ll advise when this one looks ready to rock and roll.

//

EGEL

Yeah, Scottish Wings is at it again, with another pastoral scenery file set in the wild Inner Hebrides. These are the islands off the northern and northwestern tip of Scotland, and sunny summer weather is cause for celebration up there. My guess is you’ll celebrate too, after flying around these islands for a few hours. Wild beauty, I suppose, does that. There is a dedicated livery for the Twin Otter to go with this file, too.

Get the airport file here.

//

Oh, yes. There’s a new file adding quirky refinements to KSFO and the surrounding area, and it seems to be under almost constant revision. I’m poking around, building a map in Google Earth, but so far it’s like trying to nail Jello to a wall because so many ‘things’ are being added, from lighthouses to squadrons of Sikorsky helos flying around the Bay Area. You might want to get this one onboard if you fly around KHAF or SFO a lot, because this is getting kind of fun. Oh, try to get AlpilotX’s UHD packs for the region; the results are especially fantastic in and around KSFO.

sfo

Link here.

Anyway, that’s all, folks. We’ll see you later in the week – or sooner, if something major breaks. Have fun flying, and keep your powder dry – A

Oh, scroll on down for part 3 of our TNCM series. After that, you’ll find our review of Fly Tampa’s Corfu…so go get some coffee and settle in for a long read.

TNCM graphix

Posted in Scenery: Americas, Scenery: Europe | Tagged | Leave a comment

x+s+r // tncm pt 3

xsr hdr tncm 2

Reading more about the after-effects of Hurricane Irma, it seems TNCM took a big hit last fall and the tourist season this year has been something of a wash, with many carriers not even bothering to make the run this winter. No hotel rooms means camping on the beach, and that defeats the purpose of going, I suppose. Here’s the scene post-Irma:

TNCM post Irma

It looks like what didn’t get blown away simply burned to the ground. Makes a good case for keeping tabs on these folks, heading down there as soon as things are operating again. Nothing worse than being in a hurricane down there, unless you’re on a sailboat down there when one comes along.

TFFG GE

TNCM GE 1

Below, the airway approaches from PR and the USVI. Flying to/from San Juan, PR, ought to be interesting – assuming you don’t want to burn your buns on a seven hour flight to Amsterdam or CDG. There are VOR/DME/NDB approaches to TNCM, however the only time these are needed is when a hurricane is approaching. Several local ordinances outlawed cloudy days years ago, to no avail. Oh well, c’est la vie.

TNCM airways.jpg

This airport is, by and large, a North American playground, and Air France, KLM, and XL Airways (Fr) are the sole European operators here. A full list of airlines and destinations can be found here. There are, of course, Air France/KLM check-in kiosks all over the terminal. (I mean, have you ever seen anything like this in Xp…? Holy Guacamole!)

TNCM int2

I opened the file with Roman & Philip’s 777-200 just to check framerates; no issues found. I do think the last hundred or so yards of taxiway are a little skimpy for this sized aircraft. The 752 is a more appropriate size for this airport, and 737s and A320 class aircraft are handling flights to the US southeast, including MIA. Framerates with the Toliss A319 were breezy, too.

tncm 777 pitvu comp

The JarDesigns GHE package, as well as the Better Pushback plug-in, were used here with no problems noted. There’s no need to use an airport taxiway mapping program here, but the AVS file works, if curious.

TNCM 777 comp

About the only missing ingredient for bikini blasting is exhaust driven sand. God only knows how you could model this, however. Still, it would be interesting to see in Xp, I suppose…muscled beach gorillas being blown into the surf…their peach daiquiris getting blown to Venezuela.

tncm cafe comp

Most folks come to St Martin to escape the worst of winter, though many come in summer for SCUBA diving. Sailing is not recommended during the summer months, of course, unless you feel like fleeing hurricanes. Lots of sailboats from the US east coast make it here in time for Christmas and then winter-over; they beat-feet for Maine come the end of April. Lots of charters available here, too.

The other pastime on the island appears to involve rum, though beer is reportedly tolerated at bars frequented by Texans. The bar scene above shows Jack Daniels on all the tables, a hideous misrepresentation of the facts. Only dark rum is allowed down here; bourbon – and all other “hard” alcoholic beverages – are only served to people named Bubba, or anyone claiming to be from Alabama.

tncm 57 comp

The pink tug seen above, the Pink Iguana, was a party boat noted for serving semi-lethal dark rum concoctions in a “party-til-you-drop” atmosphere. Hurricane Irma took care of that last autumn, however, though efforts are now underway to Raise the Iguana. The Iguana was also famous for having a condom dispenser…in the Ladies Room. Sorry, but I’m not making any judgement calls on that one, folks.

So, this wraps up our three-part series on Saint Martin and TNCM, and we’re glad you came along. With the release of Fly Tampa’s LGKR Corfu yesterday, we’ve just had two superior island airports release in as many days – and both are simply outstanding files. And both are made to take advantage of the most powerful GPUs currently available.

Looking over forum postings and comments on Facebook post-release, there are plenty of complaints about performance issues, and this can’t be unexpected, not with a file as complex and as deep as this. No amount of warning will suffice, however, and Bubba will always be on hand to press his Commodore 64 into duty one more time. Sorry…that whole paradigm is disappearing faster than a fart in a hurricane (pardon my French), and calls to rip out the terminal’s interior to boost framerates sound frantic, not practical. About the only solution is for developers to make a Fat file (fully detailed) and a Skinny file (for Bubba and his twenty year old PC jr). Probably a royal pain in the ass, but that’s going to be about the only way to truly silence the whiners. The other, less obvious solution? Developers need to make sure they explicitly state realistic hardware requirements, and make those declarations obvious for someone with the IQ of a cucumber (and seriously, no offense to any cucumbers reading tonight). When someone with a ten year old PC (and a 512Mb GPU, no doubt) opens this file – and then starts screaming “consumer fraud!” – about all anyone can say is “Shame on the developer for not making this requirement clear.” Sure, no one wants to scare off buyers, but ask yourself…what’s worse? Think long-term here, too, will you? A pissed-off buyer is NOT a repeat customer…

As for cutting-out the interior? DON’T GO THERE, OKAY? Please. Don’t. Do. It.

We’ll see you later this weekend with more freeware on-tap. Say, maybe someone ought to schedule a flight sim convention down on St Martin, ya know? Watch Austin and Ben fly into the surf, banana daiquiris in hand, blowing across the waves to a freshly revamped Pink Iguana – while wondering who forgot the quarters for the condom machine…?

Later – C

Scroll on down for our review of Fly Tampa’s Corfu file.

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