Scenery packages are not something I’d usually buy. With the exception of the Gary Summons Heathrow Pro and the Fly Tampa Dubai sceneries, I can’t think of any others I’ve actually went out and bought. The reason, generally speaking, is because the AVSIM File Library has more than enough quality freeware files to suit my needs. So you’ll not be surprised to hear me say that a scenery add-on has to be quite special to grab my attention.
When I was assigned Lyon’s Saint-Exupery airport, my excitement level did not rise one iota. I had to look up the Lyon airport as I did not know much about it. Now with all my previous reviews, I’ve always had a fairly good level of knowledge about what I’m reviewing. This wasn’t the case this time around, so, assuming the majority of you are in the same boat, read further for some background info.
As with many regional airports these days, Lyon Saint-Exupery is named after the French writer and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupery and was previously known as Lyon Satolas. It was renamed in 2000. It was first opened in April 1975 and was intended to cater for greater numbers than Lyon's more central airport, Bron. It lies just over 20km East of Lyon and is connected by road and rail links to a number of outlying towns and cities.
In 1994, a high speed TGV Rail link was added and a marvelous looking fan shaped canopy covers the rail terminal. It’s actually France’s 4th largest airport after Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Nice and some 6.5 million passengers transited through it in 2005. The vast majority of operators who use Lyon Saint-Exupery two runways do so to fly to European destinations, although there is one or two who fly as far a field as Canada and even Mauritius.
Installation was straightforward and trouble free and in turn, installing the patch was equally no trouble. As with most of today’s add-ons, installation is rarely worth a mention and this package is no different. Nothing is placed on the desktop or start menu. However, a Simudesign folder is created within your FS9 root directory. In here you’ll find the means to uninstall the product, and a ‘docs’ folder which has hyperlinks to the user guide in both French and English.
What made me chuckle about the user guide was that it gives guidance on how to install the scenery, the irony being that in order to use this hyperlink in the first place, you must have already installed the package! Other than this, the user guide gives information on how to use the Marshallers and the automatic jetways, as well as describing the Safegate system.
Finally, it provides a link to a site with LFLL charts and also a reminder that in order to see all of the scenery objects, you should have your complexity settings at Extremely Dense. I’d have liked to have seen a bit more about the history of the airport and something about its current operations, but in all honesty, that was something I found out from Wikipedia anyway! All in all, the documentation appears quite weak but is actually sufficient, albeit only just.
At first glance the airport itself was quite nice. The terminals are modeled well and the satellite-type image for the ground textures makes for a realistic looking scene. Except for one thing, which warrants a mention right from the start, the place is devoid of any static aircraft. Empty, desolate, barren, you could find more activity on the Marie Celeste.
Some of you may have already seen the screenshots on the Simudesign site, showing Atlantic Air and DHL cargo planes and Air France A319s around the airfield. Well, those are actually AI traffic from another add-on. Cheeky was my first thought. I only discovered this after emailing their customer support. No static aircraft are included in the package. Which is a great shame because the custom ground textures, realistic landclass objects, moving service vehicles and highly detailed buildings are let down by an empty apron.
This add-on has numerous gates at which you can park, every one of them empty. Two of the gates (one passenger, one cargo) have an active marshaller who guides you in and although this is not new in scenery design, it’s a nice touch. Two other gates have the safegate docking system which shows you if you’re on the centre line and how far you have to go before telling you to ‘STOP.’ These two gates also have automatic movement of the air stairs if you set the NAV2 frequency appropriately (details in the user manual).
This isn’t new either and is either something you’ll use or you won’t, I’m in the latter category in that I think it’s a waste of time and processing power, but that’s just me. I do think though, that for all the gates at this airport, to have only four which are interactive is a bit of a shame and I’d rather they had less moving service vehicles and more marshallers or safegate systems in operation here.
The add-on comes with version 1.3 of Simudesign’s SDScene module which can make runway and taxiway lights (and also some others objects) automatically switch on when the visibility becomes too low. This module requires a free version of Pete Dowson’s famous FSUIPC. But to be frank, I couldn’t see any benefit to SDScene other than landing in daylight hours with poor visibility.
At night the runway and taxi lights are actually a joy to behold, but again the realistic effect is spoiled by some overpowering yellow apron lighting which needs to be considerably softer. This airport looks the part at first glance, but there are one or two areas which need addressing, namely the lack of static aircraft.
Overall I was quite surprised with the frame rates I was getting around here. Taking the PMDG 744 in to land was a stutter free experience and in this respect the developers have done very well.
As I do not have a copy of FSX yet, so I was unable to test this product on that platform. It is the developer’s intention to make scenery add-ons for FSX, but there is nothing on the website to suggest any compatibility with FSX for this add-on at this time.
In conclusion, I found this attractive, frame rate friendly airport to be a massive disappointment. Indeed, had I spent money on a large empty airport I’d be somewhat annoyed right now.
Perhaps I’ve got this wrong but with screenshots on the Simudesign website showing lots of aircraft parked around LFLL, I was quite shocked to find they were, in fact, AI Aircraft from another 3rd party add-on. The feeling you get when you arrive at LFLL to find it absolutely empty, save for a couple of moving service vehicles, is one of utter anti-climax and I couldn’t think who’d want to buy it other than those who are regular flyers into or out of Lyon.
Don’t get me wrong, the scenery is quite well done, but the absence of any static aircraft, which even freeware developers regularly provide, is too big of a deal to go unnoticed. It lets the overall package down considerably.
Those of you familiar with my reviews will know what comes next: Is this add-on value for money? At a little over 14 Euros, it definitely would be, if it was better populated. I think those of you who particularly want a good quality add-on for LFLL will get some value from it. For those who have little or no interest in flying to or from Lyon, I’d say not to bother with it.
|What I Like About Simudesign's Lyon|
|What I Don't Like About Simudesign's Lyon|
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