Just north of the better known Canary Islands and 326 miles southwest of Portugal, two islands of this autonomous (only since 1976) Portuguese archipelago called Madeira are inhabited; Madeira and Porto Santo. The capital, Funchal (pop. 100,033), is not far from where you will find the unusual airport called Madeira, for which you are required to have a special license to land. You'll soon see why.
The other airport, Porto Santo, is smaller with only about 300 flights per month (excluding military) of which only one is a daily flight to the mainland and 3 are to Madeira.
So what makes this scenery so interesting? Plenty.
During installation, which will occupy 1.35 Gigs of your HD space, the path to FSX is found for you from your registry and if you desire to install the scenery elsewhere, you can point it to another folder: but... I found that it will only accept a path to a valid FSX installation, you cannot just dump it on another partition, like I did with the massive VFR-Germany-1 (12 Gigs).
However, once installed, you can move it to another partition and edit your scenery library accordingly (you have to know how to do that and I cannot explain it here). This can help you save space on your FSX partition which may be getting full by now. Remember though, to return the files to their original locations if you ever decide to uninstall Madeira X. As the installation is not that huge in size by today's standards, you should not have to concern yourself about its location. You will find Madeira X in the Aerosoft folder of the main FSX folder.
A manual and charts are included, accessed from the start menu/Aerosoft/Madeira X.
You may chose to update your airport data base for your FS Commander 8.x and for Radar Contact 4.3 if you plan on using these with the Madeira scenery, but I did not notice any differences (not there aren't any...). This package comes with its own custom AI planes and schedules. I could not get Radar Contact to recognize any runways nor any ATC frequencies at Madeira, but all worked well at Porto Santo.
I would suggest making LPPS your destination and departure if you wish to use Radar Contact to and from the mainland. When flying between the two island airports, you might want to use the default FSX ATC system. In the controller info page of RC4.3, the runways for Madeira are listed in the Porto Santo page.
Porto Santo has the appearance of barren rock with some tenacious vegetation. It's only city (other than a couple of villages corners), is Vila Baleira, a tourist resort that boasts a nine mile beach of white sand. The island's highest point is 1788 meters, or 5865 feet.
The instrument approach to runway 18 (by VOR/DME or NDB) is unspectacular until short final. You can see in the progressive series of snapshots below; first you encounter dangerous cliffs, then you have a sloped runway with walls of rock on each side, and finally the nice little terminal only becomes visible half way to the end of the runway. The experience is well worth the price of admission: it is quite interesting, with a well done rendition of this tiny airport.
Landing on rwy 36 is easier to approach, as it requires less diligence with the slope in your favor for stopping with a difference in elevation between the button for rwy 18 and the button for rwy 36 of 31 meters, or 102 feet, with the button for 18 being the higher. Turnarounds near the end of 36 allows you to get back to the terminal where there are also six military parking areas.
At 10,234 feet in length, heavies should be able to land here, but in real life they usually do not. AI planes seen landing at LPPS are of the ATR type. They are custom AI that come with Madeira X, and are subject to the traffic sliders of FSX.
Aerosoft includes a full complement of approach and departure charts accessed from the start menu.
Now this is the airport with an architecture that defines eye candy. Although not stylistically superb, what catches your imagination here is the geographic challenge and the engineering marvel of the elevated runway, a third of which is supported by pillars. On one side you have the sea, and on the other, a rocky slope or a manmade inclined wall.
Looking at this pillared section makes you wonder just how safe it is. ATC will not give you a clearance for any straight-in to the button of runway 23: it is a VOR (213) instrument path, without glide slope either, as seen in the snapshots below for the two visual VOR instrument approaches as supplied by Aerosoft. I suspect that this type of engineering may be one of a kind, or of a rare few.
I read on Aerosoft's support forum from a member who just happens to have lived on Madeira, and he remarked that the airport layout is superb and remarkably well reproduced, but that the surrounding landmarks and objects, except for the near vicinity of the airport itself, were lacking. It seems to me too, even without having lived or ever visited there, that the further you get from Madeira airport, that scenery objects look more generic and scattered (though they may be that way naturally). Nevertheless, the product is a beautiful work and I urge you to buy it if you want an FSX playground with higher than normal frame rates because of this isolation. The scenic qualities are amazing, just like a miniature New Zealand.
I found some cliffs to be displayed as "stretched" textures until you are right near them. The island of Madeira does show an abundance of small inlets and rocky slopes, creating quite the nice panoramic view. The city is properly dense, but seems to suffer from a lack of custom modeling for the local architecture.
There are more AI planes parked as well as coming and going at Madeira (LPMA) than at LPPS, as it is in real life where there are thousands rather than hundreds of flights per year. There is custom AI in this package as I've noticed the new entries in my simobjects/airplane folder with suffix _Madeira for three A320s and two ATRs, the only planes I saw there. By removing the Madeira traffic file, I noticed that there are no AI contributions from either Ultimate Traffic X or WOAI. I can thus leave all sliders maxed, even water, but the blurries will develop at these levels regardless, unless you are flying real slow.
On a little tour of Madeira:
From the map of Madeira (above, introduction) it is clear there are quite a few little villages. I took a little tour of the island and show here some villages and geographical points of interest. Most autogen seems precisely placed on top of the aerial photos' imprints of buildings with only angular misplacement. Each house is very similar though and I thought they could have used more variety and local architecture. Perhaps they will be in the future?
The largest city, where you will find an abundance of autogen and buildings, is the capital, Funchal, where you will also find a couple of cruise ships docked. Depending on the power of your PC, the textures will come into focus according to your system's capabilities. You cannot just fly around the island fast and expect to see all this as I depict it without some blurries occurring. Most of these snapshots were taken in pause mode and/or after waiting for the scenery to be in full focus. But even so, the focus was pretty good although not perfect during flight. Take a slow VFR ride and it will be better.
Influence of the LOD_RADIUS (advanced users):
As I found with VFR-Germany 2 or any scenery for that matter that involves distances, the setting for LOD_RADIUS has an influence on the visual quality you experience. I set mine to 8.5 for this scenery package and always had everything in focus, as that high a Level_Of_Detail value may just be enough to cover the entire island.
As explained in my earlier review, this is limited by your Video RAM, and with mine being 896MB, it is sufficient. Less, and you would require a lower setting for the LOD_RADIUS. Default in FSX settings is 2.5, minimum and 4.5 max. If you reset any values under your graphics settings for FSX, this value of LOD_RADIUS will revert to your defaults value. You can then manually change it again by editing your FSX configuration file. If you do not know how to do this; don't do it; just use the available regular graphic settings in FSX.
I also have 6G of system RAM, and I noticed that my peak usage got to 4.3 Gigs, so your PC's performance will vary depending on this amount.
Summary / Closing Remarks
Performance was fluid at all times in this scenery (<15 to >35 fps) with my system, which has become almost mediocre lately with the new i7 technology. This unusually good performance from our teasing friend FSX could be due to the minimal hit from such a small amount of AI, even set at 100% (at most 11 AI planes at 100% settings), and the island's total isolation from other terrain that would be making draw requests.
It certainly helps to have a powerful computer to enjoy the scenery offered here. An LOD of 8.5 was my favorite setting with little effect on performance, yet a dramatic enhancement for immersion. If your system specs are a lot less than mine (quad Q6600, GTX 260), you can expect a correspondingly lesser quality, and vise versa. I was able to keep both custom scenery and autogen sliders at 100% without any noticeable performance degradation. Not surprisingly, grazing the terrain in the cockpit of an F-16 at full throttle does result in considerably blurred scenery.
I was expecting a little more custom buildings in the cities of Porto Santo and the Madeira Islands, as was the case with both Helgoland, Monaco X and Venice X. At least there are a few cruise ships docked around the bend from both airports, but I never saw them depart or arrive. Road traffic looping around the airport of Madeira was indeed nice, but was lacking or absent in most other areas, as roads are then simply aerial photography and not laid out as road textures. Some roads seemed mismatched to the mesh as they were drawn into cliff faces or slopes of higher than normal grade. The bridges on Madeira were very well placed and there are some with tunnels, all with road traffic, and seemed to match their corresponding roads perfectly.
I enjoyed flying back and forth between airports and taking leisurely tours of the mountainous terrain. This scenery package makes a nice little playground if you are short on time and just want to scoot around, but if your system is old, you may not get enough performance to make it worth getting. But with a descent system, performance is enhanced by the relative isolation of the terrain such that you could possibly enjoy FSX with all sliders maxed.
What I Like About Madeira X
What I Don't Like About Madeira X
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