AVSIM Commercial FSX Scenery Review

Trondheim Værnes X

Product Information

Publishers:  Aerosoft

Description: Scenery add-on.

Download Size:
120 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Jon Murchison AVSIM Staff Reviewer - March 28, 2010

Introduction

Trondheim Airport, Værnes (IATA:TRD, ICAO:ENVA) is the fourth busiest airport (as per 2009 figures) in Norway and is located in Stjørdal, 19 km east of the city of Trondheim. Situated in a picturesque Norwegian valley with mountains to the east and the Trondheimsfjord fiord lapping at the threshold of runway 09 to the west, Værnes has just over 3.5 million passengers and in excess of 50,000 air movements per year as this International Airport also serves as both a domestic and regional hub.

As an active military airbase for the Norwegian Air Force as well as being a civilian airport, Værnes is host to a diverse range of aircraft from both heavy lift USAF C5-Galaxies to the more sedate Twin Otter. Whatever aircraft type either real or virtual aviators call home, they must all face the unique flying conditions that can be expected in a country that sits around the same latitude as Greenland. In other words, pack your woolies my friends because you’re going to need them.

Værnes started life in 1914 when the first recorded air movement from the area happened on 26 March 1914. This was flown by a military Farman MF.7 Longhorn, yet it would be another 6 years before any form of infrastructure was added. It wasn’t until 1940, after the German Luftwaffe made their presence felt and occupied Norway, that a ‘proper’ runway was constructed, this being an 800 meter wooden runway. At the conclusion of hostilities through to the late 40’s Værnes, which still remained undeveloped overall, was used for GA Aviation by two clubs, Værnes flyklubb and NTH flyklubb that shared the space with the grazing sheep.

In 1959 political will finally brought about the construction of a modern runway, but to achieve this, land reclamation and some fairly robust engineering needed to be completed to allow the roads and railway lines to run under the airport. Once this was done construction began and the ‘new’ airport was ready for operation in 1961. Two years later when SAS first operated the twin engine Caravelle jetliners, Værnes had serviced over 115,000 passengers and were expanding rapidly. As passenger numbers grew so did ground facilities and between 1963 and 1994 four terminals have been constructed.

Today Værnes operates a modern airport that continues to serve both civilian and military operations. It has two runways, the 09/27 at just over 9000ft, and the second smaller 14/32 at just under 5000ft, though this is no longer used or listed as an operational runway.

Test System

Intel Quad Core 3.2
2 Gig DDR 3 Ram
8800 GTX Graphics
Windows 7

Flying Time:
20 hours

Installation and Documentation

As with all Aerosoft products I have used, installation was a breeze and in this case Trondheim Værnes X installed in a few minutes. While the download file itself is 120MB, the install will fill 245MB of HD space. The installer creates a folder in Microsoft Flight Simulator X\Aerosoft called Vaernes X and this is where the files are saved. Along with the scenery folders, themselves a copy of the product manual also available as a download on the Trondheim Værnes X product page on the Aerosoft website, along with a small utility called TrondheimTool that you use to change the season textures at the airport are installed.

The manual explains that FSX doesn’t allow a seasonal ‘swap’ to happen automatically so if you want to fly in the winter you will need to change the textures first or you’ll end up with a green airport in a sea of white, as the default Værnes is summer. The tool itself is very simple, you use an arrow button to select the season and then hit a disc icon for them to be installed.

Manual
Installation Seasons Tool

The manual itself is fairly brief and to the point. After providing background to the airports history, it outlines minimum spec requirements and provides some more detail around installation with an emphasis on the importance of mesh settings. If not adjusted correctly, we are warned, the scenery will not display properly.

Navaid and ATC frequencies are supplied but airport charts are not. For these a link is included to an internet page where PDF charts can be downloaded free of charge which I did and had no problems doing so as they are sourced from the airport operator’s website. The manual concludes by talking about seasons and the small utility mentioned above that allows you to set this prior to loading FSX. With winter selected and installed it’s time to fly.

“It could get a bit bumpy folks”

My journey to Værnes began in Flesland, some 250 miles south where I decided to fly the default Boeing 737-800 north rather than create a flight with Værnes as my starting point. I felt this would give me a good appreciation for where it was located and also be a good initial test of its performance in FSX. Because it was winter, my departure was pre-dawn and while the sky was going to be lovely as the sun rose, the weather en-route was not forecast to be that flash, so it was a case of briefing the crew and preparing the passengers for what I expected would be a bumpy ride.

The flight north was expected to take about 45 minutes pending ATC clearance but given we were one of the early departures we entered Værnes airspace ahead of schedule and prepared for an ILS approach on runway 27. I was hoping for the water approach to 09 over the fiord but today’s fairly volatile winds meant that wasn’t going to happen. Having mesh set to maximum certainly gave me a better feel for the beauty of Norway making this a wonderful part of the world to fly in.

With the ILS squeaking from NAV 1, sightseeing would have to wait as we made a last left hand turn that set us on a long final. With the terrain quite high before opening to the valley where Værnes is located, it was a matter of a fairly swift drop to capture the ILS but once on the glide slope and with flaps and speed set the 738 gracefully made its way through the crisp morning air crossing the fence and kissing the runway at 160 knots.

Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls welcome to Værnes. The local time is 0815 with an outside temperature of minus 18 degrees. With the 738 safely slowed and exiting the runway I got my first good look at the scenery.

Flesland (ENBR) ENBR - ENVA
Finals ENVA Short Finals
This is over the top Gate 33
Docking Ramp Detail

The approach had been so busy I hadn’t had a lot of time to look beyond the runway but what I did notice was the performance of Værnes. I had elected to turn bloom on, have AI and scenery maxed and autogen one notch back from maxed and found the approach and landing to be very smooth with only slight delay in textures displaying in the VC when I switched between VC and external view.

The level of autogen in this area is very dense with the hills surrounding Værnes covered in trees and housing and other buildings to the north, so all of these factors combined left me with a very favorable impression of Værnes performance. The taxi to the terminal took me over the two tunnels built for the road and railway lines mentioned in my intro. I was very impressed to note cars running underneath and a quick check in external view revealed the car tunnel was fully built so you could see through to the other side. The railway tunnel appeared to have a wall half way through but you had to get right down to see this and is something I will mention later because this isn’t a fault of the scenery itself.

I parked at Gate 33 at Terminal A, which has 5 jetway equipped gates and two partially enclosed stairway gates. Each of the jetways has a docking system that uses color lights guiding you when to stop. On the aircraft I used for this review (Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A318) both stopped about 2 meters short of the ideal location for the door to be when I followed the docking lights guidance, so I ended up using external view to line up my front door with the gate.

The real world Værnes jetways are static in terms of left/right, forward/backwards movements those with wheels employ. Instead, the gate itself that connects with the aircraft slides left and right to connect/disconnect. The FSX equivalents are not animated but it appears if you own AES 2.06 or greater, Værnes has been included and for 1 credit both the docking system issue and lack of animation in the jetways are resolved. While this is great for AES users I think those who don’t want, or can’t afford AES, could quite rightly feel short changed by this.

Jetway Jetway detail
Transparent Jetway walls Ramp Side
Ramp – Terminal B Domestic Terminal A
Gate detail – Terminal A SDK Compliant

The jetways, gate area and Terminal A itself are very well built with some gorgeous detail. The jetways use transparent glass and these are fully see through that actually allow you to see what’s on the other side, unlike some that appear transparent but you can’t see either your or AI aircraft through them.

The details around the gates are well crafted with photos forming the basis for all the textures. The ramp area has various vehicles and items you would expect to find that add depth and ‘clutter’ without impacting on performance. Around the corner is Terminal B which is the International Terminal. All comings and goings here require passengers to walk to and from the aircraft across the ramp. With various scenery items placed strategically, the gates in this area are just as busy as Terminal A and look equally as good.

I’ll mention night lighting at this point because it really only applies to the terminal areas. While the night lighting is effective enough I didn’t feel overly inspired by it. The terminal buildings are well lit and the ramp has a glow that reflects both spill light from the terminals as well as pole mounted lighting on the ramp. The way this effect has been achieved is by what I would imagine is a polygon that is then textured with the ‘light’ and made transparent.

The issue I observed is it sits about 2 feet off the ground so your aircraft wheels appear to have been cut off. Other than that no other parts of the airport are really lit, other than windows and a few interiors. This may well reflect Værnes as it appears at night, however compared to other sceneries it does seem quite dull and dark. For me, the jetways are a good example where some parts are lit and others left dark, the contrast effect just doesn’t look realistic to my eye. At the end of the day I felt that Værnes looks pretty darn good during the day, dawn and dusk, but isn’t quite so convincing at night.

Terminal A Curbside Terminal B Curbside
Terminal B ramp Terminal B International
Night lighting 09 Lights
Værnes at night 27 Lights

Beyond the terminals Værnes has several other areas of interest. Behind Terminal A can be found the control tower, parking facilities and a detailed service station that sits inside the airport boundary. I was interested to note that when the photos were taken for the building at the towers base, a person was snapped speaking into the intercom. The buildings in this area are also well detailed and connect with the road system that has vehicles following the road around in front of the terminals and away south.

Further east, hangars and maintenance facilities for SAS and Helitrans can be found. These are all 3D buildings with partially open doors so you can go inside and explore if you wish. A number of static aircraft are located in this area, all stock FSX scenery items that compliment the scenery. North of these buildings can be found the airport fire service and further around again, the practice ‘aircraft’ they use look suitably rusty and burnt.

Across the runway is the military base. While fairly sparse, the area is dominated by several large green hangars and a number of smaller buildings. These are all sealed shut so no insight as to the activities happening behind these doors is provided. No static objects were to be found so the area on this side of the runway is quite desolate. The now closed 14/32 runway is a prominent feature as it runs between the two sides of the facilities in this area. A large parking ramp is to be found next to hangar 6, this is a handy spot for very large cargo aircraft or that shiny F-18 you might want to take for a spin around the area.

Tower Please let me in
Fuel and parking SAS Hangar
Helitrans Hangar Fire Rescue
Military Hangar Military Hangar 6

The runway and taxiways at Værnes X are all rendered atop hi resolution photos with an AFCAD file providing taxiway lines and the unseen pathways AI traffic follow. Taxi signs are included and I noted the textures on these were lower resolution than some, so were a bit pixilated but still do the job. As you would expect all are appropriately lit at dawn/dusk and night. Both ends of the runway have approach lights and a PAPI system installed with the lights PAPI connected to 3D units sitting alongside the runway.

The approach lights at the western end (27) have modeled mounts however those at the eastern (09) don’t so they end up being lights floating above the water. While most of the taxi lights are just dots of light those on the taxiway edges are attached to 3D mounts. At the eastern end of the runway which juts into the fiord a couple of huts are located between the runway and taxiway with several other detail points around them. This entire section has a sea wall along the outer edge gently sloping into the water.

Across the entire airport one thing I did note was the distinct lack of ‘activity’ at the airport such as fuel trucks or other vehicles roaming the ramp or taxiways, so while it was great to see ramp vehicles I do wonder if some animated vehicles could have been included. When I called for refueling I received the message ‘no fuel trucks are available for this airport’. Once again this isn’t a biggie, more a nice to have since it’s a standard FSX feature that never fails to impress me when included.

Departure 27 Long Finals 27
Short Finals 27 Crowded Ramp

On this note I will talk about AI. I gave up using default AI traffic replacing it fairly recently with Ultimate Traffic II. While I appreciate there are a number of excellent AI packs available, I certainly found throughout my flying and exploration time at Værnes there was always traffic and lots of it. What time of the day I flew was depended on whether I could get a parking spot at terminal A or not, as it seems to be 737 heaven in the late afternoon/evening and early morning. From a plane spotting point of view, Værnes has a sensible AFCAD file to keep aircraft movements flowing well and depending on what you use for AI sufficient traffic to make it worthwhile spending time just watching. For me at least, the AI demonstrated why Værnes has 50,000 air movements a year.

As mentioned earlier a roadway and railway run under the runway, these are detailed and also fully 3D though I noted the railway line doesn’t appear to connect up with the line beyond the scenery. Animated cars using the road tunnel are a great inclusion. If you recall I mentioned the importance of ensuring scenery settings are set correctly and if not, the scenery will not display correctly. I experienced this first hand when I was exploring the under runway tunnels when I discovered a wall in the railway tunnel.

I PM’ed the author on the Aerosoft forum and he advised me this is one of the quirks of FSX if you don’t load Værnes as your starting airport. Because I had flown in from Flesland this error had occurred. Now remember this is a tunnel so the relevance of a wall in its middle in relation to the scenery overall is nonexistent really, but what it did do is highlight the importance of reading the manual and following the instructions.

Approach Lighting - 09 Approach 27
3D Papi Lights Taxi Signs and lighting
Runway Detail Fiord Sea Wall
Railway line and Tunnel Jetty

In days gone by, Værnes was used as a floatplane base by commercial operators and the remnants of those days can be found on a long sea wall jetty with a small building located on it just to the south of the runway. Overall, I was impressed with the level of detail and quality of modeling gone into the airport buildings, runways and taxiways. The textures were crisp and clear and when compared to photos on Wikipedia and Google maps I couldn’t fault the layout of the airport and the placement of the buildings.

Norway may be known for its snow but it does have four seasons and these are all depicted in the scenery. As I have already explained, the seasonal changes must be completed manually using the TrondheimTool prior to loading. When using the tool you must decide if you want 1024 or 2048 pixel textures to be used, so if your computer is top end or low to mid range, you can choose the option that best suits. Personally, I didn’t find a great deal of difference either visually or performance wise between the two but I expect my system specs had something to do with that. Visually the textures fit seamlessly with the default FSX textures and I felt looked pretty good.

Dawn Day
Dusk Night
Winter Spring
Summer Fall

Conclusion

In my view this is another quality product from Aerosoft with excellent detail, particularly around Terminal A where the jetway modeling is some of the best I have seen. While the night lighting isn’t anything to get excited about the only real issues I feel detract from the scenery to a noticeable degree are the lack of animated jetways and the docking system’s inaccuracy. Personally I don’t think it’s good enough that this is addressed through another product such as AES.

Those moans aside what has been produced in Trondheim Værnes X brings alive an airport, and subsequently part of the world, that unless you live in the region you may not consider spending a lot, if any, time visiting. During my flights in and out of Værnes I was particularly impressed with the performance. It’s not a huge airport by any degree so I would expect FPS to hold up, but if you are like me and elect to use some juicy weather and a lot of clouds you will appreciate its good performance. To underline this as I type these words in MSWord 2007, I also have a browser and email open and FSX is running quite happily as I watch AI traffic arrive and depart while I write.

I really enjoyed flying to and from Værnes. The 09 approach is definitely my new favorite; it has to be one of the most spectacular approaches you can fly in the world.

 

What I Like About Trondheim

  • Very FPS friendly
  • Nicely detailed buildings and photo real textures
  • Nice seasonal textures
  • Gorgeous part of the world to fly in

 

What I Don't Like About Trondheim

  • Including charts would have been nice
  • Jetways are not animated and the docking system isn’t accurate, requiring you to use external view to get a correct alignment

 

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