AVSIM Commercial FSX Scenery Review

VFR Appalachia

Product Information

Publishers: Pacific Island Simulations

Description: Airport Scenery Package.

Download Size:
559 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Mike Cameron AVSIM Staff Reviewer - March 26, 2011

Introduction

Pacific Island Simulations VFR Appalachia is the first in a series of high detail real world east coast United States airport sceneries for the virtual pilot who likes to fly at low altitudes with short flights between airports.

The first product includes eight airports in the mid – Atlantic region.   All airports are presented realistically from on-site visits and aerial photos taken by Pacific Islands Simulation pilot – Jay.

Airports included with is package are:

  1. Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport/Shepard Field (KMRB) also known as Martinsburg, is located four miles south of Martinsburg, West Virginia.   This is the largest airport in the package with a 7815 foot runway and is mostly used for general aviation but also is the home base for the Air National Guard’s 167th Airlift Wing which operates the C-5 Galaxy here.
  2. Cheat River (WV31) is an abandoned airstrip but its outline can still be seen on Google satellite maps.   Cheat River has challenging approaches from both directions of the runway due to mountain ranges & hills on both sides of the approach, along with some man made obstacles.   Also, fog is known to occur at various times of the day, to make Cheat River Airstrip have an even more hazardous approach at times.
  3. Front Royal (KFRR) is located three miles west of Front Royal, Virginia.   Front Royal airport has a single 3007 foot asphalt runway, is a medium sized general aviation airport that also has glider operations.   According to Airnav.com website, deer has been spotted on or near the airport.
  4. New Market (8W2) is located two miles west of New Market, Virginia.   According to Airnav, New Market airport has a single 2920 foot asphalt runway with numerous cracks.   Deer and birds are sometimes on or around the runway and hot air balloon operations take place on weekends in early mornings and late afternoons.   Besides the wildlife, another challenge for pilots approaching the runway is ten foot trees along the fence line that runs parallel to the runway on the south side.
  5. Moran Field (MD99) is also a decommissioned airport located near Westernport, Maryland.   Moran Field has a single 4000 foot asphalt runway.   It is located on a high plateau that is known for steep wind gusts, unpredictable crosswind variations and sporadic microbursts.
  6. Seven Springs Borough (7SP) also now closed and is located one mile southwest of Seven Springs Borough, Pennsylvania and had a single 3045 asphalt runway.  This airport is also located on a high plateau with the same weather challenges as Moran Field with stiff wind gusts, unpredictable crosswinds and microbursts.   According to Airnav, Seven Springs Borough airport is surrounded by trees and high terrain with trees located approximately 302 feet in from the runway 28 threshold and 433 feet north.
  7. Nemalcolin Resort (PA88) is located one mile east of Farmington, Pennsylvania.  It has a single 3980 asphalt runway and is privately owned so real world pilots needed to ask permission to land there.
  8. Ingalls Field (KHSP) is located three miles south of Hot Springs, Virginia and has a single 5600 foot asphalt runway.   Since I have already reviewed the previous version of Ingalls Field, I am going to concentrate on the other airports for this review.  I am not going to totally ignore Ingalls, I will still spend some time there as part of my normal review process and if I see a major change over the previous version I will note it in this review.   If you are interested in my Ingalls Field review it is available on the Avsim.com website.

Even though three of the airports are no longer open in the real-world, Pacific Island Simulations has chosen to include them because of the challenges they present as described above and to honor them for the airfields that they once were.

Test System

Asus G72GX Laptop
Intel Core2 Duo 2.53GHz
6GB DD2 Memory
500 GB Serial ATA HD(5400RPM)
Nvidia GeForce 260M Video Card with 1GB GDDR3 Memory
17.3” LED-Backlit LCD Screen
FSX with Acceleration
Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick.
Saitek Pro Flight Switch Panel & Multi Panel
Saitek Throttle Quadrant

Flying Time:
20 hours

Installation and Documentation

Because I already had Ingalls Field installed and this airport has been upgraded for VFR Appalachia, I uninstalled it and made sure it was removed from the FSX Scenery Library first before installing VFR Appalachia.

Installation is very easy, run the setup program and enter the product serial key.  I recommend copying the serial key from the purchase email and pasting it in the space provided.   The install routine should automatically find your FSX directory, if this is incorrect; click the browse button to locate the correct location.   The FSX Scenery Library activation is also automatic.

A five page user guide is included which explains a little bit about the airports, gives recommended FSX settings and provides links to websites with airport charts & other airport information if available.   I like it when scenery developers include recommended FSX scenery settings in order to have the best experience possible.   This makes for a nice starting point and if you have some performance issues, you can adjust these settings and still have a very enjoyable experience.

General Scenery

Normally when I install a new scenery product, I like to explore the airport from the ground first.   If it is a small airport I use the Orbx Bob freeware product and if it is a large airport I use a drivable ground vehicle.   This allows me to review the quality of the ground objects.

After exploring the airport and the surrounding area from the ground, I startup an ultra-light or another slow moving aircraft and explore the area from above.

Finally, I do some short cross country flights from nearby airports which allows me to evaluate system performance for the scenery when the airport area loads.   Since eight airports are included with this package I had to adjust my review process.

On the Pacific Island Simulations Forum, they provided a screen shot of a flight plan that departs from Martinsburg Airport, stops at the other seven airports and finishes back at Martinsburg.  I decided to fly this flight plan for the review.    With the exception of Martinsburg, I did the cross country flight to the airports first, and then evaluated the airports from the ground.

The first time I loaded Martinsburg, I thought Wow!  I am in for a wonderful experience.   All ground objects are three dimensional looking and have great looking textures.   I did not see a single building with blurry textures.   What I look for in a quality scenery product, besides the major buildings and airport vehicles, is how detailed the small scenery objects look and the quality of these objects did not disappoint.

For example, a For Sale sign on a hangar was very clear and easy to read.    Parked cars & trucks are all realistic looking; objects inside open hangars and even the grass & trees are all three dimensional.    The objects on the military side of the airport are also very detailed.   Scenery objects near the airport are also very realistic looking.  These include farm buildings & equipment, fences, cattle & horses and a man riding a horse.

Martinsburg is the largest airport in the package and this airport by itself is worth the purchase price.  Now it is time to jump into an aircraft and depart to Seven Springs Airport.

Easy to read signage at KMRB

General aviation area at KMRB

Construction equipment at KMRB

KMRB fire station & trucks

Open hangars at KMRB

 

167th Airlift Wing at KMRB

Helicopters at 167th Airlift Wing

Parked 747 at 167th Airlift Wing

Before reviewing the rest of the airports, I want to discuss system performance with this scenery.   I started out using the recommended FSX settings and overall I had acceptable performance on my system.   My system had micro-pauses when approaching the airports, but these happen with other scenery products that I have installed also.

I tried reducing the Mesh Resolution and Texture Resolution to match some my other scenery products but doing this did not seem to stop the micro-pauses so I went back to the recommended settings.   The only time I had a serious performance issue is when I had the Active Sky Evolution weather program running.

Frame rates dropped to low single digits with long pauses on my system.   Turning off Active Sky Evolution seemed to solve this problem and performance went back up to an acceptable level, at least on my system.

By turning off Active Sky after FSX is loaded and while parked at my departure airport, it still allows me to enjoy the real world weather that it created; only the weather does not update which was probably the cause of the slowdown.  I also tried using the default FSX Cessna 172 to see if I would have the same performance issues with this aircraft and unfortunately, performance was exactly the same.

I have not used the default FSX real world weather since installing Active Sky Evolution, but decided to give it a try with updates every fifteen minutes.   I am happy to report that I had no performance issues, even during the weather updates.

Each airport in the VFR Appalachia package has its own personality which greatly adds to the value of the product.   Martinsburg is the largest airport in the package suitable for large and military aircraft.   Seven Springs Airport is the first of the small airports that I will visit.

Seven Springs Borough Airport is in a resort area with buildings that look like restaurants and resorts that are suitable and realistic looking for a resort community.   Again, I love the little included details; there is a chairlift near the airport that travels from the parking lot up to the buildings at the top of a hill, very cool.

The first thing you notice when landing at Nemalcolin Resort is the word private on the runway.   What impressed me about this airport is the complexity of the included buildings.  Some buildings at the airport had arched windows and doors.  I think this is the first time that this type of complex architecture has been included as a ground object that was not blurry looking or should only be viewed from a distance.   Of course all of the other scenery objects at this airport are also impressive; it is just that these buildings stood out to me.

Where Nemalcolin is very modern, Moran Field is the exact opposite.   The scenery objects at this airport are very old looking.  There is a nearby resort as well as a farm with grazing cattle and horses.  I had a challenging time finding this airfield because the runway blends nicely with the surrounding terrain.

Cheat River is one of the closed airports and from the looks of things it has been closed for some time with cracks in the runway and weeds growing from those cracks.   Cheat River is one of the smallest airports in the package with a residential looking building for the office and a single hangar.   A couple of aircraft as well as some other vehicles are parked here.

This is one of my favorite airports in the package because it is so scenic with the airport located next to the river, a single grazing horse, the sounds of the river and the bridge nearby.   The introductory screenshot at the beginning of the review was taken at Cheat River.   I also liked the approach for this airport.  The property is long and narrow, so you land on the airstrip then taxi on a path to the parking area.  The only thing that I would like to see updated is moving traffic on the bridge.

New Market Airport is unique because it is situated near both farmland and an industrial area.   The scenery objects for the farming area are similar to the other farms with the scenery.  The industrial area includes a factory as well as parked semi-trucks and cargo containers.

Front Royal – Warren County Airport is what I consider a typical medium sized regional airport.   It has more hangar buildings & parked aircraft, a maintenance facility and a flying school.   There is also glider operations located at this airport.

Open hangar at 7SP

Truck and aircraft at 7SP

Approaching 7SP

Chairlift and resort near 7SP

Housing at PA88

Large building at PA88

A Restaurant at PA88

Parked aircraft at PA88

Old looking textures at MD99

Open Hangar at MD99

Large resort near MD99

Runway cracks and weeds at WV31

Farm equipment at WV31

Parked aircraft at WV31

Rancher with cattle at MD99

Freight containers at 8W2 industrial area

Maintenance facility at KFRR

Airport office at KFRR

Sounds, Animations & Other Features

Textures for all for seasons are included as well as some very nice night lighting effects.   I loved the headlight effect on parked ground vehicles.   The usual animations that you would expect from a quality scenery product (flying birds, smoke from chimneys) are also included.

Pacific Island Simulations have included some animations that I have not seen in a scenery product before.   These include flames from the factory smoke stacks at New Market, a person talking on his cell phone and a construction worker using hand signals to the driver in a construction vehicle.

Sounds include bird, horse and cattle sound effects.   I might have missed some animation and sound effects, but the ones that I did notice really add to the VFR Appalachia experience without affecting performance.

Very nice night lighting effects

Man talking on his cell phone

Flames from industrial area smoke stacks

Office and flying birds at 8W2

Summary / Closing Remarks

VFR Appalachia is an excellent value at $27.50 USD.   Eight highly detailed airports and surrounding areas are included.   I consider this a must buy if you are a virtual pilot who lives is this area of the United States.   Even if you do not live near these airports, this scenery package offers something for all virtual aviators.

If you like to fly large or military aircraft, Martinsburg is a suitable airport for you.   Small to medium sized general aviation aircraft should have no problems landing at all of the airports.   For this review I used the Carenado Piper Arrow, Just Flight Cessna 152, Military Visualizations Cessna 310R and the Real Air piston Duke.   A couple of the airports have parked gliders indicating glider operations and helicopters should be able to land at most of the airports.

All ground object textures are great looking and the included sounds and animations all make for a very enjoyable experience.   Some of the airports have challenging approaches which for me greatly adds to the realism level of the product.

 

What I Like About VFR Appalachia

  • Eight Airports
  • Great Looking Ground Object and Seasonal Textures
  • Included Sounds & Animations
  • Impressive Night Lighting Effects
  • Challenging Approaches
  • Reasonably Priced.

 

What I Don't Like About VFR Appalachia

  • Nothing.   The performance issue that I had on my system was caused by an external program that I was able to find a workaround for.   Having animated or no traffic on the bridge at Cheat River is more a personal preference then a negative.

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VFR Appalachia

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