Today’s review offers non-stop service to one of the most beautiful, yet often unexplored, areas in my FS9 virtual world – the Scandanavian country of Norway. To be more specific, we will be visiting Bergen-Flesland Airport located in Bergen, Norway, a joint civil and military airport located at N60 17’ 36.19, E005 13’ 05.31. However, we will not be arriving to the sights of the bland and uneventful default scenery, but rather to one of the newest scenery offerings from Cloud 9; Bergen-Flesland Airport. Has the crew responsible for what I deem to be the greatest F-4 Phantom in FS kept up with there tradition of providing top quality products with this scenery enhancement? That’s what I’m here to find out.
Bergen-Flesland airport opened in 1955 as a joint civil and military airport and has since become the second largest airport in the country. In 2006, the airport provided service for over 4 ½ million passengers with flights to 16 domestic and numerous international locations by more than 15 airlines. In addition to this, the airport also serves as a hub for Sogn og Fjordane county, and has a heliport that serves a number of oil platforms in the North Sea. The most popular route from Bergen-Flesland, however, is the B737 flights into Oslo, which Norwegian and SAS Braathens combine to perform upwards of 35 times daily; the seventh largest route in Europe.
With just one runway of 9,810 feet (2,990 meters), the airport is busy both on the ground and in the holding pattern. A new tower was constructed in 1991 to accompany the new terminal built in 1988, which now has 11 gates, but a reconstruction plan is in the works to accommodate even more aircraft in the future. Cloud 9’s rendition enhances the default scenery to show just what Bergen-Flesland should look like in FS9 with all of the buildings, the terminal, parking garage, and just about everything you will see at the real airport.
However, it is very important to note that this review covers only the FS9 version, available on sale for $18.99. An FSX version is available, which I understand includes dynamic features that this version does not. Let’s go see what we get with this version.
Bergen-Flesland will first need to be installed by use of the auto-install program found in the downloaded zip file. Once complete, you now have the opportunity to experience the airport in trial mode, which allows you 7 minutes to check out Bergen before the scenery objects begin to disappear. In order to gain unlimited access you will need to purchase the product and / or enter your key code in the add-on manager that can be found on the top of the screen while in flight (press alt first if you fly in full screen mode).
This program will ask you to choose which product you wish to purchase and install, then it will give you the opportunity to order the product, and finally you can enter your key code / coupon number. At this point, you will receive a message advising you that you have successfully activated the product and be prompted to save your receipt, which I highly recommend.
You can now come and go as you please with all of the full detail permanently enabled, but before you get too far you may want to read over the manual. The manual includes charts, help with certain features of this add-on, and a host of general information. As you progress through the manual you will notice a few items that are labeled as being present only in the FSX version of this scenery.
There are a number of buildings, a new terminal with jetways, gates, static aircraft, and even areas under construction, but what really stuck out to me was how well each of these areas are textured. For example, you will notice that the buildings that have been around for a while have a weathered look to them, but the new terminal construction and parking garages are clean with no weathered look. Static ground servicing vehicles, cars and trucks, and even a few fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters also grace the airport with there presence.
Starting with the photo-real ground textures, you will notice that they are much more convincing than anything provided by default. Not only do the grass textures look more authentic, but there are areas indicating dirt and worn grass, while other areas are more lively. Along the runway and taxiways you will also notice blades of grass that can be seen at ground level. Also, the airport features undulation which adds a nice touch to snow piles in the winter months. Despite the fact that the new ground textures are notably more defined, it does blend in fairly well where the airport connects to the default scenery east of the facility.
The runway, taxiways, aprons, and ramps are also improved with this rendition of Bergen. The runway has a more used look to it with signs of typical wear. The markings are a dull, almost stained yellow that stick out quite well without becoming an eye sore. The taxiways are a bit more detailed than by default, as are the ramps, which range from a light to dark grey throughout the airport. Lighter pavement surrounds the terminal, which is especially well detailed with stains and an obvious indication of being well used. One thing that caught my attention while flying over the airport during my evaluation is that the fading and discoloration of all pavement markings vary throughout the airport. For example, some of the taxiway lines are duller than others, the same goes for marks on the helipads and other areas.
The terminal is certainly hard to miss with the blue jetways and plethora of ground servicing equipment at the gates. But what I really enjoyed was how the terminal is textured to appear well weathered, something that is clear when parked at the gates. The gates wrap around the terminal in a half circle, about one third of which were filled at any given time with Traffic 2005 installed. All of the gates include a visual docking system, which will be discussed in the next section, and no matter where you park there will be some type of ground servicing equipment nearby.
Behind the terminal you can see the area under construction, which is distinct in two ways. First, and most obviously, it is not complete. But something else I picked up on is that the texturing of this area is much cleaner, that is to say it does not appear as weathered. I found this detail to be worth mentioning because many of the add-on airports I have seen do not distinguish between new and old quite as well as this one. Anyway, looking around the parking garage and buildings under construction I noticed several static vehicles parked in the garage on all levels, a crane, other construction equipment, and a variety of ground vehicles that all add up to make this area look more authentic.
Moving north through the airport you will run into a number of buildings, the helipads, static ground vehicles and static aircraft, and countless scenery objects. There are hangars, open and closed, the helicopter servicing areas, delivery vehicles, and an array of other items. As with the terminal and other aforementioned buildings, the hangars and other buildings vary in their texturing, some of which are obviously more worn than others. Some other objects include light poles, trees, fences, shacks, signs, and other well detailed scenery.
With little exception, I am more than satisfied with what I have seen thus far, but there is still more to cover. Later on I am going to discuss the static aircraft and why I believe that they fit quite well into this scenery enhancement. Also, though this version of Bergen is strictly for FS9, I have some information on the FSX version that we will talk about a little later. But for now, let’s work our way back to the terminal and check out the visual docking system that I mentioned earlier.
Visual Docking System
Each of the gates at Bergen include a visual docking system that will help you to guide your aircraft into the gate properly. If you happen to fly any of the Boeing aircraft from the 717 through the 757, an Airbus A319-321, MD80/90, MD-11, or an ATR 42, then the VDS will automatically recognize your aircraft. This means that your aircraft type will be displayed on the VDS and will be guided into position to line the passenger door up with the jetway. Other aircraft can still use the VDS, but you may not get a precise alignment.
When you pull up to the gate you will see the visual docking system activate by displaying the aircraft type across the top, and a series of green lights vertically displayed on either side of the lower portion of the VDS. As you pull closer green lights will illuminate, followed by a set of yellow lights which advise you to use caution as you near the jetway. As you slowly pull into position, you will see a set of red lights illuminate followed by a display across the top of the VDS telling you to stop. If you happen to overshoot the gate you will see the words “Too Far” appear, which is self-explanatory – time to hit “Shift + P”.
Static Aircraft and Ground Equipment
Over the past several months I have become less fond of static aircraft and more interested in the AI type, you know, the ones that will actually taxi out and takeoff every once in a while. But in this case I couldn’t be happier with the inclusion of the few static aircraft; two helicopters and three fixed-wing GA’s by my count. What makes them such a great addition to this airport is that they are very well detailed for static aircraft, and have cones, drums, tie downs, and other ground servicing and maintenance items that make them look like they really belong. Also, each of the static aircraft, especially the helicopters, have a very weathered, almost un-manicured look to them that helped to convince me that they really do belong in this scenery.
Other static vehicles include baggage carts, catering trucks, an assortment of other ground equipment, and several cars and trucks scattered throughout the airport, mostly in the parking garage and inside of fenced in areas. Some of these vehicles are suitable for this scenery, and some could use a touch more detail, but all of them combine to add a lot of life to this airport…even if they don’t move.
What I like about the cars and trucks is that they add a sense of realism to the airport by making it look like there are actually people there. The ground support equipment doesn’t do this as much, but instead it makes the gate areas look more active. Users of the FSX version of this add-on get the added bonus of dynamic vehicles, whereas this version includes none.
And the frame rates are …
…Decent on my system, but I could really go for an extra few FPS when flying the heavies around this area. For the most part I had little or no problem flying into Bergen in the FSD International Piper Panther, Cloud 9 Phantom, or DF727, but things got a bit choppy when pulling my Level-D 767 up to the gates.
With AI traffic at about 50% and my scenery sliders up around 80% I can handle this facility just fine with the occasional stutter. Any more than that and it starts to become a little choppy and much less appealing. Fortunately, there is no need to have your settings maxed out to enjoy this scenery.
Just about the time that the new airfield ground textures are loaded you may start noticing a slight reduction in performance. For me, it happens just as I am about to touch down. As you taxi around the airport you may encounter the occasional stutter, or for those with a more capable system, you might not have any problems, even when pulling up to the gates. Without AI traffic, I noticed only a slight decline in frame rates, but as with all products the performance you receive will depend on your system and FS settings.
FS9 vs. FSX
As I mentioned earlier this review covers only the FS9 version of Cloud 9’s Bergen-Flesland add-on scenery. However, I have had the opportunity to examine the differences between the two add-ons via the included manual, and from my perspective the FSX version is the way to go…assuming your system can handle FSX. There are five major differences between the two versions as far as I can tell, the first being that the ground textures, runways, taxiways, aprons, and all airport textures are more detailed in the FSX version. Also, the FSX version includes active jetways, something that could have also been included in the FS9 version, but was not. In FSX you will also have de-icing equipment that will pull up to your aircraft and de-ice the plane when parked in the correct spot.
Dynamic snow removal equipment is also available in the FSX version, as are flocks of birds that can be seen flying in the spring and summer months. All of these things combine to make the FSX version much more active and in many ways more authentic as well. Since only the FS9 version was offered to me for this review, I do not have screenshots or a performance report for the FSX version. You can, however, take a flight over to Cloud 9’s website to see the screenshots posted and compare them to those from FS9.
I like Cloud 9’s rendition of Bergen, I frequent there often, and it will likely remain in my FS9 virtual world for as long as the simulator is installed on my system. In fact, I will give serious consideration to upgrading to the FSX version when the time comes that I can run the new sim without all the stuttering.
Not only have I found favor with this product, but it has also opened my eyes to a previously neglected part of the FS9 world, the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. I especially enjoy the fact that this facility can accommodate all of the aircraft in my collection, and with little exception, the performance was perfectly fine for me.
I’m no stranger to Cloud 9’s line of products; in fact, I have been a frequent flyer of there F-4 for some time now. But this particular offering has earned a special place in my virtual world for its remarkable detail and all-around authenticity. Of course I would have appreciated some of the features from the FSX version to be made available in this version as well, but I can live without the dynamic scenery for now. For those of you who would like the active jetways, de-icing and snow removal equipment, flocks of birds, and other active scenery, you might want to look into the FSX version.
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