“We knocked the bugger off!”
These were the immortal words spoken by the late Sir Edmund Hillary, who, along with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, were the first to summit the highest peak in the world, Mt Everest. Like most climbers seeking to duplicate their ascent, the small village of Lukla was a staging point on the journey. Located 9300 feet up (2840 meters) Lukla, which in Nepalese means ‘place with many goats and sheep’ offers climbers the opportunity to begin acclimatizing to altitude and rest after the 8 day hike from Jiri.
Unlike Sir Ed and his team, climbers and visitors to the region now have the opportunity to fly from Kathmandu. Lukla Airport (IATA: LUA, ICAO: VNLK) is a paved strip of asphalt with a small terminal building and facilities. With Sir Edmund’s passing in January 2008, the Nepalese government announced the airport was going to be renamed The ‘Tenzing-Hillary Airport’.
Lukla’s runway can only be approached from one direction due to it being snuggled up to a rather large mountain, is on a precarious 19O angle and has a 2000 foot drop at the end. So access is restricted to either Helicopter or STOL aircraft, which leads me nicely into the aircraft known as the DHC-6 Twin Otter.
The Twin Otter, designed and built by the de Havilland Canada company, was the next step in a line of successful STOL aircraft that, in 1953, had culminated in the DHC-3 Otter. The Otter was a single engine aircraft that proved itself in some of the harshest terrain imaginable, but was limited by its passenger capacity (10) and the fact it had a single engine.
In 1964 development began on a twin engine aircraft designated as the DHC-6 Twin Otter. Seating up to 20 passengers and still offering all the flexibility of its smaller sibling, the Twin Otter affectionately known as the Twotter, could be fitted with fixed gear, skis or floats, and with the added benefit of Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6A-20 turbine engines, made it a popular alternative to the Otter.
Production began with the 100 series but this was quickly replaced with the 200 that featured improved STOL performance, a longer nose that was equipped with larger baggage and rear doors. However, the 100 and 200 both shared the PT6A-20 engine. A year later, in 1969, the 300 was introduced and it bought with it improved payload and performance due to more powerful PT6A-27 engines, and as it turned out it was the 300 that became the most successful of the 3 models with over 600 built.
Aerosoft have released the DHC-6 Twin Otter X, which includes the 100 on wheels and skis, and the 300 in wheel, wheel/ski and float configurations along with three different interiors for passengers, cargo and skydiving, as well as standard or upgraded avionics. With both these add-ons we now have the opportunity to not only fly an extraordinary aircraft, but also into a part of the world that sees these aircraft operate on a daily basis.
Lukla X - Mount Everest, also from Aerosoft, boasts an extensive list of features including Lukla village in high detail, high resolution mesh for the region and in particular Mt Everest, and a number of smaller airstrips at even higher altitudes than Lukla.
Installation and Documentation
I obtained the download versions of both Lukla X - Mount Everest and the DHC-6 Twin Otter X, with both having been patched since the original release with Lukla X having had a mission pack added, and the Twin Otter having various fixes and improvements made. The Twotter is around 180MB to download with Lukla X being 45. Both come with auto-installers, a short Readme file explaining last minute emissions from the included documentation, and a standard license agreement.
Lukla X uses an automated installer that allows you to select your language, you then need to enter your product key received at the time of purchase to activate the install proper. Once running, installation took less than a minute, and once complete I was advised that Lukla airport could not be accessed by selecting VNLK-Lukla, and I would need to refer to the manual for additional details.
I promptly checked my FSX folder and discovered a number of folders had been installed, one for landclass and the other for the Lukla X scenery itself. As is the standard with download versions of add-ons, the manual is in PDF format. The introduction certainly grabs your attention as the authors make it clear I should expect to be frustrated even if I am a Flightsim ‘old hand’.
The manual gives support information and extensive info on the 3 airports (Syngboche is the second and is at an altitude of over 12,000 ft, and Phaplu is the third at 8,136 feet) and how to access them depending on whether you have SP1 or SP2 installed (yes it does make a difference). Interesting reading is provided on the Mt Everest base camp helipad as well. You’ll struggle to get almost any chopper into this one because the air is simply too thin, but if you own Acceleration you’ll find the EH101 is capable, but we’ll look at that more closely a little later.
A number of limitations of the scenery are outlined. It appears at face value that I can expect to crash, and often, to start with due to the way FSX handles GMAX surfaces. High altitude flying is discussed; ‘trust your instruments not your eyes’ is going to be my mantra for the next few weeks or so it seems. Finally, scenery settings designed to ensure the best experience with the mesh are looked at and a survival guide as such is provided with a map of the area covered. All up, I found the information provided to be extensive, interesting and certainly set the scene for what I was about to experience. But before I can, it’s on to installing the Twotter.
The Twin Otter installation followed the same lines as Lukla X, fully automated with the user being required to enter their product key. The installation only took a couple of minutes and installed a number of folders. Aerosoft, like most add-on developers, creates a folder in FSX where they install additional items. Given I had their London Heathrow X scenery and had just installed Lukla X, I was not surprised to see a Twin Otter folder also appear here, and like the others, this is where the manual is located.
The 5 aircraft variants supplied in the package will take up about 70MB each, with there being 5 that’s about 350MB of HD space used. The Twin Otter manual at 115 pages is extensive, and goes into detail on the various models supplied and then covers the aircraft systems explaining what each switch does and provides checklists you can use once you’re ready to fly. There are also two detailed manuals on operating the B KX 165A TSO and B KLN90B navigation systems supplied.
It’s clear this aircraft is a labor of love for the developers, the manual certainly reflects that, so it’s worth printing to allow quick access to the info you need. I did note a few typos and it appeared a few pictures were missing in the model section, but overall these did not detract from the information being provided.
Both sets of documentation do recommend a good computer to run them on effectively; in the Twotters case they suggest a dual core system, and LuklaX at least a 3ghz machine. It’s the first time I have come across information that is realistic in terms of delivering performance rather than settling for mediocrity. It was now time to start FSX and get my first taste of the Twin Otter; my start airport would be Tribhuvan Airport (KTM/VNKT) in Kathmandu with a flight plan filed for Lukla.
Mt Everest, here I come.
The Twin Otter
How can I describe thee? Smooth lines, graceful gently swept back wings and flush aerodynamic flows across the fuselage certainly don’t. In fact, I would have to say the Aerosoft DHC-6 Twin Otter X is ugly. Let me be very clear, this is in no way a bad thing; the reality is the Twin Otter was designed from the ground up to be a workhorse and not only fly in and out of some of the worst terrain imaginable, but also do it day after day in all weather without complaint.
My initial impressions upon seeing the Twin Otter was, Aerosoft had developed a classy model. The download and boxed editions come with five versions that include the DHC-6-100 with wheels and another with skis, and feature 4 liveries depicting various military, private and airline operators. The DHC-6-300 also comes with a wheels model, one with floats for water operations, another with a skis/wheels combination and then 11 liveries across these 3 types, like the 100 these also cover a diverse range of operators.
These 5 model types represent the aircraft available to customers in the real world, with the primary visual difference between the 100 and 300 being the nose shape, the 300 is quite pointed where as the 100 is round. Having said that, the 300 float equipped aircraft uses the same shape as the 100, but reflects the performance improvements of the 300. Having done some research, I was suitably impressed that the unique look of this aircraft has been captured well across both types.
Overall the attention to detail is excellent. All the moving surfaces you would expect to be present are, and this includes the pilot door and the large two-door passenger entry at the rear. The attention to detail in the animation is very good. If we take the flaps for example, I watched them extending and retracting several times and noted them moving properly on their hinges, as do the ailerons, rudder and elevators.
The Otters are flown by different pilots depending on the aircraft type and role it plays. For example, you will find airline based flight crews dressed in caps and blue suits, whereas the military aircraft and cargo types have overall clad pilots. The pilot’s head is animated through a small range of movement so they don’t just sit there like manikins.
The float and ski equipped aircraft are unique again. The 100 Ski type is presented as a dedicated Antarctic based aircraft so only has skis attached, whereas the 300 equivalent has wheels as well with the skis sitting around them. The float plane is purely for water operations, no option exists to start or end a journey on land. All three non-wheel based types show additional detail such as wires and different suspension types as you would expect to see in their real world equivalents, so there is nothing generic about any of the models; they are distinctive specimens in their own right, with interiors that reflect their role.
For both the 100 and 300 types, and the various variants, there is a mixture of airline, military and private operators represented in the textures. I found the quality of these to be excellent with crisp logos, suitable exhaust stains and the use of bump and spec mapping providing a high level of detail on the aircraft surfaces and skin. The textures are all saved as DXT3 images, which mean they maximize frame-rate performance.
All the aircraft have interiors, and as earlier noted, they vary between aircraft types. These have nice levels of detail with my only gripe being where they have put the camera view, this being right at the back meaning you can’t see out the passenger window. Speaking of camera views, the Twotter has plenty of them both in the VC and in external views, and once again these vary between aircraft types.
The camera views in the VC and cabin make it easier to adjust settings and monitor aircraft systems. Externally, left and right wing cameras along with tail views are available, also left main gear and nose gear make for dramatic landing views. On the Float plane, there is also a ‘wake’ view.
Two panel types are provided as standard equipment but these are only in VC view, no 2D panel is included. I’m in two minds about this, in my experience the quality of VC’s is so good these days, 2D panels really aren’t required. Having said that, I still like switching to 2D at times as its often easier to complete a certain task, so this makes camera views very important in avoiding frustration for users. As mentioned above, the VC has plenty of cameras and more importantly, they all point to the right areas. So having to move between these views does not add stress to flying the Twotter. The ‘original’ 100 and early 300 models do not have the benefit of the GPS unit, relying on more traditional radio navigation equipment; it’s the ‘modern’ 300 that has the B KX 165A TSO and B KLN90B navigation systems installed.
The panel itself is well laid out. All the standard gauges are placed in front of you and given this aircraft was developed in the 60’s, all the gauges have that weathered well used look about them. A warning light system sits at the top of the panel that monitors 18 key functions and will become illuminated as required, not all of these are modeled due to limitations in FSX.
The throttles, or power levers as they should correctly be referred to, are above your head and allow full control of power through the range of ground Idle, flight idle and forward to full power, and ground ideal back to full reverse. Prop control and then fuel flow sit alongside this, correct use of these is outlined in the documentation and does make a real difference in taxiing and landing stages of flight as you often change propeller pitch rather than power settings, which was something new for me. These are all located overhead with light switches etc behind that.
Both pilots have a ‘steering wheel’ which is connected between both pilots using a Y shaped bracket that disappears into the floor in the middle of the cockpit. The issue I had with this was being able to see some of the gauges, particularly the small autopilot in front of the right seat, and this is where a 2D panel still comes in handy. Aerosoft have dealt with this by providing 2D pop ups for the GPS, radio and autopilot. This works well for those items that you really need to see clearly, and if your eyesight is not as good as it could be, this is a real blessing as you can increase their size.
Most of the switches on the panel work but not all, given the level of detail included in the model it would have been cool if they all did, but what’s not working didn’t detract from my experience. Not being a Twotter pilot, that might be more a case of you don’t know what’s missing if you don’t know what’s missing.
The electrical systems are reproduced as is the deicing, hydraulics and fire detection which is ‘live’ on the panel and work if you find yourself in a situation that requires them. Given FSX reproduces emergencies very well, you may find those fire handles getting worn out quite quickly. The switch for the wipers works with both front windows having an individual blade moving across them. Having spent a bit of time in the FSX default King Air, I felt really comfortable in the Twin Otter, and other than the overhead throttles everything is reasonably similar to other twin props I have flown.
The interior lighting is excellent, bringing atmospheric across the panel and throughout the rear cabin. I particularly liked the effect Aerosoft has achieved with lights looking like they are shining on the panel from the little light hoods around the gauges. The view from the cabin forward is very realistic as you are effectively in the dark in the back row. Externally, there was nothing to speak of other than the normal strobes, beacons and nav lights, but the effect of the internal lighting when looking in from the outside was great.
B KX 165A TSO and B KLN90B navigation system
It took me a bit of time to get my head around this navigation system. And while I haven’t mastered it completely, it is reasonably easy to operate and get the information you want once you understand the logic behind it and the way information flows through the system. Because the navigation system is so extensive (the KLN90B covers 76 of the 115 pages in the manual alone) it’s fairly difficult to compress all of its features into a few sentences and actually do it justice, but I was very impressed in the realism that has been captured in this tool. You are presented with 9 top level menus, as I will refer to them, these then allow you to:
1. Access information
relating to Navigation that includes VOR’s & NDB’s
With over 50 pages of information available through these 9 menus, I was not only able to pull information from the system, but also modify and change information using the cursor button and then the knobs to make those changes.
One of the challenges I found when using the B KLN90B was finding the touch points, you effectively work through 50 plus pages of information on two small screens using a couple of knobs and five buttons. Getting the right buttons pushed in at the right time is where the confusion could easily creep in, it certainly did for me.
I’m typically not a patient person, if I don’t understand something quickly I move on, so it was a steep learning curve that I personally struggled to climb while getting a handle on this. But, and it’s a big but, perseverance pays dividends with the KLN90B. For some this nav aid will be a key reason to purchase this package, it’s brilliant and very extensive in what it can do. The information supplied makes it clear that if you can master this, you can master any glass cockpit aircraft with ease. Personally, I’m really pleased I took the time to work through the KLN90B, its inclusion takes this aircraft's realism rating up several notches.
Inside and out, the range of sounds provided with the Aerosoft Otter is excellent. No less than 56 individual sounds have been included across the full range of situations from engine start, flight, touchdown, shutdown and cockpit and cabin ambience.
All the sounds merged across each other nicely as the operation of the aircraft changed, so there was no sense of a sudden shift in noise as can be the case. The sounds were of a good quality so it gave a real sense of the turboprop engines working. I have spent a fair few real world hours as a passenger in the Beech 1900D, I could certainly appreciate the quality of sounds from this experience and felt what was has been used with the Otter hits the mark.
One thing I did note was neither the no smoking nor seatbelt switches, which do work, made an audible tone. I can only imagine this is the way it is, but given I found no indication of signs being illuminated in the cabin when these were switched. This seemed a little odd.
Flying the Otter
Not having any real world flying experience, how one determines accuracy without trawling through data to compare what the specs say with what I experienced in the sim is a challenge. So instead of trying to sound like I know more than I do, I’ll tell you what I experienced from a flight perspective and hopefully it will impart some sense of what she’s like to fly.
Before I talk about flight dynamics, the Twotter comes with a simple but very cool load manager that directly affects the aircraft's feel. To use the load manager is as simple as clicking on a seat, much the way you would if you select you own seat using airline online check-ins, and then selecting a passenger type to occupy the seat.
You can select male (blue character), female (pink character) or child (green character), or you can leave the seat empty. Weight wise you can have a female flying the plane in the left seat, but it won’t allow you to select a child for the left seat, but you can have a child in the right seat, or none if that’s what you want.
This is the first load editor I have seen that allows you to select the sex of your passengers and gives a child option, so you really can mix your passenger/weight loads. You can also select cargo weight forward and aft, and each unique aircraft type seating layout is represented. Once done, click to save and your configuration is complete and you’re ready to rock!
The first thing I did was print out separate copies of the checklists provided. I found these vital to assist me with getting things operating properly. On the taxi, I found the Twotter to be very nimble, the throttles only needed to be open slightly to get her moving and the effective brakes were used repeatedly until I got a feel for her. Much of this time was spent using the prop controls to fully appreciate how these and the power levers worked in unison.
Once lined up and I opened the throttles I was away as the Otter really loves to fly. In the climb and during straight and level flight, I found the Otter very stable, she responded nicely to control inputs and was very forgiving with my often fumbling attempts at managing workflows AND trying to fly at the same time, hence the autopilot got a good work over. On the descent is where she got a bit tricky, and unlike some other props I have flown, I discovered early on I needed to think well ahead of the aircraft to be successful, particularly at Lukla which has a notorious approach.
I did like the ability to slow my descent and approach considerably using reverse thrust in flight, which is the first time I have actually come across this in FSX. Reversers on the Otter are so effective that the first time I landed at Lukla I managed to stop only a few feet shy of the wall at the end of the runway after two large bounces on landing only gave me about 100 feet of effective runway. I found I could then reverse away and steer at the same time, so being the clever dick that I am, I decided to back into my parking spot on the ramp. The only problem with my well laid plan to looking cool was the weight distribution of the aircraft, which was more towards the rear than forward, so naturally once I stopped I found myself tipping back and landing on my DHC-300 butt.
In flight the reversers need to be used sensibly. I dropped out of the sky a number of times when I wasn’t being careful so understanding the STOL capabilities of this aircraft is one of the challenges I had to come to grips with. Luckily the Otter has a low stall speed and excellent flying dynamics as I found on a number of occasions when I started dropping in a stall, but then found the aircraft recovered itself. Very impressive.
This naturally led to an afternoon doing stalls, and I had great fun seeing just how low I could get, switch to full reverse and see if I or the aircraft could pull out in time. This in turn led to short field operations, could I land this baby on a dime? Not quite, but I was left with the impression it wasn’t because the aircraft isn’t capable of doing so.
The Floatplane version of the Otter is a real bugger to taxi, you either have to control it much like you would a sail boat and use the wings to help move you into position, or, if you have a flight yoke, use separate power inputs into the engines to help assist making turns. Once again the documentation has a number of guidelines to assist you with this and like anything, practice makes perfect. To be honest I struggled to master water taxing so I always made sure I had plenty of room in front of me, but let me stress my inability to taxi does not reflect on this model, it was a pilot problem not one with the flight model.
I think this point highlights the fact that each aircraft does have its own unique feel, Aerosoft have made the effort to tweak each aircraft 'config' file to reflect the weight and characteristics of each type. Clearly the Twotter is an amazing performer and I would be very interested to get a real world Otter pilot's view of the dynamics of this model; my sense is the flying experience is realistic. You can get away with a lot, which reflects this as a robust twin engine prop that is very versatile, but like any aircraft, you have to fly her or face the consequences if you don’t.
This is always the question, and with the release of the 1.11 model, I have to say performance was very good. With the initial version 1.00 download, I had suffered from delays in displaying the textures in the VC quite badly, but V1.11 seems to have addressed that.
I noted the usual drop in frame rates in VC mode occasionally, but like always, that depended on what was outside at the time as well. If you have a machine that meets the minimum specs that I outlined earlier, you should have smooth flying with the Twotter.
Onwards and Upwards – LUKLA X
LuklaX is not just an airport scenery, nor is it improved mesh or photoreal scenery. The sum of all these parts makes up LuklaX as a whole, creating a transformation across the region with particular emphasis on Lukla Airport and Mt Everest.
The default FSX scenery for both Lukla airport and the Himalayan area in general is not the most inspiring that you’ll find in the FSX world. As you’ll see in the screenshots below, Lukla has clear access to both approaches and lacks the extreme drop-off at the end of runway 06 that it’s known for. The Himalayas lack the visual punch this mountain range has, and in general are a series of high yet somewhat gentle curves with only a few managing to reach into the sky with a spiky mountain peak.
If you fly through the area you may also note the roads crisscrossing the mountains. I’m sure these would be incredibly popular, sadly for those who can’t afford a plane ticket they don’t actually exist in the real world as the only way to Lukla other than by plane or helicopter is an eight day walk.
Terrain, Landclass & Photoreal Scenery
The foundation of this package is its mesh and landclass. The area covered by these is a large rectangle that starts just south of Phablu in the lower left corner and extends to finish just north and east of Mt Everest. The Photoreal areas are small and limited to Lukla Village and Mt Everest itself, with the textures used being around 5m/pixel (5 meters equals 1 pixel). This certainly enhances both these areas, with Mt Everest looking particularly impressive as the screenshots show.
While the exact resolution of the mesh in LuklaX is unstated, Aerosoft recommend setting your terrain mesh settings to 19m which suggests it’s around the 20m mark. When installed, the region is transformed; so to try and compare between the default mesh and what you see in LuklaX is like comparing night and day.
By itself the mesh component of this scenery would be worth it alone, this area of the Himalayas is rich with small lakes, famous peaks and deep valleys which the mesh brings to life in great detail. Flying through and around them gives you a real appreciation for their size, and makes exploring lots of fun. Because the photoreal areas are small, improved landclass has been included to enhance the region. This covers rivers, mountains, wooded and forested areas, as well as the icy upper areas that never thaw. This certainly is a huge improvement over the original and ensures things such as roads, which I mentioned earlier, are removed.
After installing LuklaX, I decided to fly into the area using the Otter and thus view the scenery as it appeared rather than start a flight at the airport. An important note here, if you haven’t upgraded to SP2 then you will have to load Lukla from a saved flight provided. SP2 and Acceleration owners can select the airport in the normal way.
The photoreal area Lukla village covers became apparent at about 10 miles. Upon first sight I did note the photoreal textures seemed quite blurry but this improved the closer I got, and I noted a similar effect approaching Everest. One of the things that did strike me as I started preparing for my approach, was this airport really is up against the mountain. If I had to abort or go around I wasn’t going to have a lot of room, if any, to complete such a maneuver. The documentation does warn you about this, but it’s not until you see it that you fully understand the challenge this airfield presents.
On final, I noted what appeared to be a large rock sticking out of the runway at the far end, a quick pause and inspection of the scenery settings showed that the Lukla LC files were sitting below the scenery itself in my scenery list. I swapped these around and it seemed to correct this issue. I noted this happened again after installing some other scenery, so I found I had to make sure all the Lukla scenery was at the top of my scenery list with the land class number being "1".
This appears to be a problem beyond Aerosoft’s ability to control, and while it's annoying, the fix is easy and given we are dealing with a unique runway, is not a big issue if you know how to deal with it. For less seasoned simmers this may be a problem.
I made my approach into Lukla and was reasonably satisfied with my first landing there, i.e. I didn’t crash. The time I invested on reading the manual clearly paid dividends. With the flurry of activity associated with my landing now behind me, I had my first close up look at Lukla Airport and the village itself.
The terminal facilities sit at the far end of the ramp area with various scenery items such as freight, people and another aircraft sitting on the ramp with you, all adding atmosphere and detail. The control tower is located on the other side of the runway as is the rest of Lukla village that lines the walking track that heads further up the mountains. You’ll find plenty of tents and brightly colored flags adorning the area, and I also noted an old aircraft fuselage further down the runway where an earlier flight had come to grief. From the ramp, the angle of the runway becomes more obvious and with a solid stone wall at the very end of runway 24, the unique nature of this airport becomes even more apparent.
All the buildings use what appear to be photo textures and provide suitable enough detail. The village, and in fact all buildings throughout the scenery, use purpose built autogen with textures more fitting the construction types for the region. I was a little disappointed with the textures overall. FSX features such as spec mapping had not been included and I actually queried to confirm I actually had the FSX version because the scenery had a distinct FS2004 feel about it. I was advised that it was indeed the FSX version.
So if you are looking for scenery that has reflective runway surfaces in the wet or sunlight off the glass, which is the norm with FSX default scenery, you won’t find these features in LuklaX. Looking through the texture folders it seems the reason behind this is because Aerosoft have endeavored to maximize performance as all the textures are DXT1 bitmaps. I appreciate it’s a juggling act between performance and look, I just feel spec mapping etc is an expected norm in FSX scenery to some degree, so I was disappointed it isn’t a feature of this scenery.
Mt Everest & Surrounds
In my view, the show stealer of LuklaX is Mt Everest. Standing at just over 29,000 feet, Everest begins to dominate the skyline the higher you go. Starting at base camp, Mt Everest features its own photoreal textures that covers the mountain area down to base camp and around the mountains base with various scenery items that add detail and make exploring worthwhile.
The glory of the mesh, yes glory is the way to describe it and I don’t use that loosely, comes to the fore with dramatic slopes and peaks. Sitting at base camp looking up, I couldn’t fail to be impressed. At this altitude exploring Everest is a challenge, as you won’t get a helicopter past Base Camp, but however you choose to do it, the trek to the top is worth it.
One of the things I really like about LuklaX is the scope of what’s been included, it's Easter Egg heaven if you choose to explore. It’s not just an airport and a mountain; it’s what lies between them that can be found along the way that adds depth to the experience. The large number of scenery objects that have been placed throughout the area such as, special research stations and Buddhist Monasteries, are in the locations you would expect to find them. To assist with this, Aerosoft have included a Google Earth file. Unfortunately, nothing in any of the documents told me it existed. Once loaded into Google Earth, the area covered by the mesh and landclass files is highlighted, as are the special interest points.
Along with Lukla, two other airports are also included. Phaplu is a small strip south of Lukla that is operated by the military. It’s a simple strip on a hill with some FSX default scenery items added for detail; this is the lowest of the three airports in the area. Next is Lukla and beyond that is Syngboche, another basic airstrip at around 12,000 feet that sits around halfway from Lukla and Base camp.
Missions & Performance
Aerosoft has released two missions to compliment their LuklaX package which are available as a free download on the Aerosoft website via your account page. The missions allow you to fly either the Cessna C208B, or if you have it, the Yeti Airlines Twin Otter. This underscores that Aerosoft sees LuklaX and the Twotter as complimenting each other, which they do.
The first mission is simple enough, complete a successful approach and landing at Lukla, park and then you have a choice on further flying options. The second is a search and rescue mission that sees you having to fly high up into the mountains; weather and visibility add complications and when Lukla is closed due to cloud, your options are somewhat limited. While fairly basic and quick to complete, both missions use various voice talents and are well constructed with appropriate activation points for the various activities you are required to undertake. You also get a couple of new rewards you can gloat over to your mates about.
In general, neither the mesh or Photoreal aspects of LuklaX should cause too many issues, once again make sure your system meets the specs or expect problems. I think the FSX community has matured sufficiently now to know how to get the most from their systems, so Lukla is no different in regards of having to work within your own PC’s limitations. But that applies to every FSX add-on, just as it did in the days when I flew in FS2004. Having said that, because the photoreal areas are quite small and the scenery doesn’t use spec mapping etc, I didn’t notice any drain on the system or drops in performance unless I made very quick turns and it looked like the system was slowing down as it caught up.
Singularly, both packages bring enough to FSX to make them worthwhile, but put them together and you have something quite unique.
There is no doubt LuklaX adds a level of detail to the region it covers that leaves the default FSX scenery in its dust. Flying in and out of Lukla brings with it enough challenge to make this a region you are likely to want to fly around in for some time. I didn’t talk a lot about high altitude flying, but it’s something you need to come to grips with to operate effectively in this region. It’s a different type of flying as the aircraft is sluggish and slower, so it brings a different feel and requires a different approach than simply flying in and out of KLAX or NZWN.
The detail levels at Lukla Airport are good, and the photoreal base adds to that detail, I do wish the photoreal textures were higher, however. This also applies to Mt Everest, which is the real centerpiece of this scenery package, in my opinion. The mesh area and improved landclass covers a good area so exploring the region, mixed with high altitude flying, makes for a unique experience that will test all virtual aviators and keep you busy for some time.
The DHC-6-100/300 Twin Otter is the best twin engine prop I have flown to date. Aerosoft has captured the aircraft's shape well, packed it full of details and wrapped it in flight models that seem to be very realistic. The quality on all aspects of the visual model show a real dedication to this aircraft. The fact different interiors and types, such as floats and skis, have been included adds real value to the product.
The VC and panel in general is excellent and provides depth and detail that will keep budding Twin Otter pilots, and experienced ones, busy with a well developed and presented package. Add to this the support forum available for both packages on the Aerosoft website, and the ongoing development of both the Otter and Lukla, there is little to complain about. I can certainly recommend both packages, the Otter in particular, if you are looking for a highly functional and realistic Twin prop.
What I Like About Lukla X and Twin Otter X
What I Don't Like About Lukla X and Twin Otter X
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