AVSIM Commercial FSX/FS9 Scenery Review

Honolulu

Product Information

Publishers:  FSDreamTeam

Description: Scenery add-on .

Download Size:
73.6 MB (FSX) 59.6 MB (FS9)

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX / FS9
Reviewed by: Rick Desjardins AVSIM Staff Reviewer - March 30, 2010

Introduction

Honolulu International Airport, (PHNL), is the primary airport for the City of Honolulu and the State of Hawaii and additionally shares its facilities with Hickam Air Force Base.

Originally opened in 1927 as John Rodgers Airport, it was the first full airport in Hawaii. Situated next to Pearl Harbour it saw all of its civilian flights grounded and the airfield taken over by the military after the attack by the Japanese; it was subsequently renamed Naval Air Station Honolulu. During this time period, the Navy built a control tower and terminal building and eventually allowed some commercial aircraft traffic during daylight hours.

In 1946 the airport was returned to the territory of Hawaii and saw its name changed to Honolulu Airport in 1947. Then in 1951 the word International was added. With its location being almost at the midpoint of the Pacific Ocean, for many years it was a regular stop over for transpacific flights to and from North America. However with the advent of ultra long range passenger aircraft, many flights now bypass the airport. The flip side to this has been an upswing in the number of domestic flights as they are now able to add flights between such locations as Newark and Phoenix.

It has four active runways including 8R/26L which is known as the reef runway, it was the world's first runway built entirely offshore. This runway is also designated as an alternate landing site for NASA's space shuttle.

One of the busiest airports in the US, it currently sees in excess of 21 million passengers per year go through its facilities with that number continuing to grow.

Installation

Test System

Intel i7 920
6 Gig DDR 3 Ram
BFG 8800 GT Graphics
WinXP 64
FSX SP2

Flying Time:
25 hours

The installation routine for Honolulu is simple but does require an active internet connection. When you first begin, it connects to the host website and downloads some additional files; once that's done it goes on to complete the installation process. All of this requires no intervention on your part.

The final part of the installation routine takes place the next time you start your flight simulator.

When you start FSX again, you will be presented with two security warnings, one for the "Couatl scripting engine for FSX" and the other for the "Add-on manager for FSX” you need to designate both as trusted. When you have done this and the simulator has finished loading the scenery, it will be fully activated. The scenery gets added to the scenery library automatically.

When you open your flight simulator you will see that when you go to the menu bar under "Add-ons" you have two new entries, "Couatl" and "Add-on manager". The Couatl entry brings up a screen whereby you can choose your key settings to bring up the ParkMe and YouControl features.

The Add-on entry brings up the Add-on manager where you have access to a number of different items such as creating a backup RegKey, opening up the manual or going to the developer's website. In addition, it is here that you will find a number of different sliders to optimize scenery settings.

I did play with these and found no noticeable differences in my scenery performance whether they were hard left, right or default. The exception to this was with the anti-popup slider. Before the introduction of this, I was noticing that some of the vehicles would only pop into view when I was almost on top of them. I would see black spots dotting the parking areas where the vehicles would eventually appear.

Of note, when you make changes to any of the sliders you must exit and restart FSX for these changes to take affect. There is no explanation anywhere as to how to use these or exactly what they affect. It is my feeling that the importance of these sliders would be more evident with lower end machines.

Documentation

The scenery package includes two PDF manuals; an 18 page installation guide and a 32 page scenery manual.

The installation guide is a generic document that actually pertains to all of the products that FSDreamteam have released or are responsible for. The bulk of the handout, 12 pages, is all about the processes to buy and activate your scenery via the Esselerate e-commerce system. The first section of this is How to Buy if you had installed the trial version where they go through the scenario step by step as if you were purchasing their Zurich X package.

They include screenshots and any differences based on the simulator version. You are shown where to access the Add-on Manager and how to perform a purchase and activation process on line. This process is valid for a number of different vendors and products as you will see once you are in it.

After going through the purchase routine the next few pages deal with reinstallation and activation of your product, this is something that most people will have to deal with at some point. Once again they take you through a variety of situations such as reinstallation after having reinstalled your OS or made hardware changes. The last part of this section is "How to Buy" and activate the product but is specific to the FsDreamteam website, here again it is all explained with included screenshots.

The final three pages are all about trouble shooting issues that may arise with the Add-on Manager and once again they have broken this down to FSX and FS9 specific sections.

The second document is the scenery manual, although it states that it is for both versions of flight simulator this can only really be said about the first couple of pages as well as the charts and diagrams. The bulk of the content is all about the features specific to the FSX version.

The first few pages contain a brief description of the system requirements, technical support, installation, trial options and finally purchase activation and reinstallation.

The remainder of this portion of the manual is FSX specific. They touch on the Add-on Manager and Couatl Engine module activation when you start FSX for the first time after installing the scenery. You need to allow Windows to trust these or you will be asked the same question every time you start FSX.

Addon Manager interface- original Coutl Engine key mapping

After that is a quick description of the animated gates at Honolulu, they are custom gates using the FSX native support for these features.

An added element with this software is the Couatl engine module. It is described as an external executable module based on the Python programming language. What it essentially does is allow for greater interaction between the user and FSX. In this case you have the additional ParkMe and YouControl functionality.

The first one described is the ParkMe feature, again available in FSX only. They describe in detail how to activate this feature, again with screenshots. Pressing Ctrl+Shift+P brings up an on screen menu where you can pick the gate you wish to park at. What this does is clear the gate for you.

The second part of this is the docking system and in my opinion it's the best part of this feature. It is based on the real world RLG GIS204-3 docking system developed to allow for precision nose in docking for loading gates. The simulator version works just like its real world counterpart. As you enter the parking area your aircraft type, if recognized, is shown on the led display. Through the aid of this same digital readout, coloured lights and vertical bars guide you to your exact parking spot within a tolerance of +/- 3 inches. Again as with everything else in the manual, they make good use of screenshots and diagrams to explain the feature. They provide a list of the aircraft types currently supported; most of the more popular commercial aircraft are listed.

The second enhancement is the YouControl feature, by pressing Ctrl+F12 you get an on screen menu that allows you to open or close any of six different hanger doors. There are two civilian and four military hangers to choose from.

They state that with both of these features there is the possibility of adding new and expanded functionality with future scenery releases or updates.

The final 21 pages of the scenery manual have most of the airport charts you would need. They have provided the airport diagram, approach charts, departure charts, arrival charts, take-off procedures and departure minimums information. The only document lacking is a parking guide. This would have come in real handy especially with the ParkMe feature.

Changes with update 1.03

Addon Manager interface - after 1.03 update

During these last few weeks while I've been flying the scenery for this review there have been two patch updates that have come out that rectify a number of issues. I found that the majority of any concerns I did have were addressed by these two updates.

The following is taken form the FsDreamteam website forum; it is the list of fixes for this update.

Scenery

- Fixed flickering ground lines in the Interisland terminal area
- Some signs for Rwy 4L corrected.
- Fixed some 3d Cars that where hanging above ground
- Several texture improvements and general fixes
- 3d Taxi lights lamp stands are no more yellow at night
- RLG docking system raised to a more correct height
- Added the Aloha AIR Cargo sign on the Interisland Hangar
- Lots of AFCAD parking improvements: many GA and Military parkings have been added
- Better exclude areas, to improve compatibility with GEX and Megascenery

Update 1.0.3

- Added 3D Approach lights
- Added APCH taxi sign for Rwy 4L

- Custom very hires mesh (4.75 m/pixel) included, in order to prevent any possible problems with 3rd party meshes, like FS Genesis or FS Global 2010. It's suggested to keep the two mesh-related sliders in the FSX Graphic Settings to the maximum value of 100.

Add-on Manager

- Anti pop-up slider can go up to 30, in order to control visibility range for all objects in FSDT sceneries (this applies to every FSDT scenery). Higher settings will reduce visual pop-ups and loading pauses, at a cost of some fps loss.
- New option to turn on/off the optimization that cut-off objects based on plane altitude that can be set independently from the Anti-popup slider.

Scenery

This scenery is the complete Honolulu airport complex so you get both the civilian airport, PHNL Honolulu International which includes the main terminal building plus the cargo areas and the Hickam Air Force Base.

Area north of Hickam Air Force Base - photoscenery with no 3D objects and boundary with surrounding default scenery Scenery boundary area north of airfield - photoscenery without 3d objects Scenery boundary area north of airfield - C-17s parked at Hickam Air Base

Overall the airport looks good and is well done. Lots of details in the buildings and ground textures. The scenery consists of photo textures with 3D objects placed on top. This works well and gives a nice realistic touch but when you have areas where the photo scenery is visible without the addition of 3D objects, the look is less than ideal.

When taking off or landing in commercial aircraft you tend to be busy in the cockpit and don't have a lot of time to sightsee, so this is not really noticeable but flying around at a low altitude in an aircraft such as a Cessna you can’t help but notice, especially immediately north and east of the airport where this scenery meets up with the default scenery. Here you have a strip of photo scenery that is essentially flat.

I was disappointed, had they inserted a few buildings it would have minimized the disparity between this add-on and the surrounding default scenery.

Apart from this small area I must say the scenery developers have done a great job in adding details and they have added lots of them. As you can see in some of the screenshots flying overhead there is no lack of objects. Cars fill the various car parks both on the ground and on the roof top parking areas. There is an abundance of airport vehicles and they come in every variety you’d expect to see, you also have cargo containers, blast walls and fencing.

The buildings, of which there are lots, look really good. They've included many different structures throughout, you see hardened aircraft shelters, open bays, military and civilian hangers; some of which the doors can be opened via the YouControl feature. With the doors open you get to see the insides which are fully modeled with the rafters, supports, etc.

Flying over tank farm. Note the photo textures with 3D objects accurately placed on top Lots of additional aircraft parking with the updated AFCAD - Civilian aircraft mixed in with military aircraft not so realistic Cargo area - lots of nice details
Cargo area - lots of nice details Another example of detail included Over main terminal building - lots of details visible

The runways and markings are crisp; the colours are not over emphasized and appear realistic with a weathered tone.

There is moving traffic on the highways north of the airport as well as the apron and aircraft parking areas. However for the roads leading in and out of the main civilian terminal building they have placed static cars in various locations; because they don't move they look out of place when compared to the moving traffic on the adjacent roadways. The exception to this is the Wiki Wiki Bus that runs in amongst the terminal buildings.

Light stand and airport vehicles Busy airport Waiting for the next aircraft to arrive
Vehicle parking area Jetways Static C-17
VOR DME Main Control Tower Control tower

The YouControl feature is their way of allowing you to open and close certain hanger doors. In many of the scenery packages they get you to dial in a certain NAV frequency to accomplish this but these guys use this feature to do it. The beauty of it is that there is the opportunity to add to the functionality through updates. When using it I found the animations smooth and well done. The only stipulation is that you must be within the perimeter of the airport boundaries which you would normally be anyway.

Main terminal building looking north Main terminal building looking north Interior of one of the military hangers

Trying out the ParkMe was fun. First of all you choose where you wish to park, this is where a parking guide would have been handy especially until you figured out how the spots were allocated. Once you arrive at your chosen gate there is a digital readout that shows your aircraft type. From this point as you slowly move in, you are guided with visual cues to your exact parking spot. This certainly adds to the realism.

YouControl in action - Continental hanger doors opening Approaching ParkMe docking system 747 using the docking system
Stopped in final location 747 parked and in place Some black spots where vehicles will appear

This scenery is not without its glitches however; in addition to my observation about the flat looking landscape just outside of the airport, I did notice a few more things I thought they could have improved upon.

One is with the perimeter fencing. For some reason in a few spots it just stops in the middle of nowhere as if someone forgot to finish adding it in.

Sign typo - Quantas Perimeter fence that stops in the middle of nowhere

Night lighting, with the patches applied, is now more realistic; my only real complaint is that the yellow globes that appear on each light pole seem a bit over done.

Night lighting - Interior lighting in military hangers Night lighting - Hickam Air Force Base
Night lighting around terminal building Night lighting - Cargo terminal area

This latest patch also updated the AFCAD file adding more aircraft parking. Originally I was seeing the odd piggy backing of civilian aircraft on top of the C-17s parked in the military area. With the update that disappeared, but now I am seeing civilian airliners parked in amongst the military aircraft. Not a realistic look.

Summary

I enjoyed the scenery package and found that it added nicely to the Hawaiian experience, providing a very detailed gateway airport to this beautiful part of the world. I found that the details were abundant and well done, with lots of little touches adding to the overall experience.

Hickam Air Force Base Nice textures and runway signage On final Rwy 4R

 

What I Like About Honolulu

  • Quick to respond with updates to address user concerns
  • The YouControl and ParkMe features
  • Lots of details throughout the entire airport
  • Realistic look, good combination of photo scenery and 3D objects

 

What I Don't Like About The Saratoga

  • Perimeter fencing stops abruptly and is not complete
  • Photo scenery north of airport looks flat and unfinished
  • Static cars on main road next to terminal building look odd with moving traffic on adjacent roadways
  • With the updated AFCAD too many civilian aircraft in military parking area
  • Lack of a diagram of parking spots to go along with the ParkMe feature
  • No explanation or mention of Add-on Manager scenery sliders and their functions

 

Printing

If you wish to print this review or read it offline at your leisure,  right click on the link below, and select "save as"

Honolulu

(adobe acrobat required)

Comments?

Standard Disclaimer
The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the product producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment as experienced by the reviewer. This disclaimer is posted here in order to provide you with background information on the reviewer and any presumed connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

Tell A Friend About this Review!

2010 - AVSIM Online
All Rights Reserved