"From the West a description of the Island of Helgoland reaches me both in terms of the beautiful instances of inorganic an organic nature, the consolidated values of prehistoric life, and in terms of still fresh evidence for the survival and work of the eternal spirit of the age." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. 24th October, 1827.
In English it is called Heligoland. It is generally supposed that it was first named the “Holy Island” from its association with the worship of Forsete. Heligolanders call it simply “the land”.
where is this place anyway? Well, it is about 70 km (40 nM) from the German
mainland; they have their own language, had their own postage stamps, and
have their own tax regime (VAT exempt). The island’s ownership, simplified,
has gone back and forth from Denmark to England to Germany over the past
250 years. It was heavily fortified during both wars, and has even been used
as target practice by the British. There is no up-to-date harbor, only little
piers that cannot accommodate today’s larger sized ships. One mile
long and only a quarter mile wide, there is barely enough room for it’s
six cows and few goats.
There is now a VIDEO, freely available at the Aerosoft site, showcasing the Heligoland product.
The manual suggests the following minimum specs: These are reasonable minimums for FS9 but I would suggest much higher minimums for FSX with at least 1G of RAM.
Installation and Documentation
Installation yields a pleasant looking setup screen where you enter your email address and serial number. The path to FSX was readily found. Installation updates the scenery.cfg file with no need for manual activation of this add-on (a backup scenery.cfg file is made). A start submenu under the name Aerosoft gives access to the manual(s) and an effects activator/deactivator (off by default), which turns on those effects that were deemed responsible for loss of performance when using a lower end computer (rotating beacons, beach campfire, etc…). I would like to add that the English manual is the first manual by Aerosoft I have read that is in perfect English.
The airport, called Duene (EDXH), has very short runways on which you cannot land large “irons”. Parking is at a premium, even for the smaller aircraft that dare to land there. Be forewarned, I departed Hamburg (EDDH) using the Piper Maule Orion, FSX’s beautiful default slow moving single prop.
There are 3 small runways, of concrete surface: 15/33 (the longest), 03/21, and 06/24 (way too small), without lights, no FSS, no working tower although there is one on top of the terminal building, not even a local traffic advisory frequency. There is a VOR, with the ICAO code DHE (116.3), but no NDB nor ILS, so I am inbound to DHE preparing for a visual to runway 33. FSX does not support a weather station at Helgoland, so you’ll be using the mainland’s, probably ETMN.
My installed Ultimate Traffic did not show any AI on this island, you might have to make your own depending on your setup and know how. Maybe Aerosoft could make us some? All parked aircraft seen in my pictures are stationary static objects.
A visual on the oil platform came unexpectedly early, as it is 31 nM from Helgoland, quite close to the mainland (289 radial ‘TO’ DHE brings you to Heligoland, or 071 radial ‘FROM’ DHE brings you to the oilrig platform). The detail is nice, with animated flames and smoke coming from the tower, with the noise effects of an oilrig adding to the realism. I might mention the flame effects impressed me; they were well done.
Indication of the approaching Helgoland island only started at 23 nM inbound, under clear skies with limitless visibility, as barely discernable patches, such that VFR flights are limited. As a matter of fact, in the real world, there are restrictions imposed on pilots filling flight plans to Helgoland. Topographical features become apparent at 14 nm. At 11 nM I am beginning to see small structures and towers on the island.
Frame rates have not been affected much. The manual recommends setting the water effects to max; this will impact the frame rates but the visuals are better. For much better performance, I set the water to high.1.x. At 5 nM out, I can see that all buildings have been graphically rendered (with the zoom at 4 to see them). I suspect that IFR flights are limited as well to higher than usual minimums, since the only way to land is by doing a visual approach.
Upon arrival, all buildings and details are clearly visible, with frame rates surprisingly good. Doing a complete circuit around the islands, there was never the slightest blinking of any object or building. Very well done and quite smooth. I was afraid that the high level of detail would only result in objects flickering on and off, but this is the most stable group of objects I’ve ever experienced in FSX. I wish they would redraw the whole world for FSX (ha ha): but at 25$ US per square mile over the entire land area of the Earth, the price would be more than I’d be able to pay. The level of detail was beyond my expectations, with numerous detailed buildings, structures, and sailboats.
There is local ship traffic that follows a regular schedule based on real life schedules: Funny Girl, Witte Kliff, and the frigates. There are also many AI-ships made to populate the area's shipping lanes with oil tankers and cruise ships depending on the settings in FSX. I tried landing on the back of the frigate, it was very difficult but I did finally succeed after 8 attempts. The frigate object accommodated a full stop and I parked on the landing deck.
Local sounds are cleverly imitated, enhancing the general atmosphere of a seashore resort. When at the airport, you will hear the waves crashing on the nearby beaches along with the sounds of seagulls and the church bell from the main island. Local ships and boats make engine sounds and the oilrig’s flame roars.
One way Aerosoft helps you tour the island is using the supplied mission called “Helgoland Tour”. In this mission an accompanying tour guide talks you around the island, pointing out the various highlights just like a tour operator would do. Very helpful in getting to know the various aspects of this island: the frigate, the piers, the heliport, the lighthouse, and that popular rock extrusion known as “Lange Anna”. At the end of this mission you are expected to land on runway 21. This runway has an obstacle: a sand dune just before touchdown, about 5 feet in height. I managed to land there safely but only after a third try. Runway 33 is much easier, and longer.
The second mission, called “Helgoland SAR Oilrig” is a harder challenge where you are sent to rescue an injured worker on the oilrig Mittelplate (EM08) using a Bell 206 under difficult weather conditions. A real challenge indeed, as I had to practice my helicopter skills before even attempting to complete this one. The weather is really nasty and the wind veers left and right, with the rain effects and reduced visibility adding to a disorienting flight. I will not say how many times I had to re-start that mission, suffice it to say, that I am still tryin (and is the reason why I only have one picture for that mission). Of course, this is good, making for a challenging mission.
There are only two missions categorized under ‘Aerosoft Flights’ (at the end of the listings) for the moment, with a promise of more to come.
As I have succumbed to being an FSX simmer, I only check out the FS9 version of a product when the developer supplies both. I make this short review section available without having tested the product in FS9 as extensively as I did for the FSX version.
Aerosoft also makes Heligoland (EDX2 in FS9) available for FS2004, but without many of the features that the FSX version has. Installation is similar to the above except that it did not find my FS9 installation properly and I had to direct it. The scenery.cfg file is updated (and a backup made), so you do not have to do this manually, the database will be updated as soon as you open FS9 again.
Photorealism is of the same high quality, with most details the same as in FSX. Although the mesh is less detailed, I didn't notice much difference. The airport is exactly the same, but without any animations. The manual does not specify optimum graphics settings for FS9, but I always maxed everything out anyway, as opposed to FSX where the settings are more case-sensitive.
Frame rates were, as expected, much higher than in FSX (40+ as opposed to 16- avg.). It was very smooth and there are were no stutters, nor do the buildings flash on/off, the entire scenery remained constantly in focus. As with the FSX version, the product is of the high quality that Aerosoft is well known for. The ship ‘Funny Girl’ was there, as was the shuttle ‘Mitte’ and the frigate, but they do not follow routes or schedules; they are static objects. Also, FS9 does not support missions; otherwise it is identical to what FSX delivers.
Summary / Closing Remarks
Not once did I get the blurries. Frame rates were always higher than elsewhere in FSX where detailed scenery is present, and it was smoother with stutters being almost absent. For those with low-end computers, a slider setting of normal for the scenery complexity reduces the number of drawn objects to about half, such that it is still enjoyable.
The missions, although only two in number, were appropriate for becoming familiar with the area. I'm anticipating more missions later from the developers. There is mention in the manual’s FAQ section as to why there is no ATC, but I wonder if this includes traffic advisory frequencies. It is a limitation imposed by FSX until a patch from ACES fixes some of these impositions. Although winter textures were possible to make, they were not included in the product because Heligoland rarely experiences winter conditions.
If this product is any indication as to the quality we can expect from Aerosoft’s upcoming small but detailed scenery packages for Monaco, Aspen, and others, they will be indeed worth looking into.
In closing, let me say I will continue using Heligoland for my own amusement. I spent more time flying around there than I needed to for review purposes, doing circuits around the island and touch and go’s on runway 33 for the shear pleasure of it. Its visual isolation from any adjacent bland default land textures in FSX allows you to totally immerse yourself in the illusion of realism. Aerosoft has done a magnificent job on this small island, and I dare say they achieved the highest level of realism available to date in FSX.
If you like a half hour flight of distraction once in a while, this scenery is ideal for you: no fuss, total realism immersion, and it always delivers a high level of satisfaction without the necessity of long flights with generic default terrain in between airports. Repeated visits do not bore me, and I will be using this add-on a lot.
I really don’t think this is a just product you will use once, think it’s cute, and then move on and never return. Myself, I will use it again and again when I want a short satisfying realistic VFR flight.
What I Like About Helgoland
What I Don't Like About Helgoland
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