AVSIM Commercial FS9/FSX

Scenery/Utility Review

Obstacles & Landmarks VFR

Product Information

Publishers: France VFR

Description: Scenery utility add-on.

Download Size:
70 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Rick Desjardins AVSIM Staff Reviewer - May 10, 2011

Introduction

This scenery package adds obstacles and landmarks to the entire country of France with the intention of augmenting VFR navigation. Whether you are running FSX in its native set up or have installed other scenery add-ons, this will still greatly augment what you currently see.  The product is available for both FS2004 and FSX, however my review is of the FSX version.

I'd like to begin by quoting from the description and features paragraphs of the product's manual.

"Obstacles and Landmarks VFR – FRANCE is an add-on for the Microsoft® Flight Simulator® covering the entire French territory by adding to the initial scenery more than 500 000 objects including the totality of objects listed by the SIA (French Aeronautical Service Information) that have been geo-referenced and qualified.

The ambition of this product is to provide a true benchmark of obstacles and landmarks for VFR simulated navigation."

The list below is also from the developer's site.

More than 3500 official obstacles listed by the SIA:

  + 1 000 Radio masts and towers, telecommunication pylons
  + 1 000 Telecommunication relays and radio link tours
  + 200 Air-cooling tours and industrial chimneys and flares
  + 500 Water-towers
  + Lighthouses
  + Churches
  + Bridges and Viaducts
  + Nuclear and Heat Plants

Details and types of landmarks included:

  + 350 000 high-voltage electrical transmission line towers with bi-coloured mark-balls on the lines close to the airports
  + 3000 high-voltage transmission substations
  + 2800 Windmills
  + 45 000 churches, cathedrals, basilicas
  + 10 000 Water towers
  + 5 000 silos for agricultural storage
  + 11 000 industrial reservoirs
  + 11 000 antennas

Test System

Intel i7 950 OC @ 4.2 Ghz
6 Gb RAM
ASUS 480GTX w/1.5Gb video
Win 7 Ultimate 64
FSX w/acceleration
Ultimate traffic 2
REX Overdrive
UTX Europe
GEXn
AES 2.10

Flying Time:
18 hours

Installation

The installation of the product is quick and simple.  I was asked to choose my preferred language and then to provide my product serial number. The installer then went on to install the product in FSX and as the final step added two entries to the FSX scenery library.
 
\addon scenery\Obstacles et Reperes VFR - France - Generic 
\addon scenery\Obstacles et Reperes VFR - France - Real

Documentation

The package comes with a brief three page PDF document consisting primarily of generalized product information with some specifics.  Here are a few highlights; they state that the product is compatible with all types of add-ons however it should be placed above "photo" and "landclass" but below specific local sceneries and that the scenery complexity slider should be set to at least "normal".

An interesting point is also made in the paragraph called "advanced users" they mention that explicit names are given to object placement files and each class of objects is split into regional files allowing you to disable parts of the product depending on your needs.

The main support forum is French however there is an English sub forum available.

Scenery

When I reviewed this product there were two aspects of it I wanted to look at. The first was to see how the addition of these objects and landmarks improved VFR navigation when used in conjunction with VFR charts and secondly what did all these objects and landmarks do for the visual enhancement of the scenery when combined with photo and non photo ground textures.

Let me state at the outset of my review that the sheer number of objects, the variety and the accuracy of there placement on the landscape are very impressive.

Using this product as an aid for VFR navigation is one of its main features.  To put the product to the test I used VFR charts for approximately 25 different airports spread throughout France and compared the charts and the simming landscape before and after this product was installed.

I was never big on VFR navigation using charts; VFR flying for me typically consisted of flying at lower altitudes in GA aircraft at relatively slow speeds but never really using landmarks as a tool for navigation.

The first thing I wanted to do was to see how easy it was going to be to recognize and identify objects on the ground with those that appeared on the charts. If I could do that then I would be able to use them as navigational aids. Typically the more common objects I was looking for were transmission towers, water towers, silos and power lines.

To make this comparison I would take off from an airport, fly around the area covered by the chart and look for the objects or landmarks matching what I saw on the ground with what appeared on the charts. Prior to installing the product most of these navigational obstacles or landmarks were non existent in the scenery which made trying to navigate using visual clues very difficult and unrealistic. After the installation I was blown away by the difference it made.

In areas covered with photo real ground textures, navigation using these charts had been possible to some degree, however now with the additional landmarks and objects added to the landscape, identifying my location was that much simpler.  Everything fit into place according to the ground base and I could easily match what was on the charts with what I saw from the air.

Using the charts I was able to identify the objects that had up to now been absent from the landscape and use them to assist me in situational awareness and for navigation.  Needless to say I was very pleased with the outcome. The addition of this product made a significant positive difference in every one of my flights.

Before installing this package, trying to navigate using charts in areas covered by non photo ground textures was extremely difficult. There were very few accurately placed objects that I could make a direct association to for navigational purposes with the exception of the airports themselves and some roadways.

All that changed substantially after the installation of this product. The difficult part was often trying to match the objects on the charts with those on the ground because the base textures were not a true representation of the area. Once I was able to get past that initial hurdle I was good to go and using the additional landmarks for navigation went well and I was now able to use the charts to a much greater degree.

Regardless of the type of ground base textures, I found the use of VFR charts a necessary component to fully appreciate what the product added.

I am fortunate enough to have installed on my system the Nord Pas de Calais, Bretagne and Alsace regions from FranceVFR. Let me say that the Obstacles and Landmarks VFR add-on makes the perfect complementary product.

One of the most important features is that all objects are precisely placed and geo-referenced. A necessary attribute if you are going to be using them as a navigational tool. As I mentioned previously it did not take long to see just how accurately everything was positioned. Power lines and transmission towers are the perfect example; before I installed the package what I saw quite often were shadows being cast on the ground where towers existed in reality but none appeared in the scenery.

High voltage transmission towers match ground shadows

After installing the add-on all of these power lines and towers were there and they were lined up perfectly so the object/shadow combination gave it a real 3-dimensional look.

How does this augment what is already visible? Again I will use the power lines as an example; I isolated several power plants that had been included with the photo scenery add-ons and noticed that the number of power lines or transmission towers was minimal.

After installing this package you basically had the entire power distribution system. Flying overhead it was impressive to see the long runs of power lines throughout the countryside.

The same can be said about some of the other types of objects added; many of them were non existent prior to this installation. Now in every little village you could see a church along with water towers and silos dotting the rural landscapes.

As you can see by the list in the introduction, they do include quite a variety of object types; some were easy to spot others not so easy. Unless you knew where to look it was often difficult to identify what was installed by the package.

For some of the more distinguishable objects, such as bridges and large power plants, if you log into FranceVFR’s forum they do provide several kml files that can be used in conjunction with Google Earth to highlight the locations of these object types. The inclusion of a map highlighting these would have been a great help.

Agriculture silos
Church
Church in photo scenery with no autogen
High voltage towers
High voltage towers and radio tower
Industrial site
Power lines
Power plant
Soke stacks and flares

For all other regions of France, my scenery base consisted of UTX Europe and GEXn Europe which are non photo scenery textures. I quickly became aware of a major problem; on a purely visual level it was the issue of object placement. Without having a photo scenery base, the chances that these objects would line up perfectly with the underlying textures were quite slim and coincidental at best. Whether or not you see this as a problem would depend on how you intended to use the add-on.

Looking at it from the perspective of visual enhancement the results were questionable. As far as adding objects that enhance the landscape for navigational purposes, there is no doubt that this package was a huge plus.

The problem is that from a visual standpoint in most cases objects didn't line up with the underlying textures and in some cases along the coast they weren't even on land. Having said this, it is not the fault of the developers that this happens however it does happen and it could be a problem for those users who are looking at purchasing this as a visual enhancement product.

Industrial tanks
Power station
What can happen when objects are precisely placed and the base is not photo real.

If you are not happy with how some objects appear out of place it is possible to disable them based on the region.  You would simply rename the appropriate bgl file found in the “\addon scenery\Obstacles et Reperes VFR - France – Real” directory.

Although it was clearly evident that in many cases they did not line up with the ground textures I never ran into any situations where it interfered with any airport operations; so based on that, I never saw a need to take the step of disabling anything.

Tower
Tower, flares and smoke stracks
Bridge
Power lines
Power plant
Transmission tower
Water tower
Windturbines

Summary

This product is best suited for those sim pilots who are interested in VFR flying. They will truly appreciate what this package has to offer. I believe that this package accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to provide a benchmark of obstacles and landmarks for VFR simulated navigation.

If you are looking for a product that will enhance your visual flying experience it also does that, especially when it is combined with a photo scenery base.

If you are the type of sim pilot that spends all their time in the cockpit of a jetliner this add on will probably have little or no value to you.

 

What I Like About Obstacles & Landmarks

  • Brings a whole new dimension to VFR navigation with the inclusion of so many additional accurately placed objects.
  • Greatly enhances the ability to use VFR charts for navigational purposes.
  • Adds so much to the visual landscape when combined with a photo scenery base.

 

What I Don't Like About Obstacles & Landmarks

  • When combined with a non-photo scenery base the visual effect can be less than ideal.

 

Printing

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Obstacles and Landmarks VFR

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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.

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