AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Review

Aerosoft - The Islands of Malta

Product Information
Publisher: Aerosoft
Description:  Scenery add-on covering the islands of Malta and Gozo
Download Size:
30 MB
Format:
Downloadable Self Installer
Simulation Type:
FS 2004 only
Reviewed by: Gavin Hendrie AVSIM Staff Reviewer - 11 June 2006

Introduction

The Republic of Malta is an archipelago of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. It is situated in the centre of the Mediterranean; (58 miles from Sicily, 180 miles from Libya) it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974. British forces left Malta in 1979. In the 1970s and 1980s, the then Labour government, led by Dom Mintoff, forged links with the Soviet Union, North Korea and Libya. The Nationalist Party’s election victory in 1987 saw a new emphasis on EU membership, however Malta’s neutrality remains enshrined in the Constitution.

There are temples on Malta that date from 3800 BC and The Phoenicians colonised the islands around 800 BC. The Romans made Malta part of their empire in 218 BC. St Paul was shipwrecked on Malta in AD 60, and converted the Maltese people to Christianity. Malta was under Arab rule in the 9th and 10th centuries which strengthened the Semitic roots of the Maltese language. In 1530, the Emperor of Spain gave Malta to the Knights of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem. They survived a three-month siege by the Turks in 1565 and governed until 1798 when Malta fell to Napoleon.

In 1800, the Maltese expelled the French with the assistance of the British Royal Navy. In 1814, Malta became a British colony and became an important naval base, being strategically placed between Europe and North Africa. During World War Two, it was subjected to a long blockade and five months of bombing raids by the Axis powers. Malta was devastated but did not surrender. In 1942 the island of Malta was awarded the George Cross: a unique tribute to Malta's fortitude.

Despite having been a popular tourist destination in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea for some time now, I think this is the first time a commercial version of Malta and in particular of Luqa airport has been made. Indeed, if you visit the Luqa airport website, you’ll find you can download a freeware version directly from their site! Developed by Sim-wings and Cornel Grigoriu, with landclass and the stunning coastline designed by Rainer Duda, this package has now been published by Aerosoft.

Test System

Pentium 4 3.0Ghz 800MHz FSB
1024Mb DDR RAM
GeForce 6200 256 Mb
1280 x 1024 resolution on a 17” TFT

Flying Time:
12.5 hours

Installation and Documentation

Installation is no more difficult than any other downloaded self installer. Other than the fact you must be connected to the internet to enable the serial number to be confirmed, you merely point it in the general direction of your FS9 folder.

There is, however, one exception that I noticed quite late in the process when I was asked if I wanted to keep the default grass textures for around the airport or install new ones. I opted for the new ones, but to be honest, I had no sight of what they looked like and no indication of the effect they would have (if indeed any) on the beloved frame rates. Perhaps Aerosoft could have installed some kind of options interface much like Gary Summons has done on his recent Gatwick scenery?

The documentation that comes with the install is limited to a 13 page manual which opens with Cornel telling us how he visited the Islands in November 2005 and found them to be so beautiful that he wanted to recreate them for the wider FS community. A noble gesture indeed. The installation process is explained, which, given that the package has already been installed by the time you read it, I thought was slightly odd. Backup scenery cfg’s and other files are made, should you wish to remove the package.

The location and frequencies of various navaids and how to open the doors on the two main hangars at Luqa are included as is the location of two heliports; one at Valetta, the other on Gozo. The manual rounds off with a history of the islands and of the airport itself.

The Scenery

So what’s it all about then I hear you all cry? Given that the islands are a mere 316 square km, I felt that little attention had been paid to the islands as a whole. The airport has been given a lot of attention as you’d expect, with some of the towns and cities being populated with numerous custom scenery objects such as shrines, churches, tower blocks and football stadiums (albeit there are two identical ones side by side in Valetta – surely an error).

The docks look good and the terrain mesh is excellent, giving nicely formed sharp cliffs where you’d expect them, and subtle changes in the landscape across the islands As I’ve already said, the islands are quite small and, as I remember it from the time I went there in 1986, quite barren in appearance. In short, other than the airport, docks and towns, the remainder of the island looks very bland. That’s good for frame rates but not so exciting if you fancy doing some VFR flying.

 

There’s only so many times you can fly over the Docks, Valetta and up to Gozo before you get bored. If VFR flying is what you want, you need realistic photographic scenery and this package contains no photo-realistic element. This may not necessarily be within the control of the developers, but they’ve managed it with some of their other products and overall it's a letdown when compared against other commercially available products.

 

So, that leaves us with IFR flying and the numerous scheduled and charter flights that operate in and out of Luqa. Numerous big airlines operate mainly A320 and 737 series aircraft in and out of here but Emirates operate the 777 and A330 on a four times a week schedule between Dubai and Malta via Larnaca in Cyprus. Unfortunately, this package does not come with any charts which makes it difficult to approach and depart Malta with any kind of realism. Don’t expect any help from online ATC if you’re a VATISM or IVAO regular, as I’ve rarely seen LMML staffed. My own personal opinion is that charts should be available as a standard in a commercial add-on.

Having described the surrounding countryside and lack of procedural charts, let’s now examine the airport itself. The airport is a massive improvement on the default version as you can see from the screenshots. The Lufthansa and Air Malta hangars have opening and closing doors, a service bus and numerous vehicles move around the apron and the airport itself and the crane that is being used for building work also swings back and forth automatically.

 

Frame rates around the airport on my system were generally very good, though approaching the airport I have noticed the texture tiles going white and grey before returning to normal. This may be something to do with my particular settings and only happens occasionally and briefly. Indeed in the manual, you are encouraged to set your display settings in a fairly conservative manner in order to accelerate frame rates. As I mentioned, I did not need to do so with my system, which is by no means a super computer, thus the package should operate well on a system meeting the minimum requirements as laid out by Aerosoft.

One thing I did particularly like about the airport is the marshal who guides you into your stand. There are no piers here so aircraft are positioned in a row in front of the terminal building much like your average municipal or regional airport. The marshals actually do give you signals to move left, right and stop, which is a nice touch.

 

Overall the airport is very detailed, given it’s relatively small size and the various textures. Both the airport and the area around Valetta are without question, excellent. Unfortunately, there are no AI or static aircraft, which only adds to the desolate feeling you get when you arrive.

 

Conclusion

Overall, two or three things let this product down in my opinion. Firstly, the overall bland appearance of the island of Malta does little to inspire pilots on approach. Think making a run into Heathrow with London below, or Hong Kong Kai Tak back in the day, Innsbruck etc etc. Basically, there are far more airports in the FS world that I’d rather fly into than Malta and although this scenery pack tries to address this, I’d still rather fly to Santiago, Chile with the Andes all around me or experience bad weather in Anchorage.

I expect that unless you are a resident of Malta, a member of a VA that flies there regularly, or have recently been on a trip to the islands (as per the developer) then I see little reason why you would wish to own this.

Secondly, the lack of documentation seems odd given that as I put the finishing touches to this review, I noticed the boxed version is on sale – with charts! No approach plates or departure procedures means precious little incentive for pilots to make attempts to fly here unless they have sourced their own charts or are merely curious. Either way I feel you’d be unlikely to want to spend nearly 25 Euros to do so.

If you do want charts, it appears Aerosoft would prefer you buy the boxed version for another 5 euros not including postage. And that brings me onto my last negative point. I feel, personally, that you are not getting value for your money with this scenery. Consider the Gatwick scenery I mentioned at the beginning of my conclusion, it is considerably more detailed, contains photorealistic ground textures and both static and dynamic scenery for less than the cost of this. If you are a resident of Malta then this may be of interest to you.

 

What I Like About The Islands of Malta
  • Terrain Mesh
  • Improves an otherwise bland default location
  • Animations, especially the ground marshals

 
What I Don't Like About The Islands of Malta
  • Overpriced
  • No static aircraft
  • No photoscenery element
  • No procedural documentation with download version

Printing

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Malta

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