Table of Contents
Introduction - Part II
Installation and documentation
Cross country YSCH-YPEC-YWVA-YMAV
Stretch I - Visiting AeroPelican (YSCH-YPEC)
Stretch II - Night stop at Warnervale (YPEC-YWVA)
Stretch III - Cup of coffee at Avalon (YWVA-YMAV)
This means that everything in between YWVA and Avalon (YMAV) is again a FTX AUBLUE cross country sensation. Not really belonging to this review but still worth looking into and a kind of confirmation of how realistic this scenery is or isn’t! When finally after hours of a blue flight, we reach the northern Melbourne area and along the west side of the Melbourne suburbs we finally see our end destination; Avalon Airport.
Before it's too dark, there is still some time left to make a
walk-around tour of the airport where we're able to see the details
of this tiny international airport. Curious about this VFR flight
and my Avalon experience? Great, just step in and join me on my
What's Aussie without these FTX airports?
The Avalon Airshow 2009
Together with the straightforward installer and informative manual, you've got a lot to look at during the Airshow. Although not really planned in this review, I would like to show you some of what to expect after you've bought YMAV. Once you have YMAV, you're able to explore much more of this tiny airport than just basic buildings etc. Please join me on a virtual trip along the many airplanes.
Summary / Closing Remarks
Introduction - Part II
After part I, which covered the whole Australian continent, a logical step is part II. Via a cross country flight we now check some of the payware airports created by Orbx Simulation systems. The airports covered are YPEC (AeroPelican), YWVA (Warnervale) and YMAV (Avalon). One reason to cover these is that two of them are closely situated next to each other, while the Avalon Airport needs a little longer flight. But still no more than a few "hundred" miles to go. Two other Orbx FTX airports - YMML and YSCH - were already reviewed here at AVSIM, so no need to cover these again. Apart from the payware airports, there’s a bunch of other Australian freeware airports downloadable from the FTX website. Since it's freeware, we’ll leave that like it is, but they’re absolutely worth looking into.
As said before, this part II FTX Aussie discovery will visit three airports of which YWVA and YPEC are situated in the AUGOLD zone and YMAV in the AUBLUE area. Immediately you could ask yourself if there's a need to have the FTX GOLD and/or BLUE sceneries installed. That's up to you and difficult for me to judge.
I own all the FTX Australian area's and thus it's easy for me to say that you need to buy them all but later on we will see it's absolutely worth doing so. I could say you could do it without AUGOLD and/or AUBLUE, but all these packages work effortlessly together and therefore, it's more or less a must buy not only the airports but also the scenery packages. And when looking at my previously published part I FTX discovery review, and know about the FTX ground texture tiles impact, I would say YES, buy it!
Whatever you buy, first enjoy reading this VFR cross country trip, which departs today from YSCH, which is not a part of this review however, since it's a FTX regional airport. Our VFR trip goes along the coast down to YPEC AeroPelican airport, where we need to refuel and to pick up a passenger. From there we make a short hop to YWVA Warnervale which is needed to step over into a little faster and bigger plane, the new native FSX Cessna 172 from Carenado. From here we try to fly the shortest way to YMAV Avalon Airport, near Melbourne area. For sure we will have fun during these hops and looking at how the Orbx team succeeded in creating another FTX masterpiece.
Ok, it seems these are my words but that's not the case. These words are from the Orbx team members but also from many other flight simmers. It's up to me as an AVSIM reviewer to check this statement. So here we go.
Installation and documentation
You've got the FlightSimStore wrapper, followed by the actual installer. It's straightforward, no complicated questions and there's the automatic FSX detection. Before you know, it's done and there is no control panel like we saw with the YMML airport scenery. There's not really a need for this since we're dealing with aerodromes or small national/international airports. One thing is for sure; those are not as complicated as the YMML airport scenery.
Every airport offers a desktop "manual" shortcut and an Orbx folder available via the Start menu. The only available items here are the same manual shortcut, thus there's no uninstaller or whatever. Because of the easy installers, I found it useless to add some screenshots here and therefore it's time to move on to the next chapter; documentation.
Before we continue one really important item; when you own one of the colored FTX packages - AUGOLD | AUBLUE | AURED| AUGREEN - don't forget to download and install the road fix. When you forget this, the cars and trucks are crossing through the airport registration building at AeroPelican. Find the direct download at FTX road link or the forum posting link.
I could discuss all the three manuals but there's not really a need to. In general, they are more or less the same except for data related to the airport itself. When you're dealing with "Quick Reference FSX settings" or "detailed FSX settings", those are all the same irrespective of which airport you buy.
FSX settings and the final performance of your FSX depends on lots of other things but it's very helpful using the suggested settings including AI boats, GA aircrafts and car. When following this advice, which are found in a manual on pages 6 to 11, you will have a smooth flight and if you're PC can handle it, you can of course set those sliders more to the max. Oops, by the way, I was discussing the YPEC AeroPelican manual, which is 17 pages thick and well put together with all the necessary information to get the most out of your GA (General Aviation) experience.
Although not mandatory, it's highly advisable to buy the associated FTX scenery, which for YPEC is AUGOLD. Page 2 gives the user a clear overview of what's covered and this is not only the small GA airport but also the city around it. What I miss and this is not directly related to the manual, is that the Orbx FTX website doesn't offer this particular drawing (see one of the screenshots below). Anyway, this manual is very helpful and there's no control panel as with the YMML Melbourne airport. Ok, YMML is slightly complicated, much bigger with much more complex items. YPEC is, which we will see later, a very simple takeoff/landing strip. Lots of grass, a hangar, a fence and a few houses. More about this and other things later.
These shots are an extraction from the YPEC AeroPelican Airport. Apart of the first left hand shot, the other two are representing the same settings and tips for the other two reviewed airports. The left hand shot shows all the covered areas apart of the airport itself, the middle shot helps the user with suggested settings and the right shot gives the necessary tips to get the best out of your FTX products.
Let's have a quick look what the YWVA Warnervale manual brings. As said before and not strange, the overall manual is very similar to the previous one. This means - I didn't mention this before - there's no table of contents. I know, those manuals are not thick books but a table of contents is always welcome and gives the user a direct overview what's in there and which parts are interesting.
Furthermore you will find some airport information, photoreal scenery coverage and probably the most important pages with the necessary FSX adjustments and tweaks. Those simple things make live very easy. Just follow the pages and you're done. Also for this GA YWVA airfield, there’s no complex control panel like with YMML.
Anything left for the YMAV Avalon? Not really for the manual since all the previously mentioned items are already discussed. We're again dealing here with photoreal airport scenery which extends roughly 50 miles outside the airport fence with a resolution of 60cm/pixel. There is, however, a difference with the other two airports and that's the scheduled flight activity.
YMAV is the second busiest airport of the four around the Melbourne area and thus more "items" can be found at the airport. Not only this, there are regular scheduled passenger flights performed by JetStar Airways and the Australian International Airshow is held here as well, which is by the way, free of charge and downloadable from the FTX website. More about this feature later.
Because of its geographic location, there are two things you could add to this airport scenery. First it's a good idea to set the FSX "Airline AI traffic to 100%" and download and install their free FTX AU traffic package. Although not really belonging here; remember that AI traffic and the high resolution FTX AU aircraft could reduce your FPS dramatically but when you're system can handle it; I can tell you that it looks awesome.
I think this is it. After reading these manuals I can only come to one conclusion; the manuals reflect the same in-depth and comprehensive information as the FTX products although there's no table of contents but that's just a small missing detail.
Cross country YSCH-YPEC-YWVA-YMAV
What's the intention?
I mentioned this already but a little more detailed information is welcome. My plan is to discover the east to southeast coast of Australia or in terms of FTX, the GOLD and BLUE sceneries including the airports YPEC - YWVA - YMAV in that sequence. I'll depart with a rented Cessna 152 from YSCH (Coffs Harbor Airport) and follow the coastline in a southern direction. By the way, if you're interested in our AVSIM Coffs Harbour Airport review, just have a look down there. It's worth a read from my fellow reviewer David Rogers.
For many reasons I've activated the AUGOLD and BLUE FTX sceneries during this cross country trip. It gives you a great overview of how these products integrate into each other. Anyway, while heading south, we make a short stop at AeroPelican airport or I should say airfield or just a small bitumen strip. Don't expect to find a nice restaurant at this location but instead you will find a highly detailed airfield with surrounding area.
After a short rest and refueling, we jump back into our small but lovely baby, heading to the next stop which is close by; Warnervale airfield. We will not fly straight in a southwest direction but instead we will fly around AeroPelican and see what it's offering. I can tell you already, it will be a great experience and because of the high quality, we intend to fly between 500-1000 feet.
After some time flying around the Pelican area, we urgently need to head for YWVA. It's not situated on the coast but nonetheless an interesting place to go. After some circling around in this area and finding the photoreal sceneries, which are implemented here, it's time to land, swap aircraft and take a light meal. We need to do this since the next trip is slightly longer.
The next stretch will be by following the Hume highway. When the aircraft - a Cessna 172 - is fully loaded and refueled to the top, it's time to go since we want to reach Avalon in one day without a hotel stop inbetween. We will see if this turns out as we planned. If there's some times left, we could make a short hop to YMML, but that's for later.
This stretch "III" will be a tough one; it covers a distance of around 650NM, we need to climb to 4000 feet otherwise we got troubles because of the hills and moreover, we must be able to look ahead. As long as the highway is visible it's not really a problem, but along this stretch the Hume highway reduces to a simple two lane road and this could give some nasty moments. Ok, how does it look on the road map? Let's see what we've got.
Stretch I - Visiting AeroPelican (YSCH-YPEC)
It seems we've found our aircraft, a freshly painted Cessna 152II. We've also found the information desk where we can check the latest weather reports although when looking outside, it seems to me that it will be a wonderful day for making this cross country flight and thus having an in-depth check of the Orbx FTX airports. I've done my paper work, filed my flight plan as far as possible and here we go. The external check tells me that it all looks fine; it's fully refueled so nothing keeps me here at Coffs Harbor Airport.
You're ready... great... I'm ready too, so tighten your belt, hold the virtual camera in position and while my flying partner is wrestling with his headset, I'll start the engine and taxi to the assigned runway.
This stretch initially shows the power of the FTX AUGOLD scenery while at the end, when we've past Newcastle, it will show the photoreal sceneries as well as the airport and surrounding area. I still think making this flight from Coffs Harbor along the coast towards YPEC is worth showing you my flight experiences and thus the FTX product. I know, in part I of the FTX discovery, I discussed already all the FTX scenery products, but now it's time to check it for real with the help of an roadmap, which is by the way, available for free download.
Ok, back to our virtual flight. We're ready for takeoff from runway 03, which heads us to the north - not strange - and south of Little Muttonbird Island we make a nice 360 turn before flying to Sawtell. Although we don't discuss Coffs Harbor airport here, you can see very clearly that at the airport and around it they used photoreal material. Not always very visible but the inner water lakes has sandbanks and a beach. When no digital material is used, the beach has one color while with photo material it looks as real as Google Earth shots.
Anyway, we're heading forward or is it downward to our first interesting point; Urunga with its nice water color. We don't have too much time, although the virtual co-pilot can look around and take the necessary pictures. Remember, while flying along the coast all the ground textures are no longer photoreal material, however, it still looks great and following our position on the previous maps is very easy. Ok, passing Nambucca Heads it’s still very realistic although the houses or the way they are situated and the amount is probably not 100% Google proof, but you've got the difference between a photorealistic scenery and the Orbx FTX scenery ground tiles. What I like; it depends in the area you’re flying but seeing how this is made, my compliments.
Far ahead of me, I can see South West Rocks with the Big and little smoke mountains or are they hills?. Whatever you call them, a double check on our road map and that in combination with FSX FTX, tells me what I need to see there and thus it's a pleasure that it's correct. Via the coast we pass several landmarks but Port Macquarie can't be missed and keeping in mind that our flight level ... oops sorry … our altitude is around 1020 feet, so not very high but specially done. For the same purpose I did this during my part I FTX discovery, crossing the whole Australian continent. Flying at low altitudes is really fun and I can still remember that I had the same pleasure when I did the GEX and UTX review.
Ok, I told you that Port Macquarie can't be missed and looking at the map, it tells me that there's a lighthouse, and indeed, it's simulated and I've got the impression I can see Nobby Head and Shelly Beach, but I'm not sure about this. Suppose I'm wrong and I'm a little off line? Never mind, it still looks real and also the far sight with its mountains, roads, forests and more, is very clearly visible. It could be that this is a result of my high end PC and thus the FSX sliders position.
Via Lighthouse Beach - very well visible - we fly via Bonny Hills to Camden Haven. Just before this small town there’s a nice view of the North Haven breakers, or let’s hope. Clearly visible is the handmade canal, which connects both lakes with the sea. Oops, by the way; we're talking about the upper- and lower Queens lakes and in between Dooragan National Park with its only and single mountain. Very impressive and I could stay here for hours but we need to continue.
Via one point, we fly to the other point and are constantly checking for landmarks. In this area there are lots of landmarks like small villages, beaches and the absence of the Pacific Highway 1, but instead of this we can follow the Lakes Way, going to the heart of Tuncurry.
From here we could follow The Lakes Way, which comes together again with the Pacific Highway. This allows us to follow the road for a moment and bypasses the Myall Lakes National Park. Not a strange name because this area is full of lakes, and even more lakes. When we're approaching Nelson Bay it's time to return to the coastline and pick up our initial route to Newcastle. By the way, this means we're almost at Pelican Airport. Wow, that was not bad at all.
Anyway, south of Newcastle at Read Head Point we see a different beach. It seems the beach shapes and sand colors are different than before or is it ... indeed, this is because of the use of photoreal material. In other words, this is the point where the Aero Pelican airport and surrounding areas has began and I can tell you from 1000-800 feet, it makes a huge difference and I would like to welcome you to the Orbx FTX YPEC airport.
Before landing, we fly around a little in this area to see all the ins and outs of this photoreal place. For me not really a problem, but you have to keep in mind that due to the extreme high details and the use of high quality photo material, you've got another FPS drop. Not much but there it is. This is very well visible when you're flying for example in a SSW (South South West) direction to the RH end of Wangi Wangi. The first part of the water is photoreal material while the second part - Swansea - is the basic FSX or in my case, the modified REX water textures/colors. Anyway, time to circle around here before our final approach at YPEC.
At and around AeroPelican (YPEC)
To get the best impression of the quality, it's a good idea to stay as low as possible, although I know that when there was ATC they wouldn't be happy with it. Anyway, there's none so I'll try to maintain an altitude of 500 feet. It's really fun finding so many details like ordinary streetlights or traffic lights. By the way, YPEC is built inbetween not only the Pelican village, but also by Marks Point in the north and Blacksmiths with Pelican in the south.
Ok, back to the details: at the airport itself and the surrounding residential areas, photoreal material is used and this can be seen and makes a great impression on me compared to the normal ground textures tiles. This means that making Google Earth screenshots result in the same FTX YPEC scenery. Apart from that the surrounding area is full with houses, roads, bridges and much more. The best photoreal images are those at the airport itself.
Although YPEC is a very small local GA (General Aviation) airport, it's highly detailed and looks as real as it gets. When preparing for a straight-in approach for runway 07, you need to fly over the inner lake and since this water is partly photoreal textures, it's so incredibly realistic that you really have the idea you're flying above the real lake.
It's very difficult to describe this and even screenshots will not help at all but it should give you a good and realistic idea of what to expect when you buy it. Another example, which I already partly discussed, are the beaches; in particular those near Blacksmiths and east of Belmont South. Flying over the beach - it's a cloudy day so there's nobody lying on the beach which gave me a terrific look. Why is it so unbelievable great? Simple, because it's full with photoreal material and thus comparisons during a low fly over via Google Earth shows me how real this is. In other words; if you're outside or inside the airport fence, the amount of photoreal material used makes it all complete and is fun for flying around here. The only difference between inside and outside the fences is the pixel size.
Are more examples needed to impress you with this high resolution GA airport and surrounding area? Just have a look at the following screenshots and see for yourself and I'm serious, this is a "must have" airport with, of course, the FTX AUGOLD and BLUE area. I know, YPEC is situated in the AUGOLD area but it's situated very close to the AUBLUE scenery and since you will fly this area with a visit to Warnervale, you’ll need the AUBLUE as well. OK, it's not cheap - AUGOLD + YPEC and AUBLUE with YWVA - but it's absolutely worth every Australian penny and especially for those flight simmers who are crazy about flying GA cross country.
Seen enough? I hope so since it's time to land and make the necessary preparations like refueling, paperwork and some reservations for tomorrow’s flight from Warnervale to Avalon. Approaching from the inner lake, we slowly select our flaps to FULL extend, gear down - wrong, it's fixed gear - and reduce altitude accordingly. The runway is more than long enough but we need to remember that at the end you've got a road, which runs parallel along the beach.
While entering the airport area I do notice a small drop of frames but you get so much back for this FPS drop. With the Settings-Display-Traffic GA traffic density and road vehicles active, Pelican is suddenly full of activities and while taxiing to one of the assigned parking spots, some trucks and cars are passing at the end behind the fence.
Regarding this I need to make one remark; when you've installed AUGOLD or any other Australian scenery pack, you need to install the free ROAD fix else the cars and trucks are unfortunately not driving/situated on the assigned road itself, but half on the airport field and thus not correctly aligned. When you don't have this traffic option active, you'll never notice it. However in my case, I do and thus I see this misalignment. So, to make it clear; when you have AUGOLD and/or AUBLUE installed, download and install this ROAD fix and everything runs fine. Find here for your convenience the forum posting link and more important, the software link for the FTZ AU roads.
We've parked our plane at one of the many available spots. Groundcrew assist us with refueling and a few other things and because of these activities, it gives me time to look around inside one of the many available hangars. Ok, hangar is a little too much but it's exactly as it is in real. For the hangars and also for the small house outside the fence, photoreal material is used to create something awesome.
Using this word is absolutely worth the way these hangars, waste bins and other small equipment look. Via the grass platform, I use the pedestrian crossing through the fence to the entrance. I'm a little curious how it looks when staying behind the fence looking at the planes coming in and going out. By doing this it also gives me a good idea how simple things like sights or billboards are made and because of that, have a look at the Welcome sign screenshot.
Wow! It seems it doesn't make any difference in which direction I look, where possible the FTX team uses photoreal material to give it an incredible look and on those places or objects where it's not possible, it's fully integrated in the environment including the grass.
I can't find anything which could disappoint me. I also know that a GA airport like this and probably the same as for Warnervale, are uncomplicated and thus easy to create, but while writing this I also know that their YMML Melbourne International airport add-on scenery is a highly realistic monster full of tiny details and lots of photorealistic material.
Stretch II - Night stop at Warnervale (YPEC-YWVA)
Oops, they’re calling me. I need to hurry else our Cessna 152II departs without me and even though it's in the vicinity of Pelican, it's still too far to walk. All the preparations are done and thus it’s time to fly at low GA level to YWVA, our next stop and night stay. I've been informed that there's enough to see, eat and lots of drinks like ... oh yes, beer and wine. Since Warnervale is very close by, we decide to take the road map and fly via landmarks to our next stop. See it as a challenge to fly via the old fashioned way.
Flying to YWVA can be done by following the lakes and/or roads. Let's see what possibilities there are. We could follow the Pacific Highway in a southern direction and follow it until it turns right. From the point where the highway continues in a southern direction, we maintain our heading until we cross the Sydney Newcastle Freeway. There, where road number 111 connects the Sydney Newcastle Freeway, it's just a few miles south of it and we should see it from an altitude of 500-1000 feet.
Another possible option is departing from runway 25 and via Wangi Wangi in a straight line - heading 250 - till we cross the previously mentioned Sydney Newcastle Freeway. We then follow the freeway until road 111 and the rest is as it was discussed. Enough options so let's go.
Because of the chosen runway, we don't need to taxi too long. A last wave to the passing cars and trucks on the road and there we go, up into the sky enroute to Wangi Wangi. Although our 152 is fully refueled, we still don't need the whole runway and slowly we climb to our planned 1000 feet. A top view of the photoreal water beneath us is breathtaking to be honest. Probably it has to do with my slider settings but it's so unbelievable real that I can't describe the real look of it.
Far before reaching the other side of the lake, we've been leveling off at 1000 feet and it's time to keep the heading in view. Is it really necessary to watch our heading? Not really since there are wonderful landmarks out there. First we should pass on our right hand side, the Wangi Power Station and a little further, the Eraring Power Station. Both are dominating the sky and therefore you can't miss them.
Looking down to mother Aussie Earth, it tells me how awesome it all looks. Not surprisingly since this part - YPEC Eraring Power Station - is one of the YPEC photoreal sceneries belonging to this piece of software and I almost forgot the incredible detailed look of the power station with distribution lines and that from an altitude of 1000 feet. It's situated until the Sydney Newcastle Freeway, which is the same location where we need to make a sharp turn to the left.
Can you miss the Freeway? No, that's more or less impossible and following the freeway in a southern direction is very easy. While flying and following the freeway, we pass another photoreal YPEC scenery - Vale Point Power Station - and we now see Warnervale airport. Ok, I don't see the runway yet, but it's located very closely to the freeway, which means it's not difficult to see it and thus you can't miss it. By the way, since we're close to Warnervale, we've also entered another YPEC photoreal scenery.
All of this is part of the YPEC package and it's perfectly blended, or if you wish, integrated in the default AUBLUE or AU GOLD FTX scenery. Before making the necessary approach preparations, we fly around in the Wyong area, which is, of course, photoreal material and belongs to either the YPEC or YWVA airport package. You're curious how this FTX WYVA surrounding area looks? Find here some screenshots from this large and realistic looking area.
It's time for our landing and therefore we decide to take a Victor-1 approach, which can be found in the YWVA manual. Although it's only one runway, there are many approaches possible. In our case we enter the pattern via a SSE (South South East) fly-in and thus we need to land on runway 20. I’ll tell you, don't expect too much of this airport.
No, I don't mean that the FTX YWVA is nothing ... no I mean the complexity of the airport itself. It's just a GA airfield with little to no facilities but this has nothing to do with the detailed and highly realistic look of all the buildings, grass, ground textures, and other things I've forgotten. Via a last turn at pattern altitude, we're ready for our final approach and after landing it's also time to say goodbye to our Cessna 152II.
We need to jump into its bigger brother, the Cessna 172 from Carenado since our upcoming stretch to Avalon near Melbourne is too far to fly in one trip with this 152II. What does it matter, the Cessna 172 offers a little more internal space and we can take some additional souvenirs with us.
That’s enough for today. Right now I'm not interested in having a look at the airport to see how it's made. Tomorrow’s a fresh and shiny day and while the pilot needs to arrange all the things for our next leg, I will have the time a look around at YWVA and see how YWVA is made.
Exploring sister airport Warnervale
This is something I didn't expect and nobody told me that we're going depart very early in the morning. Not that early since I can see the sun already slowly rising which results in nice warm morning sunlight all over the landscape and mountains in the west. As said yesterday, now I've got some time to walk all over the airport and see how it's made. We did see this quality already at YPEC, but for YWVA it's not that different. Within the fences you find a resolution of 15cm, 30cm near the airport and 60cm further away, so there's nothing to complain about.
Before arriving at the airport itself, there's a small parking lot for cars and visitors, in case they want to see something. In our case, we're looking at a highly detailed object like a simple fence, the signs - unbelievable sharp by the way - the walls, windows, and even the Douglas DC3 looks fantastic. You can't fly with the Douglas DC3 but that doesn't matter. It looks gorgeous and not only this old-timer but also the photoreal ground textures of the very old hardly visible taxiway and the runway itself is also a masterpiece.
So detailed! I've never seen this before to be very honest except when I reviewed the YMML Melbourne airport scenery. I know, it's not difficult as long as you use the right photo material and as long as you can create it but they - the Orbx team - did it and the results are stunning. It all sounds a little exaggerated but it's really awesome and even those airport pictures will never tell you what I've seen on my screen or should I say that it really felt like I was really at this airport in the south of Australia.
Ok, it gives me enough time to walk around from one end to the other end of the runway and this is more or less also the length of the airport. One side of the airport is covered by trees and the photoreal grass blends perfectly into this green hedge while the other side offers some hangars and the airport office. It's not much in real life and thus it looks simple as well at this FTX YWVA airport. It may be simple, but it's full of tiny details like the fuel pump, wind sock with the white painted tires around it in a circle and ... I could continue for hours like this. Have a look for yourself. That's much better.
You've seen it? I suppose so and although it was early in the morning and thus the light conditions are not optimal, it still offers lots of interesting details and thus a good overview of the intense quality of this GA airport. I can hardly call it an airport but at the same time, I have to admit that it has a paved runway, which is not bad at all. That the grass covers the edges of the runway, that doesn't matter for us. It seems I've to go back to the main office where we get a briefing of our Avalon flight.
Stretch III - Cup of coffee at Avalon (YWVA-YMAV)
Pretty long distance and I believe we're not flying along the coast but more or less in a straight line to Melbourne area. This means that this first part of the flight from YWVA to YMAV is a cross country impression of AUBLUE, which I did discuss already during my part I. Anyway, a second impression at low altitude is always welcome.
Ok, our flight will look like (in order): DCT Wyong - Hornsby - Liverpool - Hume Highway - Mittagong - Hume Highway - Goulburn - Hume Highway - Yass - Cootamundra - Wagga Wagga - Albury - Lake Mokoan - Hume Freeway M31 - Seymour - Sunbury - Melton - YMAV.
That's a long list! I could reduce the list by following the Hume Highway from Sydney, and before you know we've got Melbourne in view but I prefer to offer as many details as possible. With this in mind, it's time to move so let's jump in our Cessna 172. Melbourne, here we come!
As you could see already on the previous screenshots, it's
very cloudy so we hope we're able to follow the highway
whatever is applicable.
Full throttle is applied and there we go, up again in the Australian sky. Climbing for 1000 feet, we look once more at Warnervale airport. The weather is not bad; it's neither raining nor is there low visibility so we should be able to follow the road without the need of tuning a VOR or NDB beacon. It takes a while before reaching the Sydney area and while approaching it, we need to be carefully watching the highway and don't lose it out of our sight. The highway is moving along the northern part of the Sydney area and that keeps us away from the residential part.
Via Liverpool we're trying to follow the Hume Highway and after we've left Campbelltown behind us, it's time to climb to 3000 or 4000 feet. It increases our sight and not only that; we need to pass some mountains or are they just ordinary hills. Staying at roughly 2000 feet will give too many problems, so we go up and start looking at the cloud ceiling, we should be able to do this. It could be that under certain conditions we're flying through the clouds but as long as we're able to see the ground, there's no problem.
While I try to assist the virtual pilot, I'm also making the necessary screenshots for later, although screenshots never represent what I see. I could make a movie and dump it on YouTube but for many reason I prefer to stick to simple screenshots. While passing Mittagong/Bowral at 3400 feet, we still need to climb since I've got the idea that mother Earth is coming close by. There's so much to see and I would like to show you much more than only these screenshots but that's not possible. For example, after Mittagong, Bowral and Moss Vale, we have a magnificent view of the Morton National Park. Ok, it's still far away from us, but because of our higher altitude and the great view, we have a very good impression of this. Oops, we need to watch out or else we'll lose the highway.
Our next mark is coming in sight; Goulburn. We pass Goulburn at 4000 feet on the south west side with the split between the 31 (Hume Hwy) and 23 (Federal Hwy). It's funny how easy it is following our way from the Sydney area through the country to Melbourne’s residential area. Ok, we hurry on since our aircraft is not stopping and can't be put in pause mode. The landscape, and thus the FTX interpretation of their continent, is diverse. One moment you only see forests, then only arable land, then cities or villages and that’s all together beneath us. As said before, our goal is to follow the Hume highway, which is, so far, very easy.
Before we know, we've reached the city of Yass and just before it, there's a road triangle where the Valley Way, Barton Highway and our Hume Highway meet together. Probably mentioned before but I want to make it once more clear, the city of Yass is probably not a 100% fully real looking city since it's not a photoreal scenery, although it does looks good. Not much time to check every detail here, which is also difficult because of our being at 4000 feet thus we're heading for our next large stop; Gundagia.
This part of our trip is not as easy as I had hoped. Not because it isn't simulated but simply because the Hume Highway reduces from four lanes to just two lanes. Not the whole road but bits and pieces of it. Just enough to miss a junction and then you're off the road, so pay attention while flying this yourself. Flying between the hills I can already see the Murrumbidgee River with the bridge, just south of Gundagai. Keeping that road map in mind, there are so many other scenic points available like Mount Adrah or a little further away, Mount Yaven.
One of the last difficult stretches is waiting ahead of us. More or less the same problem here with the Hume Highway. Lots of pieces are no longer four lanes but about half of it, thus making it more difficult to follow the correct route/direction. On the other hand, far, far away we should see Lake Hume and if we're lucky, the cities of Albury and Wodonga. Ok, forget the cities but the lake, that shouldn't be a big problem since this is huge. Along our Hume Highway we do pass some interesting points like the Carabost State Forest and Woomargana National Park, named to a small city of Woomagara, which lies along our road.
Finally, there's Lake Hum in front of us with the city of Albury on the north side and south of it, Wodonga. I'm a happy person since the Hume Highway made it a little difficult for me to follow because of the constant change of lanes and also due to the lowering cloud level. Because of that, I wasn't able to look too far ahead but as said, I'm a happy person since we found the lake.
The stretch along the state forest and national park was really fantastic and I know; a tree is a tree and a forest is a forest, but combining it all together makes it a pleasant flight at this - slightly higher than planned - FTX created landscape. While maintaining our heading, it seems we're in the correct direction of overflying Albury Aerodrome (YMAY). Now while closing Albury Aerodrome, the two cities are clearly visible as well as the Hume Highway bridge over the Murray river. Because of my extreme FSX settings - much higher than suggested - and the basic over clocked PC (only the CPU ration is set to 30x, which gives me a 4.02Ghz), it still suffers from autogen houses.
Ok, the suffering is not that heavy since I'm still able to get 20-23 FPS, and flying with this is still a pleasure. In the mean time we've past the bridge and are turning to the right, initially following the river and of course, keeping an eye on our friend, the Hume Highway.
With the McDonalds Hill and Mount Lady Franklin in front of us, we pass Chiltern and before we know, we see Lake Mokoan on our right hand side, which is by the way, a huge water reserve. It seems the landscape down there is changing; lots of agriculture on the north and south of our highway hills with forests. Although we haven't reached the Melbourne area, the only places of interests we pass are Euroa and Seymour.
Once we've passed the city of Seymour, Melbourne business center is already visible. However, I still think it's at least 30 minutes flying from here. Anyway, we can throw the road map in one of the corners of the cabin and just fly by looking around and keeping the skyline in sight. To be honest, to reach Avalon Airport, we need to be on the right hand side from our current location. It brings us very close to Melbourne International airport YMML. No, it's not covered in this review since we did this already. Ok, some details before reaching Avalon; we keep Sunbury and Melton on our right hand side while flying in the direction of Point Richards Channel. Then follow the coast line and we've reached our final destination.
Although the landscape is different here - flat, green, no forests etc - it's still impressive. I've descended back to 2000 feet to check the outside world and see how real it looks. I say it again; remember, the FTX BLUE scenery is not a photoreal scenery but still it seems that the reality is very close. The ground texture tiles used are well integrated and together with the autogen function - just mentioning one of the many improvements - it all becomes alive.
I'm tired from this long cross country trip and I've got no energy to look around at Avalon Airport. That will be something for the next day to explore as well as the detailed airport. Since there's no ATC available - that's the advantage of flying offline without MSFS ATC active - I can do what I want and thus I've decided to turn in for runway 36. This, by the way, gives me a nice overview of the main platform and hangers, which from this distance, look highly realistic. Taxiing to one of the hangars takes a little longer than expected but it's worth looking around at what's been created by the FTX team or is it Orbx team? Anyway, the FPS are still within limits and reasonable to fly or taxi with.
What's up at Avalon Airport
While we're guided to our overnight parking location, and our virtual pilot takes care for the paper work, it gives me the opportunity to look around at the airport and I must admit, it looks awesome. I know, I just said that I'll do it tomorrow but after being back on the ground, it seems I've got a little more energy to look around. There's no control panel like we had with YMML, thus Avalon Airport can't be adjusted. There's not really a need for it since the airport doesn't offer any complicated buildings - except for the highly detailed hangars - or gates etc. Let's give you an idea how Avalon Airport looks and you will see that it's a totally different airport than the previous discussed airports.
As with the real YMAV, it only offers one runway but everywhere on the FTX YMAV airport is something interesting to see. Not directly needed but absolutely worth installing it, is the free FTX AU TRAFFIC package, as well as the Avalon Airshow 2009 installer. Anyway, the airport offers a simple arrival/departure building with a huge parking lot and it seems it's needed for all those passengers leaving their car or truck behind, and all those who are waiting for their friend or partner, plus all those looking around in the restaurant. Is this all that's visible? For passengers and/or tourists it's the only place to be but there's much more. Let's look in more detail what this payware Avalon Airfield, or is it Airport, offers.
While writing this review, it seems that the official Avalon website is still under construction. It offers some information and it tells me that JetStar - low cost operator and a full daughter from Qantas - offers regular flights from here and the already mentioned yearly held Airshow.
Wikipedia offers a little more information about the airfield, like its history and some pictures of the passenger terminal. Oops, terminal in this case and thus the simulated FTX version, is going too far. It's just a very simple building with some activities, which seems to be the check-in counters, one or more luggage belts, a restaurant and merchandising shop. Ok, all that's inside the building is not simulated in the FTX Avalon version and there's no need for it to be.
We're interested in those tiny external details as known from other FTX airports, and I can tell you, you will find a lot of things. The airport is still uncomplicated which means there's no special control panel to adjust the level of detail. For now it's uncomplicated but searching on the Internet tells me that Avalon will soon become an International Airport with a brand new international terminal, so lots of planning ahead. For now, we need to check the current FTX Avalon Airfield/airport.
It's time to have a walk to one of the hangars. It seems to me that those are from Qantas Maintenance, but I'm not 100% sure. Although in front of each of them there's a Boeing 757 and 747-400. The hangars are simple - most of the time a hangar is a simple construction - but still realistic. The arrival/departure platforms near the passenger building doesn't offer the same high detailed quality or photographic images as for example, with the FTX YMML Melbourne International main platforms. Anyway, it's still full of details and lots of photoreal material is used to create hangars, shops, stairs, carts and much more.
Walking around the technical area with - in my case - two Qantas airplanes waiting for their maintenance check, I'm impressed but I saw this already when I arrived at Avalon when we flew over the maintenance area. Then there's the control tower, situated far away from every other building. It's a long walk before we've reached it and because of this, we're picked up by one of the local airport guys. It seems to me that the control tower and belonging building are partly created with both photoreal and handmade material. Nonetheless, it's looks realistic and via the virtual stairs, it's not a long walk to the top of the control tower where we have a nice and interesting airport overview. What I completely forgot to mention are all the parking lots full of 3D looking cars or trucks and all the other airport equipment like containers, fuel trucks with the fuel station, stairs, baggage carts and whatever else can be found at the airport.
My overall impression is that this airport is again a nice and interesting one and swings somewhere between a GA (General Aviation) and medium international version. Those international flights from JetStar are to Denpasar (Bali-Indonesia), Osaka (Japan), Bangkok, Puket (Thailand) and Ho Chi Minh City (Taiwan). The rest of the national flights are within Australia.
Because of the increasing international market, the real plans are to development a 7,300 m2 international passenger terminal with external areas for baggage handling facilities. The international terminal will include an entrance foyer; facilities for passenger security screening, customs and passport control, a quarantine area, passenger lounges, and retail and café amenities. The proposed international passenger terminal will be located to the east of the existing domestic terminal. The current FTX YMAV airport can't handle all those expanding flights since currently it's too simple. What I only hope is that when the time comes, the FTX Avalon airport is modified as well.
Ok, it's time to go finish this last cross country stretch. Apart from the VFR flight, which had nothing to do with my YMAV review, it was still a confirmation for me what kind of quality you can expect from this AUBLUE FTX scenery. The fact that this scenery offers re-modeled lakes, rivers, roads, ground texture tiles and all the other things I've forgotten and that I could, and in your case can, use an ordinary road map, tells me enough about the high and detailed quality.
Arriving at Victoria with the planned landing at Avalon Airport and the investigation of the YMAV quality, I can only come to one conclusion. For the price of US$28.63 (€21.69) this Avalon Airport is worth your money but there's one note. I'm a little disappointed that the main arrival/departure platform is not based on the same high quality photoreal material as we've seen with YMML airport. See the screenshots below as to what I miss and hopefully this could be implemented with an Service Pack.
Anything left or is something forgotten? No, ok then let's take a moment and see what this and all the other airports offer. Each airport we've seen offers unbelievable realistic look. One a little more than the other or is it because of the environment? The water color around AeroPelican with the great looking beaches, or the buildings and static airplanes at Warnervale or just as important, the highly realistic hangars at Avalon. Each airport offers something special or if you wish a unique virtual view which has given me the feeling that a higher quality is hardly possible or at least, I haven't seen it.
Ok, one negative item which needs to be mentioned and that are the Avalon passenger platforms near or in the direct vicinity of the passenger terminal. These are of a different, and in my personal opinion, of a lower quality than the ones used at YMML. What’s the reason of this? I don't know and it's not bad to be honest, but a comparison with YMML is quickly taken, which result in a judgment.
Probably this will be modified when Orbx decides to make an Avalon YMAV Service Pack and if they decide not to bring out any SP, no a big deal! I know this because I reviewed YMML and I know the platform structure used at YMML (which looks unbelievable realistic) but when you haven't seen the YMML platform along with the gates, you'll never know it or will never complain about it.
The overall airport quality, even for GA or small national/international flight, is awesome. Personally I like AeroPelican and Warnervale more than Avalon but that’s because of the extremely high pixel quality and the bush design. Before I forget it; Avalon airport comes with a 50 square mile photoreal area around it. I didn't take the time to disable FTX AUBLUE, where you could see where the actual FTX Avalon airport goes. There's no need to do this since I think the best way of using these airports is always in combination with AUBLUE and/or AUGOLD. This is at least needed in combination with those three airports.
Did I really cover every airport corner? I don't think so since there's a lot to discover, to see and to check to se if you've missed a specific spot. Still I think I've handled most of the interesting parts in between the airports as well as on the airports temselves. Because these are uncomplicated airports unlike Melbourne International, it's much easier to discover and judge about the buildings but there's something else. How will it look when you don't want to buy these reviewed airports? Is it still fun flying around or will you be shocked about the default Microsoft FSX airports. Let's find that out in the next chapter.
What's Aussie without these FTX airports?
Is it worth showing you that? Yes, I need to show you FSX without these FTX airports and believe me, it's shocking when you see what you're missing. When you like to fly pure and only VFR and have fun with high quality add-on airports in the Australian continent, then you can't fly without FTX. But before I continue, let's first show you the impact of no FTX and with FTX airports.
Is any additional text needed? These screenshots show you immediately the impact of the three reviewed airports. Let's start with Warnervale; that's simple and doesn't need any words. It simply doesn't exist so any improvement is worth it.
The impact of AeroPelican, although it exists in the default FSX scenery, is nothing more than not worth landing at but the moment you've seen what FTX YPEC can do with it, you will want it and remember, it offers not only a completely remodeled airport or airfield, together with YPEC you also get the surrounding photoreal scenery.
Last but not least YMAV, Avalon International Airport. I did install the additional FTX AU traffic pack because of the JetStar AI airplanes but apart from this, the default airport looks - as usual with FSX - horrible and thus FTX brings life where there's nothing. I also installed the free Avalon Airshow 2009 package, but on purpose didn't make any screenshots of it. Why? Because it doesn't belong in this review, but I can recommend when you've bought the Avalon airport, install the previous free packages as well. It makes the basic FTX Avalon airport something more exiting, something more complete.
I leave this sub-chapter like it is. No more words or comments on what you're missing if you don't buy it. Oops, one last remark; when you already own or plan to buy the FTX YMML airport scenery, then you should absolutely consider buying YMAV as well. You should see these two airports like a brother and sister and no, I'm not a team member of Orbx Simulation Systems and I don't get any money from them by writing this. It's simply the truth of how I see these FTX Aussie products.
The Avalon Airshow 2009
It's freeware and not really a part of this payware airport review, but it's really fun being able to meet all the virtual people and their airplanes visiting Avalon during the yearly Airshow. As said above, it's freeware and directly downloadable and it’s very easy to install. Not much to say about this. After you're ready, you've got a manual shortcut and control panel on your desktop, as well as it being accessible via the Start menu button.
The manual gives - as usual - some background information about the airshows and probably even more important, the best way to adjust your sliders. Remember, when setting the airplane AI sliders to the max, it will have a huge FPS impact, but on the other hand, you really get a lot back. Suddenly you will find in the vicinity of the control tower parking places, tents and of course, many types of airplanes. Come on, let's have a look while I walked around this area.
It's not much that I've added but it’s absolutely worth showing you. I wrote before and will repeat it again; don't put those AI sliders too high. The FPS impact will be terrible. Even with my PC specs, the FPS reduced to 14 with all the AI sliders at maximum and weather control active. I didn't wait for the actual airshow to start thus this is something for you to enjoy once you've decided to buy Avalon airport.
Summary / Closing Remarks
Where shall I start and what shall I write? The review is already long enough with lots of examples and some cross country flights along the FTX AUGOLD coast and the shortest way from Sydney to Melbourne, while following the Hume Highway within FTX AUBLUE. Ok, let's first start with what all these sceneries will cost you and my personal advice should you intend to buy these.
Ok, each individually reviewed airport costs you no more than US$28.63 (€21.69) and is worth every penny. You could, and I strongly suggest to, add to this FTX AUGOLD and/or AUBLUE. Each of the FTX scenery products will be US$35.80 (€27.12) but for that you get the entire scenery area and for AUBLUE, the airports YWVA and YMAV are located in this part, which gives you the overall FTX sensation.
Ok, I've got an idea when you're not completely convinced; you can download for free the FTX AUBLUE Tasmania scenery and see for yourself what the Orbx team has created or you can download one of the free FTX downloadable airport sceneries. It gives you a good idea of what to expect when you finally decide to buy one of the FTX products.
Initially, I planned writing a review only covering the three payware Orbx FTX airports since this is already more than enough. However, due to the kind of airports and the simulated surrounding areas near AeroPelican and Warnervale, it was a much better idea to explore the ground textures in between these airports. Altogether a lot more work, but on the other hand it also shows the seamless integration between the sceneries and airports. Not strange since it's all coming from Orbx Simulation Systems but still a very good marketing strategic.
When the particular cross country flight ends, I'll try to add some useful information about the simulated surrounding ground textures. In most of the cases this worked out very well but it could be that I missed certain spots. Keeping this in mind and knowing what I've seen and shown you with the help of screenshots, I think it covered a lot of what the FTX packages offer.
As a reviewer, I'm in the pleasant position of having all the FTX software available. That being said, I still think looking at all the reviewed products from parts "I" and "II", they are worth every single Australian dollar. Each product offers a impressive quality although it could be the FPS impact is higher than expected depending on which FTX package we’re talking about. On the other hand, all the FTX manuals I've seen offer great flexibility and very good guidelines/advices for a balanced setting to fly with affordable FPS.
Not really related to this review but worth mentioning, are the freeware available airports. I'll help you a little bit by offering directs link to these great FTX airports, so here we go:
Port Macquarie, New South Wales version 1.0 - AUYPMQ
Before I forget it; I would like to thank John Vennema for his help, answesr and patience and of course, the entire Orbx team. It was again a pleasure reviewing these FTX airports but now it's over. There will be no part III, so this is it. What I hope, but of course that's up to the Orbx team that they consider offering combination packages, like AUBLUE with YMAV, YMML, YWVA and/or YPJT included or if you like AUGOLD, with YPEC and/or YSCH included. Now I'll stop with this summary ... it's enough!
What I Like About Pt II - FTX Airports YPEC - YWVA - YMAV
What I Don't Like About Pt II - FTX Airports YPEC - YWVA - YMAV
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