AVSIM Commercial FS9/FSX Scenery Review

Mega Airport Amsterdam

Product Information

Publishers:  Aerosoft

Description: Commercial scenery package of Amsterdam Schiphol airport.

Download Size:
89 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FS9 (Reviewed), FSX
Reviewed by: Benjamin van Soldt AVSIM Staff Reviewer - July 18, 2010

Introduction

It needs no further saying who Aerosoft is and what they do. They are well known for their quality sceneries, which, certainly in recent times, include detailed, well-modeled buildings, with plenty of objects and eye candy to keep you busy for some time. Of all airports Aerosoft has published, there is a series that maybe are not the best known Aerosoft products (that honor goes to their long series of German Airports), but certainly not the least known: the Mega Airport series.

This series of products includes well-known airports, such as Paris Charles de Gaulle, Stockholm Arlanda, Madrid Barajas and Budapest Ferihegy. Of these, it’s always difficult to decide which is best, because all have pros and cons. While some are huge, they are not always very detailed, and some are very detailed, but have lower FPS. Fact is, when one builds airports of this size, one must always determine if a given feature is really worth the FPS cost. Thus, one sees that Paris Charles de Gaulle doesn’t seem too have many objects scattered around the gates. Madrid Barajas however, which, for as far as I can see, is less densely populated with buildings, has many more objects scattered around.

Well guess what: there is a new kid on the block! It is Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (EHAM), and I can safely say many Dutch have been waiting for it for several years now. How come? Because there was nothing else available that was all around good the way we want it to be.

Does that mean there were no other sceneries at all? No it doesn’t. Actually, there are two other sceneries worth your consideration: the Cloud 9 scenery, which is payware, and the freeware NL2000 scenery. Both of these have problems, though. The C9 Schiphol scenery is outdated and does not incorporate any of the more recent changes (meaning everything at least from 2008 onwards). It’s also not compatible with FSX. Worst, however, is the fact that only the gate area is really detailed: surrounding buildings and platforms are really not as detailed as you’d want. Plus, many taxiways are simply not well drawn, with weird “dents” and missing parts in the yellow markings. It was good while it lasted, however.

The freeware NL2000 scenery is great quality, given the price: zero Euros. For that, you get all of Holland, and those people that often fly around Holland really ought to get it. However, the EHAM scenery of NL2000 is not really up to payware standards, although it does pack some nice features into it, like moving gates. But hey, can’t you use AES for that? Well no, because AES does not support NL2000’s scenery. Two other things might not make NL2000 a good alternative for people only mildly interested in Schiphol. First of all, it’s a 22GB (!) download. V3 and before can’t be downloaded in separate packages. This is something that was introduced with v4, but this one will only work in FSX, sadly. The second point of concern is the enormous frame rate dip I always get around NL2000’s EHAM scenery. I tend to have 15FPS and below, while I can double those FPS anywhere else over Holland when utilizing NL2000’s scenery package.

The question on many a person’s lips will now be whether Aerosoft can give us a good alternative for both these sceneries. Let’s not waste any more time and get on with the show! This review is about the FS9 version.

An important notice

Before I even say anything about this scenery, note one very important thing: The bulk of this review is based on VERSION 1 of the MAP Amsterdam scenery! Where necessary, text and screenshots were changed, but I encourage you to read the separate chapter specifically on version 1.1, which includes a small change log and such. If screenshots that are not in the version 1.1 chapter, are of version 1.1, this is mentioned either in the relevant chapter or in the screenshot’s caption.

And now on with the review!

Installation and Documentation

The installation is as Aerosoft-standard as you can get. You receive an installer via a download link, you double click it, and it opens. You go through the installation procedure, meanwhile entering email address and serial key, and that’s it. The scenery is automatically added to the scenery.cfg file for you. Basically, there is nothing interesting to say about it. It works, and it works well.

The documentation consists of a PDF file that holds information about both the real airport and the scenery. Features, optimizations and background are all packaged in this neat document and overall is a nice read. The only thing that spoils this document a bit is the amount of errors, mainly in grammar but also in spelling.

Now I’m not a native speaker so I don’t feel I have the right to correct others, but I would have though that a big company like Aerosoft could at least get this manual proof read by a native speaker. Maybe that happened, and in that case I have to say that it’s not apparent. There simply are too many mistakes, making it look slightly amateurish.

Still, let’s not take down the scenery because of grammatical errors in the manual. It still is a nice read and in the end, that’s not the most important thing to me anyway. Let’s go to the actual scenery now.

The scenery: Driving around the scenery (literally)

The way I’m going to do this is simple: I’m going pretend I’m driving to the airport from the direction of my hometown. I live in Leiden, so I take the A4 to the north. The route we will be taking is the A4, then go to the A5, then the A9 to the west, until we intersect the A4 and then we will take that highway back to the airport. We will then get off the highway and drive to the terminal entrances. The map should help with orientation (courtesy of Google Maps). Anyway, after some driving, we end up in the vicinity of the airport:

This map shows what the scenery holds (roughly). The route we will take in this review section is: A4 to the north, A5, A9 to the west, A4 to the south, then get off just after the tunnel and to the terminals.
On the A4: you can see where the scenery actually starts. A bit closer now.

The first screenshot shows the start of the scenery: the photoreal A4 highway is in sight. It’s a pity that this first screenshot immediately shows incompatibility with Ultimate Terrain Europe (UTE). Generally I’m inclined to say that the scenery is the problem and not UTE, but of course I have no idea if UTE or the scenery should be adjusted. However, given the data UTE uses, plus the fact that also NL2000’s highway does not fit with EHAM (it does coincide pretty well with the UTE roads, though), I’m inclined to say that EHAM is the problem, not UTE or NL2000.

So does the scenery fit with the default highways? No, not even close. The FS2004 highways are way off the UTE highways, and the result is that the EHAM highways do not even have a close match to FS2004’s highways. So, considering the fact that EHAM does not match default highway, does not match UTE and also doesn’t match NL2000 (which does match UTE), I think EHAM has a problem in its placement. The error here is not huge, but enough to notice and be annoying.

Moving up a bit closer, we see that the photoreal textures actually are quite blurry (NL2000’s texture are less blurry), and there is a misalignment of the textures. It is not a true misalignment, but it is a rather clear “gap” between two photoreal underground tiles. While I can forgive the blurriness, I hope the misalignment will be dealt with. With it comes another problem, you see. Normally, I wouldn’t care a lot about such errors, claiming that you wouldn’t be seeing it anyway most of the time. Well, this is different. Here you will see it, because the approach path to runway 6 goes right over this place, as can be seen on the next two screenshots, showing a SAS Boeing 737 landing at runway 6:

This is why I always loved driving on the A4: Seeing a Boeing 747 fly right over you is always a treat! (In the pic it’s a 737, of course)

Later I’ll be doing an approach to this runway, and then I’ll be able to show you how this all looks from the air. For now, suffice to say that this particular stretch of A4 is very important for the scenery, and I’d actually wish they’d have made the A4 longer than it is now. It’s a big treat to fly over the A4 on approach, and it’d be a pity if texturing errors would dilute that experience.

Moving on, we will now drive on over the A5. To do that, we use the bridge over the highway. The A5 actually is a relatively new road (not so new anymore, actually I think it’s not older than 7 or 8 years or so. I might be mistaken, though), and it is laid out between runways 36L (the “Polderbaan”) and 36C. Here are some shots:

Over the bridge and onto the A5. On the A5, we see an assortment of signs (well, actually they are all over the highways, but I’m not going to make screenshots of all of them). Whoops, another texture misalignment! There are two of those along the A5.
This should be a tunnel going under the taxiway. Now, cars disappear into the ground (you can see bus in the distance doing just that). All sceneries I have seen do sort of the same thing, but nevertheless it remains a weird sight. Lovely Dutch farms. The intersection with the A9.

The screenshots are self-explanatory, but I’d still like to comment on one or two things. First are the signs you see. For as far as I can see, they are all the same. The only place that actually has readable signs is a spot in the vicinity of the airport terminal, but for the rest they are all blurry with what seems to be the same text. It really doesn’t matter though, since you won’t be trying to read what’s on it anyway, certainly not when taxiing/landing/taking off with your plane.

Something else is the way the traffic goes under the taxiway. It’s a weird sight, to see cars sinking into the ground on one end, and then seeing them come up again on the other end. I don’t see how this could be done better, and I have seen a similar thing at Berlin Tegel. We’ll have to live with it, but here’s hoping it can be done differently in the FSX version, which gives the possibility to use better resolution mesh scenery. I hope this possibility will be used to try and circumvent these “flat bridges”. Now we will move on however: we have arrived at the intersection with the A9.

The A9 extends both ways. In eastern direction, it continues on for a bit, only to abruptly end in a weird misalignment with the UTE highway, like also happened with the A4. If we go to look a little closer, we see a truly interesting thing: the AESLite car traffic is moving correctly over the UTE highways! However, when they are near the photoreal textures, you see them do some sort of S-turn, and they end up driving over the photoreal highway in the correct manner. Why can’t the scenery just be placed correctly then?
Some more of these nice farms. Water is misaligned. Not something truly interesting, but I wondered why they didn’t include the other half of this intersection. I think that might have looked a bit neater. The intersection with the A4.

There isn’t much exciting going on at the A9, except for one thing: it’s the way AESLite handles switching between UTE highways and Schiphol’s photoreal highways. As I stated in the relevant caption, they make a S-turn so they are aligned correctly with the photoreal highway. So, they obviously were aware of this alignment problem that is present everywhere on the scenery. I’m not going to judge, but I wish that an option would have been given to make it compatible with UTE. Presently, it looks rather weird. Anyway, let’s now continue over the A4 and head back to the airport.

The A4 is rather big, as you can see. The train disappears underground long before the road itself does. This is, I think, mainly because the train can’t climb hills that steep, which the car can climb. Plus, there is a big underground station. Continuing over the A4, I want to point out the traffic sign you see at he bottom of the shot. There is a 3D object, but also a flat, 2D sign on the road. It’d have been nice if these were taken out of the scenery, leaving us with only the 3D sign. Schiphol has various large car parks, and this is one of them. Here you can park you car long-term.
Entrance of the “Schipholtunnel”. Over it are taxiways and such. We come out at the other end of the tunnel and… …we leave the A4 using a road that will take us right into the core of the airport: the passenger drop-off point and entrance to the departures part of the terminal: Schiphol Plaza.

After we leave the A4, we take a road that leads us over a bridge and brings us to the core of the airport:

First we go over this bridge. It leads us over the A4. After driving on a bit, we find ourselves between parking garages. Lots of traffic signs attempt to efficiently direct traffic to wherever it needs to go. You might notice the signs have the exact same texturing. This is where the road eventually brings us: the drop-off point at the main terminal area. The top floor is where the departures are. You can check-in and such here. On the bottom floor one find the arrivals and a rather big shopping centre. This is “Schiphol Plaza”. From there you can go underground to the train station, or move outside where you’ll find the bus station.
An enormous parking garage parallel to the road we followed just now. Here’s where my father used to park the car while he waited for me and my mother to arrive. The bottom floor (where you’ll find the bus station) has a lot to show for itself. Intricate details are modeled and nicely textured. When leaving the departures area on the top floor, you’ll go via here. Interestingly, here’s one of the two readable signs I could find in the entire scenery. The second sign is a little bit more down this same road.

Now that we have safely arrived at the airport, Let’s go “inside” and take a look at the terminal buildings and the gates. Only thing I want to say is that I’m very pleased with how everything generally looks. It’s no problem whatsoever for me to recognize the way to the terminal. It really has been done quite realistically!

The scenery: Terminals and gates

This is where stuff starts to be more serious. That’s not to say that what I covered previously isn’t important, but the terminal and gates are what you’ll actually see from your plane. Blurriness of road signs isn’t something people will notice, blurriness of signs around the gates is something people will notice. It’s because of this that the modeling and texturing of the gates and structures around it in my opinion have to be done with most care.

The way we’re going to do this is simple: we go from concourse B to H in that order. While we are at it I’ll show details that spring up, but I won’t mention these anymore during the rest of the review. Jetways are an example of this: you’ll notice three types. Each type will be looked at when we see it for the first time, but it will mostly be ignored during the rest of the review. Also note that most gates look very much alike. For this reason gate B and C are likely to get the most attention, while the others will get a less detailed look. With that out of the way, let’s begin with concourse B.

Overview of concourse B. I love these stairs and cars parked around the apron. “Stuff” along the sidelines.
Looks nice at this side of concourse B. Version 1.1 screenshot. The other half is filled with bustling business. Not really actually… Jetway overview.
Jetways. Objects around the gates.
Even more objects around the gates. The standard Schiphol aircraft parking signage. With the update to version 1.1, the ads have been replaced to the Rabobank ad.
The red circle shows that a number is missing here. To the left of is gate 27, to the right it is 23. This is a version 1.1 screenshot.

Concourse B consists of two parts: there is the big apron, to which you need to go by bus to board your plane, and there is the “normal” part that offers jetways. All in all, the gate building looks pretty good, with nice texturing and nice modeling. I can’t say it’s extraordinary, but it doesn’t look too shabby either.

The jetways have been faithfully reproduced, although I ought to mention that the representation of these jetways is not up-to-date in these screenshots: the IGN bank ad has been replaced with Rabobank ads. In all fairness though, this has already been corrected in version 1.1 as the last screenshot of the above series demonstrates! Anyway, I do like the look of the jetways. They are nicely modeled and textured, although I wonder if the wheels couldn’t have been modeled more precisely. I mean, this wheel isn’t round; it’s octagonal. It’s a pity, because for the rest it looks rather nice.

What I really like, and what I miss in the area around the jetways and such, is trucks, containers, and that sort of thing. I remember from Mega Airport Arlanda, which was done by the same developer, that there also wasn’t a lot of stuff lying around. I find this a pity, because it makes the airport livelier. At Mega Airport Madrid, for example, lots of typical stuff is lying around the apron. I like that, because it gives the place a very “filled” feeling, whereas absence of these objects make it all seem a bit empty. On the other hand, you don’t have the FPS reduction that is inevitable when the airport is littered with objects.

But there is a problem hiding on this concourse: the gate assignments on the odd side are very wrong. What we should be seeing is the following: 13-15-17-23-27-31-35 (as per the latest Navigraph EHAM chart). However, in Aerosoft’s scenery we see the following: 17-23- No number -27-31-35. So, we miss 15 and 13. Actually we miss one gate altogether. That is sloppy…

There isn’t much to tell, for the rest. I think the screenshots are pretty self-evident. We’ll move on to concourse C now.

Overview of concourse C. Terminal building details. Concourse C from a different angle.

Concourse C is pretty boring, I’m afraid. It doesn’t introduce a lot of new stuff, and actually looks pretty much like concourse B, except that the concourse itself obviously has a very different shape. Overall I think it has been done nicely. With the update to version 1.1, the roof has been sharpened, which is nice. Previously it was very blurry.

I do really like the modeling in the terminal buildings. For example, look at the very nicely executed detailing at those poles that support the grey building. I also think the texturing is very good. It’s clear and not blurry. To say that it’s “crisp” might be going a bit too far (although the small structure with the fully glass walls looks terrific!), but if you taxi around and look at this, it shouldn’t leave you with any bad impression. Well done!

That settles concourse C (wow, this is going quickly). Next up is concourse D, which is both bigger and more interesting in appearance:

Overview of concourse D. Terrific detail here!
The texturing here really looks good. It’s sharp and really gives some sense of depth around the steel tubing in front of the windows. Concourse D’s right arm (or left arm, depending on what you define as left and right…) The tiny ground control tower that watches movements around gates D.
The other arm. lso some big aircraft are parking at concourse D, like this A330-200 (how do I know? Simple: KLM doesn’t have any A330-300 aircraft. And, of course, because it’s written on the plane…). These textured tubes really do look good from some distance, I think.

D is interesting in appearance. It’s a Y-shaped building, with two arms extending from the centre. Mostly small planes are parked at these arms, but as you can see there also some medium and larger sized planes, like the A330-200 and MD-11, parked here.

Despite the interesting shape of the building, there also is a significant difference in the further looks, compared to concourses B and C. For example, at least at the “stem” of the arms, we see large extensions from which the jetways themselves extend. This is contrary to what we saw earlier, where jetways extended directly from the structure itself. If you look closely, you’ll see some nice detailing on these “jetway holding extensions”, like fences and such. The detail is nice and well executed.

The tubing in front of the windows manages to impress me. Granted, you need to be at some distance for it to be sharp, as you can see on the screenshots that shows the MD-11: look at the bottom most part of the tube-filled wall, and you’ll notice it to be a bit blurry, whereas the slightly farther tubing looks splendidly good. There is one other point I want to mention here: look at the screenshot with the A330-200 prominently in view, and look at the spot where the tubing ends, the tubing ends abruptly into nothingness here. I can’t imagine this being the case on the real building, and find this to be a bit sloppy. Slightly more precision would have been good. Still, the concourse looks quite nice.

One final thing: I love the ground textures. They are realistic, sharp and just a joy to look at, and with this I conclude D. Let’s move on to concourse E now.

Overview of concourse E. Notice the lack of ground equipment.
Gate ground detail. Overview of a “new” type of jetway. That jetway seen from closer by.
Another “new” type of jetway, one that actually combines two jetways into one. Upper part of the double jetway. Lower part of the jetway.
Stairs, doors and concrete. Yet another “new” type of jetway. It’s actually two “normal” ones stuck onto a single gate. Right side of concourse E.

As you can see, there is much newness in concourse E, mainly because of the amount of different jetway types. Before we move on to these jetways, let’s give the concourse itself a close examination. To be honest, the concourse itself doesn’t sport any newness. The window textures are the same as on concourse D and C, and the rest of the texturing on the walls is okay, but might be a little blurry from closer by. The roof textures have been sharpened during the last update and the concourse does have the shape it should have and overall seems to simply look like it should look. The ground detail at the gates is as good with the other concourses too, so generally, it doesn’t seem like there is a lot to look at. Fortunately, we find three new types of jetways here that we shall closely examine.

The first new jetway we come across is pretty much a “normal” (normal being the type we first encountered) jetway, except that it has a very different supporting mechanism. I could be mistaken, but this type can only swing to and fro, and can’t extend in the way many of the other jetways can. It can extend, yes, but the rolling mechanism doesn’t move when the jetway extends. To me this seems a bit cumbersome, but then again, there are many airports that can only extend the jetway and not even swivel it in any way, so I guess the solution seen here isn’t that bad. Interestingly, you won’t see this type of jetway that often. The other types seem to be more prominent. The modeling of the jetway has been done very well. I’d say the textures are a bit blurry, but it’s not that bad. For as far as I can see, all necessary detail is there and it’s a convincing replica of the real thing.

The next type of jetway is the most interesting jetway to be seen at Schiphol. It’s basically a normal jetway that has a mechanism attached to it so that a second jetway can be attached to it. You’ll notice the second jetway is really hanging, and is not supported by anything on the ground. This is because of the simple purpose of this second jetway: it has to move over an airplane’s wing (which will typically be a Boeing 747) so that it can connect to an entrance somewhere down the plane. It’s a pretty nifty system, though certainly not new to the world of aviation, but I always enjoyed looking at them. Perhaps it’s fair to say that whatever has a lot of tubes running across it gets my prompt attention.

Let’s look at the modeling of this “exotic” double jetway. The overview screenshot gives a good impression. There seems to be plenty of detail and the texturing looks rather nice too. Let’s move our view to the “upper” or “second” jetway and look at the suspension mechanism. Here we see many nice details.

A small fence running along the jetway and the suspension mechanism looks neatly done and neatly textured, too. I only have my reservation regarding the cab of the upper jetway. It looks a bit like a box, making it seem a bit fake. I’m not sure why, but the cab of the other jetways we looked at seem to be more lifelike and far less boxy. The “first” or “lower” jetway is actually just another “normal” jetway, so there isn’t much newness to be seen there.

The two jetways meet on a concrete island of sorts (I think it’s called a rotunda, but I could be mistaken), which is accessible via the gate itself (of course) and some narrow stairs that you actually see at most gates. The concrete island looks different from the others however, and the stairs are adapted to this difference by being placed differently. The detail here isn’t extraordinary, but it does the job fine and it looks pretty good in my opinion.

The final jetway type really isn’t anything special. It’s simply two normal jetways stuck onto a small concrete island, with a walkway bringing you there, much like with the other jetways we have already seen. I guess there isn’t much to say about this jetway type, for obvious reasons, although I will comment on the walkway which seems a bit too low. I remember the windows being placed slightly lower than they are now, but then again this is me being nitpicky. It looks fine, overall.

I think this concludes concourse E. I have shown you the various jetways and the concourse itself, and it’s time to move on to concourse F.

Overview of concourse F.

Concourse F is the island of heavies. All jetways are of the type with the second, suspended jetway. For the rest, the concourse looks pretty much like concourse C, with the exception that there are more objects on F’s roof. For the rest, they are the same, and I think the screenshots are pretty self-evident. Let me just comment on the fact that there is more ground equipment to be found here, although I’d still like it to be a bit more.

Overview of concourse G. One side of concourse G. El Al always boards on one of the gates seen here. Every time I went with my mother to Israel, we walked over the walkbridge seen here, connecting the terminal with concourse G.

I have many memories of concourse G. El Al is always at one of the gates on the right side of the concourse, and thus there is no place in Schiphol I have been at more frequently than concourse G and the walkbridge connecting it with the terminal.

Now that we’ve had the sentimental part, let’s look at what we can find. The concourse itself looks pretty good and is as I remember: indeed, it looks a lot like concourse B. All the jetways are of the big, double type, because here, too, many a big plane gets parked. This can vary a lot however, and I have also often seen 737s and the like parked here (even now you can see two of them parked here).

This is contrary to concourse F where, as far as I can remember, I’ve usually seen Boeing 747, Boeing 777 or MD-11 aircraft parked, almost always (if not always) belonging to KLM. Overall, concourse G looks good and it’s a realistic representation, although I do remember much more ground equipment being there (okay, I’ll shut up about it).

The final concourse is concourse H. It’s not very exciting and provides quick and very uncomfortable access to low-cost airlines. The concourse was especially made for this purpose and it shows: there are hardly any benches, it’s miles away from the terminal and there are no jetways. Instead, you are stuffed into your plane, the door is closed with a bang and they can’t wait to send you off ready for a delivery like new cattle. I have only departed (and arrived) once from concourse H, and I hope it’ll never be necessary again. As for Aerosoft’s concourse H, here are some screenshots:

The overly long walkbridge that connect H with the terminal, part 1. The overly long walkbridge that connect H with the terminal, part 2. Overview of concourse H.
Gate detail. This isn’t really part of concourse H, but I wanted to show you the Surinam Airways 747-300. Sadly, it is retired and replaced by an Airbus A340-300. On my system this has not happened yet, however.

The paradox of concourse H is that despite the fact that I think it’s a cumbersome and typically Dutch way to handle customers (the fact we paid less for the ticket doesn’t mean we are cattle. We would like some benches to sit on, too, you know!), I think it’s a very stylish and beautiful building. I like the metallic look and big windows of the gates. It’s architecture I value, and it’s this architecture that becomes more and more prevalent around the world.

I’m happy to say that the beauty of the real thing is also present in Aerosoft’s Schiphol. It really does look convincing. The gates themselves have a multitude of tiny (readable!) signs that look good and also seem rather useful for the virtual pilot. I’m not quite sure why I’m showing you the Surinam Airways plane, however. Partly because it’s a good-looking plane, but also because Surinam used to be part of the Dutch kingdom. This is a review of a Dutch airport, so why not show a screenshot of an ex-Dutch plane (it used to be in service with KLM, too!).

This concludes concourse H. Now come three screenshots to show the terminal off:

The terminal.

The terminal of Schiphol airport is rather huge. It is divided into three parts, with each one of them having a specific purpose. While I don’t know them by heart, if I remember correctly terminal 1 is for national and Shengen flights, and the other two are international. Anyway, suffice to say that the terminal in Aerosoft’s rendition looks as good as you’d want.

The roofs are a bit blurry, but that’s no surprise and you won’t see it most of the time (unless you plan to fly low over the airport, of course). Anyway, it has been sharpened in version 1.1, thankfully. So, I can conclude this part by saying that the terminal modeling looks very good, although the textures on the walls could have been less blurry. It’s not bad, but it’s noticeable enough. In all honesty, this is another such case where you have to be rather close to the terminal to notice the full extent of the blurriness, and thus I don’t think its worth complaining about too much.

This concludes the terminals, concourses and gates. Next up is the Cargo area.

The scenery: Cargo area

There are two big cargo areas at Schiphol. One is adjacent to concourse B, the other is practically at the other side of the airport. I’ll start with showing you the one adjacent to B concourse.

Overview of the cargo area. Notice the line of aircraft waiting to take off: a typical sight at Schiphol. Note that three aircraft waiting isn’t even that much. I have seen a row of close to 9 aircraft waiting for departure. One of the warehouses from closer by. The modeling has been done well, but some details have been left out. Instead, they appear as flat textures against the walls. I myself think this is okay, since these aren’t any important details.
The other warehouse looks a bit different, but the same applies to this warehouse as to the other. Overall, the modeling is good and the texturing is also good. It’s a bit lacking in detail, but it really isn’t that important in my opinion. The warehouse looks good as it is. You didn’t see this on any of the other shots, but there is a small part of this cargo area that is directly adjacent to concourse B. The only way I actually know that this belongs to the cargo area, is simply because of the TNT plane parked here and the building of KLM cargo that stands in the vicinity (see next screenshot). These buildings of KLM cargo have been replicated very well. I truly think this captures the actual building very well. Like with the previously mentioned warehouses, some details have been omitted (like the blue sun screens, which are not 3D), but I really see no reason to add in needless FPS eating features that don’t really contribute that much to the scenery.

This cargo area looks good overall, but it seems a bit bland to me. The terminal area had this problem too, as I mentioned multiple times in the above passages, but there you at least had the jetways everywhere. Here there is nothing of the kind, and so if there are no planes, it really is truly empty. That’s a real shame, simply because it otherwise would have looked very good.

Let’s see how the second cargo area was modeled:

Here we have an overview of the cargo area. To me it looks better than the previous one, mainly because there are a multitude of signs and poles, and the buildings have some extending roofs and the like. Plus, the 3 cargo planes add a lot to the overall atmosphere (but note that these are AI aircraft, not static aircraft that you get with the airport!). Looking around the Boeing 747, we can see that there is some ground equipment. That’s good; I think this is necessary to make the airport a bit more lively. I wish they had included more of these at the other cargo area. This final shot of this cargo area again shows a mixture of truly nicely done buildings and blandness due to a lack of ground equipment. I fear this is a recurring theme in this airport scenery.

And that sums up the second cargo area. There isn’t a lot more to show here, so we’ll continue with all the offices, cars, boats and whatnot that didn’t fit in the previous paragraphs.

The scenery: Schiphol at night

So how does this bustling airport look at night? Here are some screenshots. I think it looks very nice basically, with believable night lighting and nicely textured buildings. I only wish the night lighting wouldn’t make the airport look so “washed out”. This mainly happens at the aprons, and I have seen it with many addons, suggesting that it’s not a specific issue with this scenery but simply something that we’ll have to live with. By the way, the yellow lights you see everywhere is NL2000’s night layer and has got nothing to do with Schiphol itself.

Some farms. Offices at the heart of Schiphol. Schiphol plaza.
The cargo area. Concourse H. Concourse F and G.
Concourse E. Schiphol Oost. Schiphol in its entirety at night. It’s a great view!

The scenery: Whatever didn’t fit into the other categories

First we’ll be looking at Schiphol Oost, where mainly GA Traffic seems to be parked, but there are also maintenance hangars and various offices. After that I’ll show you many structures and buildings that I didn’t show you yet, and I’ll devote some time showing you some of the final areas, including the Polderbaan. Finally we’ll take a look at the icon that makes Schiphol: its well-known control tower. First, Schiphol Oost:

These screenshots shows all there is to see at Schiphol Oost. The scenery gives a very good rendition of the real thing, and the buildings look very nice. They are nicely modeled and textured. Note that the textures on the roof will have been sharpened in version 1.1, as well as some other small errors resolved.

So that’s Schiphol Oost. Overall it looks good, but there is a problem at the GA area. I have noticed that the entire area is not actually concrete, but the plane wobbles back and forth and the “taxiing over grass effect” is also shown, meaning that basically the sim thinks you are taxiing on grass. This is a disturbing thing and considering it should have been fixed in the original release, it’s too bad that it hasn’t been fixed in version 1.1.

As you can see, while taxiing, dirt is flying up behind the plane’s wheels. This means the sim thinks I’m taxiing over grass, which means a significant error was made that should not be hard to fix.

Now here are some screenshots from the Polderbaan with the relevant control tower, after which a screenshot of Schiphol’s main ATC tower follows.

The polderbaan in the background and its control tower on the foreground. It looks nice: well textured and well-modeled, it looks like the real thing. The polderbaan tower with some taxiways in the foreground and the terminal buildings in the background.
Schiphol’s control tower: an icon that is easily recognized by those that frequent Schiphol. In version 1.1, this tower was further enhanced and it indeed looks a lot better than it was, with more 3D detail added. This is a version 1.1 screenshot. This is the old control tower. It’s quite a bit smaller but the modeling is well done here too. Texturing is also rather nicely done. The roof is blurry on this picture, but in version 1.1 it was sharpened.

Now let’s look at all the offices and stuff. Here is a compilation of the offices in and around Schiphol, all are screenshots of version 1.0:

There’s not a lot to say about these buildings. From memory, they look like the real buildings, but one may question how important the level of detail is when chances are high you’ll never really get to see them from your plane anyway. That said, texturing and modeling has been done well, although modeling is a bit elementary. As I suggested though, you never really do get to see these buildings from your aircraft. They are tucked away between multitudes of gates, terminals, concourses and warehouses. What you will get to see looks good and that’s what’s important.

Next is a compilation of stuff that attracted my attention for some reason or another. Note that this is a mixture of version 1.0 and version 1.1 screenshots. Which is which can be read in the caption.

I noticed that all jetways have the same shadow. This tends to look weird, because not all jetways are the same shape, as you can see. Alas, not a lot can be done about it, unless the jetways actually cast their own shadows, which would be very detrimental to performance. This is a version 1.1 screenshot. I’m going to be blunt: I really dislike the edges of runways and taxiways in this addon. I think they are very unrealistic and I personally would like to see them changed. That said, the quality of the runway textures is very good and they are very sharp. This is a version 1.1 screenshot.
The taxiways look good, with nice detailed tarmac textures. Also the signage has been done well. However, it’s a pity that you can se where two lines overlap, such as can be seen with the red lines, but now I’m being very nitpicky. This is a version 1.1 screenshot. Another screenshot that shows taxiway detail. It’s a pleasing sight. This is a version 1.1 screenshot. Another shot of the edges of the taxiways. I truly dislike this. Because of this edge, not only does the taxiway look more “broken” than it actually is in reality, it also makes it look like the taxiway isn’t properly placed on the ground, but hanging in mid-air. This is a version 1.1 screenshot.
I’m not sure what this is supposed to be, but it seems like the building is bigger than the roof… This is a version 1.1 screenshot. Schiphol’s fire training facility, looking somewhat like a weird cross of a Boeing 747 and MD-11. The textures are a bit weird. It seems like it’s made out of wood, but it definitely isn’t: it’s an all-metal structure. Other textures might have done a better job. Modeling is not great, but it’s okay. This is a version 1.0 screenshot. Some farms you will find around Schiphol, lodged between the many runways. They look rather nice. This is a version 1.0 screenshot.
A shot of runway 6. Note the nice, little boat in the lower left corner of the shot. This is a version 1.0 screenshot. A collection of vats. They have been modeled pretty well. They have nice, rounded shapes and generally look realistic. The fire department on the foreground looks good, too. This is a version 1.0 screenshot. A nice set of buildings of which use I don’t know what it is. I suspect they are part of a farm. This is a version 1.0 screenshot.

The scenery: AESLite and AES

Aerosoft’s AES is a wonderful utility that has been praised by many. It supports Aerosoft’s Schiphol.

AESLite has become more and more of an integral part of many Aerosoft sceneries. I can’t even think of any recent Aerosoft scenery releases that didn’t feature AESLite. Schiphol is of course no exception: it’s truly bustling with AESLite traffic. You see it everywhere: on the highways, at the concourses, and even on bridges and around taxiways. You can see the AESLite traffic in many screenshots, so I suggest you to go over some of the screenshots again, and you’ll see a wide selection of AESLite traffic.

What I truly find nice is that AESLite traffic can also be found driving over the highways. I always enjoy doing an approach over the highways, and it’s great that this is possible in this Schiphol scenery. The only thing I could possibly ask for is to have even more AESLite traffic on the A4. That would make it even better.

I would also like to mention here that I don’t really like the 2D cars stuck on the highway textures. I’d actually wish these would have been removed, simply because it’s truly weird to see AESLite cars drive over stationary 2D cars. It’s a minor gripe, but something that can break the atmosphere. Of course I don’t mean to say that in the entire scenery these 2D cars should be removed, but at least at the places where you would be flying low, like on approach to runway 6.

Something I would like to especially mention is how AESLite traffic drives over bridges and such. That’s a truly nice addition. You can see the car traffic get off the highway and watch how they cross the highway by using a bridge and then continuing into the passenger drop-off point. I covered this way back, so if you want to take another look, be my guest.

The Scenery: NL2000 compatibility

An important aspect of sceneries, I think, is whether they are compatible with previously released sceneries. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t demand a product that is compatible with all sceneries, but I do like to see compatibility with truly influential scenery packages. One such scenery package is NL2000. I already mentioned it briefly in the introduction, but here I intend to examine compatibility between NL2000 and Aerosoft’s Schiphol more closely.

For those that don’t know, NL2000 is a massive scenery project that covers the entirety of the Netherlands. Not only does it add 3D scenery for all airports and even random houses, trees, electrical masts, boats and whatnot, it also replicates specific landmarks. In Amsterdam this can be clearly seen. That is not all.

All of the Netherlands is also covered with photoreal imagery, with colors that will make your eyes pop. It is simply that stunning and real. The photoreal imagery has, in the last FS2004 release, a stunning 1m/pixel resolution which makes the scenery truly come to life. You may understand now that flying without NL2000, when you get used to it, is a cumbersome experience. Here are two screenshots to show you what I mean by “stunning scenery”:

Looking great, no? And again: looking great, no?

This will probably make you understand why I make such a point, and devote an entire chapter to NL2000 scenery compatibility.

After all is said and done, the compatibility with NL2000 is not perfect. You can get all the NL2000 buildings at EHAM out of the way, as well as the AFCAD and taxisigns and such, but there is a permanent issue with the elevation. NL2000’s photo underground seems to be higher than it should be, with the consequence that your plane and the AI do not seem to taxi onto the actual ground, but one or two feet above it.

I have already highlighted this issue, but here it is again: another problem is that the NL2000 and the Aerosoft EHAM are not properly aligned, and I would say that the problem is EHAM’s, not NL2000’s. As I explained previously, I think this because:
- EHAM does not match default highways;
- EHAM does not match UTE;
- NL2000 does match UTE.

So, as you can see, EHAM does not match anything, while NL2000 and UTE match each other. Logically, EHAM must be at fault, then. If this is true I do not know and I don’t know of an accurately way to assess it, but I do advice the developer to look into this issue. NL2000 is a highly popular scenery (within the Dutch FS community for sure, I don’t know about other communities) and UTE usually has the best data regarding highways (and I can assure you the A4 was not moved since UTE came out!), so it’d be a good idea to align EHAM with these sceneries.

I’ll tell you what would be best: make an alignment with the default highways and include options for alignment with UTE or NL2000, depending on what scenery the user has installed. I have seen this option with other Aerosoft sceneries, so I know it is not impossible.

Another “problem” that could be mentioned is the performance hit. It takes a lot longer for textures to load with NL2000 enabled, but this is hardly a problem of EHAM. This is because of NL2000’s photoreal textures.

Alignment problems
Alignment problems
Elevation problems. Here is a shot with NL2000 disabled: as you can see, there is no elevation problem here.

Overall, great compatibility can be achieved; just do not expect it to be perfect. But, NL2000 and MAP Amsterdam are certainly usable together.

Performance

Test System

Macbook Pro with:
Intel Cure Duo2 @ 2,4 gHz
Geforce 8600GT
4GB DDR2 RAM
Windows XP Professional SP3 32bit

Flying Time:
46 hours

NOTE: All values below are when used in conjunction with NL2000. While I have noticed no terribly big FPS hit because of that, you might add 2-4 FPS to every value down below if you were to switch off NL2000 scenery!

Here is something I was truly worried about. Schiphol is huge. There’s a lot of traffic, many buildings, many detailed little things. I really wondered how horrendous the FPS was going to be. If that’s not enough, then there’s the previous experience I had with sceneries of this developer. Mega Airport Brussels and Arlanda are also by this scenery designer, and while Arlanda performs well on my machine, Brussels has always been somewhat of a pain. My FPS are always low at that airport. Actually, my FPS are traditionally the worst at that place and for no apparent reason. How does Schiphol perform?

Surprisingly well. I’m not quite sure why, but it does relatively well considering the size and complexity of the airport. I have included a FPS readout on practically all screenshots, so you can look at the exact FPS count at each situation, but I also included a table of my performance experience with this airport to give you a more concise readout of the data:

Aircraft FPS at day FPS at night Notable comments
Default C172 12-20 10-17  
Carenado C182 RG 13-20 12-13 When not directly over buildings, FPS is 17-19 at night.
LDS 767 9-14 9-10 At night in a storm, FPS remained 9-10.
PMDG 747 9-13 6-9  
Wilco A330-200 10-13 7-10  

The above FPS counts are based on version 1.1 and have been acquired by flying low and slow over the core of the airport.

What I always see as a benchmark for performance and usability, is an approach done with a complex airliner. One that has a FMC and many systems that need to be handled next to the rendering of the detailed scenery under examination. Below you’ll find screenshots of one such approach in the PMDG 747.

Note that for all aircraft with which I did such an approach returned the same kind of result: all were very much alike in FPS as portrayed in the above table. The below screenshots show a PMDG 747 approach at day time, and as you can see, the FPS are about the same as in the FPS table above.

Approaches were not anymore a bigger problem than simply flying over the scenery. For me, fluidity was enough to do what I had to do and make some successful landings. The second screenshot is a very typical sight however: sometimes the loading times were quite long, and in the meantime you’d stare at a grey airport. I should stress that NL2000 is the main cause of this. If I were to disable NL2000, loading times were much, much better!

I should stress the fact that I do all my simming on a 1.5-year-old laptop, which is hardly a great computer for the intensive calculations done when flying with the PMDG 747 over this kind of scenery. I’m quite sure many people will have a better computer than I have and will get better results with this scenery.

I should also separately stress again the performance hit gotten from activating NL2000. Due to the enormous amount of high resolution ground scenery, loading times were perhaps ten times as long, and FPS were 2-4 points lower than when I disabled it. So in principal, this scenery does not perform that badly. It simply performs the way you’d expect it to perform, given the size of the airport and the amount of traffic on it.

The update: What was changed in version 1.1 and is this an improvement?

First of all: What has actually been changed? Here is a change log:

- ATC Tower has been enhanced
- Distance to most objects has been corrected so now you will see buildings from a further distance
- Taxi signs added
- Backside of terminal B now has the gates that were missing.
- Adds on gates changed to the correct ones.
- The visitor’s balcony on the main terminal has been improved.
- New stand-alone exclude file for those that wants to manipulate with the AFCAD file.
- Corrected Microsoft logo on the new Microsoft building.
- De-icing apron now enhanced with tower and drive trough parking also with more correct apron markings, ladders and - other objects.
- Winter now looking better with a stronger frosty look.
- Rwy lightning has been improved as good as possible for now.
- Some thought that roof textures were blurry, they have been sharpened a little.
- All in all some cosmetical issues have been dealt with here and there.

That’s nice and it’s a welcome update, but how does it translate into the scenery? I will give a small overview of changes for as far as it hasn’t been done in previous chapters already.

Here’s an example of how roof textures were sharpened. They are noticeable better, as can be seen by comparing this screenshot to one of the many other screenshots in this review. Here is something else that was fixed: previously, this read “72”, not “73”.

Most other stuff has been shown in screenshots throughout the review. This update does do something: afterwards the scenery looked nicer and performance seemed to be improved, but there are still some glaring issues to resolve, like the dirt coming up when taxiing around the GA area. Also the concourse B gate numbering should be adjusted and more taxiway signs should be added. I also think the scenery should be made compatible with at least UTE.

Summary/Closing Remarks

With a Mega Airport, comes a Mega Review. Schiphol Airport is a huge scenery, in case you didn’t notice this as yet. It might even be one of the biggest projects undertaken in flight simulation scenery design, with some notable other projects such as FlyTampa’s Kai Tak and various other “Mega Airports” such as Paris Charles de Gaulle.

They all share the same thing: size, but do they share quality? I’m not going to judge this, but I am going to judge Amsterdam’s quality. Does it live up to its fellow Mega Airport brethren? Let’s put everything into perspective and see.

- The modeling is generally good, although there are some questionable things. A building bigger than its roof comes into mind. What really matters looks good however, and has been done pretty well.
- The texturing is generally very nice. Taxiways and runways look good, but their edges are completely unrealistic in my opinion. Buildings look good, and the sharpening of the roofs has helped make it look better.
- The placement of the EHAM is off, I think. It could have at least been better aligned with UTE, NL2000 or at least the default highways.
- Performance is as you’d expect from such a huge airport, but considering the complexity, it’s not bad. It’s about the same Aerosoft’s Paris Charles de Gaulle, perhaps slightly worse.
- At night the scenery looks quite pretty and I like driving around at nighttime. I wish the apron floodlights would not make the ground looks so “washed outs” but there isn’t a lot one can do about it. I have seen it with many addons, both payware and freeware.
- The scenery has AESLite and it is compatible with AES, which is always a great plus, if you ask me.
- There are still many small flaws and problem that absolutely need to be taken out. I have not mentioned them all, but I advise people to go over to the Aerosoft forums to give all the complains and outstanding issues a look. Beware: it is not as bad as it looks for as far as I’m concerned, but these are issues that need fixing quickly!

That list summarizes my opinion of this scenery package. It’s of good quality and delivers a lot for its money, but it’s very rough around the edges. I would really like to see another patch to resolve the remaining issues. Of these, the dirt flying up around the GA area is probably the biggest. After that comes stuff such as the concourse B gate numbering and alignment with FS2004/UTE/NL2000 highways/waterways. So, all things considered, does it live up to its MAP brethren? Not on all accounts, but it has potential that has not been exploited as yet.

Concluding: this is a good scenery package, portraying EHAM quite accurately, but it needs more work. One more patch that resolves the last issues is truly needed, but in its present state it is still perfectly usable. It looks very good, works as hard as you’d expect, and could give you lots of fun. But, as said it needs more work so that I can say it’s “great”, not simply “good”.

 

What I Like About Mega Airport Amsterdam

  • Overall good modeling;
  • Overall good texturing;
  • Performance wise not too hard on your system (only as hard as you’d expect);
  • Nice night lighting;
  • AESLite and AES compatible.

 

What I Don't Like About The Mega Airport Amsterdam

  • Runway and taxiway edges should truly be revised…
  • Many small issues and flaws that need fixing (scenery is rough around the edges);
  • Alignment with highways (default/UTE/NL2000) is always off and should be worked on;
  • Photoreal underground a bit blurry;
  • More objects around the gates would have been nice;
  • More taxiways signs would be nice, but it’s not an immediate necessity;
  • Grammatical and spelling errors in the manual should have been fixed.

 

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