AVSIM Commercial Scenery Review

Extreme Bush Trekker

Product Information

Publishers:  Pacific Islands Simulation

Description: An Add-on scenery package.

Download Size:
109 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Etienne Martin AVSIM Staff Reviewer - September 10, 2009

Introduction

This is the second of two scenery products on Papua New Guinea from Pacific Island Simulation. The first package, Raw Grit: PNG Bush Pilot was reviewed by David Wilson-Okamura. Extreme Bush Trekker, which adds 15 new destinations, comes with all the trimmings for the aspiring adventure pilot: exotic beaches, remote areas, high altitude short fields, one way takeoff and landings, dirt and grass strips, and a few helicopter pads and float plane docks.

Thanks to its location on the Pacific “ring of fire”, Papua New Guinea has a huge mountain range (highest peak ~14,800) primarily covered by tropical vegetation, and the region also has the obligatory tropical island beaches and lagoons. This makes for varied flying conditions in a single package. Another plus are the short distances which allow you to go from island hopping to high altitude thrill rides all within a few minutes.

Papua New Guinea
Courtesy of Microsoft Bing
Close up
Courtesy of Microsoft Bing

As mentioned, fifteen locations are included in Extreme Bush Trekker. I’ve included the set in the table below, noting that the companion “Raw Grit” product also has about as many, covering more locations in the same geographical region.

Airport Type Altitude (ft)
Madang (AYMD) Coastal/paved 15
Long Island (LIS) Island/clay 100
Saidor (SDR) Coastal/dirt 75
Nankina (NKN) Mountain/dirt 5,350
Bambu (BAM) Mountain/dirt 6,790
Teptep (TEP) Mountain/dirt 6,750
Dinga (DIN) Mountain/dirt 8,010
Dinangat (DNA) Mountain/dirt 5,000
Idagen (IGN) Mountain/grass 5,400/7,779(helipad)
Lake Gwam (GWM) Mountain/grass 11,515
Erume (EME) Mountain/dirt 6,400
Moro (AYMR) Mountain/dirt 2,700
Kairik (KRK) Mountain/dirt+rock 7,280
Bundi (BDI) Mountain/grass 4,200
Tauta (TAU) Mountain/grass 6,590

Packaging

Currently the package is available from SimFlight or SimMarket as a 110MB download which expands to roughly twice that on disk once installed. Installation is without trouble and prompts for a license key which is obtained during the e-commerce process.

Installation

No issues were encountered, although the scenery installed under a SimMarket folder under the main FSX installation. I find it curious that the folder is named after the distributor and not the developer. Entry of the license key was simple and 10 minutes after running the setup program, I was ready.

My setup program was branded by SimMarket and the product also installs in a folder called SimMarket.

Documentation

The product comes with a 22 page PDF document covering FSX performance settings for the optimal setup, a suggested route map (which I more or less followed in this article) and airport or strip information for each of the points of interest in the product. Each airport or strip has NAVAID information and a few are equipped for IFR.

I confess that the need for the nav beacons is purely to find the approximate area of where you’re supposed to go. I found the use of radio navigation rather superfluous except to allow your GPS to bail you out in case you get lost. This is “seat of the pants” all the way. All locations are near each other, and part of the fun so to speak, is to visually find where you’re supposed to go. The documentation does not include detailed maps.

The documentation also sets the mood for the product. Here’s a sample of the NOTAMs describing some of the strips:
“ No approach from 22 and departure from 04 due to obstr (trees and huts) and high terrain.”
“ 9.3% sloped RWY. T/O 07, Ldg 25.”
“ Configure aircraft landing sequence early as there is no room for go-around.”
“ Straight-in approach not recommended due to mtn side.”

In other words, exactly the place you need to be to practice touch and go’s, at least once.

Visuals and general thoughts

The photo tour is in the next section, prefaced by these general comments on what the product looks and feels like.

The locations in the scenery make for a variety of exotic destinations from coastline and island strips to rugged mountain slopes – in fact quite similar to Lukla in Nepal, except with more opportunities for unwanted collisions. Fortunately, in addition to the mostly unpaved strips, we also get platforms for helicopters (which I did not test here) and if the locale happens to be near water, you’ll also find a place or two to dock your amphibian.

I didn’t have a high altitude amphibian to try out, so while Lake Gwam has a dock and even shows a small float-plane in the water, I wasn’t quite sure how it got there. I found just about every strip in Extreme Bush Trekker too short, bordered by hefty obstacles and generally not for the faint of heart if your thing is the 16,000 ft runway at Denver Colorado’s KDEN. Use of a STOL/high altitude capable aircraft is almost mandatory. Hence the “extreme” in the title I suppose.

The 76m resolution terrain mesh adds detail and realism to the area for a part of the world suffering from the proverbial low detail in the default FSX. The immediate impact I noticed was that very few problems with terrain occur, such as raised or sunken lakes. A few creeks and rivers defied physics in some places by an odd offset from where I would expect them. The airports themselves mostly blended in with the surrounding terrain, so much so that finding them can be quite a challenge by itself.

This scenery installs as two layers.
Indexing was automatic.

The product recreates huts, small houses, smoking chimneys, aircraft undergoing repair, palm trees and other tropical plants dotted around the landscape near each landing strip. The bamboo bridges definitely give some of those places a genuine “Indiana Jones” flair, and you will see some tents in some places as well. There’s also a curious “guy” in a suit in some of these places – a bit odd. There are a few persons represented as well, some with waving arms.

What I found as a truly remarkable feature for an FSX scenery is that, for once, we have a product that actually clears trees and other immediate auto-gen items from the end of the runways. Not only is it realistic, but it also has a nice effect, as you get to literally fly between rows of trees in some of the places on approach which is quite dramatic. Then again, many strips are just perched on the top of a cliff, so trees blocking the runway are the least of your worries.

I also found the level of detail a bit inconsistent from place to place. Some airports are very detailed, especially those near the sea (exception, Lake Gwam). Most of the remote villages look like a bunch of buildings and objects hastily arranged together around a cookie cutter grass strip – certainly not showing a consistent level of attention. Perhaps it is just that some places are truly that different, but my impression was that the level of detail is markedly different between say Dinga and Long Island.

Another point to make is that the cruise between two places (if there is time for cruising) is also rich with visuals, as some of the shots in our photo tour will hopefully show.

Some ground textures looked a bit out of place, perhaps an artifact related to my particular setup and remnants of my REX and GEX add-ons. This product is certainly not immune to FSX texture rendering moments that has you finding a desert patch (or a golf course) in the middle of the lush tropical forest, but generally, Pacific Island Simulations makes a remarkable effort to blend things together.

Ground textures for all locales could be provided to avoid the odd look as some of the dirt or grass strips look a bit out of place compared to say, the quality of the bamboo huts and bridges. The product appears to use a number of base FSX textures and it would have been nice to have had a few more terrain tiles in it for additional authenticity.

Air and road traffic was very sparse compared to other scenery I have at the same settings. The documentation indicates road traffic was slowed to 60km/h – this may be true. I hardly saw any road traffic. The reason being, there are very few roads (hence the need to fly there I suppose). AI traffic is equally sparse. The documentation provides one explanation: “there is no room for parking spots in some of these strips, so there is no place for AI to spawn from.”

From my experience, sloped runways and AI traffic don’t mix well in FSX and that is primarily a technical limitation of the simulator. In fact, sloped runways cause several collision detection model problems with the simmer’s own aircraft. This said, I did see AI traffic from the larger airports with flat runways, and I saw none at the remote strips.

Extreme Bush Trekker Photo Tour

As always when I write about scenery, I prefer to have the screenshots speak for themselves. In this case, I tried to re-create the pilot experience, so here it goes. Again, each image can be clicked to bring the full resolution version.

Madang hangars Madang tower Moving around
Madang satellite view (night) Madang bay docks – you need to taxi between the two jettees marked by the buoys between the trees in the far end. That’s nice. A low pass over Madang, I’m sure the tower didn’t approve.
Madang Coastline Madang airport Trees
Madang bay islands early in the morning. Water landing Taxi to the dock. I’m ready for a dive.
Cruising from Madang to Long Island – some cruiseships, trawleys and sailboats (mostly static) dot the seas. Approaching Long Island in the haze – I was reminded of the movie Jurassic Park. Going down the coast line – the strip is somewhere south.
Long Island approaching along the coast. The first challenge here is to find your destination, preferrably without a navaid. This is bush flying is it not? Long Island strip – note the canyon in the back – that is one of the highlights of this scenery. Long Island approach
This is an easy airport, good to start with. A greaser. Long Island turning around
The Long Island beach. Long Island satellite view Long Island water effects
Long Island buildings Long Island huts and bridge Long Island river
Long Island boats Long Island takeoff Long Island canyon (who can resist?)
Long Island canyon from the other side Docked in my amphibian at Kranket Overview
A fire pit near the beach. Orcas are around in the water, puffing water and diving. View from the hut.
Rolling hills near the village of Bambu The strip is on that ridge, and yes, it’s sloped. Half of the challenge is to find out where to land.
Decidely not very flat – looks like a strip over there. Finals Parked
Bambu from the other side Ready for take-off. The run is quite bumpy. Getting speed fast at this altitude is not simple in my Citabria.
Dinangat arrival Some texture tiles looks very green – golf course green. Perhaps GEX or REX is at play here. It’s a long way down from either side, plenty of crash possibilities. Pretty though.
Good thing there’s a barrier. Dinangat is perched on a hill Some of the sights near Dinga – cruising is not boring.
Dinga strip Not a lot of room for error here either No trees to block, however, the cliff on either end isn’t too shabby.
Dinga overview. This almost looks like Switzerland. Hmm. Dinga, from the other side. Nearby falls, this has multiple landings and sounds of falling water. Nice.
Indagen – this looks like an oasis in the middle of the desert. Textures? Indagen approach, another white knuckle ordeal between a stall and not being to stop in time. Buildings in Indagen
On the way to Lake Gwam – the included mesh terrain is nice, plenty of detail. Folks, we’re landing to the left of that lake, no problem. The key is to make that last turn, miss the hill side, and stay a bit above stall speed so as not to crash in the rock at the end of the strip.
A bit (ok, a lot) of rudder… Good thing crash detect is turned off, I bounced at least four times. I’m not sure how that red float plane got there. I tried, and wasn’t very succesful.
The lake The helipad on the lake. I had to take a shot of this - it looked so nice, I couldn’t resist.
The canyon by Lake Gwam on the way down. The falls near the lake Another day, Nankina approach
Nankina field Nankina, from the other side Landing in Nankina
Nankina take-off Moro field – note the trees are removed from the end of the runway Moro buildings
Moro - hangar Amphibian docks at Moro Moro coastline detail
Approaching Saidor Saidor runway and buildings Saidor field – lush vegetation by the coast.
Saidor approach via a clearing in the trees. Landed in Saidor Saidor seaplane docks
On the way to Teptep Teptep lies behind this ridge – good thing the GPS tells us that – finding airports is a challenge with no aids, but certainly part of the fun. The strip in the valley behind the ridge, we have to swoop down.
Landing in Teptep The sign confirms we found the right place. Switching back to our PC-12 in Teptep
Departing from Teptep requires a fairly steep ascent to clear the bowl it sits in. The PC-12’s versatility makes navigating the area quite a bit simpler.

Sound

While this is an odd section for an article on a scenery product, Extreme Bush Trekker makes good use of sound to add to the ambiance. The scenery contains several “nature” sounds from birds to gurgles in the rapids to whales hissing. Most of those are hard to hear when your engines are on, so the feature is best enjoyed when parked somewhere.

Test System

Intel QX9650 @ 4GHz
4 GB memory
NVIDIA 8800 Ultra
CH Products ctlrs
Windows Vista 64 SP2
FSX Acceleration/SP2

Flying Time:
14 hours

Performance

Most of the locales represented are rich in trees and vegetation. There are relatively few buildings with very complex detail and no animations really to speak of, except for the animals represented and the smoke in the chimneys present at nearly all fields. Consequently, performance was quite good.

I don’t think this scenery should perform poorly on today’s average system, noting that this is a perception and not a scientific measurement as I didn’t find the need to count FPS. Everything was visually fluid, especially compared to KSEA.

Conclusion

Pacific Island Simulations takes us to a wondrous area of the world that combines high mountain ranges and lush tropical islands, and one that definitely fits the adventure motif. This product comes with numerous visual rewards. Nearly all the approaches involved here are very difficult, especially if the weather does not cooperate. It is out of the question to have night operations as most fields are not lit at night except for a handful of paved runways in the major areas.

I was particularly impressed with the rendering of the five coastline fields, and Lake Gwam. Starting at dawn makes for stunning visuals. The trip from Madang to Long Island by itself is well worth the effort either in a prop or seaplane; the slower, the better. Some of the other mountain fields did have a bit of ‘blah’ to them, a feel of “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. This is only mitigated by the challenge of the various approaches themselves, linked to the terrain around the fields. Cruise time is mostly a visual feast and all destinations are fairly close to one another, making for quick and exciting trips.

I found that a highly responsive and tough airplane made my life much simpler (primarily correcting my gross errors), and yes, I crashed so many times visiting these places that it’s not worth mentioning. There’s a reason the documentation says this is best experienced with crash detection turned off, just be ready for a lot of bouncing on these sloped runways.

If you find it fun to land on narrow postage stamps in an exotic setting, this product is for you. Extreme Bush Trekker delivers high difficulty that is sure to challenge your flight skills, providing good value in a very reasonably priced package.

 

What I Like About Extreme Bush Trekker

  • Lives up to the “extreme” name in the title
  • Includes its own mesh and 15 places to visit, lots of bang for the buck in that respect.
  • Almost all places include one way, sloped strips.
  • Details like bamboo bridges, waterfalls, local fauna, complete with sounds and animations of animal life
  • Many flights are probably 15 minutes or less, makes for quick excitement
  • Most strips near water have a pad or docks for those with helicopters or amphibians. Rotor and pontoon-heads will feel right at home.

 

What I Don't Like About Extreme Bush Trekker

  • Inconsistent level of detail – some airports are extremely well done while others seem a bit repetitive
  • • A few places don’t appear to mix well with add-on texture enhancement products that replace default FSX textures.
  • Not a dislike, but a note: the places added to FSX may not show on your navigation add-on, although they show on the GPS and FSX map utility. Using an external navigation or flight planning utility may not be helpful here.

 

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