AVSIM Commercial Scenery Review

Imagine Sim KLGA LaGuardia Airport

"Image Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey"

Product Information
Publisher: ImagineSim

Description: Add-on Scenery.

Download Size:
27 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FS9 & FSX
Reviewed by: Etienne Martin AVSIM Staff Reviewer - December 27, 2007

Introduction

At 680 acres, LaGuardia is the smallest of the three airports serving the New York City metropolitan area. It is named after the former New York City mayor F.H. LaGuardia (1882-1947) who was credited with re-energizing the area following the Great Depression. Built on the site of Curtiss field, La Guardia opened to commercial traffic in December 1939 under the name Municipal City Airport, and took the name La Guardia Airport in June 1947. LGA is currently operated by The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Its two 7,000’ runways, 4 terminals and 72 gates serve among others Delta Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier, JetBlue, US Airways and Air Canada.

Between September 2006 and September 2007, this airport served 25 million passengers, or 23% of the total traffic seen by the New York City metropolitan area served by Kennedy International (JFK), La Guardia (LGA) and Newark Liberty (EWR).

Packaging, Installation and Documentation

KLGA comes as a 27Mb zip format download containing two versions of the installation programs. One is specific to FS2004 (FS9), the other for FSX. The archive also includes a one page quick installation document that can be viewed in a browser.

A 15 page PDF format user’s guide is available as a separate 1Mb download from the product page on the Imagine Sim web site.

Demo version

A demo version of the product is available directly from Imagine Sim’s web site. This is convenient to try out the product before buying. The demo is identical to the release version, although it also contains a very visible “cube” displaying the Imagine Sim logo and parts of the scenery vanish on a schedule. The demo version must be uninstalled before the retail product can be installed.

Retail product

The full product can be purchased online from SimMarket. Upon payment, the product can be downloaded from a link on SimMarket’s account page. The link can be used only for 30 days from the purchase date. This is to be noted should you need to re-download the product beyond those 30 days.

The registration key is separately provided via e-mail along with a confirmation of your purchase.

Airport layout – Riker’s Island bottom right FSX DX10 shot – R22

The process is the same for the FS9 and FSX version of the product. The license key must be entered twice if both versions are installed. The license key must be entered during the installation right after accepting the license agreement. The installer eliminates the “find the registration key” guesswork by providing a convenient browse button to open the license information text file saved on disk. The key is extracted automatically, a feature I found convenient as it eliminates the guess-work and any errors. The key can also be pasted via the clipboard.

When the installer completes, you will be notified that the scenery.cfg file is being modified. The first time the simulator starts, it will refresh the scenery index and you are good to go on your visit of one of the busiest airspaces in the world.

Documentation

The 15 page PDF document is clearly written and covers the essentials: a short performance optimization guide for Flight Simulator (always welcome to help maximize frame rates), a copy of the FAA airport plate for LGA that looks like it was taken directly from the FAA’s very own NACO web site, instructions on how to operate the animated jetways via the radio, and the gate docking system.

Visuals

The marine terminal, the main terminal with its four concourses, the US Airways and Delta terminals are depicted faithfully.

Marine terminal US Airways/Delta terminal
Terminal fingers and jetways

Located on a strip of land between the Grand Central Parkway and the East River, the airport is void of much greenery. It favors the utility of concrete, heavy fencing, blast shields and 40s-era hangars mixed in with modern terminal buildings. The ground textures are particularly well done, especially up close. The ground shows the appropriate wear and tear expected for a well traveled airport.

While the tarmac detail is well executed, the buildings textures feel clean and coarse up close. Windows are not transparent (no doubt a frame rate helper), and road signs are low resolution and generic in nature.

Below are some comparison shots from similar angles between the default FSX scenery (left) and the Imagine Sim’s rendering of LaGuardia (right).


There is much airport traffic to go around, including a plethora of luggage carriers, trucks, buses and detail. My custom AI package had no problems populating the correct airlines. I didn’t notice any problems with the routes followed by the AI trucks or vehicles. There are many static objects scattered about such as luggage tractors and carts. While most are stationary, they complement the atmosphere of a busy airport.

Clearly, Imagine Sim brings much detail to the area compared to the “in the box” rendition.

Special features

LGA for FSX does not use the animated jetways found in FSX. The scenery only has a handful of selected gates that have FS9 style animated jetways triggered only when you enter a special frequency in the nav radio with your aircraft at the door.

These jetways are not aware of the exit location for each aircraft, and Imagine Sim implements a “body type” approximation, so if you select a mid-body gate and park a wide body, the exits will not match up. My test with a 737 in the mid-body designated gate worked well.

Each gate either has a parking system or the “2D” ground crew, or both. Each responds appropriately to the aircraft position as it nears the gate and helps guide the pilot to the proper parking position.

Textures

In general, I found the ground, fence and airport sign textures varied, sharp and well done. However, building textures were a bit bland, particularly the parking areas outside of the airport and the “solid” windows.

The road signs were of low resolution, seemed a bit generic in nature and break away from the quality and variety of the ground textures. The windows lack detail. While it doesn’t matter from far away, it is a bit of a letdown when parked at the gate.

FSX shot – the black area near the 2D ground crew should be transparent. Parked properly
FS9 shot at the Northwest Airlines gates. Transparency works correctly. Some jetways are fixed.

The product was originally designed for FS9. As such, a number of texture problems occur with the FSX version with Acceleration and SP2. Night textures did not function at all on my test system with FSX Acceleration and the airport appeared totally black. The vendor indicated only SP1 was supported and at the time of this writing, this does not readily appear anywhere on the product page at either Imagine Sim or SimMarket.

Clearly, I had no issues with the FS9 version, and I regret I was unable to test FSX SP1.

FS9 night textures Note: night mode did not work in FSX Acceleration

Performance

Test System

Intel QX9650 @ 4.1GHz
4 GB of RAM
NVIDIA GeForce 8800Ultra
300GB HDD
24” Dell display
CH Products flight yoke, pedals, quadrant, fighterstick, pro-throttle
Windows Vista 64
FSX Acceleration

Flying Time:
9 hours

While slower than the default scenery, I didn’t notice a significant drop in performance. I did notice significantly higher levels of traffic, both airport and airline in the FSX version compared to similar traffic levels selected in the FS9 version. This is due to the increased object densities found in FSX.

As with other large airports, this add-on can lead to very slow frame rates if the AI traffic is high. In a way, because the airport does not make use of the animated jetways in FSX, this can be a performance gain when first loading the flight.

Conclusion

Imagine Sim provides a faithful rendition of the LaGuardia airport and a significant improvement over the default scenery. The level of detail is pleasing without a major hit to performance, although at the cost of simplified building textures and low outlying detail outside of the airport flight area. The tarmac itself is nicely done with detailed markings, with static and moving objects.

The product is clearly designed for FS9 and the FSX version is a direct port that does not include any FSX features. While KLGA is certified by the vendor to work with FSX, a check with Imagine Sim indicates this is only for SP1.

FSX Acceleration and SP2 users should be warned that the current release has rendering issues.

 

What I Like About LaGuardia

  • Good quality models
  • Excellent ground and object textures, if a bit bland for buildings and outlying airport area
  • Frame rate friendly for an airport scenery.
  • Worked well with enhanced AI
  • Demo version “try before you buy”

 

What I Don't Like About LaGuardia

  • Some significant texture problems in FSX not mentioned in the product page.
  • No FSX specific features (eg, moving jetways) for the FSX version.

 

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