Pacific Island Simulations (PIS – renowned developers of PNG/Raw Grit, etc) have produced another couple of winners in these two sceneries, which cover the Kingdom of Tonga and FUA'AMOTU INTERNATIONAL NFTF Airport. In FSX default as with the Marshall Islands, Tonga is pretty sparse and PIS have added photoreal scenery to this extremely beautiful area Tonga domestic gives us photoreal coverage of three Tongan island groups, Niuas, Ha'apai, and Vava'u (there are around 176 in the Kingdom) and basically 3 of the major domestic airfields on those islands. I will discuss these in more detail below.
The FUA'AMOTU INTERNATIONAL NFTF Airport scenery covers yet another island group Tongatapu (the main Tongan Island) with a fantastically detailed Fua’amotu International Airport (NFTF). As I have stated previously that with all of their ‘Pacific’ software, we get beautiful sandy beaches, crashing waves, abundant tropical trees, local vegetation, a plethora of custom objects, lots of background noise, animated animals and birds, etc, etc.
Background (Courtesy Wikipedia & Tonga Visitors Bureau)
The Kingdom of Tonga (Tongan: Pule’anga Fakatu’i ‘o Tonga), is situated on an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 176 islands scattered over 700,000 square km (270,000 sq mi) in the South Pacific, stretching about 800 kilometres (500 mi) in a north-south, around 50 of the islands are inhabited. Tonga aka ‘The Friendly Islands’ because of the friendly reception given to Captain James Cook on his first visit there in 1773.
The other link to historical fame or should it be infamy is that in Tongan waters, near the volcanic island of Tofua, the famous ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ occurred and Captain William Bligh was set adrift in a small boat. The population is estimated to be around 110,000 and increasing.
The climate is equitable being a tropical climate with 2 seasons, summer and winter with the rainy season occurring between February and April. They also experience a tropical cyclone season, which lasts from November to April.
Etymologically speaking, the word Tonga means "south", i.e. Tonga is the southernmost group of islands of central Polynesia. The correct pronunciation is toŋa] and not TONGA as used today. The derivation of the name of Tonga could be related to the Hawaiian region of Kona. It is believed (by many) that the ‘Tongans’ originally came from Samoa and archaeological evidence seems to indicate that the Tongan archipelago has been settled since at least 500 B.C.
Tourism is a big part of the economy and as the Visitor’s Bureau states: The Kingdom of Tonga offers you incredible feasting and dancing, unique handicrafts, heavenly choirs, hiking, diving, snorkeling, fishing, sailing, surfing, kayaking and swimming with whales, so there’s plenty to see and do and PIS have made a good job of bringing this part of paradise to the FSX community. There are volcanic islands i.e. Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou that lie in the very north of the Kingdom of Tonga, and we will see how PIS has modeled these.
Plants and Livestock
Many Tongans grow root crops such as cassava and yams, kava, vanilla beans, and squash as the major food and cash crops. Food animals are mainly pigs and poultry and horses are kept for various farming tasks e.g. farmers toiling on their ‘api’. Horses are also eaten primarily during special ceremonial events. In modern times, cattle production has increased and beef imports are declining. Fishing is an emerging growth area with tuna, beche de mer, and seaweed being the major species being farmed.
Geographically the Kingdom of Tonga lies about a third of the distance from New Zealand and two-thirds to Hawaii.
There are quite a few airports/airfields in the islands, some having paved runways and most having unpaved runways and we have 4 in two scenery packages modeled by PIS and they have faithfully reproduce the surface and position of the fields.
The manual gives some interesting facts and figures about the islands as well as concise FSX details.
History (potted version)
Polynesians have lived on Tonga for about 3,000 years probably migrating from Hawaii. Due to various explorations, Tonga became a British protected state in the 18th century, but became independent in 1970.
Tonga has a governing king, aided by a group of hereditary nobles and government officials, i.e. since around 1990 the direct powers of the monarchy have been somewhat curtailed.
There is a very good article on the King of Tonga.
Kava (not modeled in this software)
We need to say a few words about KAVA!! The KAVA plant is a member of the pepper family and an intoxicating and anaesthetizing drink is made from its roots throughout the Pacific Islands, Tonga included. At the University where I once worked, we were given a demonstration of KAVA making by a visiting Tongan academic and I can tell you that it is a most potent beverage. The taste did not suit my European taste buds but it was mighty potent even in small doses. My head was anaesthetized for a week. Basically, the drink is produced by grinding, chewing or pounding the roots. (Fortunately, our guide did not use the chewing method!). It is finally added to water and consumed as quickly as possible!!Which we did.
Kumala or Kumara (not modeled in this software)
I should say a little bit about this vegetable although it has nothing to do with flight simulation. Kumara (the NZ Maori name for the sweet potato), as I know it better, is a member of the sweet potato family and is grown extensively by Polynesian peoples. There are literally hundreds of varieties grown throughout the world with the color varying through white to yellow to purple.
Kumara belongs to the Convolvulaceae (morning glory) family in the genus Ipomoea i.e. Ipomoea batatas, it is only distantly related to the common or garden potato or spud. It is an excellent vegetable, full of vitamins and antioxidants and is part of many culinary dishes throughout the world, and you have not lived until you have tried crinkle cut Kumara chips or French Fries even the Colonel serves them here in the antipodes.
Installation and Documentation
Just click on the Kingdom of Tonga.exe file and it installs in the FSX\PacSim\Kingdom of Tonga folder as does FUA'AMOTU INTERNATIONAL NFTF Airport with a combined installed size of approx 1GB. As I state above "Fua'amotu" and "Tonga Domestic" are separate stand-alone software packages, the simmer activates each separately. Both products are manually activated through the Scenery Library within FSX (in game). They also appear at FSX root folder within "PacSim" folder. Instructions for activation are written into each product installers (.exe) and can be found at initial stage of product installation (within the installer).
There are two manuals provided covering the basic areas of FSX operation. Both are concise and so will take very little time to read and/or digest their contents. The recommended FSX settings are quite high but you do get a richness that you would not otherwise see at lower settings.
The Fua’Amotu International booklet (6pgs) covers the geopolitical history and background to Tonga, including the historical background of the airport, its accurate placement in FSX, Navigational and layout data, product features, FSX settings, and the usual suspects of disclaimers and acknowledgements.
The Tonga Domestic booklet (9pgs) covers similar ground but includes data on the 3 domestic airports modeled by PIS. Both are well worth reading to give some insight into these fascinating places.
Note: Fua'amotu International is now version 2 (v2), and the following features have been revised:
Minimum system requirements: To run FSX with Tonga Domestic and Fua'amotu International
Even with these settings, I did not notice any significant performance decrease on my system, and it ran extremely smoothly during testing, but I was only using GA planes and the default heavy iron. There was some drop in frame rates at various times but this did not affect the smoothness, remarkable really when you think that I was running FSX from a USB 2.0 external HDD as my e-sata link failed during the review.
PIS Tonga Domestic models 3 domestic Tongan airports that vary in size according to their workload i.e. catering for small to medium type aircraft ferrying local passengers and freight between local Tongan islands and neighboring Fiji, Samoa, Niue and Cook Islands.
The airports are:
All the airports seem to be subject to crosswinds, which will make for some interesting flying (see below). All of the features of small airports are depicted here, buildings, trees, tropical bush animals, etc. The airport buildings are great with great realism being shown warts and all, As with NFTF, the night lighting effects are good but I doubt too much night flying takes place at these remote facilities. You want to fly during the day so that you can see everything. I will let my screenshots show what I mean.
PIS have made an enormous number of improvements to the default scenery including:
Fua'amotu International Airport NFTF (Courtesy Wikipedia & Tonga Visitors Bureau)
PIS NFTF basically covers this small but interesting International Airport which is It is on the south side of the main island, Tongatapu, 35 km from the capital of Tonga, Nuku'alofa. NFTF is equipped with VOR/DME (114.5) and NDB (245) navigational facilities, and ILS is apparently available, and lighting is only provided for the runway, apron, and taxiway. All of these features are well represented in the PIS NFTF version.
There are 2 runways 11/29 and 17/35 with the former being the prime runway at an elevation of 126’, length 8,800’ with an asphalt construction. The other, 17/35 is a grass/soil strip being 5,000’ long.
The night textures are excellent representative of this small busy airport. As PIS says below the colors are quite something to behold so I can well believe that they all been produced by hand – excellent. Pressing SHIFT + F does indeed activate the fuel truck so that was a nice touch.
Enhanced features in NFTF include:
Tongatapu Island (Courtesy Wikipedia & Tonga Visitors Bureau)
Tongatapu (‘Sacred South’) is the main island of the Kingdom of Tonga and contains the capital Nuku'alofa, it is located in the south, and is the country's most populous island, with a population of approx 72,000 , i.e. 70.5% of the national population. Tongatapu is Tonga's centre of government and this where the King resides.
Now the coastlines resemble the real world, the sand, vegetation; land and sea are what you would expect to see on a tropical paradise, quite a remarkable and amazing transformation, with white coral sands that are blindingly white during the day.. The airfields have the correct buildings, runways, aprons, markings and items such as trees and grass and other features indicative of the local area. As I say at around noon, the bright white coral sand gives off quite a glare as it does in real life, but at dusk or dawn, the colors are more muted and easier on the eye.
There are AI ships, cars, truck and other animated objects. You certainly feel the vastness of the area when you fly from one island to another across miles and miles of unending ocean with the occasional ship for company. I did not see too many birds this time, but there were one or two chickens around static as opposed to dynamic though.
Tonga Domestic Airports/Airfields (see manual for navigation details)
As I state above, PIS modeled 3 Tongan domestic airfields, and as I have stated many times about PIS scenery enhancements these now look more realistic, and they are a significant increase in quality and realism over the default FSX airfields in the same area. We will look at these in a little more pictorial detail, as I believe that the pictures will give a better impression than any of my verbal descriptions.
They are all realistic to take off and land and dialing up local weather produced some crosswinds, which fortunately were manageable. There are oodles of detail at each airfield even down to decaying buildings covered in a bright blue tarpaulin!! Living as I do in a hot climate, steamy, due to recent rains, you can almost feel the heat and humidity at these Tongan aerodromes.
What more can I say other than, lush, tropical and extremely dense springs to mind, in other words typical of a tropical bush region. (See pictures above). There is even a specimen tree on Niuatoputapu that you can see for miles – quite a landmark. The colors are vibrant, I visited Tonga (many years ago) and seem to recall how vivid the colors were, and so the PIS colors seem to be true to life as I remember it.
I turned on DX10 preview for a while and the colors became exceptionally vibrant compared to the default DX9c. They have packed a lot of trees, bushes, grasses into these 2 scenery packages so that the bush does indeed look very lush and verdant.
The Boats and other AI traffic
There are boats and ships everywhere, liners, cargo ships, warships, small cruisers, yachts, etc etc. too numerous to count and see in this brief visit. There are also heaps of vehicles, buildings, and other objects (many animated) in this fascinating scenery.
AI Air Traffic
PIS recommend My Traffic X as being compatible with these two sceneries; I do not have this installed any more so I did not see too many AI planes at the various airports. The presence of AI traffic would certainly enhance the experience.
The roads are well modeled and seem to be accurate when compared to those on Google Earth.
As always, nice custom background sounds, being mainly those associated with the sea.
Summary / Closing Remarks
I have to stress that I have reviewed, albeit briefly, 2 separate titles from PIS and in my opinion if you liked this part of the FSX world then you need both of them to do the area justice. I keep repeating myself with regards to add-on scenery from this company, but the honest truth is that these two packages are quality add-ons for FSX.
I have tried to give an impression on how beautiful and impressive these 2 sceneries are but I am the first to admit that and my superficial review just doesn’t do them justice. Repeating myself again, “Every time that I flew, I saw something new”. Checkout the great screenshots.
What I Like About These Islands
What I Don't Like About These Islands
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