One of the things I have always found amazing about the flight simulator community is its extensive amount of freeware add-ons. What makes it even better is how it brings people together, for together we make these freeware add-ons. Teams as small as two or three individuals, or as big as ten to fifteen, but they all have one thing in common: they wish to deliver quality scenery, aircraft or utilities to the community.
I find that you can see this trend no better than in the Russian flight sim community. The amount of quality sceneries they have made is astounding. Because of this, one can hardly say that FSX or FS2004 Russia is “empty”. Go to Russian add-on library sites, and you’ll see how many great airport sceneries there are. You’ll easily find that the amount of free Russian airport sceneries is ten times as great as the payware Russian scenery add-ons available to us. It seems now though that this trend might be changing. As one of the first, Aerosoft has come out with a payware Russian airport featuring Yekaterinburg Koltsovo International airport.
I find this a great thing. Russia being such a big country, there is plenty of room for ever more good Russian scenery add-ons. It is great to see that big companies like Aerosoft have turned their attention to this beautiful country. What we are all curious about now, of course: does this scenery airport stack up to the plethora of not only other recent Aerosoft releases, but also the good, Russian freeware add-ons?
Installation and Documentation
Aerosoft has a rather standard installation routine. After purchasing the scenery product, you download the zip files. There is a separate zip file for each Flight Simulator version, which you extract. This results in an executable. You run the executable like any other program, and after the installer has loaded, you will be guided through each step. You have to enter your registration details and you can choose where to install the scenery. When installation is complete, you may choose to install the Aerosoft launcher, which is a program that functions as an Aerosoft product library. You will find all Aerosoft products with manuals and such that are currently installed on your machine here, and some products also need to be activated using this program. Yekaterinburg X is not one of those programs however.
The manual is a fairly standard “booklet” with information on the airport and the respective scenery it was written for. The writing is nice and it’s a pleasure to read. It would be a good idea to read through it once, but ultimately you can use the scenery without having thoroughly read the manual. You might want to print out the airport charts included in the manual, for these are a valuable aid for those that fancy flying in and out of this airport on a regular basis.
Yekaterinburg X Manual
Finally, a season switcher tool has been supplied so that the tree textures can be switched. FSX doesn’t adapt the tree textures to the season if they are non-autogen, third party trees such as the ones featured in this scenery. As such, you have to remember to do it manually, which I clearly forgot when I launched into this airport in winter: green trees everywhere. It’s annoying to say the least, but it’s a FSX thing that Aerosoft can’t do a lot about.
What you see when you forget to switch
Terminal buildings: daytime
Overview of the terminal buildings
Like many Russian airports, you can see two generations of terminal buildings at Koltsovo. One is, on the screenshot above, the old terminal building; a Soviet era structure with columns and a characteristic little tower on the pointy roof’s rim. This type of terminal building can still be seen at a huge amount of civilian Russian airports, St. Petersburg airport, Pulkovo, being just one other example. Interestingly, it’s nearly always the same building. In stark contract to this old building stands the new terminal, a modern metal-and-glass construction with multiple jetways and a big control tower at its center, even partly obscuring the old terminal with two walkways that lead the some more jetways. We will take a closer look now.
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Once we get closer to the terminal building, there are various things that I find striking. The first is the amount of transparent windows. The walkway bridges that lead to the jetways are of course transparent, as one can easily see, but also the stairs that connect the walkways to the various floors of the airport have transparent windows. Inside you can clearly see the stairs with their respective supports for people that walk over it. Besides the modeling, I find the texturing to be also very good. These seem to be of very high quality, without any blurriness noticeable. For example, look at the walkways, the jetways, and the control tower. All have high quality texturing. The control tower, which is a weirdly broad structure, arguably has blurrier textures, but this is something that one would only notice when standing closer to the control tower. Fact is that if you favor realism when flying, you’ll probably never be that close to the control tower.
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Before we move on to the old terminal, first some more close-up shots of the jetway. Most of the time I spent reviewing this airport, I was convinced that the black and orange piping you see along the jetways, was in fact a 2D texture. That was until I flew my Aerosoft Airbus X A320 in Ural Airlines livery in Koltsovo and parked right next to one such jetway. I was happily surprised to see that it’s all 3D (yes, every black tube and orange tube is in fact modeled in 3D, or so it seems), as the screenshots above demonstrate (indeed, taken out of the cockpit of the mentioned A320). I find this a good demonstration of modeling great detail where it counts!
The old terminal, airside
The old terminal has also been recreated really well, with good texturing and nice modeling. This being an old building, there is something about it that doesn’t quite fit. In my opinion it looks a bit clean. I find it difficult to point the finger at exactly the thing that makes me feel this way, but it might have to do with a certain lack of shadowing. True, FSX is supposed to generate these shadows for you, but many airport add-ons tend to have their own shadows “baked” into the texture. This saves FPS and as such results in better performance and more enjoyable flights. The flag posts, for example, don’t have any shadows at the moment, and the uniformity of the ground texture around the old terminal all contribute to this feeling of sterility. Still, it’s a very nice representation of the real thing.
Problem with looking through the glass
There is small problem with the glass jetways however. You can’t actually see your plane through it, as the screenshot above demonstrates. I’m not sure why this is, but I have seen it happen more often, where clouds and such disappear when looking through transparent surfaces of airport sceneries.
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Moving to the other side of the terminal, we find the parking lots and passenger entrances. The top-most screenshot gives an overview of the larger area in front of the terminal area. Notice the big sign with commercials and the nice shadow “baked” into the grass texture beneath it. Also notice the lampposts along the road: a very nice addition! Furthermore, wherever there is a tree shadow, we find a tree. Such consistency and effort to cover shadows is a great thing and truly adds to the sense of realism.
The parking lot is nicely filled with cars, so that it looks convincing without hitting the FPS too bad. The old terminal and new terminal both have their respective entrances, but the new terminal is the primary terminal. The textures on this side of the terminal are very nice too, and the modeling is as good as always. I especially like the small details on lampposts, small poles on the sidewalk and squares in front of the entrances, and the signage.
The signage actually seems to have the “correct” text on it, except that it’s too blurry to read. That doesn’t matter too much as you won’t be seeing these signs from your plane anyway. It’s nice to know that “real” text was used to texture them however.
I do find, again, that everything looks a bit sterile due to the relative absence of life. Adding people standing around would have probably made that a lot better, although I will add that due to the location that we are talking about, I can very easily forgive this point. You wouldn’t have seen the people anyway for the simple reason that the terminal building would have stood squarely in your line of sight. I am rather happy though with the way the cars look. The texturing is amazingly in focus, making these cars pop out against the blurrier ground image. The same is true for the vehicles and carts standing around the airport’s apron. All these are very nicely textured and modeled.
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I have gotten quite a liking to how the roof of this terminal looks. Not only are the textures nice and crisp, there are all kinds of fans and chimneys modeled that truly add an extra dimension to the terminal’s roof. It makes it look filled. Even though the roof isn’t exactly something that you’ll see standing on the ground, you will see it when landing or taking off, and as such it needs to have some detail in order to look convincing. I’m glad to report that this is exactly what they have done in this scenery.
Airplane-on-a-stick in front of the terminal entrance
Nice to see is the modeling of the “airplane-on-a-stick”, which is not an uncommon monument among Russian airports. I have seen it more sceneries, although I can’t readily say which ones. Suffice to say that it looks rather nice, despite it’s out-of-sight location with respect to the airport tarmac. Also notice the nice detailing of the parking lot entryway: the security officer’s booth and levers.
This pretty much concludes the overview of the terminal. We shall now retreat to the neighborhood close to the airport.
Surroundings: Other airside and airport related areas
The passenger terminal is of course not the only part of the airport worth looking at (see the above screenshot; there really is a lot more to see!). There are various other areas and details to be expected, such as the various hangars and the detail of ground textures and apron markings. We’ll start of with some of the structures. Depending on their proximity to the passenger terminal, you can see where more or less detail has been modeled, but overall the modeling and texturing are both quite good. See below for some examples.
Little cabin along the apron
hangar. Notice the worn hangar doors
Antennae and radio buildings
Not sure what the function of the building is, but the detail sure looks great!
The fire station
A typical gate without a jetway. Note the nice detail of the apron lampposts and airstairs
Office and parking lot; beautiful texturing here
Not sure what this is, except that written on it is “Aeroportstrom”, but it’s a nice addition to the airport’s airside
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The ground markings and textures for taxiways and runways look really good. The textures are crisp, and as such the various signage on the ground, such as gate numbers, are easy to read. Also the taxiway lines appear crisp. The taxiways and runways themselves appear very crisp too, with a nice amount of clear detail. It seems to me that most of the taxiways and runways have their own dedicated textures that were placed on a photoscenery. The end result is that you have very uniform, but ultimately crisp-looking detailed taxiways and runways. I’m usually a great supporter of this kind of taxiways and runways.
That said, these types of taxiways and runways isn’t present at the entire airport. Look below for example:
Detail texture layer on top blurrier ground texture
As you can see, the pattern of the tiles is a lot crisper than the layer below it that holds the actual colors. This means that a layer of photoscenery was laid down, and on top of this a more detailed texture layer was placed that holds apron details such as tile edges, taxiway lines and apron signage. There is nothing wrong with this of course, and it’s usually the method most developers use because every patch of the taxiways, runways and aprons will be unique and will closely match the real airport, which is not the case with a standard piece of taxiway texture that is laid down around the entire airport.
However, I think one gets into trouble when this top detailed layer is not in accordance with the photoscenery below it. This is sadly the case in the screenshot above, where the detailed layer with the tile pattern is inconsistent with the light brown patch in the lower right corner. The problem here is that this is made out of tiles, but if you look at the top edge, you’ll see what the “actual” alignment is of these tiles and that it doesn’t match with the detail texture layer on top of it. I don’t know whether it’s possible to “turn” the tile textures in the detail layer, but if yes, it would have made this patch of the airport look a lot better.
In the end though, it’s not that important since it’s a remote and seemingly hardly active area of the airport. Overall, I find that this airport add-on features some beautiful ground texturing.
One last thing not connected to the ground textures but still relevant for the above screenshot, is that I think it would have been nice if lots of old, stored Russian aircraft would have been placed here. If you look at Google Maps you’ll see heaps of them parked here, yet in this scenery it’s empty.
Now here’s an area that I can’t really wrap my head around, and it’s partly because of the way the ground textures were laid out. The apron texture was placed here, completely covering the underlying photoscenery. I’m not at all a fan of this method, because it makes the placement of the buildings that stand on top of it look bad. Not that the buildings themselves look bad, and I don’t doubt the placement of the buildings (which I’m sure is correct). However, underlying photoscenery, even if it can be blurry and might even look bad, it has one significant trait: it provides a clear reference for building placement. You get this via building shadows, roads, foliage, and more of such stuff. It doesn’t need to be modeled, just “lying” there is enough to provide a framework for the buildings on top.
I missed this completely in the screenshot you see above. The buildings that stand on the (very good looking) apron texture look haphazardly placed and sometimes “crooked”, simply because we can’t effectively judge their placement by using underlying photoscenery. In stark contract to this are the few buildings you see that do not stand on the apron texture: the placement of these looks more natural, logical and overall correct, even if the apron texture really isn’t that crisp as we would have liked it to be.
In the end, it’s not a big problem, especially because these buildings can be found in a compound with a big fence around it, so when taxiing past it, you will probably hardly notice it. That said, around the area where the gate into the compound is, you will notice it, so some extra detail at least around this area would have been very much welcomed.
Dump between areas
Here’s another one of these “clueless” areas. It looks nice because of the very good texturing of the objects, but all in all, I can’t say if what we see here is anywhere close to reality because we have no reference provided to us by underlying photoscenery. I keep finding this a pity. I probably would have liked to see photoscenery in such areas instead of the apron texture.
This airport features moving vehicles. Various cars and trucks, one of which can be seen above, are driving around the terminal area for the most part. It’s a nice addition that adds some life to an airport. The modeling and texturing of these cars is also pretty nice, making it a valuable addition in my opinion. Actually, when you look at the area within the walls and lever you see just to the right of the yellow building, a patch that is not just the apron texture. There seems to be some photoscenery peaking through here, or laid on top of the apron texture. I think it makes that patch look better. Otherwise everything is very uniform.
Warehouse and office
The huge building in the above shot looks like a combination of a company’s office with a big warehouse, forming a distribution center. My first thought was that it is a cargo terminal, but there is a rather big fence around it and it doesn’t stand adjacent to the apron, so I quickly discounted that idea. I have found no indication to hint to its function.
Total photoscenery coverage
Nowadays, most developers put at least some amount of the surroundings of airports into the scenery, and with good reason: it adds to the immersion. Coming in low and slow over default terrain or modeled-to-real-world-standards structures and fields, I’d know what I’d want to see when landing. And it should not be underestimated. For this reason the new scenery of Sharm El-Sheikh includes hotels on the coast; for this reason Innsbruck Approach includes photoscenery for the mountains.
In places with a distinct atmosphere, it is very worthwhile to add some surroundings. And don’t be mistaken, even bigger airport scenery have some surroundings added to them. Aerosoft’s Schiphol scenery has some fields and farms, for example. The above screenshot shows the total coverage for Yekaterinburg X and as you can see, it’s quite a bit more than just the airports. Now lets give it a look.
Overview of the neighborhood
The neighborhood close to the airport isn’t anything worth writing home about. These big, Soviet style flats are grey, filthy and utterly depressing. Which, in the end, is the reason I find them so impressive. The history that is tied to these buildings (or at least to this type of building) is interesting to say the least. As such, I’m extremely happy that they found their way into this scenery. They are a great background for the airport itself and they are a stark reminder to people of where they have arrived.
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See above for some more shots of the neighborhood that was modeled. Mostly its just rows and rows of some big, dreary type of flats, as the screenshots point out very well. Their modeling is rather simple for two reasons: it’s just buildings in the vicinity of the airport, so you won’t notice the details anyway, and secondly, there just isn’t too much detail to be modeled on such flats anyway. The texturing is a bit blurry for the same reason as given before: it’s too far anyway to notice such blurriness. What it must do is create an atmosphere, and it does this with great success as far as I’m concerned.
In stark contract to these flats is the very nice church with the blue roof. It’s a typical Russian church, with an architecture and style seen from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok. Like the flats it conveys atmosphere, and not having it in the scenery would have been a pity. It provides color to the dreariness, though atmospheric surroundings.
The surroundings of the airport don’t just consist of dreary flats and a church, however. A big part of the highway was also laid out using photoscenery, and the developers have even modeled the lamp posts. Other notable features are company’s offices, such as Ural airlines’ head office, various (probably) fuel tanks and storage lock-ups. The level of detail and the blurriness of the textures seem to be varying from building to building, however. On some buildings the blurriness is apparent, on others not so much, and not at all from the airport (which, of course, is the important thing here). Overall though, the quality is good. See the screenshots below.
The edge of the photoscenery coverage blends nicely into default terrain
These storage lockups keep cars and all kinds of things safe for the people that live in the tiny flats nearby
The train station: not a very detailed model, but it does what it has to do
Offices on the foreground, an AN-124 landing in the background
Fuel storage and other airport related, high security stuff, as evidenced by the concrete gate around this compound
More offices and low structures adjacent to the airport’s apron
The highway leads, among other destinations, to the airport’s passenger terminal entrance. Note the lampposts
Ural Airlines HQ
The airport at night
One thing that is important to a lot of people is how the airport looks at night. I have never been much of a night flyer myself, but once in a while I like to see how the world looks in the dark, and it sure can be a pretty world! The night lighting at Yekaterinburg X is quite nice, but I’m not blown away by it. I find that it is really dark, without much apron lighting, but perhaps this is just how the airport looks at night in real life. The taxiways and runways are nicely lit, and so is the terminal building itself, including the airport’s name on the roof.
What I don’t like that much, and I have seen this more often in airport sceneries, is that it sometimes seems as if the terminal buildings, including jetways, are too light. I think the night textures of these buildings should have been a tad darker, because they seem to stand out in this night environment. There are hardly any photos of Koltsovo airport at night, so it’s difficult to tell whether the night textures are right or wrong, but the few photographs I did find seemed to imply that the light textures you see in the scenery should have been a lot darker. The old terminal’s roof is a good example of this, which appear very light grey at night. On the picture it was almost black. That said, the camera settings might have caused it, meaning that unless you see it with your own eyes, it’s very difficult to be a 100% objective on this topic.
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Koltsovo is a Russian airport. And if we think of Russia, what do we usually think about? Indeed, that it’s also very cold out there! On a side note, Moscow in summer is actually extremely hot, but that’s beside the point right now.
Anyway, most of you will probably have noticed that in my scenery reviews I often don’t spend much time (if any at all) with the various seasons in sceneries. However, how can I not do this for a Russian airport? Many people, including myself, will most probably want to fly in and out of this airport in winter, and rightfully so. Russia’s winters have been known for centuries to be brutal (think of Napoleon who retreated out of Russia and the famous battle of Stalingrad, all of which was in the harsh Russian winter), so who wouldn’t want to fly in winter?
See the screenshots below. I’m actually very much impressed with how winter looks at this airport. I find that the ground scenery (topmost shot) conveys the “ripples” of grass on snow very well. It’s not a flat surface, which can be very well seen especially in the patch roughly in the center of the shot. The taxiway and runway textures were enhanced by adding snow between concrete tiles and adding subtle traces of it where aircraft’s wheels would have passed by, making “tracks” of snow over the taxiways.
Additionally, heaps of snow (that admittedly look a bit fuzzy) lie around where no aircraft will normally go anyway: between gates, at the edges of taxiways, that kind of places. All in all, I think it conveys that sense of cold very well.
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The final, and for many very important piece of information, is the airport’s performance. Overall, I was rather pleased with the FPS I got. At all stages I could fly smoothly with maybe a few stutters here and there. This is amazing considering the graphical settings I had enabled when doing these test flights around the airport.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying that all sliders were maxed out, but with a very high autogen density setting, high texture resolution settings and more of such influential sliders to the right, my FPS weren’t bad at all. See the screenshots for these FSX settings. See the table below for the FPS in which they resulted for three aircraft you may want to use a lot at this airport.
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|Aerosoft Airbus X||18-24|
Summary / Closing Remarks
Test Time: 8.5 hours
Platform: FSX (reviewed here)/FS9/P3D
Reviewed By: Benjamin van Soldt
That said, I did find the airport to have a bit of a sterile looking, lacking “life” so to speak. Maybe it’s simply the setup of the airport that causes it, for there is no great lack of airside equipment, although more of it might have been nice. The moving vehicles are also a nice addition.
Overall, this is an airport that I can easily recommend to people interested in flying around Russia. It’s well done, and for a price of €17.95 (at the time of writing), you get your monies worth of quality. Not only because it looks good, but also because it performs well. I hope to see more Russian airports from Aerosoft; they are doing a great job filling in these blanks!
Finally, I want to share with you the below screenshots, for Russia really is one of the few places with such a diverse set of planes at airports (courtesy of MyTraffic X).landing
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What I Like About Yekaterinburg X
- Good and often very detailed modeling.
- Nice texturing.
- Beautiful winter effects.
- Good use of FSX effects, such as window reflections on the ATC tower.
- Transparent windows on gates and jetways.
- Surrounding area included with typical Soviet flats, adds lots of atmosphere.
What I Don't Like About Yekaterinburg X
- Sterility of some areas (really minor point though!).
- Use of general apron texture in some areas causes lack of desirable detail