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    Birmingham Xtreme


    Gaiiden

    Introduction

    Birmingham Airport (ICAO:EGBB), located in the West Midlands county of central England, hosted its first flight in May 1939. During World War II, then known as ‘Elmdon Airport’, the field was requisitioned by the military and used as a flying school. I find it amazing how it seems all of the airfields in Britain were used in some way to support the war effort. I reckon the entire country was mobilized. Anyhow, it was during this period that the original grass strip was replaced by two concrete runways.

    In 1946 the airport again began hosting civilian traffic, finally returning to the city of Birmingham’s control in 1960. In 2000, Her Majesty the Queen was accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh to open a £40 million development and any time the Queen comes out I imagine that’s a pretty big deal!

    Since then, a new international pier was opened in 2008 so a great deal of change has come to this airport over the years. Birmingham is the 6th largest airport in the UK and sees some 9 million passengers each year. This product is actually an update to the UK2000 scenery that was released in 2008 so there are quite a few enhancements.

    Installation and Documentation

    Installation is fairly straightforward after you download the executable and update from the UK2000 website. The version 2 file is a relatively light 84.5 MB while the update is 31 MB. I’m not sure what the update does or if it’s even necessary. The install process looked exactly the same when I ran both. I’m certain I could have emailed UK2000 support and gotten an answer but I really wanted to take a look at this airport…today!

    You will need to enter the code you receive via email to begin installation and rinse, wash, repeat. You will be asked whether you want to add the scenery to your scenery.cfg file (why wouldn’t you?). For those of you who have version one of the scenery, we see a helpful screen that shows us what is included in version two.

    As in most (all?) UK2000 sceneries, we get an Options Setup box that allows you to customize your Birmingham scenery. Most of these are self explanatory except for ‘Active Service Fleet’, which is an FS9 option dealing with the service vehicles, including a baggage conveyor, fuel and catering trucks, various vans, and the baggage truck. Again, this process is easy and seamless.

    th_9-24-2012 9-35-24 AM.jpg
    Shows you what’s new in version 2
    th_9-24-2012 9-36-17 AM.jpg
    The usual UK2000 options box

    The manual is 11 pages of the usual install instructions, recommended settings, and options descriptions among other things. I’ve written before that the UK2000 manual is succinct and gets the job done.

    The Airport

    Like a lot of the airports in the UK, Birmingham is rather small and in this case, unremarkable. I tend to look at an airport in stages or areas….terminal, ramp, general aviation area, etc…but with the smaller airports we’ll just lump them all together. If we look at the scenery from the top down we find a really good looking photo background.

    A great scenery can be derailed if the photo background is bad or smudgy but that’s not the case with Birmingham. The vendor has used a highly detailed photo and its appearance is good from close or up far away. You can see in these pictures how real everything seems. I think the only complaint I would have…or really an observation…is that the background is limited to the immediate area and so it clashes with the default background.

    th_photo.jpg
    Realistic and accurately placed
    th_photo1.jpg
    Background clashes with the default texture
    th_photo2.jpg
    The golf course looks good with some strategically placed trees
    th_photo3.jpg
    These taxiway areas might be a little rough
    th_photo4.jpg
    Warehouse area

    All of the airport buildings are well done and have crisp textures. The terminal area is small and only has two…well, terminals that have been combined. Everything is really compact. I think I’ve used the word unremarkable in this review already but that is what I feel when I look at this area. Now, if you see pictures online you’ll see exactly the same thing. So, the author is showing us exactly the way everything is set up in real life. That doesn’t make it pretty, however. The Mona Lisa is a masterpiece but I wouldn’t date her.

    th_birm.jpg
    The Birmingham Airport fire department is ready!
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    The passenger drop off and pick up areas at the front of the airport
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    Always nicely done jetway
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    Local fuel farm and gas trucks
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    Detailed approach lights and moving vehicles
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    Train station
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    A bird’s-eye view of the terminal area
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    Lots of airport eye candy in a UK2000 scenery

    With the appropriate settings in the options menu you have quite a bit of traffic moving in and around the airport. There is even a moving train from the rail station (pictured above) to the terminal. I love all of this movement. It makes me feel so lonely at an airport when I am the only thing moving.

    Looking at the plethora of aircraft parked over the field I didn’t notice any issues with them taxiing, taking off, or landing. Everything seemed to take direction from the controllers and move about just fine. I don’t have the world’s supply of traffic and perhaps being a smaller airport, you’re just not going to see that much in the sim…but the number of go-arounds was limited to the first 15 minutes of starting the sim, which is normal.

    I haven’t included any pictures but the statics included with the package are all top notch. UK2000 uses such great models that I always have to look whether or not they are true AI or statics. For those of you who use this scenery sans WOAI or the like, I know that you’ll be happy with what’s provided.

    West Side

    th_birm12.jpg
    I love the little details
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    Not sure exactly what this building does outside of the tower
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    Daytime view of the flybe.com hangar
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    A lone GA aircraft parked on the ramp

    This is another small area where the general aviation and some cargo services reside. I think this is where the main tower is located, although as of this time, a new tower has been built. I believe the new tower is not yet operational but did have some Olympics signs placed atop it this past summer. Again, this new tower is not included in the scenery.

    Outside the Perimeter

    I am always very appreciative of an author’s attempts to recreate the areas around the airport. After all, you see these things as you’re flying in and around the place; it takes away from the realism if immediately outside the fence you see a bunch of default structures that clash with the scenery. A lot of times these areas are warehouses and the like and that’s the case at Birmingham.

    The problem is that all of the structures look rather crude and the textures are simple and repetitive. I didn’t measure but some of the doors look out of scale. Now, this doesn’t necessarily detract from the scenery and it is better than the default but it just appears odd. You can see what I am talking about in the included pictures.

    th_birm8.jpg
    More of the somewhat “blah” warehouse area
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    Warehouses on the periphery. Not the greatest looking buildings
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    Accurately placed but lacking in the looks department

    Night Lighting

    Nothing is going to jump out at you about the night lighting but it’s tastefully done. What I mean by tasteful is that it blends in well with the scenery. I have noticed in some scenery that the lighting is too bright or unrealistic and can be distracting. That isn’t the case at Birmingham where the ramp and building lights look good. I’ve always liked the runway and taxi lights that the vendor uses and that applies here. Again, it just seems realistic in my limited experience being on the runway at night.

    th_night.jpg
    Night approach to the runway
    th_night1.jpg
    I like the soft, diffuse lighting in the scenery
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    Little lighting in the warehouse area. What’s there is rather pedestrian
    th_night3.jpg
    Flybe.com hangar area illuminated
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    I’m a fan of the UK2000 ramp lighting
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    Fire department and tower area

    Performance

    As usual with a UK2000 title, I noticed very little performance hit with my now middling-powered computer. Daytime flying with most of my sliders to the right saw frames in the high 20’s up to my maximum of 30. I like a lot of AI traffic and at any time there were several aircraft parked at the gates or taxiing for takeoff.

    Most of these are not optimized for FSX so that speaks even more for the scenery. I did notice, though, a slight degradation of frames at night. That’s not to say that it wasn’t smooth but my frames did drop to the high teens and low 20s at this time. I didn’t really do a lot of dusk/dawn flying as most sceneries struggle a bit during this time period. My poor, old eyes have a hard time with seeing things during this time anyway!

    th_birm16.jpg
    More eye candy on the field

    Summary / Closing Remarks

    Test System
    • i5-2500K Sandy Bridge
    • 3.3GHz OC to 4.0
    • 8 GB DDR 1600 RAM
    • Windows 7 64-bit HP
    • Dual GTX 460 video cards
    • FSX SP1 + SP2 (Gold)
    • Logitech Extreme 3D Pro

    Test Time: 13 hours


    Publisher: UK2000
    Platform: FSX
    Format: Download (84.5MB)
    Reviewed By: Daniel Martinez
    This is another in a long line of top sceneries from UK2000. The airport itself is well done and performance is top notch. I have to say, though, that the warehouse areas are something of an eye sore and do take away from the product.

    The airport…not the scenery…but the airport itself can be described as somewhat pedestrian with not a lot of distinction to it. This certainly isn’t a reflection on the designer but I found the airport kind of boring.

    If you are a fan of flying in the United Kingdom then I think you will enjoy having this well-done version of Birmingham.

    What I Like About Birmingham Xtreme
    • Great performance
    • Accurate representation of the airport

    What I Don't Like About Birmingham Xtreme

    • Warehouse area
    • Something of a boring airport


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