Review by Richard Desjardins. Catalina Airport, ICAO: KAVX is located in the middle of Catalina Island, aka Santa Catalina Island or just Catalina. Catalina is a rocky island located 22 miles south-southwest of Los Angeles, California off the coast of the U.S. state of California in the Gulf of Santa Catalina.
The airport originally opened as "Buffalo Springs Airport" in the late 1930s and was made by leveling off the top of a hill. It now goes by the name “Airport in the sky” because it is located near the island's highest point at an elevation of 1,602ft. It is privately owned and open to the public allowing general aviation aircraft to land. The only requirement is that inbound pilots state their intention to land and pay a $25 landing fee.
Although primarily used for general aviation it also serves as a base for the delivery of air freight, there is a DC-3 that makes a daily flight for delivery of supplies to the island. The airport is served by a single asphalt runway; 4/22 @ 3,000ft.
The product was created by a group called Sim720 which has only been around since October 2013. Catalina Airport is their third airport. The product is available from their website.
Installation of the product is straightforward. After starting the installer you are asked to select which simulator you are using, FSX or P3D, and then to enter your product registration information. The installer will then proceed and when it is done your scenery will have been added to the FSX scenery library and you will be ready to explore Catalina airport.
This airport add-on comes with a control panel allowing you a certain degree of flexibility in your scenery setup. This is where you can choose which of the optional scenery objects will be included and it is also where you set up your compatibility with other add-ons.
As you can see I have MegaScenery selected and I am running the scenery in conjunction with the freeware release of Catalina Island from Aerosoft. I think that control panels such as this are great as they give you that extra degree of flexibility in optimizing the scenery to better suit your particular simulator set up.
Included with the product is an 18 page PDF manual. It is well written, nicely illustrated and informative making it a great reference document for the scenery. They’ve covered all of the relevant subjects you may need to research and more. Here is a partial listing of what you’ll find: install/uninstall, compatibility guide, recommended FSX/P3D slider settings, KAVX Control Panel, autogen density slider and airport charts. I wish every scenery developer would include manuals as good as this one.
Before I begin my review of the product here are several screenshots that illustrate through a top down view just what area is covered by the product.
Catalina Island with Catalina airport scenery area clearly visible
Close up of Catalina airport scenery coverage area
The entire ground base consists of high resolution graphic image textures. Hard surfaces used for the runway, taxiway and apron looked weathered with some signs of wear and tear such as fading paint. The edges blended nicely with the adjoining dirt and grass surfaces so the overall effect was realistic. All other areas of the scenery including the strip of the island, outside of the airport, that is covered by the product appear to be a mix of dirt and grass.
The quality is good enough so that both manmade and natural features are clearly visible even at ground level. Where vegetation can be seen in the imagery they’ve added trees, shrubs and grasses as needed to give the entire area a very realistic look. The quality of the mesh is also very good which is important as the terrain and shorelines are quite rugged. It is well worth it to take the time to explore the natural beauty of the area.
C Rugged terrain and coastline
Weathered hard surface textures
Catalina is a tiny airport with only a few structures; there is the terminal building, a single hangar, a small secondary building next to the hangar and two large fuel storage tanks. To reproduce them they’ve used a combination of hi-quality imagery and additional 3D detailing so that what we see are faithful recreations of the actual structures.
Looking at the control tower
The terminal building has some interesting features. First there is the welcome sign that greets people as they arrive here at Catalina airport and the long open covered walkway that connects the main building to the adjacent Nature Center. On the west side of the terminal is a covered patio area filled with picnic tables. The airport’s tower which is also part of the main building has two wrap around walkways with ornamental wooden railings. Overall very well done; this to me was the visual focal point of the airport.
Overview of terminal complex
Variety of grasses and trees
The large hangar and adjacent structures were less intricate but none the less the quality of their work was still very evident. This plain looking hangar which is rather non-descript was made more interesting through their use of high quality imagery and those extra added details which made all the difference. Some of the more obvious details can be seen on the building’s roof top.
Aircraft mechanics at work
Variety of objects next to the hangar
Beside the hangar there are two large storage tanks which clearly show signs of rusting and aging.
Rusting fuel tanks
Objects and Vehicles
Vehicles/objects play an important role in providing this airport with some ambiance. Everything they’ve added in this category serves a purpose and definitely helped bring life to this quiet island based airport.
One of the first things you’ll see when you arrive at the airport is the static GA aircraft. They use very high-quality models and include a variety of aircraft types and paint schemes. AI traffic was none existent in my experience and so the inclusion of these static aircraft was a very important feature otherwise Catalina would have looked deserted.
Hi quality static aircraft
Another interesting thing was how they made very good use of static 3D people. You can see where they strategically placed them in various locations seemingly engaged in different types of recognizable activities; this definitely helped in the overall visual quality of the product.
Checking out the map
Picnic tables by the terminal building
Using the Wi-Fi access
Welcome to “Airport in the sky”
In addition to the aircraft and people they’ve included a wide range of other objects. Some like ground lighting and MET equipment pertain to airport infrastructure while others such as safety pylons, FedEx boxes, ladders, plastic drums, flower pots, waste dumpsters help augment the appearance that the airport has some life to it. Each of these different groups of objects plays a role in bringing this quiet airport to life and they’ve succeeded.
A few objects at Catalina
Airfield MET equipment
Roof top walkway
The only animation I noticed was the American flag in front of the terminal that appeared to be flapping in the wind.
Night time at Catalina airport was very dark, which I guess considering that it is a small private airport on a sparsely inhabited island it’s to be expected. I was not able to find any pictures of the airport at night so I can’t comment on whether or not their version was representative of the actual experience.
The terminal’s interior was lit up and there were runway lights but that was the extent of any lighting. The runway lighting appeared to be excessively bright, when on the ground, appearing as large white globes of light. From a distance they did look more realistic, it was just while in close proximity that they were overpowering.
Approaching Catalina airport
Intense runway lighting
Terminal's interior lighting
I like to split my flying time between the large tube liners and smaller GA type aircraft. This airport has all of the elements to make it both visually interesting and challenging for the pilot. It is clear that the developers took great pride in their quest to give sim pilots a top notch product in every respect. My only real gripe is that they didn’t include the entire island.
Flying over Catalina Island towards the airport
Fortunately for those who do choose to purchase the product Aerosoft recently and unexpectedly made available, at no charge, a detailed recreation of the entire island. This was released as a demo to help showcase their US Cities X - Los Angeles product. When installed it is a seamless match with the Catalina airport scenery and completes the experience.
What I like about Catalina Airport
· Lots of details to explore.
· Fun airport to hone your piloting skills.
· Detailed and very polished product manual.
· Control Panel for scenery optimization.
What I don't like about Catalina Airport
· Slightly disappointed that entire island was not included with the airport.
Intel i7 960 OC @ 4.2 Ghz, 6 Gb RAM, EVGA GTX560 Ti w/1.2 Gb video, Win 7 Ultimate 64, FSX w/acceleration, Ultimate traffic 2, REX Overdrive, GEXn, UTX, AES, GSX, FSUIPC.