Quite a while ago, Aerosoft was first in releasing good commercial scenery of an airport most us probably know from one source or another: Dutch Harbor. By doing that, they started covering an American state that otherwise doesn’t see much action in terms of amount of scenery released for it: Alaska.
While most US states have at least one commercial airport in their borders, Alaska had none for us as far as I know. Luckily, Aerosoft didn’t stop there, and they continued with Anchorage’s Ted Stevens international Airport, which I previously reviewed. Now, Aerosoft has released a third airport scenery for Alaska: Fairbanks International Airport.
Fairbanks International Airport is situated in the vicinity of Fairbanks, in the center of the state of Alaska. It handles most of the major traffic in the region, in which role it sees the arrival and departure of Fed Ex MD-11F aircraft among more cargo aircraft, and passenger airlines such as Alaska Airlines. Other US carriers have also taken an interest for Fairbanks, such as United Airlines, flying in from Denver.
Additionally, Fairbanks is the northernmost US airport to handle international traffic. This is usually visited by cargo aircraft flying to Europe, although Condor has a direct flight from Germany.
The airport is basically divided in three parts: the west apron, containing the passenger terminal and many cargo facilities; the east apron, containing the ATC tower and much of the land-based GA operations; and the center aquatic GA facilities, which contains all kinds of cabins and jetties for seaplanes. We will go over these various areas one by one, highlighting any pros and cons as we do our tour of the airport.
Installation and Documentation
Aerosoft products are generally easy to install and will require minimum effort to get working. Aerosoft’s Fairbanks is no exception. The file is very big however: 1,32 GB. Once you get it download in one piece, you can unpack the zip file and start the installer. It will require you to enter your serial key and email address (as used at the time of purchase), after which the installation will take several minutes to get the files in the Aerosoft folder into your FSX root folder.
When completed, you will be presented with a prompt to run the Aerosoft Launcher. This program manages the activation of some Aerosoft sceneries, although I didn’t find any consistent approach of Aerosoft in implementing this extra activation step. Some sceneries have it, others don’t. Even some of the newer sceneries, which came out after the Aerosoft Launcher did, don’t always have to be activated via the Aerosoft Launcher. Still, the program will recognize the existence of these sceneries and will present you with manuals and available programs linked to the scenery you have selected.
The manuals that come with Fairbanks are the usual Aerosoft kind of manuals. This is generally a good thing. It contains basic airport information which helps you get acquainted with the airport, but ultimately I wouldn’t say it contains any critical info.
If you are a veteran of Aerosoft products in general, you will know everything you need to know, so reading the manual isn’t absolutely necessary, That said, having a quick look is always a good idea!
The west apron is probably the commercially busiest of the three areas of Fairbanks International Airport. On it we not only find the passenger terminal, which was recently rebuilt and is now up to modern standards, but also various facilities for cargo aircraft. The latter can be found in the southern-most part of the west apron:
In all honesty, there isn’t too much to show here, since there aren’t any significant structures. These are mostly at other places, to which we will get shortly. We will move to the north slowly, looking at some miscellaneous structures. There are a lot of these and of most of them I have no clue who owns them and what their specific function is. Still, we can still assess their quality on the basis of their modeling and texturing.
Right next to the cargo apron we find a fairly large area with several trucks parked on it, and various hangars and offices along the southern edge. Truth be told, I’m not sure what all of this is, but the modeling of both the trucks and buildings is very good; there’s a lot of detail to look at. The texturing is equally good, and I especially like the kind of reflective surface on the tanks of some of the trucks.
Not too far from this area we find a small scrapyard, one of many actually. It is filled with the fuselages of old DC6 aircraft, wingless and stripped to their bare metal. You might think this is a strange place for so many DC6 aircraft, but Alaska is actually one of the few places on earth where the DC6 is still in active service.
On the other side of the road, seemingly inside the airport perimeter, we find a collection of buildings of which the function also eludes me. Even though I can’t tell you what the buildings are for, I can point at the amazing detail of the building closest to us. The various antennae, railings and whatnot truly show what Aerosoft airports have to offer. Coupled to the very nice texturing, this is a beautiful building to look at.
The buildings in the background look just as good mind you, but sport less detail for the simple reason that they don’t have the same kind of antennae and such. However, if you look at, for example, the garage doors, you’ll probably notice that they are in 3D. In case you didn’t, here’s a close-up:
So this is actually the back of that building, but it shows the same detail of the garage doors. They are clearly 3D, meaning that the door textures are “plastered” onto the exterior of the building, the model sports an indentation. It makes the building look much more realistic, and it appears the modeler cared about the look of his product.
Not too far from here, along the road, we find a petrol station. The text on the sign is readable, but not too well. Fortunately this sign won’t be of much interest to most people operating in and out Fairbanks for the simple reason it’s too far away from any taxiway to be clearly visible anyway. As such, I would simply like to point out the nice detail along this road. The power lines, which are actually volumetric, the petrol station signage, the lamp posts and the fence.
To the north we find another white building, but this time with a clear sign on it: NAC. NAC is a cargo company (Northern Air Cargo) based in Anchorage, where you can find even bigger facilities for their aircraft. NAC operates around Alaska and as you can see, also in and from Fairbanks. NAC is actually a rather nice airline to have: it’s one of the few airlines to still actively use the Boeing 737-200.
So not only does Fairbanks see DC6 action, it also has the golden oldie Boeing 737-200 to look after. Besides this little nicety, the modeling and texturing this building are very nice. I love the detail above the doors, and the rusty spots you see here and there. It adds a sense of “living”, that this is not a clean, unused building.
To the south of the NAC warehouse, we find another area with old DC6 aircraft. Most of them probably aren’t in flying condition, but at least they aren’t just bare remains either. Most of them seem to have wings and are recognizable by their liveries. The modeling and texturing is quite good I must say, which I find pleasantly surprising. In many sceneries I have found static aircraft to not be modeled very well. There are always some things off about them, but in this case it looks really nice.
Just next to the DC6 yard we find a big hangar with a small office attached, with a sign on it saying “Everts”. Everts is another of the smaller Alaska airlines. Their full name being Everts Air Cargo, is a cargo airline based here in Fairbanks, and they are the operators of vintage aircraft. Indeed, they also operate the DC6! However, if you fancy flying the DC6 under the Everts flag, I suggest you be quick about it: the CEO of Everts has stated that they anticipate to keep the DC6 flying on regular service until 2015, due to the ever decreasing availability of spare parts.
As for the scenery, the hangar and office look very good. The modeling is great, with lots of attention to detail. The texturing is generally very good also, although I’d like to have seen crisper textures for the Everts sign.
Again I can’t be sure what it is we are looking at, beside the fact that it is a brown, medium-sized hangar. The modeling is very nice, as always, and so is the texturing. Together to create an object that looks used and has withstood the test of time. Much more than that I can’t say however.
Like on any airport, there is a fire department. What strikes me is the size of their garage; it’s huge! I have seen bigger airports with smaller fire departments. Besides the size, the modeling and texturing both are very well done. The textures seem crisp, and modeling of both garage and fire cars ha s a lot of detail, making it a pleasure to taxi past.
Just behind the fire department we find another clearly marked building: it’s the Alaska Airlines office. At least, I suppose it is some kind office, since it might just be a garage to park Alaska Airlines-labeled maintenance vehicles. The modeling is really nice and the texturing looks good too. What really does it here, however, is not so much the modeling of the building itself; it’s the stuff scattered around to the right of it.
The gas tank and the yellow poles, together with the maintenance and other ground vehicles create the right kind of atmosphere. What I especially like is how things seem to be in a straight line, but on closer inspection is crooked. Take the baggage carts for example. These are not in a straight line; rather they all have slightly different angles relative to each other. This is the kind of attention to detail I like to see.
The second cargo apron doesn’t have any extra kind of detail compared to the southernmost apron we already saw, but at least this is in the vicinity of some warehouses. That said, here too, there isn’t too much to talk about. We will now move on to a much more interesting area: the passenger terminal.
This is a modern building, and it shows. The glass and metal kind of design is on par with many modern airports of our times, and the jetways, of which now there are five instead of four, show that Fairbanks is ready for more traffic than before.
As you can see, it’s not an especially big terminal, but still it provides enough space for even the biggest aircraft to park. The international sense of Fairbanks is also demonstrated nicely, with several US carriers and Japanese carrier JAL all merrily at the jetways.
As we move closer to the terminal, the detail can be more easily seen. The modeling seems simple, but in looks great. There is a certain cleanliness to how this model looks, which I really like. The windows that protrude slightly from the building, and the yellow poles on each side of the garage door entrances, together with the ground equipment that all sport some very nice detailing, do a good job of showing off this terminal building.
The texturing is very good too, being crisp enough to show the small details without going overboard on little patches of dirt that nobody is interested in anyway. As I said: both modeling and texturing promote a certain cleanliness which I really enjoy in the context of this terminal building.
The above shot is more concentrated on the jetway, which looks good, although in this case I feel the texturing could have been more “expressive”. Don’t get me wrong, the jetways look very nice, with some very good modeling, but the jetways could have been a bit dirtier I think. The grey railing and especially the plateau of which they form the border looks as if it has no texturing at all for example. It would have been nice to have some kind of metallic pattern, or some dirt there.
That said, it’ not an area you’d regularly see from a cockpit, so I’m okay to cut the developer some slack. Still, it would have been nice, especially because the modeling, as always, is very good. Look for example at the stairs you see on the other side of the jetway: the steps are 3D and orientated horizontally. It’s not some fake texture; the developer took the trouble to model the stairs as they are in reality.
The passenger entrance of the terminal sports some nice modeling, even if the texturing could have been crisper. This is typically an area you will probably never see clearly from your cockpit, however, and as such I can’t find it too important for the overall presentation of the scenery. But, it’s nice that effort was made to model even the smaller details, such as the posts keeping up the roof, and the actual passenger entrances and exits. The addition of cars (that by themselves looks very nice also) is also a plus.
Next to the passenger terminal there is another Everts-related structure: Everts Air Fuel. It seems like just another hangar, but the sign seems to indicate a fuel storage place of sorts. It is a fact that the DC6 aircraft use Avgas instead of normal kerosene, so a storage place to hold the fuel their DC6 fleet needs so much is not a strange thing. The modeling of the hangar looks really good, but the texturing could have been a bit crisper. Overall, a good-looking building.
With the Everts Fuel hangar in the background, we have a look at several more buildings and vehicles. The overall image looks really nice I find, with the chaos of cars looking good especially. The modeling and texturing of the buildings all is very good, but I must say that due to the lack of signage on the ground, everything looks a little bit random. This is not a fault of the developer: this is actually the way it looks in real life too (check Google Maps). So overall: looking good!
Right next to the previously mentioned buildings, we find ever more DC6 aircraft. This time in the presence of a small house and several containers. They all look pretty nice, and the texturing makes it into a colorful sight. If you look closely at the containers, you’ll notice a vertical pattern of stripes, denoting the “wavy” pattern of the metal sides of containers. Another nice example of attention to detail in this scenery.
We are now at the northern edge of the west apron, and we find parking areas of business jets. I’m afraid there really isn’t that much to say about it because there really isn’t that much to see. So, without further ado, let us continue to the east aprons.
The eastern apron can be roughly divided into two areas: the ATC tower and surrounding facilities, and GA areas. Because let me be frank: most of the eastern airport is all privately owned, GA-related business. Even when you go to Google Maps, you will see that the actual parking areas of the eastern apron are all filled with GA parking spots. As such, I will not go into extreme detail, because the amount of buildings is simply too great to effectively do that. As such I will simply show batches of screenshots and give a short summary of what is to be seen and what my opinion of the quality is. First up is the control tower.
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I wouldn’t call this control tower iconic. It is recognizable as the Fairbanks control tower, but overall, its design and architecture is pretty much like at most medium-sized airports in the USA. This scenery has done a good job capturing the control tower in this virtual world, and I must say that the texturing is really nice and crisp. The modeling is good too, although it doesn’t seem like a structure that sports that much detail to model. As such, the control tower does look a bit bland, but not because it does not resemble the real thing very well. Moreover, it looks a bit bland because that’s the way the real thing looks too!
The rest of the apron is solely for GA aircraft. The shots below should give a good impression. What I find so nice is the overall level of detail. Some areas might look a bit bland due to the absence of any buildings or other stuff lying around, but some areas truly look inspired. With fuel tanks, aircraft, orange traffic cones and even boxes and barrels lying around in some corners, everything looks lively. Overall, the modeling is very nicely done with some buildings sporting some nice detail, such as lamps protruding above hangar doors. Below is just a selection shots, since there is so much to see.
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Center GA areas
The center GA area is just that: a big area for GA aircraft. Not just any GA aircraft however. Much like Anchorage, Fairbanks has a very large area for seaplanes, and this is the “center GA area”: there is a large water runway and a whole eastern shore where one can park his plane. In the screenshots below you can take a look.
Look at the diversity of cabins, jetties, cars and planes all modeled and textured really nicely, giving it a kind of chaotic atmosphere that is very appropriate considering that this is a GA area.
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Finally, there are some areas that I have not yet covered because they don’t really fit into any other category. These are the following:
First up is the “old airport way”, as it seems to be called according to Google. Despite its distinct taxiway look, it is actually a normal road. In scenery terms, you can see it wasn’t really meant for aircraft to taxi over; if that were the case, then the photoscenery would have been probably covered with some crisper taxiway textures, which clearly is not the case.
The approach lights sport some very nice detail, being all in 3D.
The PAPI lights look especially nice. They are fully 3D, and if you look closely, you can even see some wires running down from each individual PAPI light. Nice attention to detail!
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Thanks to AESLite, we can see several cars driving around the airport. Two of those can be seen above. I find it very nice that one of the cars you can see moving is a traditional American police car. It’s nice that one of the most recognizable cars has been included, for it gives one a real feeling of “being there”.
Finally, some shots of taxiways and runways and their associated photoscenery. Overall I was really happy with how everything looks. Due to the combination of photoscenery and a more detailed tarmac-simulating layer, that includes cracks, oil leaks and repairs, you get the best of both worlds: accuracy and detail.
The taxiway signs also look very good, with crisp texturing, and small lights that flash to denote the entrance onto a runway also add a very nice touch. It all looks very lifelike and I commend the developer for doing a good job on this. I have, to my happiness, seen hardly any misaligned taxiway lines.
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The airport in winter
How can one discuss an Alaskan airport without showing the winter scenery? I was pleasantly surprised by the winter scenery included. Of course the photoscenery is all white now, and so are most roofs of the buildings, but the taxiways and runway are not, to some extent, covered with patches of snow.
The plows did not clean these patches (and why would you if there’s no plane going to stand there anyway?). It gives a very realistic sense of winter at Fairbanks and it looks very good too. I also like how the water is not frozen over. One point of criticism is that not all roofs have snow over them. This seems weird, but ultimately it’s not a major gripe. See the shots below.
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The airport at night
Like any self-respecting airport scenery, Fairbanks has night scenery too. This night scenery looks very nice, being light enough to operate in and out of the airport without trouble, and being dark enough to still seem realistic. Some sceneries are either too dark or too light, making it very hard to see anything; or everything is so light that the buildings seem to glow against the dark night sky.
In Fairbanks the correct balance was found. It’s also nice how “orbs of light” were placed on the small GA hangars and buildings on the eastern apron. Basically, this is how I think a night scenery should look, although the blue taxiway lights could have been a bit brighter.
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As important as knowing what the scenery actually looks like is the performance you can expect from this scenery. I found that it performed quite well overall. I should add that when I did the FPS tests, my FSX installation wasn’t running optimally. Since that time I did a complete reinstall and the FPS are now generally higher by one to three points. See the table below.
|Aerosoft Airbus X||13-17|
Summary / Closing Remarks
| Publisher: Aerosoft |
Format: Download (1.3GB)
Reviewed By: Benjamin van Soldt
What I liked most was how modeling and texturing often came together to provide just the right atmosphere. Some of the miscellaneous buildings looked a bit dirty and rust for example, while the new passenger terminal looked rather clean and new, which is the way it should look.
The eastern apron with its abundance of GA aircraft was a nice change from the busy western apron, where all the major airline companies are situated. Finally, the center area, with the chaotic mess of jetties, cabins, cars and seaplanes offers some nice views too.
Performance at Fairbanks is also good, although I have seen relatively better performing airport sceneries. That said, keep in mind that my FSX setup was not that well optimized at the time of testing. I think that the nicest thing of Fairbanks might however not the scenery per se. It’s the surroundings, and the traffic that operates in and out of it. Because let’s be honest: Fairbanks by itself isn’t one of the monumental airports that you’ve just got to have, right?
It’s very out-of-the-way, and as such might not be for everybody. That’s all true of course, but there’s a one thing that is really going for Fairbanks: it has some amazing diversity of traffic! You can realistically fly a Boeing 747-400F, a DC6, a small C172, a King Air, an MD-11F, a Boeing 737-200, a Boeing 727-200, an Airbus A320 and the list goes on and on. You can even fly here all the way from Frankfurt or Japan, or if you want to keep things short, you can just take a Fed Ex MD-11F over from Anchorage. There is hardly any plane that does not fly into this place, and as such everybody can find his niche and be happy with this scenery. Couple it to Flight1’s Ultimate Alaska X (which I do not have, mind you), and you should be in for a treat.
I can recommend this scenery to anybody interesting in not only flying around Alaska, but also those that want to realistically fly vintage aircraft on still existing operations.