Flightbeam Studios - KIAD - Washington Dulles HD v.1.2.2
A review by Maxim Pyankov
According to Wikipedia, Washington Dulles International Airport (KIAD) "isthe busiest international airport in the Northeast outside of New Yorkmetropolitan area," serving about 60,000 passengers on a daily basis. Itis this airport, in all its beauty, that has been provided to me by thegenerous staff over at Flightbeam Studios for a review.
Purchase, Download, and Manual
You can purchase this product, for $34, directly from Flightbeam Studios’website. Once the purchase is complete, you will receive an email withthe product serial number, which you would use to register and activate theproduct. The download process is straightforward and consists of gettingone installation file, which is about 533MB. This airport is designed towork with FSX and P3D (2.2).
The product manual, which you get with your purchase, is available fordownload directly off of Flightbeam's website (and you also get a copy of itupon installation of the product). The install process itself is verysimple, and the installation wizard takes you right through it. One noteof caution (and I had to reinstall because I did not follow the instructions inthe manual) - be sure to completely turn off your virus software, including itsauto-protect features. I could not properly register the product until Icompletely shut it off--I am running Norton 360.
Once you properly install the software, you would use the Add-on Manager(accessible through the Add-On menu) to fully register and activate theproduct. I recommend that you switch your FSX to windowed mode for thistask, by hitting the ALT+ENTER combination.
You don't get a new program group in your Windows Programs with thisinstallation - the manual (and airport settings) can be accessed through theaforementioned Add-On Manager. The manual is seven pages long andprovides short and precise sections on airport history, a page on airportlayout, a couple of pages on airport installation/configuration, a pageexplaining the airport's jetways, as well as explaining that with this productyou get FSDreamteam's GSX, for this airport only, which is a very good add-on,and is a real value add feature in this package. I own a stand-alone,full version of FSDreamteam's GSX, so I can only imagine that what I saw isprecisely what you would get, in this airport.
As a final step in my installation process, I referenced the manual and madesure that my FSX/Scenery Settings were set at least at the recommended level toget the fully intended experience.
First Impressions and Airport Features
For my first look into this scenery, I loaded PMDG's 777 parked at Gate A16,designed to accommodate heavies. Before I even had a chance to get out ofthe aircraft and examine the vastness of the airport, I was staring into aterminal window, which I could see through so well so that I could almost readout the Arrivals and Departures schedule on the timetable TV screens! Incredible. Without any delay I proceeded to engage EZdok's World cam toexplore the airport. To be sure, terminal buildings, and the insidecontents thereof (chairs, TV screens) are 3D models and look terrific.
Meticulous attention to detail is ever-present throughout this whole airportscenery. There are so many features and details modeled here that you caneasily spend a couple of hours, in your flight simulation application, doingnothing but examining the airport from one building to the next, from onetaxiway to the next.
Washington Dulles is one of the few airports using what is known as a"mobile lounge,” or a "plane mate." These are somewhat other-worldlycreature-vehicles, roaming throughout the airport and shuttling the passengersbetween the aircraft and the terminal buildings. As I understand it,there are plans to replace these with a train system, but as it stands we getto marvel at and enjoy these "plane mates" throughout this airport. Thereare a lot of them that are simply parked, and many more that can be seentraveling around the terminal buildings.
To accommodate loading and unloading these "mobile lounges," there arespecial terminal exits, which are modeled here as well.
Often we focus only on what is inside the airport; we accept the outside asa simple 2D photo of a parking lot, or roads, or whatever else it may be forany one particular airport. I have to applaud the developers for puttingthe extra effort into making the front of the airport look lively andappealing. Not only did the model the parking lot, parking lot lights,trees, and other objects, but they have also given us 3D models of parkedvehicles, which adds to the atmosphere of the airport.
There are many objects, peppered throughout the airport, that infuse theatmosphere with an air of busy hustle. As I examined the airport with theworld cam for a few hours, zooming from one side of the grounds to the other, Ihave not come across one object that was poorly modeled, or had incompletetextures, or was otherwise deficient. These objects come in variousshapes and forms - for example, there are dozens and dozens of sitting luggagecarts, all throughout the airport. Obviously, most gates have these, andthe sight is very representative of the real world airport environment. In addition, there are parked trucks, cars, and trailers all throughout. Like everything else, attention to detail is amazing. The modelspresented are sharp and the textures used are in high resolution.
The aircraft parking spaces are also superb. Ground markings presentmany various kinds of wear and tear: for example, in many high-usage areas theground paints are worn out and look faded and washed out.
The jetways are superb as well. They are modeled to such an extent,that as you pan around an entrance into one, you cannot resist the urge toenter one and explore it from inside out.
Another round of applause goes to the developers for putting the extraeffort into the objects around the airport - miscellaneous buildings outsidethe immediate airport perimiter, as well as the lush and alive forest in theimmediate vicinity of the airport. There is no doubt that the buildingsand forest in and around the edges of the perimiter will be enjoyed everysingle time you land or take off from this airport.
Night Light and Seasons
Wonderful job was done on making sure the airport is well dressed for allseasons of the year. The screenshots below display the same airportnavigation sign presented in three different seasons - the summer, the fall,and the winter.
The effort put in into making sure the winter seasons are presented fairlyis very much appreciated. Not only do you get the white snowy coverthroughout the airport, but you also get what appears to be a texture designedspecifically for the winter season. In the example below, you will noticetire marks on what seems to be a very thin layer of snow/ice. It looksgreat and adds tremendously to the sim and the environment.
Likewise, the fall textures bring its own style to the table. Theground textures (cement and concrete) look wet and damp. The grass -drowned by the rain and washed out. It looks great.
Night lights rendering continues to add to the theme of overall attention todetail, quality textures, and remarkable effort put into this scenery. The airport is very well lit around the usual heavy-traffic areas, like thegates. The light produced by the huge light fixtures around the airportis bright and feels warm. The inside of the terminal, which I raved aboutat the top of this review, comes to a life of its own in the nighttime. The insides are well lit, the coffee kiosks and newspaper stands come to life,and all of a sudden I can see the tired night-time business travelers waitingto board the plane to go home.
The signage and navigation lights are all well lit and produce the lightthat you would naturally expect to see from those fixtures. The runwaylights are bright and throb with life.
For the test flights, I did one inbound and a few outbound flights. MyKIAD inbound flight was a late morning flight, taken in good summerweather. In the given weather, the airport was well visible from the airand there was no mistaking it with others in the vicinity.
Upon aligning with the runway heading, the glide slope navigational lightswere easy to see and follow. The forest, which I talked about above, mostdefinitely added tremendously to the realism leading up to touch down. Itwas an amazing rushed feeling, to approach the lush green forest from above,and to see the tops of the trees zoom by beneath my landing gear.
Taxiing to the parking spot, using a GSX Follow Me vehicle was easy andhassle-free. We parked at gate B72, which was a gate, brought to life byGSX services, provided with this scenery.
On my PC, which is capped at 30 FPS via FSX Settings screen, I received verysolid 26+ FPS during approach and touchdown. There was no slowdown of anysort throughout the final approach and touchdown. I did experience aslight hit to the frames-per-second number during my taxiing to the gate - myframes, as measured by Fraps, hovered between 19 and 26. It did notdistract or take away, from the experience, in any way.
For one of my outbound flights I chose PMDG's 777, dressed in United'slivery, for a short flight into Chicago. In this scenario, during thestatic (but very busy) 15-20 minutes on the ground, I experienced very solid,in the 26-30 range frames-per-second. In this time, I was talking toground/tower (using Radar Contact), running Fraps in the background, runningREX Essential Plus Overdrive, and AivlaSoft’s EFB product on top of everythingelse. I was doing a lot of panning and zooming, enjoying the scenery andthe bustling activity around the aircraft, and did not experience anyissues.
Similar to my inbound experience, the hit to the performance was evidentduring my taxi to the runway. Again, my frames hovered in the 19-26range, which really was not an issue at all. During take-off andclimb-out on this slightly cloudy, but otherwise clear day, I again experiencedvery solid performance. Racing down the runway in PMDG's 777 felt fastand conveyed the aircraft's speed. The scenery played along nicely, andthe experience was very immersive.
During the initial climb, I again did a lot of outside view shots, as wellas views from inside the cabin, and I never experienced a single flicker on theairport footprint. I should mention that I am running my FSX in the nonDX10-mode.
This is a very solid, top of the line product. The attention to detailis amazing, the textures are superb, and the quality of the package speaks foritself through consistently high performance (high and consistent FPS, noflickering). For the price of $32 you also get, on top of the airportitself, a fully integrated FSDreamteam Ground Services X (for this airportonly). I experienced any sort of issues only one time, and that coming atthe end of a heavy 4-5 hour EZdok World Cam session at the airport, duringwhich I was doing a lot of Season/Weather/Time of Day changes, a lot ofscreenshots using Fraps, and running multiple other Office programs in thebackground. So, from my personal experience, I am not going to count itagainst the product. In the one landing, and four departures I executedduring the review, I had no issues at all.
Regardless, at the time of the review I received an email from FlightbeamStudios, which informed me that they were working on a patch that would add "asignificant boost in performance and [reduce] some artifacts". That'sgood news, although I had no issues in my experience with the scenery.
What I Liked
- Buildings and Gates
- "Plane Mates"
- Forest Around the Perimeter
- Season-ready Compatibility (Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring)
What I Didn't Like
- I really do not have anything I would change about this product. This is now one of the best add-ons I have on my hard-drive.
System Specs I Reviewed On
- Intel® Core i7-4770K @ 3.5 GHz, Overclocked to 4.4 GHz
- Installed RAM: 8 GB
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
- Running on Windows 7 Home Premium, Service Pack 1