Review by Ray Marshall. Like practically every recent outstanding FSX add-on that was released in the last few months, this one also came as a total surprise to me. I was actually expecting to see it prior to Christmas - that is, Christmas of last year, 2012. But, like most good things, it was worth the wait.
Isle of Man
Isle of Man is one of those island nations with a rich history that goes waaaay back. I mean back before the days of Viking invasions and such. There are some great artifacts just a stone’s throw from where that EasyJet 737 just touched down and those two Flybe Dash 8s and the BA CityFlyer is waiting for takeoff. This is on the Southern part of the island between Castletown and at Ronaldsway Airport, the only major commercial airport, EGNS.
Most of those arriving passengers from Liverpool and many of those passengers now lined up for takeoff to Palma de Mallorca do not have a clue that they will be passing just a few hundred feet above the site of an ancient volcano. Most of them are aware of the medieval Castle Rushen once the home of kings and later government, because it still dominates the town centre.
Norse invasions started around 800 AD and the Isle was a dependency of Norway known as the Kingdom of the Hebrides until the thirteenth century. The King of Norway sold the IOM to Scotland but they in turn passed it on to England and it has been under the British crown since 1765. A King, Lord or Duke has been in charge there ever since.
Although Isle of Man is a British crown possession it is not part of the UK or of the European Union. The Isle of Man issues its own currencies, the Manx pound, and levies its own taxes but the UK Government remains constitutionally responsible for its defense and international welfare.
The Isle of Man’s strong identity is due in part to its independence and the fact that the island is self-governing. It has the oldest continuous parliament in the world.
Enough Government and History, how about some Geography?
The Isle of Man is about 30 miles (48 km) long by 10 miles (16 km) wide with an area of 221 square miles (572 sq km).
The island has a central mountain range extending north and south looking over the low-lying agricultural land. Man’s coastline is rocky and has fine cliff scenery. The grass-covered slate peaks of the central massif are smooth and rounded as a result of action during various glacial periods. The landscape is mostly treeless except for a few sheltered areas.
The small islet at the Southwest corner is the Calf of Man with its precipitous cliffs that attracts thousands of birds year round. Snaefell is the mountain peak at 2,036 feet (621 m) so make sure you fly high enough when going directly over the top of the mountain. The only other small island is St. Patrick’s Isle, home of the Peel Castle.
The climate is maritime temperate, with cool summers and mild winters. The average annual rainfall is 45 inches (1,140 mm). The native flora and fauna are of little interest but the various fields and meadows make for some scenic flights into the interior. The population of IOM is around 86,000.
The coastline stretches for 100 miles and across the northern plain you’ll find long sandy beaches which contrast markedly with the rocky cliffs and sheltered bays around the rest of the Island. The tidal range around the island brings food to an impressive array of sea creatures including basking sharks, seals, porpoises and even the occasional Orca. During your flights around the island you may even be lucky enough to spot the dolphins, whales and sharks which inhabit these waters.
Where exactly is the Isle of Man?
Easy peasy. The Isle of Man occupies a central position in the Irish Sea - right between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Legend has it that the Isle of Man was created when the Irish giant Finn MacCooill, during battle, threw a chunk of earth from Ireland’s coastline towards Scotland. It landed in the Irish Sea and became the Isle of Man.
This central location and the arms-length UK Government arrangement were instrumental in the island becoming a major center for contraband trade. Smuggling generated much more cash flow than fishing or agriculture so after decades of being deprived valuable custom revenues the British Parliament purchased sovereignty over the island and eventually acquired prerogatives of the reigning IOM Crown.
Can I really see six kingdoms?
According to an old saying, from the summit one can see six kingdoms: Those of the Man, Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales, and Heaven.
Do I drive on the Left or Right side of the street?
Also easy. Due to the alignment with the UK, and neighboring Islands, all cars drive on the Left. But, of course, you will taxi down the middle. Just follow the yellow stripe to get to the runway then follow the big wide dashed white one while taking off. Just kidding.
OK, OK. Can we talk about the scenery now?
Yes, this is absolutely outstanding scenery painstakingly developed by Earth Simulations. This is follow-on work started in the pre-Orbx era that introduced the flight simulator world to 4 or 5 seasons and the unbelievable photo quality, true water masking, animations, etc. Yep, Darren and Vikki started it all.
You might want to jump over and read about Alderney, Guernsey, and the Isles of Scilly. Now that we have Isle of Man, only Jersey in the Channel Islands remains to round out the islands in 50 cm HD scenery. Well, maybe the Isle of Wight, home base for Earth Simulations is still a possibility.
The entire island is available in one huge download – 12 GB, yep GB as in Giga Bytes. It is a little pricey, but well worth every pence or penny.
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I have lots of screenshots for you
As I stated in the introduction, this came as a surprise but it is so good that I want to get the word out for Christmas (this year). Patrick Van Der Nat, screenshot maker extraordinaire, managed a virtual holiday on the Isle and had the unlimited use of the new award winning A2A Simulations C172 Trainer. He filled up his USB key with photos for this scenery review. Almost every image is a great view of the Earth Simulations’ IOM scenery, but also has various repaints of the C172.
This is all for your benefit.
Oh yes, IOM has seasons so let’s look at it by each season.
Through a combination of Seasonal textures and vegetation changes the look and feel of The Isle of Man alters significantly throughout the course of the year. There are seven noticeable transitions over a twelve month cycle.
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Did I read seven seasonal transitions? Yep, how about Bleak Winter, Winter Frost, and Early Autumn in addition to what we know as the 4 seasons. Some of these changes are very subtle changes in the color of fields and tress but makes the scenery that much more realistic.
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This was designed for the ultimate experience in low level flight.
A 41 page manual accompanies the download and about half those pages are dedicated on squeezing every ounce of performance out of your PC and FSX. Darren and Vikki have included lots of explanations and tips on how to adjust the FSX sliders and what can be expected with different setups.
The airport should be the Ronaldsway, the big airport, as there are others on the island.
X9JU Jurby Airfield was a RAF training base in WWII. Watch for the motorcycle race track and other industrial encroachments.
X9AN Andreas Airfield is a gliding club field but is also home to a few privately owned light aircraft. The runways look all beat up and soft from my fly-by.
X9MR Mount Rule is a small airstrip near the center of the island and it’s easy to miss. Look for a big X – two grass or mostly dirt runways that appear as a large X.
There are also eleven real world Helipads recreated on the island.
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"On The Ground"
Do watch this 2 minute video highlighting the ES Isle of Man by corporate jet, biplane and helicopter. Outstanding.
Video of IOM by Steadyflyer (2.01 min)
Downloading and Installing
12 gb of download is going to take a while for most of us. The installation is practically automatic due to the nifty ES installer. There are some suggestions for the scenery slider settings for FSX/P3D to keep the various PC hardware humming along at optimum. I get a little stutter from time to time but generally the software runs just fine on my setup.
Darren and Vikki evidently do not need much sleep, or they cover the support desk in shifts because you will get a response to any query right away, night or day.
Not just photo real scenery
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"Around the airport"
This gives photoscenery a whole new definition. This has seasonal textures and night lighting and yet it is glorious 30 cm/pixel photographic scenery. Some terrain and cliff areas are 1.2 m. You will of course immediately notice the true water masking. No problems here. Hmmm. The large commercial airport, Ronaldsway EGNS is more detailed than most stand-alone airport add-ons.
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I managed to find the boats, dolphins and lots of birds but the bald eagle has eluded me so far. But I will indeed find him.
This long awaited scenery package was indeed a long time coming, but well worth the wait. Earth Simulations have a group of avid followers that automatically purchase any scenery as soon as they make it available. A few of those posted their comments on our forums. One AVSIM member posted this was ‘the best add on for 2013’. I sent him a PM.
Q. Chris, tell me why you think IOM is the best of the add-ons for 2013.
A. The level of detail is amazing, and this extends across an area of over 700 sq. km. I haven't even scratched the surface with respect to exploration of the island yet, but what I have seen so far is extremely impressive. Yes, it will test even the most powerful PCs at high detail levels, but I don't worry about that. I like as much detail as possible in my flight simulators, and this is as good as it gets.
Q. Excellent. Can I use this as a quote in my Avsim.com review?
A. Absolutely, Ray. Darren and Vikki are basically a two person team, and yet they produce some of the very best scenery packages available for FSX. They deserve all the praise they can get!
I fully agree with Chris, this is an outstanding package and is a lot more than just scenery. It is like the island is alive and this makes it more like you are really there.
You get not only the super detailed, hand edited, enhanced terrain with those impressive cliffs and coastlines, but all the trees and buildings are modelled in local character. This package has literally thousands of unique objects, animations, animals, working machinery, road traffic, shipping and boat traffic and other special effects. Bird and marine life along with all the visuals and environmental sounds make this Isle of Man the closest thing yet to a living world in flight simulation.
The use of a local IOM couple with a motorcycle and digital camera was instrumental in getting the tiniest details absolutely correct.
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"Is this real flying?"
Get this one. It is recommended for those casual VFR pilots that like to just fly and explore. It is recommended for those commuter or regional pilots that like to fly the shorter routes.
It is also recommended for those airliner types that like to fly a full load of passenger to and from vacation destinations. I guess it is recommended for anyone who likes wonderfully correct scenery with proper elevations, colors, buildings, and especially likes accurate water masking. This one is as good as it gets or as they say ‘spot on’.
Special Christmas Price for AVSIM review readers
Use this special discount code until January 31, 2014 to receive an instant 25% discount. AVSOME-IOM.
This will reduce the price from £34.90 to £26.24.
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Earth Simulations Ltd. for providing the IOM scenery.
Patrick Van Der Nat, aka Soya, for providing the excellent screenshots
A2A Simulations for providing the C172 Trainer for Soya to use on holiday at IOM.
Steadyflyer for permission to use the link to his IOM video
- Intel i7 2700 OC to 4.5 GHz
- 8GB RAM
- Dual Dell WS Monitors, 27 IN and 24 IN
- nVidia GTX580 1.5 GB
- Crucial M4 256 GB SSD
- Intel 330 180 GB SSD
- Seagate 3TB HDD
- WD Black 1TB HDD
- WD My Passport 750 GB Ext. USB3
- Windows 7 x64
- FSX Acceleration
- Saitek x52 Controller, Combat Flight Pedals, Bose Companion 20 Speakers
Publisher: Earth Simulations
Download: 12 gb, 13 gb installed
Platform: FSX, SP2 or Acceleration/P3D (not tested )