Aerosoft - Bologna X
A review by Maxim Pyankov
Bologna Airport (LIPE; BLQ), officially known as Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport, is an international airport serving the city of Bologna, Italy. The airport is smaller in size, when compared to some other international airports, with just the one runway and 20-plus gates. Nevertheless, it is the seventh busiest airport in Italy, with a wide range of European destinations.
For me personally, this was my first payware package, representing an Italian airport. I have been looking for an Italian gateway for some time, and as such was very excited to have an opportunity to evaluate this product. This product was developed by MK Studios, and is available from the Aerosoft website, as a download, for a little over $18.
Purchase, Install, and Manual
The purchase of this scenery, and the installation thereof, is a straightforward process, and will be familiar to those of you have purchased other products from the Aerosoft's site. The size of the installation file is 267 MB, and the installation wizard will seamlessly take you through the installation process.
The version installed, on which I did all of my testing, is v1.01. This package is compatible with the FSX and P3D V2 applications. This review is based on FSX, running in DirectX10 compatibility mode.
Once the product is installed, the familiarity with the other Aerosoft products ends, to some extent. First of all, upon the completion of the installation, you are not presented with an option to adjust the airport's traffic density, which is present in most other Aerosoft sceneries I own. Second, this package is not installed inside the ..\Aerosoft folder, within the FSX root folder. Instead, you will find it in the ..\MK-Studios folder. And third, this package does not show up in the Aerosoft Launcher. This is neither bad, nor good. I just felt I needed to point that out.
Within the BolognaX folder (and in the Program Files group, under the MK-Studios folder) you will find a couple of PDF files - Charts.pdf and Manual.pdf. The manual is about 10 pages long, and is only marginally useful (the airline parking assignment table, on page 8). The charts document, on the other hand, is a 38-page document containing high-quality airport approach and departure charts.
The three screenshots below display the default FSX Bologna airport, the after the installation look of the area, and the outline of the areas provided as part of this package.
As you can judge for yourself, even though this airport has just the one runway, the developers included quite a bit of the surrounding areas. Let us see how things look on the ground.
Airport Features and First Impressions
I have done probably close to a dozen flights into and out of Bologna, prior to sitting down to write this review. My favorite route, for this airport, became the short hop (about 90 minutes) from Vienna into Bologna, and back.
First and foremost - I absolutely fell in love with the geographic positioning of the airport; mainly, where the airport is located added a lot of immersion into my sim experience. The mountains and hills, surrounding the airport on the North, West, and to the South, and the Adriatic sea to the East, create an interesting mix for weather opportunities, and results in all kinds of interesting and challenging scenarios - the low clouds, hovering right above the ground level, the fog, creeping along the valley, the rain and, sometimes, a completely clear and crisp approach, uninhabited by any of the above!
Generally speaking, the airport is well visible and identifiable from the air. However, it often hides right underneath the low clouds, and I have found myself employing the ILS system far more often (and keeping it engaged for much more of the approach leg), than I have had to with my other payware sceneries. Other times (on multiple occasions), when blanketed by the dense fog, I actually found myself getting ready to abort the landing because I did not see the runway all the way down to the decision height (truth be told, I should have aborted a couple of times). Exhilarating! One point to note - the approach guiding lights, once (and when) visible, are easy to see and follow.
Another point - the airport is located in a beautiful place, geographically speaking. While challenging and exciting during the weather-intense landings and takeoffs, it is quiet and beautiful on the clear days, and especially in the dusk, dawn, and the night hours.
Now that I have praised where the airport is located, and how great it looks during the approaches and departures, it is time to look at the airport at the ground level.
Thank you, developers, for not skimping on the surrounding areas and giving us dense house and warehouse areas to enjoy during the descents and climb-outs.
On the one hand, when approaching runway 12 (or taking off from runway 30), there is a dense area of warehouse-type looking buildings. On the other side of the runway (approaching into 30 or taking off from 12), there is an area full of businesses (or maybe even residential houses?) that is dense and well modeled. I compared my screenshots with the aerial photos of the actual airport, and was quite impressed with the work the developers put into the surrounding areas.
There is even a railroad track (and a station) that has been modeled but, unlike the Innsbruck scenery, I have not seen a running train. As a matter of fact, I have not seen much traffic on the roads and highways hugging the perimeter of the airport at all. Remember, above, that I mentioned that there is no "Aerosoft-like" utility to adjust the traffic around the airport? Well, I suppose one doesn't need a utility to adjust traffic, when no traffic has been provided.
To be sure, there is some ground traffic within the airport.
Overall, on the ground, the airport is a mixed bag of things well done and others, which could use a little more work or attention. I was impressed how many different static objects the developers peppered throughout the airport. There are cement blocks, serving as the gate/aircraft parking spot indicators; static luggage trucks and dollies, external power units, airport service vehicles, some buses, and cargo crates.
I was also impressed with the attention to detail spent on reproducing the front of the airport.
The general quality of the textures, used throughout the airport, is okay. Some areas of the airport textures look exceptionally good. See, for example, the wear and tear, and the detail, displayed in the screenshots below.
Some of the other textures can feel a bit too clean. The roofs, and some of the concrete square building panels, of the main terminal building, are fairly bland.
I also liked the rendition of the glass panels of the main terminal buildings.
The tarmac around the airport, and the runway, can use more work. First of all, there are no tire marks to be found on the runway. There is some attempt to darken the middle of the runway but, in my opinion, the runway looks much too clean.
Besides the runway itself, there are no tire marks, of any sort, to be found throughout the airport.
Another area for improvement, in my opinion, would be the currently complete absence of any sort of oil or other liquid seepage, especially at the aircraft parking spots. Overall, the asphalt cover in the scenery appears to be very new and does not convey the same sort of age and usage, as do some of the buildings throughout the airport. This is especially true when looking at the ground markings - they all look as if they have been painted yesterday. A worn, faded-paint look, would have gone a great distance in this package!
Night Light and Seasons
I like how the airport looks at night, although I think the individual light fixtures, and the light coming from them, could use a little work. Some of the other sceneries of late are quite elaborate in the way they display and model the light fixtures (talking about the quality of the modeling), as well as how the actual light is dispersed from those fixtures. In this case, it appears the light is "just there", not coming from any one particular source.
In addition, I experienced strange behavior related to the tarmac markings, in the dusk, dawn, and the night hours. I will not count this glitch against this scenery because I suspect that it can be traced to DirectX 10 mode, which is how I run my FSX. See the screenshots below.
Interestingly enough, if I just change my angle of view by a little, then the green triangles disappear and display as the usual green light. Like I said, I suspect this is a DirectX 10 issue, but I wanted to call it out for those of you who also use DirectX 10 mode. For me personally, this visual glitch did not take away from the experience.
As far as the season variability goes, there is not much of it, but enough to convey a seasonal change. You won't see anything like the snow on the ground, or iced up tarmac (albeit, from my research, it appears it gets quite cold in Bologna in the winter), but given the geographic location of the airport, I do not think that any more work is really warranted or required on this front. See the winter/summer comparison below.
These days, when the cost for a lot of the payware packages can push $40, $50, and above, this little international airport can seem like a real bargain for what it offers. For a little over $18 you get a gem of an airport tucked away somewhere between the mountain range and the seas, combination of which creates numerous opportunities for a variety of exciting weather conditions in and around the airport.
The package is easy to install, albeit it does not offer much in terms of customization of options in and around the scenery (traffic, texture quality).
The package performed very well, and I observed no impact to my frame-rates, even during the heavily active weather, which is often not the case with the add-on sceneries.
It is a good, solid package and is definitely worth the investment (money and time). Of course, you have to evaluate based on what and where you fly. Personally, I found the Vienna to Bologna leg, flown on Majestic Dash, to be exceptionally enjoyable and challenging.
What I Liked
- Location, location, location! Great location means a variety of very exciting weather patterns!
- Variety on the above - great location means eye candy during approaches and take-offs.
- No performance issues.
- Textures-wise speaking, a solid, affordable add-on airport.
What Could Be Improved
- Texture quality in some parts of the main terminal building.
- Tarmac/runway texture quality (lack of tire marks and liquid seepage; tarmac marking paint job lacks any sort of faded look).
- Traffic around the airport perimeter, outside the airport. There is not much of it, if any.
- Quality of the 3D models around the airport - i.e. the light fixtures.
- Night lighting could be improved and could look more realistic.
- Textures-wise speaking (excluding the tarmac) - good as is, but could be much better.
System Specs Reviewed On
- Time spent on the scenery: 12 hours
- 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
- DirectX 10