• REVIEW - Aerosoft Mega Airport Dublin (EIDW)


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    Aerosoft Mega Airport Dublin (EIDW)

    A review by Maxim Pyankov

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    Dublin Airport (EIDW), according to the airport’s official site, is Ireland’s busiest and “is amongst the ten busiest airports in Europe.  Dublin Airport manages an average of 60,000 passengers per day, rising to 80,000 during the peak season, and more than 600 aircraft every day”.  This airport is located 10km north of the city center.  This airport has been recreated, under the Aerosoft’s Mega Airport series banner, by the Aerosoft team, and it promises high-resolution textures, large and small details, 3D objects, excellent frame rates, and many more features.

     

    Purchase, Download, and Install

     

    You can purchase this product directly from Aerosoft site for about $30 (the price depends on whether you purchase a boxed, or a download, version).  I received a digital (download) version of the product for this review.  Download and installation were very straight-forward.  Regardless of the product delivery method (boxed or download), with the purchase of this product you can also download a copy of Airport Dublin airport for FS9.  As is, this product is compatible with FSX and P3D (v1 and v2).

     

    As I mentioned, the installation was straight forward.  The installation wizard asks the user which simulator to install the scenery for, which features to turn on or leave off (animated flags, high-res textures, Add-on ORBX FTX) and, finally, gives the user a chance, upon completion of the installation, to launch Airport configuration setup guide.

     

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    When the installation is finished, there will be a Mega Airport Dublin folder placed within your Flight Sim installation folder, and in it you will find a 20-page product manual, a PDF file containing detailed airport charts, a utility (EIDWTraffic.exe) to configure ground traffic within the airport (should be familiar to users of other Aerosoft products), and an additional program – Dublin_FSX.exe – which can be used to configure product features.

     

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    • The manual contents are both in German and in English languages.  The instructions provided contain the following sections:
    • How to install the product,
    • A couple of paragraphs on the airport’s history,
    • A brief airport technical summary (i.e. runway dimensions, ILS frequencies),
    • Two pages explaining how to install or setup high-resolution textures, how the ground traffic works within the airport (based on the AESLite, developed by Oliver Pabst, which is part of this scenery package), and how to maximize your frame rates.
    • The airport configuration tool (Dublin_FSX.exe) allows the user to configure the following features:
    • Switch off/on the volumetric grass,
    • Switch off/on the animated flags, and
    • Set the textures to the high/low resolution mode.

     

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    Although this tool (which can be launched from Aerosoft Launcher, or directly from the airport folder) is very simple in what it does, and it has very limited functions, I found it if not hard, then at least somewhat confusing and awkward to use the first couple of times.  Perhaps that is just me.

     

    Airport Features and First Impressions

     

    The authors of the airport say, in the manual, that this scenery is different than others and that it contains a much higher level of detail.  They add, too, that this level of detail can affect performance.  More on this topic later.

     

    The level of detail and the quality of most textures, offered in this product, are superb.  Just as is advertised on the product information page, there are numerous 3D objects placed all around the airport.  In fact, there are so many of them that, coupled with the airport ground traffic, they give off a real sense of environment and life of a busy airport, even with the add-on AI aircraft traffic set at or below the 50% (in my case) density level.

     

    There’s a wide range of objects represented in this scenery.  You will see cargo dollies, static ladders, trash cans, and a wide range of airport ground service vehicles.

     

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    This scenery is composed of a mix of photo ground sceneries with 3D objects overlaid on top of them.  The busiest areas of the airport (and in the areas where you will be most likely spending your time – i.e. the gates, taxiways, runways, and other high traffic areas) are fully rendered and populated with 3D objects, and they look very realistic.

     

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    The textures used for the airport surfaces (taxiways, runways, parking spots) are also very good.  They exhibit a very realistic, cracked, worn-out and repaired look.  In different areas of the airport you will notice rubber marks on the tarmac, and at the gate parking spots, at least in some of them, you will notice the usual signs of wear and tear, including what appears to be dried-up (or cleaned up) stain spots from oil or other liquid spills.  This adds tremendously to the immersion factor of the airport representation.

     

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    On the other hand, there are some of the less traveled areas of the airport that exhibit more of the photo-realistic, than fully rendered, textures with some 3D objects placed atop of them.  The difference in the quality between the fully rendered, fully completed areas, and the less traveled is fairly stark.  These less traveled areas look unfinished and a bit hurried, in my opinion.  I am not sure whether the creators of the scenery decided not to model the edges of the airport in order to save effort and frames, of whether they had ran out of development time. 

     

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    Unfortunately, this unfinished look extends beyond the airport perimeter and spills into areas directly adjacent to the airport property.  While it is not a problem in itself, it does create for some rather bizarre-looking parking spots, with runway guidance and airport perimeter fences suspended in the air. 

     

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    The buildings of the airport are very well rendered both from inside and from the outside of the airport.

     

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    Like I mentioned above, you will notice individual details (such as large clocks) attached to the terminal buildings, trash cans situated by the entrance into the building, and even advertisement boards which you would never see from the pilots’ or even from the ground crew’s perspective, but which are placed to capture the attention of the passengers waiting around inside the terminal buildings!  I commend the developers for this superb effort.

     

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    A lot of the glass textures of the airport buildings are also very well rendered and present a realistic look.  The many windows appear to display a reflection of the sky and of the horizon line, as well as of the ground when the windows are slanted and point to the ground at an angle.  In addition to high-quality, realistic looking windows, I have to praise the developers for additional details paid to some of the roofs of the main terminal buildings – the rusted out looking puddle spots, left over after repetitive rains, look very good.

     

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    Some of the textures on the roof exhibit the same patches of unfinished look which I referred to above.  There are not very many of them in the busiest areas of the airport, but I again have to question why they haven’t been finished or rendered, given how much detail we are treated to in other parts of the airport.  In the screenshots below, you will notice two such omissions.  In the first, what appears to be part of an HVAC system is simply a photo of one, and not the actual object rendered.  In the other, you will notice the light produced by light fixtures, without the actual light fixtures present!

     

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    There are many more areas of the airport worth exploring which I, due to the size of this review, unfortunately cannot cover.  For example, there is a very nicely rendered fire-truck station worth checking out.  All of the jetways look great and work well and deserve a paragraph of their own!  The runway approach lights are there and work fine.  There is nothing particular fabulous about them – they are just there and do their job.  I have seen some reproduced better, others – worse.

     

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    The volumetric grass does look very nice.  I haven’t seen a lot of difference, in my performance numbers, running the scenery with or without the volumetric grass feature, so for my personal use I will leave it on.

     

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    Night Light and Seasons

     

    Night Lights

     

    In the evening hours the airport looks great.  In addition to detailed-looking light fixtures, which all of a sudden wake up and come to life, the surfaces of the objects being lit reflect the light in a superb fashion.  I was really impressed to see one side of the 3D object being lit by a light fixture, and the other side (further away or covered from the light) just ever so slightly dipping into the darkness.

     

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    Depending on the time of the night (for example, sunset versus complete blind darkness), the airport looks completely different, which is no less than what I would expect.  Nevertheless, it is good to see the model follow the basic rules of the day-dusk-night-dawn cycle.  Great job and praise to the developers!

     

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    As is customary with airport design and other airport sceneries, here too you will notice that the areas immediately adjacent to the gates are well lit, and the further you get away from them, the further you will sink into the darkness of the night.

     

    During the night time approach, the runways are well illuminated (in clear weather) and are easy to follow.

     

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    The Seasons

     

    This package came with the seasonal textures.  As far as I could tell, it came with three distinct seasonal textures – the spring/summer, the fall, and the winter.  For the winter textures, I couldn’t get the “snow-covered” textures out, but perhaps this is because there is no snow in the winter due to the very close proximity of a large body of water?  In any case, in the four screenshots below you will notice the textures as they appear in the spring/summer, in the fall, and in the dead of the winter.

     

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    As you see, the fall textures look wet and worn out from the rain, and the winter textures appear a little bit more barren and cold.  For comparison, the screenshot below shows what the “stock” winter textures look like around the airport.  The road around the perimeter of the airport separates stock textures from the airport.

     

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    Overall, I am very pleased both with the night and the seasonal look-and-feel changes produced by this scenery.  I applaud the developers of the package for taking the time to develop additional seasonal changes and for creating such a wonderful dusk-night environments at the airport.

     

    Test Flights

     

    For my test flights for this package I did the following flights:

     

    • Three inbound flights, using PMDG’s 777.
    • One outbound/inbound flight, using Aerosoft’s Airbus in the Aer Lingus livery.
    • Two outbound/inbound flights, using PMDG’s 737 NGX.

     

    Undoubtedly, this airport pushes the envelope in terms of what it produces visually, and how many objects (both static and moving) there are.  I must admit that the sheer number of moving ground vehicles, with all the 3D objects scattered around the airport, brought a great sense of life and realism.  However, on my PC, with my add-ons, and with my FSX settings, all this beauty and volume of objects came at a price.

    When I used Aerosoft’s Airbus for outbound/inbound flights, I experienced no issues whatsoever.  Not a single one.  My frame rates would drop to very high teens to mid-twenties during the very busy intervals of action (i.e. using FSDreamteam’s GSX services, in addition to ground traffic, in addition to add-on aircraft), would at times stabilize at my capped (using FSX) 30 FPS rate, and during taxi, especially when taxiing in the high-traffic areas of the airport, would stabilize around 20 frames per second.  Very enjoyable and stable rates.  Likewise, I did not experience any sort of noticeable drop in FPS during the takeoff or approach/landing phases of the flight.

     

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    During the descent, final approach, and landing phases of the flights I took, the airport was easy to spot from the air from 7,000-10,000 feet (in clear weather), the runway approach lights worked well, and the overall experience was pleasant.

     

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    During my test flights using PMDG’s 737 NGX, my experience was okay, but I had signs (many of you are familiar with the repetitive “Ding!” noise, coming from your PC, when it throws up a Windows message box) that my PC was on the edge of running out of memory.  Specifically, my experience with 737 NGX was as follows:

     

    Using PMDG’s 737 NGX, from a Cold-n-Dark start, I experienced no issues whatsoever on the outbound flights.

     

    Using PMDG’s 737 NGX, on approach, I would get a repetitive “Ding!” sound from my system, during the final approach and all the way until final parking at the gate. 

     

    Notice that even though I would get the warning sound from my system, I would still be able to taxi to the gate, park the plane, deplane and shut down the aircraft while observing the action around the plane from outside the plane. 

     

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    On my PC, with my add-ons, and with my settings, I had the worst luck using PMDG’s 777 simulator.  During the approach, whenever I would get within the 15-20NM range from the airport, I would start getting the infamous ‘Ding!’ sound from my PC.  The ‘Ding!’ noise will persist all throughout the final approach and landing, and will culminate in the FSX crashing, with the OOM (Out of Memory) message on my desktop.  On a couple of occasions, the FSX crashed as I was taxiing to the gate.  During my last test, with the animated flags off, and the volumetric grass off, I was able to taxi to the gate and park, and then my FSX crashed.  I would also like to point out that on one occasion, during the approach, after I started getting the ‘Ding!’ notification sound, I changed the course and flew in the direction away from the airport, and the noise went away after I left the 15-20NM threshold. 

     

    Frame rates wise, I did not have any issues at the airport while using the PMDG’s products.  It is disappointing to me that on my PC, using my add-ons, I currently cannot successfully use the 777, because the FSX will most likely crash upon arrival at the airport.  Sure, I could turn down a lot of my settings (weather, density, AI fleet, Radar Contact, and others) and probably get a successful flight using 777, but I hesitate doing that knowing full well that I can execute the same Atlantic flights into other add-ons airports, using the 777, without any issues.  At the time of this review there are news of impeding 777 Service Pack, and I will have another go at it once it is out and installed on my PC.

     

    Closing Remarks

     

    As I mentioned above, this add-on definitely pushes the envelope in terms of level of detail and the number of objects scattered across the airport.  If you do a lot of flights in and out of Dublin, especially using the short to medium-range aircraft (i.e. Aerosoft’s Airbus, or the PMDG’s 737 NGX), then this is a must have add-on for you. 

     

    Unfortunately, on my PC, using my add-ons, and with my FSX settings, I paid the price for all the eye-candy through numerous out-of-memory errors, which occurred when I used the PMDG’s 777 and 737 NGX aircraft.  The 737 series was still very usable and enjoyable, but with the 777 I consistently experienced CTDs (crash-to-desktop) and OOM (out-of-memory) errors.

     

    I ran out of time and did not get a chance to test this package with Majestic Dash-8.

     

    PMDG-777-issues aside, this airport is beautifully rendered, and great attention is devoted to details, especially in the high-to-medium traffic areas of the airport.  The edges of the scenery are a bit rougher and have a less polished, less finished feel to them.

     

    What I Liked

     

    • Smooth frame rates using the Aerosoft’s Airbus and the PMDG’s products
    • Great number of miscellaneous airport objects scattered around the airport
    • Great number of ground service vehicles roaming the airport premises
    • Immaculate attention to detail in the busy parts of the airport
    • High quality buildings and building textures
    • Night and seasonal textures
    • What I Didn’t Like
    • Performance issues when using PMDG’s 777
    • Some visual shortcuts (photo-scenery)
    • Minor visual bugs (night time illumination without lights)
    • Floating runway approach lights, outside the airport perimeter

     

    System Specs 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


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