by Max Pyankov
Here is an interesting scenery, like no other I have dealt with to-date, that I received from Aerosoft for review. On the one hand, it should attract simmers who enjoy testing their skills in mountainous navigation approach and departure procedures. On the other, this scenery boasts a "historic procedures!" feature on the product cover, with a control tower and a scenic city landscape behind it. Looks promising.
The 'historic procedure' feature caught my attention – a number of questions immediately popped in my mind… What does it mean? Why historic? Certainly I can use modern navigation tools to land at a 'historic' airport? These and other questions prodded me to do more research than I would usually do even before installing this product.
I went online thinking that, perhaps, the airport recreated in this scenery was closed down (or repurposed) due to a new city airport, opening in place of this one, that would provide for better safety and would accommodate more airlines and passengers as well as, perhaps, the bigger aircraft. I found a ton of interesting information which I will try to summarize at a very high level here, before we get into scenery review. It is important that we understand the background context to fully enjoy and appreciate the historic aspect of this package!
First of all, I came across this Wikipedia article, which started with a sentence "For the old airport, see 'Old Mariscal Sucre International Airport'". The scenery we are interested in is really the 'Old Mariscal … Airport", which is talked about in this Wikipedia article.
Key facts about the old airport:
Was one of the highest in the world, at 9,200 feet AMSL (2,800 meters).
Operated from 1960s until 2013.
"The former airport is now the site of Parque Bicentenario, the biggest urban park in Quito".
The airport used to be TAME's main hub.
The airport served both domestic and international routes (with Iberia operating a final international route on Feb 20, 2013).
"Due to its' location in the middle of the city surrounded by mountains, the … airport could [not] be expanded to accommodate any larger aircraft or an increase in air traffic. Its' operation posed risks; six serious accidents and several incidents have occurred in recent years".
To summarize – the airport I am about to review (ICAO: SEQU) is physically no longer there. It was replaced by an airport of a similar name (ICAO: SEQM) in 2013. For those of you who enjoy reading about airports I came across this interesting The Economist article about the new airport, with the airport administration responding to this article via a linked blog. Very interesting.
Back to the Simulation world. If this airport no longer exists, how do I plan my inbound and outbound routes? Hence the 'historic' aspect of the scenery. Again, before installing this package I went to Aerosoft.com and pulled the Manual for this product. Unlike many other products where you may skip the manual, I would advise that you review this one, as it provides helpful information on the following topics:
Where to find older charts for the airport, which are not available at common chart sources;
Special steps that need to be executed in order to be able to see this airport in the FMC of a modern airplane, which need to be done after every update of AIRAC;
VOR and DME approach peculiarities;
As well as where you can find the text that needs to be added to Nav data files.
To summarize – a lot of interesting and useful information even before I install this package. Now, let's get into this review! This scenery is compatible with FSX Service Pack 2 (or Acceleration), with FSX Steam Edition, and with Lockheed Martin Prepar3D V2 and V3. This review is done on a standard FSX with Service Pack 2.
Purchase, Install, and Manual
FSX (standard edition) does have this airport (SEQU) in its' database prior to installation.
I loaded the default scenery for comparison, and this is what it looked like before I installed it:
This package can be purchased from Aerosoft.com for $21.74. Download is a very easy step at file size being a little over 118MB. The installation process itself is straight forward Aerosoft process, with the only customizations being the choice between the "Default or FSGlobal Mesh" options, and between the "Full Autogen or Runway light" options. These options can be changed after installation in a Config tool. As far as mesh choice is concerned, the manual says that "the non-default mesh version provides more accurate and true-to-life terrain, including the infamous small hill at the end of RWY 35". This review is based on default mesh. The autogen vs. runway lights choice is applicable for FSX only. "You can select between the display of Approach light to RWY 17 or Autogen just short of RWY 17. Selecting both is not possible due to a limitation in FSX. As there were hardly any approaches during night or bad conditions to RWY 17 we recommend the display of the autogen." I followed this recommendation and selected the autogen option.
Taking the same kinds of screenshots as above, post installation, provides the following for comparison:
In addition to the aforementioned manual, which provides special navigational marker/data installation steps, there are also a link to a Mesh-Config tool, and to an Appendix PDF document. Mesh-Config tool is very simple with the only options allowing you to change Mesh and Autogen/Runway-Lights options, described in the installation paragraph above. Appendix is an interesting, eight-page document (four pages in German and four pages in English), which describes high altitude operations. In it you will find a brief Flight Sim high density altitude concept explanation and a few helpful hints on operating aircraft, at that density, during the prep, takeoff, and landing phases.
Of course, as I mentioned above, there is one more step that is necessary in order to be able to see this airport in add-on aircraft FMCs. In order to execute this step, I searched for "wpNapAPT.txt" using Windows search, and found three instances of this file:
I made sure that all three files had the aforementioned entries (one of them already had it, the other two – I manually added). The instructions provided covered PMDG aircraft only; I emailed Aerosoft inquiring about other add-ons or updates necessary (i.e. Aerosoft Airbus, Captain Sims, etc.). In the meantime I tried to start a triple-seven cargo run into Quito (SEQU). When I got to the step of programming FMC, I was unable to move on due to "NOT IN DATABASE" after trying to punch in SEQU for the destination airport. I proceeded to search for the solution online, and ended up in avsim.com's forum thread, which explained additional steps necessary to ensure the airport is shown within the sim. Following the steps in the forum I was able to verify SEQU, as a valid destination, in PMDG FMC. While this distraction was minor, it was nevertheless disappointing as I spent quite a bit of time preparing for the flight before realizing I could not proceed. Ideally, the manual should have had all steps necessary for a full installation outlined in the Special Steps section.
The following day (next business day after my initial contact) I received a reply from Aerosoft, which pointed me to a "NavDataPro Vintage Download" program (about 265 MB), which can be used to install historic navigation data of cycle 1303. Installation of this package was also fairly straight forward. It resulted in a new program installed on my machine – NavDataPro Vintage Edition. After email/serial number registration (I used the Approaching Quito serial number), you have a chance to (theoretically) easily update your navigational data to cycle 1303. An easy tool, which also gives you a way to backup and go back to your current navigational data set, and it really should be mentioned in the Approaching Quito manual.
However, even as I used this tool, I ran into further update issues. I went back to Aerosoft support, but never did receive a full resolution before completing this review.
Features and First Impressions
My first introduction to the scenery in the sim happened as I came down to 15,000 feet through the bumpy clouds in a freighter 777. This Quito airport had only one runway – 17/35 – and in this case I was cleared to land on runway 35. Weather was good, with some scattered clouds above the city of Quito. The airport elevation was 9,850 feet above sea level, and the final approach intersect point was at 12,000.
The amount of custom Autogen became evident right away (and is documented in the pre- and post- install screenshots, above). During the low-swinging overfly over SEQU, very similar (albeit not quite as dramatic) to approach to Innsbruck RWY 8 when approaching from East, you would, weather permitting, take in and observe the numerous one and two-story buildings of the city of Quito below you. The city was playing hide-and-seek with me with the low hanging patchy clouds revealing and hiding buildings over and over again.
My framerates and overall performance did not suffer at all, with the framerate going down by 1-2 frames with Fraps video recording engaged.
In the screenshot below you can see where default terrain ends (lighter shades), and the Aerosoft scenery begins.
Back to my first approach to runway 35. Basically (historic charts are installed as part of setup and can be found in the \[FSX Installation Path]\Aerosoft folder), passing the Condorocha VOR (QIT), at 14,500 feet, I descended down to 12,000 feet flying the 152° radial away from the VOR until it was time for me to turn to my right to intercept runway localizer and glideslope.
Coming out of the right turn, I captured the localizer, but failed to intercept the glideslope. With clear weather and the runway in sight, I proceeded to land manually. You can watch this landing in the video below. Trying to catch up with glideslope, and then continuing to maintain the aircraft on it during the final approach was an exciting and scary experience as the rooftops of the buildings south of runway 35 seemed to reach out for my main landing gear! Runway, while not the shortest in the world, nevertheless seemed to evaporate in an accelerating manner even before I touched down, which is probably attributed by the dense urban backdrop around the airport. After touching down and applying major break power there were no issues whatsoever and I carefully taxied into a parking spot.
It was great to experience a rich urban environment around the airport that added a great deal to the effect of realism.
You can also observe, in the video, various tarmac textures, which look fabulous. From concrete panels, cracked and worn down, to stained asphalt with oil stains, half dried out puddles (rains a lot), and patches of newer asphalt here and there – the tarmac really looks very good.
Another sign of the high quality tarmac is evident by the weathering effects, applied throughout the airport. Review screenshots below – from the layers of paint drawn on top of one another, to the very warn out runway centerlines, to the clearly newly painted signage already fainted and cracked from the weather elements, it all looks great.
My only question about the tarmac has to do with the tire marks off of (or on to) the runway – they look unnaturally straight and exhibit fairly sharp angles, leaving me wondering how they got there.
These tire marks may or may not have looked this way in reality, back when the airport existed, but for our purposes they are far eclipsed by the overall quality of tarmac throughout the airport.
Next – let us examine the buildings. Moving from the north of the airport, down south, we have what appears to be a private jet terminal, followed by a set of general purpose hangars and a cargo area, followed by the terminal of the airport.
This set of buildings looks fine for the purpose it serves. You won't find any intricate details, such as fire extinguishers or trash cans next to the doors, but that is a non-issue. What I liked most about these buildings is the extremely authentic look achieved with the very rusted and weather worn sheet metal roofs and the almost dilapidated look at the front of some of the hangars.
The cargo area tower has the same characteristics – a fairly simple texture on the front of the buildings, with the roof being the main highlight – at least for me. The barrier, separating the cargo and private jet area from the main terminal, looks great and carries the same worn look of outdoors.
The level of detail of the buildings noticeably increases as we move towards the main terminal area. You can look at the screenshots below and draw your own conclusions, but this is what I have as the main highlights:
Love the continuing theme of very worn looking terminal – no matter where you look – whether it is the gate number callout, the signage on the building, the columns holding up the jetways, the roofs, or the metal bars holding up various structures – the signs of frequent rain are ever-present.
The jetways look fabulous, from the cracked and worn out looking rubber sleeves at the end of the jetway, to the authentic looking advertisements, to the rust and various scratches along the jetways, it all looks great.
The textures on the windows seem fairly simple and may appear, when you examine them alone, lacking detail. However, when you zoom out and look at the scenery as a whole, they blend in nicely into the scenery.
As you move south of the terminal, you will encounter a few more VIP and cargo hangars and buildings, which exhibit the same characteristics as the already mentioned similar structures in the north of the airport. Another feature to note about the buildings, before moving onto the next section – the buildings do have a front-facing façade (the view from the street), as well as well identified structures right across the street from the airport, such as a gas station, a hotel, and numerous billboards.
With the airport being right in the city, the big appeal of this scenery is cityscape all around the airport. It looks dense, and realistic – all around.
There aren't very many vehicles that you will find in the airport, and certainly none that are moving around. There are a few cargo dollies, which look pretty good from above, but which lack the underneath wheels and appear to be "hovering" above the ground. The same extends to the fuel tankers sitting by the fuel depot – they too do not have the stands extended – instead, they appear to be suspended in the air on one end, with the wheels at the back on the other end.
In addition to absence of vehicles, there are no static aircraft included in the scenery. Unless you are using a traffic add-on app, you will end up with an airport that that has no traffic and no airplanes, other than your own aircraft. This is a miss.
Night Light and Seasons
From my research, I understand that the airport did not operate in the night hours. Not sure about real life, but the scenery runway is completely unlit at night, rendering it useless at night. I am okay with it, based on what I know from my research. The terminals are lit up and look fine, allowing you to start early morning and late afternoon (dawn and dusk) flight prep (or shutdown) operations.
The city of Quito is located in the subtropical highland climate and, because of its high elevation and closeness to the equator, Quito has a fairly constant cool climate. The seasons are referred to as the "dry" season (June through September) and the "wet" season (October through May) and, as such, there is no need for seasonal variability in the scenery either.
In the end, I liked this scenery and will be a frequent visitor when I have an urge for a dense urban landing challenge. There are, without doubt, a few areas that could be implemented better – namely - the installation of this historic scenery, which no longer exists, could have been made more straight forward, especially for getting this airport installed for all of your add-on apps and aircraft (EFB Flight Bag, add-on FMCs, and so on). Another area for improvement is the lack of traffic and static aircraft, which may create a lonely feeling if you don't have a traffic add-on to accompany you.
On the other hand, the level of detail of tarmac and buildings is superb. The weather worn and, at times, a somewhat rundown look that betrays the long rainy months is very authentic. That, coupled with the airport locale, with urban city backdrop, make this a fantastic, challenging, and fun scenery to fly in and out of.
What I Liked
Rich urban environment around the airport.
Challenging, exciting approaches.
Framerate friendly (as tested on my Sim machine).
Very authentic looking tarmac textures.
Very authentic, weather-worn looking buildings.
Areas for Improvement
Updating navigational data to historic period, when the airport was operational, was a somewhat complicated experience. What should have been a 10-15 min install turned into a much more prolonged exercise.
I was never able to successfully run the "NavDataPro Vintage" software (can be downloaded separately from the installation package), the sole purpose of which is to update your various add-ons (i.e. PMDG, Captain Sim, EFB Flight Bag, etc.) to add this historic airport to them. As such, you may have to do a little research to make sure it shows up in the various FMCs in your add-on aircraft.
While tarmac textures, overall, look very good, the runway textures have a strange 'straight-angle'-type tire marks on them, which do not make much logical sense. However, without having been to the actual airport, I do not know that it did not look like this in real life.
Lack of ground support vehicles and static aircraft create an empty and lonely feeling to this otherwise very nice scenery.
(On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being superb, and 1 being very poor)
Airport Traffic and Objects
Night and Seasons
Wikipedia (2016, May 12). Mariscal Sucre International Airport. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariscal_Sucre_International_Airport.
Wikipedia (2016, March 8). Old Mariscal Sucre International Airport. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Mariscal_Sucre_International_Airport.
The Economist (2013, April 11). Quito's new airport. Retrieve from http://www.economist.com/news/21576168-letter-quiport-company-built-and-runs-quitos-airport-quitos-new-airport.
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