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    REVIEW - Discover Australia and New Zealand by Jane Whittaker for FSX/SE


    WR269

    Review

    by Mike Cameron

     

    Introduction

    Discover Australia & New Zealand is the latest mission pack developed by Jane Whittaker for FSX: SE and is also available for the FSX boxed edition, distributed by Excalibur Games & First Class Simulations.  The Steam edition is available from Steam and the FSX boxed version is available from multiple retailers.  I will be reviewing the Steam edition of the software.  Discover Australia and New Zealand is also the latest product in the First Class Simulations Discover franchise.   As with the previous two mission products developed by Jane, Cargo Crew & Dangerous Approaches, proceeds from the sale of this product provide direct financial support for the Rosie Davies Appeal.  I detailed Rosie’s medical condition with the previous reviews, so just to summarize, Rosie was born with legs stuck in a crossed position and with a gap in her spine.  She has Caudal Regression Syndrome and is just one of three people in the world to undergo lifesaving and pioneering surgery.  Despite having both legs amputated below the knee and removal of a kidney, this has not stopped Rosie from getting around.  Rosie lives life to the full on here hands or scooting around on her skate board.  Yet her care needs are ever present in a multitude of forms, from medical equipment to specialized clothing.  These needs are never going to go away with ongoing medical treatments and major surgeries all being part of Rosie’s life.  The good news is that proceeds from the sale of this product will help Rosie’s family pay for these needs.

    First discovered in the 18th Century, the South-east corner of Australia and New Zealand was mapped by British explorer James Cook.  This stunning and diverse continent is now available for an unforgettable air tour with the Discover Australia & New Zealand product.  All of the well-known landmarks of this enormous land mass can be viewed from the cockpit of a faithfully recreated for the simulator of the classic 1950’s Auster Autocrat J/1, which I will provide more details about later, however, you are also free to fly any aircraft of your choice.  Some of the many landmarks that can be seen with this tour include:

    Sydney: The famous Harbor Bridge and Opera House

    Great Barrier Reef:  Probably the most famous World Heritage site with its living coral and sea life.

    Uluru: Also known as Ayres Rock located in the red center of this huge continent with its stunning beauty best viewed from the air.

    Christchurch: Bordered by hills and the Pacific Ocean, this vibrant city has bounced back from two devastating earthquakes.

    Wellington: The New Zealand capital is nestled between the sparkling harbor and the rolling green hills.

    Other locations that will be visited with this package are Alice Springs, Darwin, Tasmania, Melbourne, the Gold Coast and more.  As you can see we will get to see most of the major natural and man-made landmarks of Australia and New Zealand.  Discover Australia & New Zealand has been designed for simulator pilots of all skill levels.  Each tour mission includes a tour guide flying with you commenting about the area being visited.  Not required but I highly recommend are the Orbx Australia and New Zealand regional scenery products to get the most from this package. 

     

    Auster Autocrat J/1

    Information for this section was gathered from the product documentation, the Auster Heritage Group website (www.austerhg.org) and airliners.net website.  In 1938, Alexander Lance Wykes a local Leicestershire businessman, flying enthusiast and member of the County Flying Group, travelled to North America and negotiated a license agreement to build a North American light aircraft in England.  He was the Managing Director of Crowther’s Limited a Thurmaston Company which is a manufacturing business.  Wykes acquired the license to manufacture the Taylorcraft Model B.  In November 1938, Taylorcraft Aeroplanes (England) Limited was registered as a private company with both the production selling rights for the British Empire and Europe.  Construction began in a rented building behind the Crowther’s Britannia Works in February, 1939.  The first aircraft was completed in April, 1939 with registration number G-AFNW.   The difference between the Thurmaston aircraft and the American counterpart is that the British model had to be strengthened in order to comply with British Civil Airworthiness requirements and therefore was designated as the Taylorcraft “Plus C” model.  This aircraft was taken by road to Sir Lindsay Everard’s Aerodrome at Ratcliff and made its first flight on May 3rd 1939.  The second production aircraft was delivered to the County Flying Group at Rearsby Aerodrome.

    With the outbreak of World War II in September, 1939, all civilian aircraft production and private flying ceased.  All aircraft products at Taylorcraft Aeroplane (England) Limited halted and the company undertook sub-contract work for the major aircraft companies.  In 1940, the company became a Ministry of Aircraft Production Repair Center.  To this effect, further buildings were acquired for component manufacturer and repair in Syston.  These buildings complimented the repair and rebuild of the DH Tiger Moth at the Britannia Works for the Royal Air Force.  Towards the end of 1940, the company began similar repair and rebuild work on the Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft followed by the Hawker Typhoon fighter.  To accommodate this extra work, additional sites needed to be acquired.  While the expansions in support of aircraft repairs were taking place, the Model C was also being developed and retrofitted for military service and evaluation for an Air Observation post role suitable for supplying the Royal Artillery on the battlefront.  A design was selected and a production order of 100 aircraft designated as the Taylorcraft Auster Mk 1 and was placed in service in 1942.  Following the first volume order, the company progressively developed their initial military design.  Three further models went into wartime production with over 1630 aircraft produced for wartime service with Air Observation Squadrons.  Besides their own aircraft, the company also repaired and rebuilt nearly 1300 aircraft for return to service in support of the war effort.

    During the later stages of World War II, the company recognized the need for an economical post war light aircraft suitable for private use.  In 1945, the last wartime design, a Taylorcraft Auster Mk V was modified to take a lower powered engine.  Following development of this aircraft, the resultant design was designated initially as the Taylorcraft-Auster J/1 Autocrat.  Following a company name change to Auster Aircraft Limited in March 1946, the Taylorcraft name was deleted from the title thus severing the early American license connections.  The Auster J/1 Autocrat became the post war civilian aircraft to go into production with over 400 sold for just over One Thousand Pounds each.  This aircraft was the forerunner of many light aircraft from various manufacturers and was sold worldwide to both civilian and military customers.  Numerous configurations of this aircraft were produced over the years for various purposes with a total of 3868 aircraft manufactured over a period of 21 years.  In 1960, Auster Aircraft Limited was taken over and absorbed into British Executive and General Aviation Ltd (BEAGLE).  Auster continued design and development within the new network until 1968 when the Auster design and development ended.

     

    Specifications:

    Powerplant: One 100hp Blackbunn Cirrus Engine

    Max Speed: 104 Knots

    Cruising Speed: 86 Knots

    Initial Rate of Climb: 568 feet/min

    Range with No Reserve: 278NM

    Empty Weight: 1052 Pounds

    Maximum Takeoff Weight: 1850 Pounds

    Wingspan: 36 Feet, 0 Inches

    Length: 23 Feet, 5 Inches

    Height: 6 Feet, 6 Inches

    Wing Area: 185 Square Feet

    Capacity: Two Pilots, Side by Side

     

     

    Installation

    I am installing into the FSX: Steam Edition and the procedure is very easy.  After purchasing Discover Australia & New Zealand on Steam you will be provided with an activation code and you should receive this as soon as your payment is accepted.  Select “Add a Game” in your Steam account, a small window will open and select “Activate a Product”.  Agree to the Steam User Agreement, enter the code on the next page and this code is unique to you and can only be activated once.  The good news is that this product is now forever linked to your Steam account and not to your hardware so whenever you upgrade your system, as long as you have a Steam account, Discover Australia & New Zealand will be available to reinstall.  After the activation code is accepted, click “Next” and this program will be added to your account and installed into your simulator.  If you are new to Steam purchased addons, FSX: SE has a folder called “DLC” that has your all of your downloaded & installed content.  The issue that I have with this system is that the content folders are not descriptive so you need to open each one to find the content that you are interested in.  The good news is that they are in the order of when they were installed (each has a time stamp), so Discover Australia & New Zealand will be the last folder in my case and the only reason to open this folder is to read the documentation.  The missions and the aircraft are installed into the proper simulator locations.  First Class Simulations has included plenty of nice documentation with this product.  Eight PDF files are included with reprints of the Auster Guide, Auster News and the Auster Quarterly Volume 1 Number 1 and 2.  The Discover Australia manual is printed in English, French, Italian and Spanish.  The manual does a nice job explaining how to fly these missions in the simulator but does not provide details about each flight which is what the mission briefings are supposed to provide.  Unfortunately, the briefings are a disappointment and only provide minimal information.  Lastly, a Virtual Cockpit guide is included so that you can find your way around the cockpit.  Now it is time to fly the first discovery flight.

     

     

    First Flight

    To get started, select the Discover Australia group from FSX: SE Mission list and select the first one “Perth”.  The manual does not provide the recommended order to fly these missions so at first I am going to progress from the first to the last.  There are plenty of “Beginner” level missions to start and increase in difficulty with the later flights.  The final mission of this package is an “Expert” mission which usually equates to a very hard flight to complete.

    Click on “Go to Briefing” to view the mission briefing which should provide more details about this flight but unfortunately only repeats the mission description on the previous page.  When I first received this product I thought I read on the product page that detailed briefings were included, I originally included this with the product features in the Introduction based on this, but this simply is not the case and I have removed this from the review.  I was spoiled by the detailed briefings with Jane’s previous two products, Cargo Crew and Dangerous Approaches, thankfully this information was pulled from the product pages because it is not true.  Also listed but since removed from the product pages are the “Detailed Pilots Notes” and the “Getting to Know the Auster J/1” training mission features.  Select “Fly” to load the mission and if the mixture is in the full rich position, the engine should already be running.  All missions start in the exterior “Spot” view so change to the VC view to get the first look at the impressive looking Auster J/1 cockpit and instrument panel.  The exterior textures are also very impressive also.

     

    The thing that I was not wild about the previous “Discover” products is that they only included a series of flights and flight plans without narration.  This is the reason that I was looking forward to the Discover Australia & New Zealand product, they are missions rather than flights and you have a tour guide with you on your flights.  The quality of the voice work is outstanding as William, my tour guide explains a little about Perth and the surrounding area.  The Auster J/1 is a tail-wheeled aircraft and if you have never taxied one of these types of aircraft, they are nose high and can be very hard to see over the cowling.  The realistic taxi procedure is to use small turns back and forth to see what is in front of you.  In the simulator another way is to raise your eye-point to a level that you can see in front of you over the engine cowling.  The downside of doing this is that you may have to lower your eye-point view to look straight out the windows.  Also you can taxi from the Spot view.  After take-off there are several ways to follow the flight plan.  The easiest is to use the mission pointer or follow the flight plan on the 2D GPS window or the simulator map.  Most of the missions are short enough and only use landmark waypoints but some may include radio navigation waypoints if you want to use the aircraft’s navigation radios.

    An issue that I have with the Auster VC instrument panel is that the ADF radio is not installed on the panel, you have to use the 2D radio window.  For this first flight I decide to try to realistically fly the mission by using the ADF radio, map and the GPS.  The engine sound effects are very good but also very loud so I recommend lowering this sound setting so that you can hear the tour guide enroute.  A minor nitpick that I have about these mission is that there is not a transcript of what William has just said so if you cannot hear him or miss something that he said you cannot go back or open the kneeboard to view.  The Auster J/1 is a very easy aircraft to hand fly and is very responsive to my control movements.  I continue to enjoy the outside scenery as I travel from waypoint to waypoint.  I like that my tour guide provides a comment or two during the flight to add to the experience.  This flight has two NDB navigation waypoints as part of the flight plan so rather than using the Mission Compass for the entire flight I use the ADF Radios to fly from waypoint to waypoint.  I recommend for the most realism and still be able to complete the missions is to open the Mission Pointer before reaching a waypoint so that leg of the mission is successful then continue on.  This is the only review mission that I flew that used NDB waypoints but the flight plan also displays on the simulator map if you would like to follow the trip that way or use the portable GPS.  Just with this first flight, I was able to see some of the varied landscapes that are part of Australia.  The flight plan did not include the NDF near the destination of Cunderdin Airport (YCUN), only a direct too leg so I decide to open the Mission Compass to lead the way rather than using the map.  Once I land on the proper runway, I receive the “Success” message and I could end the mission here but choose to taxi to the parking area.  The feature that I like the most about Discover Australia & New Zealand is that all flights start at a parking position and not the runway and the first waypoint is away from the airport so that I can use ground control to realistically taxi to the active runway.

     

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    Exploration Flight 2: Brisbane

    The previous flight was over rural landscapes and with this second trip we are going to explore an urban setting of the City of Brisbane.  I decide to use the Mission Pointer for this flight but will turn it off for screen grabs.  After flying over Brisbane the destination for this trip is Archerfield.

    Will my tour guide does an excellent job explaining about the history of Brisbane and provides nice details about this city and the surrounding area.  I contact Ground Control and start my taxi to the active runway.  Brisbane is a port city and the Orbx scenery includes some nice waterfront features and port facilities.  Brisbane is still a relatively small city but the buildings included in the scenery look great.  The first time that I attempted this mission, the Mission Pointer disappeared on its own so I had to rely on the map for navigation.  You would think that this would not be a big deal and would make for a more realistic experience.  Unfortunately, the Mission Pointer provides the proper runway that you are supposed to land at and I landed on a different one so the mission is incomplete.  I do not know if this is a bug or I did something wrong but when I flew this mission again everything worked as it should and finished with a successful mission.  When the mission is working, William does comment along the route which is nice.

     

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    Hamilton Island & Outback Sunrise

    I am not going to review every mission even though I will fly all of them but after completing several, I should have an idea of the overall quality of this product.  Continuing in order the third flight is another short one of about 25 minutes that takes us off the Queensland coast to Hamilton Island.  Will is right when describing the scenery on this flight, it is beautiful!  I like that he explains what we are flying over and what we are about to see further along in the flight.  I also like that this flight is at a lower altitude so that I can get a good look of what I am flying over.  Hamilton Island is probably one of the most scenic approaches that I have landed at in the simulator.  Will does warn me about the winds off of the bay that can pose a problem but I land without incident.

    Of the first three flights this is my favorite with a wonderful tour guide and beautiful scenery to look at.  The fourth mission is at sunrise in the Outback and although beautiful to look at it is still far too dark for a screen grab.  Also, my tour guide did not say very much on this trip so as much as I liked the Hamilton Island flight, this flight was a bit of a disappointment.  For the rest of the review I am not going to fly the missions in order because I want to take the flights in location order rather than mission order.  For example, the fifth mission takes place around Auckland, New Zealand and I want to review the Australian locations first then travel to New Zealand.

     

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    Sydney & Wollongong

    In order to fly the missions in some form of location order, I need to read the mission description and consult an Australian map.  The Wollongong description says that the trip departs Sydney so before performing this flight, I decide to fly the Sydney area flight first which actually is one of the later missions.   These two trips will provide both city landmarks as well as natural features.

    According to the preflight briefing there will be plenty of interesting sights to see in Sydney.  Our guide does an outstanding job explaining what we are about to see on this flight.  The nice thing about these missions is that there is not a time element involved so I can fly around the landmarks for a better view before continuing to the next waypoint.  The Sydney tour only includes the Sydney Harbor where the famous Opera House is located.  This landmark and the other features of this area look great but it would have been nice if the tour included more of Sydney to explore with commentary from my local tour guide.  After taking some snapshots I return to the airport where I will load the Wollongong mission to explore that area of Australia.

     

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    Will provides very little information about this trip other then we will be flying south along the coast to Wollongong and to watch out for coastal turbulence that we may encounter during this flight.  He also says that Wollongong is one of the most populated seaside cities of New South Wales.  This flight had some beautiful scenery to look at but I wish Will would have provided more information about this area.  He did inform me to look it up myself if I wanted to learn more about Wollongong.  This is my only real issue that I have with Discover Australia & New Zealand, on some flights he provides quite a bit of information and on other flights not much at all.  I land and receive another successful message.  Consulting the Mission list along with an Australian map if I continue south I see that the next groups of cities that have a mission associated with them are Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide.  To make things interesting I decide the fly the non-mission flights between these airports so that I can see the most of this wonderful scenery.

     

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    Canberra, Melbourne & Adelaide

    These three areas are relatively close together so I am going to combine the three flights into this section.  For the first flight we depart the Australian capital on Canberra, perform a quick tour of this city then fly across New South Wales to Goulburn.  I do not own these products but Orbx does have two products for the Canberra area, Canberra Airport and enhanced scenery for the City of Canberra which would also enhance this mission.  Will provides an excellent introduction for Canberra which I appreciate because this greatly adds to the experience.  This flight has some beautiful scenery and I like that William provides some commentary along the way.  A recommendation to potential owners of this product is do not be in a hurry to fly from waypoint to waypoint, if you see something interesting along the route, go ahead and investigate and then return to the flight plan, you will not be penalized.  After landing at Goulburn, I rest for a while then fly on my own to Melbourne.

     

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    The Melbourne flight takes us to our destination of Point Cook.  According to the preflight briefing, William is going to provide some dramatic commentary about the City of Melbourne which I am looking forward to.  I love the flights that William provides a more detailed introduction because I know very little about Australia and I like learning about this country.  This should also be a scenic flight because it takes place at dusk.  The minor complaint about this and other flights is that some of repetitive general comments in flight.  Rather than commenting about not being late for dinner or about the beauty of the countryside, I would rather know more about what we are flying over.  This first waypoint of this flight for some reason is also away from the city so I divert so that I can grab a snapshot.  This was another scenic flight but again I wish there was more location information about the destination of Point Cook.  I depart Point Cook and make the flight to Adelaide International (YPAD), the departure airport for the next flight.  This short flight explores the City of Adelaide and the coastline before continuing on to Parafield.  As I have come to expect, William provides a nice introduction about the City of Adelaide.  Similar to the previous flight, the first waypoint is away from the city center so I divert to explore the city before continuing with the tour.  The scenery on this flight is very nice, some great looking beaches, I just wish my tour guide would have provided some information on what I am flying over.  Will also does not provide any information about the destination which would have greatly added to the flight experience.

     

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    Ayers Rock and Cairns

    Before exploring New Zealand, I want to fly over two major Australian natural landmarks, Ayres Rock and the City of Cairns which is located near the Great Barrier Reef.  The Uluru/Ayers Rock trip is nice because the flight plan includes a circuit around this landmark, fly over Uluru before returning to the airport.  Compass pointers and markers are included to help complete the flight but I will do the circuit first without the aides then turn them on so that I can receive credit for completing the mission.  Ayers Rock is easy to find because it is the tallest object in this flat landscape.  The texture of Ayers Rock is spectacular with the Orbx scenery.  This is another scenic flight but unfortunately William does not provide any information about this natural landmark other than to say that I have successfully passed through each waypoint.  Which brings me to another small nitpick that I have with this program; you have to pass through each mission marker/waypoint in order to successfully complete the mission.   I know where the destination airport is and I do not need the mission pointer to tell me.  I would prefer to have a successful flight just by landing at the destination airport by flying to the waypoints but not necessary having to use the mission aids to complete the mission.

     

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    Will does provide a more detailed introduction for the Cairns trip which is an improvement from the previous flight.  The introduction is not as extensive as some of the other flights but it is better than nothing.  For some reason this flight tour does not include the Great Barrier Reef so I insist that we adjust our flight over some the reef so that I can capture some aerial photos.  On a personal note, several years ago I visited Australia and had a chance to fly in a small aircraft over this spectacular scenery as well as a snorkeling boat trip on the water.  This scenery is just about as impressive in the simulator but still pales in comparison to the real thing.  This is the last review flight that I am going to complete for Australia because I want to fly a couple of the New Zealand trips before completing the review.  I will complete the rest of the Australia and Tasmania flights on my own.

     

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    Exploring New Zealand

    There are three flights in New Zealand, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.  I am going to review the first two because the Christchurch flight is the last flight of this package and is two hours long so I will do that one on my own.  As I have come to expect, William does an excellent job explaining what we will see in the Auckland are but also similar to previous flights the waypoints are away from the city so I have to divert to see the city.  I own both of the Orbx New Zealand North and South Island products so these should enhance the experience.  It has been awhile since I have flown here in the simulator so I am looking forward to these flights.

    New Zealand has some beautiful landscapes to fly over but this is another flight where my tour guide is not very informative.  When I reach the first waypoint, he only says “best scenery in the world” comment that he has said on some of the other flights.  Oh well, I will just enjoy the outside scenery, I just wish he would have provided some information on what I was flying over instead of the repetitive dialog.  He says the same comment at waypoint two and then it is time to setup for approach to land on Runway 03 at North Shore.  Other than the wonderful scenery this is not one of the better missions.  Hopefully the Wellington tour will be better.  This flight is longer than I was expected at 90 minutes but I decide to include it so I have two New Zealand review flights.  Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and William does an excellent job explaining that is airport can be difficult to operate at because of the winds.  This flight is somewhat more challenging because there are some serious looking clouds along the route and William was right about the wind gusts so this should be a very fun flight.  Unfortunately, this trip offers more of the same, a nice introduction but generic commentary on the flight.

     

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    Conclusion

    Accessibility

    Discover Australia & New Zealand is somewhat accessible because besides the Steam edition is only available from Steam, the FSX boxed edition available as a download or boxed is available directly from Excalibur Publications and I also saw that that the boxed edition is available at Amazon.com.  This product was designed only for FSX so Prepar3D users are out of luck or try installing at your own risk.  Also I could not find this title at the major flight simulator retailers so accessibility could be better.

     

    Affordability

    The Steam edition normally retails for $16.99 which I consider very affordable considering the amount of scenery that you will fly over.  Steam does occasionally have a sale which at the time of this writing it was being offered at 50% off at $8.49 which is an outstanding deal but requires FSX: Steam Edition.  Amazon.com has it for $14.99 plus shipping from the United Kingdom but takes several weeks to receive according to the website so unless you really need a disc I would look at the other options.  Just because I could not find it at other flight simulator retailers it may be available somewhere.

    Ease of Installation

    I do not know about the boxed edition but installing via Steam is extremely easy.

     

    Features & System Performance

    The two major and welcome features are the included Auster J/1 Autocrat and the exploration flights are FSX missions with audible introductions and commentary which greatly enhances these flights.  Performance on my system was excellent without issue.

     

    Final Thoughts

    This is the first of the Discover series of products that I have installed for a few years mostly because they were just a series of flights with a written introduction and IFR flight plans.  I always thought they were overpriced for the features that you received and the aircraft that were included were in my opinion not very good.  Also the IFR flight plans took away from the experience because instead of enjoying the sights, I always had to follow the FSX ATC instructions unless I cancelled the flight plan, why not just use VFR flight plans in the first place.

    Discover Australia & New Zealand solves these issues for me because they are mission based instead of simulator flights with IFR flight plans so audio commentary is included which greatly adds to the experience.  Plus, because these are missions, I can explore on my own before returning to the mission waypoints to successfully complete the mission.  The included aircraft is also nicer than the previous Discover series aircraft.  Which brings me to two small issues with this product; first, the waypoints are sometimes placed away from the cities or towns on the flights so I have to create my own tour.  Secondly, you must fly through the mission pointers in order for successful completion of that mission.  I would prefer simply landing at the destination and setting the parking brake for successful completion.  The other minor nitpick is that there is some repetitive comments and I wish more information would have been provided for all waypoints and destination locations.

    These things do not prevent me from recommending Discover Australia & New Zealand because overall it is an excellent program especially for learning a little bit about the different locations in Australia & New Zealand while seeing these places in the simulator.

     

    Test System

    Hardware:

    Computer Specs:

    Intel Desktop Computer

    Intel i5 4670K 3.4Ghz Non OC Processor

    8GB DDR3 1833 Memory

    2TB SATA HD (7200 RPM)

    NVIDIA GeForce GTX970 Video Card with 4GB GDDR5 Memory

    Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick

    Software:

    FSX: Steam Edition, Prepar3D Version 3

    Windows 7 – 64 Bit

    REX 4 Texture Direct with Soft Clouds

    Orbx HD Trees, Global, Vector, Europe Landclass & Multiple Regions

    FS Global 2010 FTX Compatible

    DX10 Scenery Fixer

    FSX Fair Weather Theme

    Flight Test Time:

    25 hours

     



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