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    REVIEW - LatinVFR Orange County - John Wayne Airport (KSNA)



    by Mike Cameron





       The information for this introduction was gathered from the product page, orangecounty.net, johnwayneairport.org, ocair.com and the airnav.com websites.  Orange County is California’s third most populous county with three million residents and the 6th most in the United States.  Orange County is known as the Gold Coast of California with over 42 miles of coastline with spectacular vistas that some have proclaimed it the ‘California Riviera’.  This county is home to popular attractions such the Disney Resort & California Adventure, Knott’s Berry Farm and Mission San Juan Capistrano.  Professional sports teams located in Orange County are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Baseball Team and the Anaheim Ducks Hockey Team.  If you prefer to play your own sports, there are plenty of golf courses located here and Huntington Beach, also known as ‘Surf City’ hosts a number of major surfing competitions including the US Open of Surfing.  Whale watching is one of Orange County’s most popular activities departing from Newport Beach and Dana Point’s harbors.


       John Wayne Airport also known as Orange County Airport (KSNA) is located in Santa Ana California.  Originally this airport was a private landing strip that was designed by Eddie Martin in 1923, a pioneer of aviation schooling and Martin Aviation.  It remained a privately owned facility until 1939.  During World War II, Orange County Airport served as a military base and was renamed John Wayne Airport in 1979 to commemorate the late actor, John Wayne.  John Wayne Airport serves as a commercial and general aviation hub for some 34 Southern California cities and handles almost 10 million passengers annually, making it the second busiest airport in the region after Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).


     Today, John Wayne – Orange County Airport is the home base to 437 private general aviation aircraft.  According to Airnav, there are 340 single engine aircraft, 48 multi-engine, 38 jets and 11 helicopters.  There are more than 380 tie down spaces for general aviation aircraft that are owned by Orange County and additional tie down spaces are provided by the fixed base operators.  General Aviation also accounts for the majority of KSNA’s total aircraft operations (takeoffs and landings).  In 2013, there were 163,565 general aviation operations, which represent 66% of the airports total number of operations.  This airport has two parallel runways, 2L/20R and 2R/20L.  Runway 2L/20R is 5701x150 feet, with high intensity runway edge lighting, 4-light PAPI on left side with 3 degree glide path.  Runway 20R also has 1400 foot medium intensity approach lighting with runway alignment indicator lights and has an ILS/DME instrument approach.  Runway 2R/20L is the general aviation runway and is 2887x75 feet has medium intensity edge lighting and Runway 20L has a 4-light PAPI on the left with a 3.00 degree glide path.  20L also has a lighted 15-foot building, 500 feet from the runway and 115 feet left of centerline that requires a 20:1 slope to clear.


       Here are the major features of the LatinVFR John Wayne – Orange County Airport scenery.

    John Wayne Airport completely modeled with significant attention to detail.

    Texturing in high definition mapping for all buildings with shading & occlusion (texture baking) effects on all buildings.

    Customized reflection maps and customized global environmental map (FSX).

    Extremely detailed airport surroundings.

    Downtown Irvine & Newport Beach area buildings (optional).

    Skyscrapers with land able helipads.

    14 square miles of optional photo scenery with hundreds of hand placed autogen objects.

    Ability to remove and add optional scenery for compatibility with other products with the Scenery Configurator.

    Custom animated jetways or static.

    High resolution ground textures and custom runway textures.

     Static GA aircraft and fully AI traffic compatible.

    Excellent night effects and more.

    During this review I will be reviewing most of the above features.




       I received the review copy of the scenery directly for LatinVFR so your install procedure may be different.  If you own any of the Orbx scenery products and before you install this scenery, switch the region to “Global” or “Default” in the FTX Central program because the LatinVFR Orange County scenery is located outside of the Orbx North American full regions.  Orbx is working on a Southern California regional product and hopefully this product will be patched for compatibility with that product when it is released.  I received an email with the product download link and the Serial Number.  The Serial Number is not complicated so typing it should not be an issue.  There is also a separate download for MS 2004 for simulator pilots that still use that program.  Run the installer, if it is not already entered, type your name, the Company space can be left blank and enter your Serial Number.  Agree to the License Information then select your preferred simulator.  LatinVFR John Wayne – Orange County Airport scenery includes a triple installer with FSX, P3Dv1 and P3Dv2 compatibility (no additional purchase required), which is great.  With FS2004 support you have four simulators to choose from which is unheard of today.  I will be reviewing the FSX version of this scenery.  Accept the default install location or select “Browse” if you have a custom folder for your add-on scenery. 


    The required disk space is 761.9 MB and I like that this is posted on the installation location page.  Verify everything is correct, then click “Next” to install the files and “Finish” to complete the install process.  Installation of this scenery is very easy and all of the steps are self-explanatory. 


    This scenery includes a nice Scenery Configurator that allows you to enable or deactivate features for performance and to open the manual.  The only feature that I changed from the default is that I enabled the animated jetways instead of the default static jetways.  It is nice to see that LatinVFR has included a “Reset to Defaults” button so that if you do not remember what you have done you can return to the default settings.  The PDF manual is only ten pages and provides some background about this airport as well as some tips for using this scenery in the simulator.  I just wish that they would have provided an airport diagram, scenery area map and recommended FSX settings.  One topic from the manual that I do want to include here is that this scenery does not included external mesh but LatinVFR did flatten the area and the southern freeway for realism and for placement of the scenery.  It also states that the areas that have been flattened are in real life visually flat so it should not be too noticeable and also should not interfere with your other add-ons that you have installed.  If you do own other photo scenery, land class or downtown scenery products, the LatinVFR features can be turned off with the included Scenery Configurator. 


    Lastly, I changed the runway textures in REX4 Texture Direct to 4096 so that I could take advantage of the upgraded runway textures.  If you do not own this product, perform a web search on how to edit your simulator configuration.






    John Wayne – Orange County Airport Ground Tour

       I like to follow an airport diagram when I review the airport features from the ground level and because one was not included in the documentation, I needed to locate one on the internet.  Normally I would use the standard FAA airport diagram but when I was doing my research I found an awesome document on the www.ocair.com website, the Pilot Information Guide for John Wayne International Airport.  Besides a detailed airport diagram in color, there is also plenty of useful information for both the real world and the simulator pilot.  I also like to use the Orbx Bob first person simulator to explore the airport on foot.  I am going to start my tour at Runway 2L and walk in a clockwise direction and return to the place that I started from. 


       From this starting point I am able to see the first lighting effect included with the LatinVFR Orange County Airport scenery, the In-Pavement Guard Lights.  The ramp textures are also very good.  I decided that this would also be a good time to review the airport lighting because from here I can zoom out to get a wide view of the airport looking east.  After I had completed the first few sections of the review along the screen grabs for those parts, my power supply failed along with my system’s hard drives.  As I was capturing the screen grabs again, I could not remember what my previous effects settings were on the DX10 Scenery Fixer, Orbx and LatinVFR configuration panels.  The first night lighting screen grab is with the LatinVFR “Effect runway lighting”, the smallest “4” light size in the FTX 3D Lights Tweaker and the default bloom settings in the DX10 Scenery Fixer.  The runway lighting bloom effect is too extreme for my taste, so I switched to the “FS9” style lights in the LatinVFR Scenery Configurator, decided to keep the size 4 Orbx lighting but changed to the “Poole” in the FTX utility.  I also disabled the runway lighting bloom effects in the DX10 Scenery Fixer.  This resulted in no runway light halo but as you can see the other airport lighting still does have a rather large bloom effect.  I will just have to keep adjusting.  Ramp signage textures are excellent and as I cross the runway, I get to see the detailed runway textures though I will get a better view when I fly an approach to KSNA.  After crossing the runway I get to see the first of the static general aviation aircraft and most of them are very realistic looking which is great.


    The one thing that I noticed is that they are all Cessna’s;  it would have been nice to have other kinds of GA aircraft parked as well for greater realism.  One feature that is nice to see at this part of the airport is that LatinVFR has included an open hangar for virtual aviators to park their aircraft.  This is a small but I consider important feature that is sometimes overlooked by scenery developers.  The scenery features just outside of the airport boundary are just as detailed as the features on the airport grounds.  Going back to the airport, I get to see the wonderfully detailed building textures and building signage.  I like that even though you cannot enter the Lyon Air Museum building, the window textures have been created to give the illusion that you can actually see the objects inside.  Building lighting is also very nice and from this location I can turn around and see the impressive three dimensional grass features.  I also think that the ground textures have an appropriate green/brown color that look right for a Southern California airport.


    If you do not like the look of the 3D grass or if performance is an issue, it can be turned off with the Scenery Configurator.  I have captured a screen grab with and without the 3D grass, personally I like the look of the 3D grass so I am going to leave it enabled.  It is nice though to have a choice.  As I walk around this airport I discover a missing feature that I have come to expect from premium airport scenery products, animated airport workers.  In fact, there are not any static people either which would greatly add to the realism level and the experience.  I can live without animated people because my system performance with all of the features enabled was excellent but I think there should be some static workers throughout the scenery and this would be a nice future update for this scenery.
















    Continuing my ground tour, the next group of objects is the Signature West Hangars.  First, it is nice to see that these open air covered parking spaces are available for the virtual pilot to use but it would also have been nice if several of these spaces could have been used by static aircraft.  Similar to the other airport structures, the textures of these hangars are great looking.  Also near these hangars are some open helipads for virtual helicopter pilots to use and LatinVFR have included a nice looking static helicopter parked here which is great.  Not so great is that none of these helicopter parking spots are available to select from the from the FSX Airport selection menu.  The airport fire station and control tower are nearby and look very realistic.  I also like that the radar on the roof of the tower is animated which adds to the simulated experience but the nearby U.S. Flag is static which if animated would have been a nice extra. 


    The airport vehicles including the cars and trucks that are in the various parking areas all look very nice without being to angular and unrealistic looking.  Just past the fire station on the “B” taxiway, the textures change from cement to asphalt and if it is like this at the real airport, I appreciate this real world feature.  I also like that the ramp signage and markings are placed in the real world locations, which is wonderful when following an airport diagram.  In the distance there are some storage tanks and these also have some nice features including three-dimensional stairs and weatherized textures.  The scenery objects just outside of the airport are also very detailed.  There is an industrial park at the east side of the airport and it has great looking buildings, automobiles in the parking lot, a fence & hedge surrounding the property and some very nice looking trees.  I am now going to cross-Runway 20R & 20L to explore the south side of John Wayne – Orange County Airport.














       The Thomas F. Riley Terminal is located at the southeast corner of the airport and as I have come to expect, the terminal is great looking.  I do not know if this is by design in order to be compatible with AI Traffic programs but there are no static airline jets parked at any of the jetways.  Just like the Signature West Hangars, I can probably live without a static airliner but it would have been nice to have one or two of the gates with a static aircraft because there are plenty more for the user and the AI traffic program to use.  I will enable some traffic later so that I can capture a screen grab with some airlines at the gates but first I want to load an FSX aircraft so that I can watch the animated jetways in action.


     The third and fourth screen grabs display the incredible amount of detail that is included with this scenery product.  All of the features in this area are very realistic looking with everything from the airport equipment to ramp and building signage.  The closed doors inside of the Jetway even have some detail, which is great and probably would be overlooked by other developers.  For some reason I could not get the animated Jetways to operate using the CTRL+J command on my system and I verified that I had it enabled in the Scenery Configurator. 


    For a test, I loaded a default airport and the Jetways worked just fine there so I am at loss.  I probably should ask about this on the LatinVFR support forum but since I am primarily a general aviation simulator pilot, I am going to leave it as it is for right now.  I did increase the FSX AI airline traffic to 100 percent so that I could capture a screen grab with some airlines at the gates.  I tried several times during the day and only one and sometimes two jets would be parked.  The airport terminal parking is located right behind the terminal and I will get a better view of it when I perform the aerial tour of the scenery area.











     The tall buildings near the airport are just as detailed as the scenery objects on the airport from the ground level including readable signage.  Continuing west is the transient ramp parking, South Coast Associates and the Executive Hangars.  Here you will find as you would expect some static executive aircraft along with more Cessna’s.  I like that a couple of the hangars are open on this side of the airport also and they have some detail when you look inside instead of just blank walls.  If you need to park your large executive aircraft, the Atlantic Aviation hangar is open for you to use, which is great. 











    Helicopter Tour

       Normally after performing the ground tour of the airport, the next section of the review is devoted to an aerial tour of the scenery area and also to review the airport features from the air.  I usually use the Trike ultralite for this purpose.  I am still going to review the scenery area features but first I am going to try to land on one of the skyscraper helipads that I mentioned in the introduction.  Also when I did an informal flight after I first installed the scenery, I noticed a couple of large blimp hangars just east of the airport in the City of Tustin.  I do not know if these are part of this scenery but the photoreal ground textures are still in this area so they must be.  For this flight I am going to use the Milviz Bell 407 helicopter to capture an aerial view of this area as well as land by one to get a nice ground level view.  After this I will then try to land on one of the helipads.  I am a novice helicopter pilot so this is going to be a challenge but I am going to give it a try.  LatinVFR did not include any helipad starting parking locations with the Orange County Airport scenery so I am going to use a parking position for a small GA aircraft.  Hopefully LatinVFR will add or rename a couple of the included parking positions for helicopter use.






     The information for this section was gathered from the document, “The Tustin Hangars: Titans of History”, available here: http://www.tustinca.org/departments/redev/documents/TTH-TitansofHistory.pdf .  In 1942 in the midst of World War II, Orange County California was a very different place than it is today.  The population at this time was just over 130,000 people, was mostly rural and was made up of endless orange groves, lima bean and sugar beet fields.  The War Department, renamed the Department of Defense in 1949, selected 1600 acres of farm land in central Orange County as one of the manned blimp facilities to be built around the country.  These would house a number of lighter than air squadrons (LTA) that would patrol the coastlines of the United States.  The proposed Orange County airfield which was being used to farm lima beans was bordered by the City of Santa Ana on one side and the City of Tustin on the other.  The Orange County LTA facility was commissioned in 1942 as the Santa Ana Lighter-Than-Air Base and eventually became the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Tustin.  This facility would have a rich military history spanning six decades but will always best be known for its massive iconic blimp hangars, which the Navy called Buildings 28 and 29.  These hangars are 17 stories tall, over 1000 feet long and 300 feet wide, they were and still are two of the largest wooden structures ever built.  They can be seen for miles from the ground, tens of miles from nearby elevations and as far away as visibility will allow from the air.  Long after the airship era was over; MCAS Tustin served as a major facility for Marine helicopter training on the west coast and played a critical role in every major US military operation from 1942 to 1992.


       As I fly towards the blimp hangars, the photoreal ground textures of this area are pretty typical photo scenery, pretty good, not great but acceptable.  At least there is not any blurry ground vehicles included in the scenery, because it would have ruined the experience.  The textures of the blimp hangars look great which is a very nice bonus for this scenery product.  I was not able to successfully land on any of the city building helipads but I was able to capture some pictures of the airport and surrounding area that I could not from a first person perspective on the ground tour. The airport buildings are just as impressive looking from these views.  I also captured a couple more night lighting screen grabs from a higher altitude perspective.  When returning to the airport I decided to land on one of the unused helicopter parking spaces.
















    Traditional Scenery Aerial Tour

       I am going to use the default Trike ultralite to explore the included scenery area.  Also, with my new video card I now have the system resources to move the Autogen density slider to the Very Dense setting so that I can get the full benefit of the scenery features.  I did make a compromise though by reducing both the airline and general aviation traffic sliders.  I do not like to post frame rate information with my reviews but at these settings my system performance was excellent with non-complex aircraft (Trike) but performance was still very acceptable when piloting a more complex general aviation aircraft.


     I could smoothly pan around the VC and the scenery loaded smoothly without issue.  I did not fly a complex airliner so I cannot comment about the results with that type of aircraft.  I am going to use a flight planning program that uses a street type map so that I can plot landmark waypoints and will also use an iPad moving map that also utilizes a Google or Open Street map so that I can see where I am travelling.  I have already explored the area east of the airport as well as the area surrounding John Wayne – Orange County International Airport during the helicopter tour.  For this flight I want to fly over the two cities that are included with this product, Irvine and the City of Newport Beach.


       According to the map, there are a couple of golf courses just west of the airport so these will be the first waypoints for this flight.  I will then fly over the City of Irvine before continuing west to the City of Newport Beach.  As I fly over these golf courses, they look very nice with three dimensional trees and realistic looking ground textures.  Also, looking west from this view I am very impressed with the nearby scenery features, which are also very realistic looking.  I do not know how many of these features are part of the LatinVFR scenery or are features from the Orbx Global and Vector products.  Other than the photo textures at the far eastern portion of the scenery, where I could definitely tell where this scenery ended and the Orbx scenery started, the rest of this scenery area blends nicely with the Orbx scenery.  As I commented during the helicopter tour, at low altitudes some of the photo textures are very blurry; this is especially noticeable with parking lots.


    When flying at a more reasonable altitude, this will probably not be as noticeable.  A good thing about photo scenery is everything is accurately placed which is nice for flight planning purposes.  For example, one of the screen grabs below has a couple of tennis courts and these are placed in their real world locations according to my moving map.  They also have very realistic textures and look like tennis courts which is nice.  The same applies for the other athletic fields that I passed over.  The three dimensional city buildings greatly add to the experience so I recommend enabling them in the Control Panel.  The trees in the scenery are also very nice and both of these features help me not to think about the ground textures. 












    The Newport Beach scenery provides a nice contrast to the City of Irvine scenery because it is located on the Pacific Ocean and provides some different textures and features.  The feature that is missing is boats in the harbor and at the marinas.  Unless there was an option for some three dimensional boats, I can probably live without photo textures of these boats because they probably would look similar to the parking lots and would look out of place.  It would be nice if LatinVFR added some boats to their object library similar to the tall buildings because they would greatly add to a realistic experience.  The last few screen grabs is of the airport approach.  The first two are of Runway 2L during the day and at dusk.  This runway does not have approach lighting but I can see it in the distance for Runway 20R.  The last screen grab is of Runway 20R approach lighting and looks pretty good. 


    This concludes my review of the wonderful LatinVFR John Wayne – Orange County Airport and the surrounding scenery area, but what if you want to fly outside of the scenery area.  KSNA provides a great starting location for flying to many of the premium and free flight simulator airport scenery products that are currently available in the Southern California area or farther if you wish.  The closest LatinVFR product is San Diego International Airport (KSAN) is only 36 NM from KSNA.  Other premium airports include Catalina Airport (KAVX) from Sim720 (32 miles), Los Angeles International (KLAX) from FS Dream Team (31.4 miles), Santa Barbara Airport (KSBA) also from Sim720 (108 miles), Orbx Palm Springs Airport (KPSP, 68.7 miles) and northeast of KPSP is Twenty Nine Palms Airport (KTNP) from Twenty Nine Palms (33 miles from KPSP and 99.8 miles from KSNA).  If you own the Orbx Global scenery product, Orbx has released a free airport pack for that product which includes many airports that are located in Southern California. 

















       LatinVFR KSNA John Wayne Orange County Airport is fairly accessible.  It can be purchased directly from LatinVFR, PayPal is the only form of payment accepted and it is priced in Euros.  This scenery can also be purchased from Simmarket also priced in Euros only and if you live the United States, KSNA and the other LatinVFR products can be purchased from PC Aviator.  If you purchase from LatinVFR directly, they require the customer to have a free Dropbox account to download their scenery products and there are no refunds.  I have a Dropbox account so this was not an issue for me and this is a very nice online remote storage program but if you do not want to have to install another program just to have the ability to download this scenery, I recommend purchasing from one of the other vendors.



      I consider this scenery very affordable.  Priced at 20 Euros or $24.95 US, it is priced similar to other scenery products with similar scenery areas and features.  The purchase price also includes a triple installer for FSX, P3Dv1 and P3Dv2, which is great without having to purchase a new license when you decide to upgrade to Prepar3D.  As an added bonus for the simulator pilots that still have FS2004 installed, the purchase price also includes the FS2004 scenery and is available as a separate download.


    Ease of Installation  

      The KSNA scenery product is very easy to install and the process is self-explanatory.  The product does require a serial number that needs to be entered but this is not a long complicated number so most users should not have an issue typing it in.  Be aware though that the characters are hidden but I still did not have a problem entering the serial number, otherwise copy and paste should work.  An excellent Scenery Configurator for activating the various scenery features and a brief manual is included.  The manual is only ten pages long and I wish LatinVFR would have included some more detail in it such as recommended simulator settings and an airport diagram. 


    Features & System Performance  

      LatinVFR has included plenty of features with their John Wayne Orange County Airport scenery product.  The airport itself has an extreme level of detail with great looking textures, three dimensional and accurately placed buildings and other structures, plenty of static aircraft and other vehicles as well as excellent signage and airport lighting.  The scenery surrounding the airport is also very detailed with custom vegetation, objects and three-dimensional autos in the parking lots of these buildings that add to scenery experience.  There are a couple of features that I would like to see added to improve the scenery even more.  First, I would like to see some variety to the small GA static aircraft; they are all Cessna’s.  Secondly, there are no people included with this scenery.  They do not have to be animated, although that would be great, having some static airport workers or pilots next to their aircraft would have realty added to the realism level for me.  LatinVFR could have stopped here and this would already have been a wonderful product but they have also included the optional scenery features (Downtown Irvine & Newport Beach buildings and 14 miles of photo scenery with custom autogen objects) as well as land able helipads on the tall buildings near the airport.  The nice thing about the optional features is that if you have other photo or scenery products for this area, you can disable these features in the Scenery Configurator for full compatibility with these other products.  As with all photo scenery, some of the ground textures are blurry at low altitudes but the various area features are accurately placed and have realistic textures, which are great.  The only other minor feature request that I have for the Newport Beach area would be to include optional three dimensional boats in the harbor and at the marinas, right now there are none.  Most computer systems today should not have an issue with performance even with all of the scenery features enabled.  As with all scenery products, you need to adjust the simulator and the scenery settings for your experience.  Before my video card upgrade, I received very acceptable performance with all options enabled and Dense to Very Dense FSX Autogen settings.  I had to make some compromises (AI sliders) but was still able to smoothly pan around the VC of my premium general aviation complex aircraft and I did not have any stuttering problems.  After the upgrade, I would still have a slight performance drop with the same settings but the background scenery loaded much faster on my system. 



    Final Thoughts

      If you have been in the market for a centrally located Southern California airport that can handle most types of aircraft then the LatinVFR Orange County Airport scenery will be a great product for you to look at.  This scenery is priced right, is very detailed with great looking textures & objects and includes a large scenery area for you to explore.  I have noted the features that I would like to see added to send this product the next level but even without them, this is an excellent scenery product and a very good value.  If you would like to learn more about this product, please visit the product page located here: http://www.latinvfr.org/sceneries/orange-county-john-wayne-international-airport/ .




    Test System


    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


    FSX Steam Edition, Windows 7 – 64 Bit

    REX 4 Texture Direct with Soft Clouds

    DX10 Scenery Fixer

    FSX Fair Weather Theme

    Flight Test Time:

    25 hours


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