Review by Mike Cameron
For the next series of reviews of the currently released Sim720 Scottish airports, I decided to do things a little different. I have the Orbx Scotland regional scenery product installed which also was developed for Orbx by Sim720, so I decided to write a more flightseeing type of review.
I am still going to write an individual review for each of the three airports (Stornoway, Inverness and Oban), but will only write the installation section with the first review and write the conclusion at the end of the last review. Where I would normally write the conclusion, I am going to wright a flightseeing trip between the two airports by using Google Earth with the Orbx KMZ file loaded displaying landmarks along the way. I will also use the Plan G flight planning program to create my trips. Rather than flying a straight line route I will travel off this route to see a landmark or two and depending on the distance may park at nearby airport before continuing my flight.
Stornoway is the farthest northwest so the first review will be Stornoway then Inverness and the third review will be Oban. Currently the fourth Sim720 European product is Caernarfon which is located in Wales and at this time I have not decided if I am going to continue my tour to this airport or write its own separate review.
This series of reviews are going to take some time and if Sim720 should release another Scottish scenery product before I write the Caernarfon review, I will add it to this flight tour of Scotland. Now it is time for the proper introduction for Stornoway (EGPO) Airport.
The information below was gathered from the product page and from www.scotland.com . Stornoway airport is located 2.3 miles (3.7 km) east of the town of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis which is part of the Outer Hebrides. The town of Stornoway is said to have begun as a Viking settlement that progressively grew into a natural harbor. The town’s name is believed to have come from the word ‘Stjomavgr’ which means “Steering Bay” in Norse. As time progressed, the town of Stornoway saw many buildings built, a port and other developments constructed.
In 1844, the area of Lewis including Stornoway was bought by Sir James Matheson. Matheson was responsible for the construction of Lewis Castle, and then in 1918, Lewis was sold to Lord Leverhume. Today, Stornoway is a popular tourist destination with a busy small town and a bustling harbor. The town is the doorway to the Island of Lewis and its many historical attractions.
Stornoway Airport’s association with the Royal Air Force dates back to 1928 when a flying boat landed in Stornoway Harbor, long before there was a landing strip for wheeled aircraft. Grass airstrips were completed in 1937 and the airport was taken under military control in 1941. Between 1986 and 1993 the airport was used as a NATO Forward Operating Base for Air Defense aircraft protecting the fleet. The military took over the airport for six weeks each year during that period.
The airport is now operated by Highlands and Islands Airports, and the airport provides domestic passenger services with over 125,000 passengers a year as well as hosting the HM Coastguard helicopter search and rescue and private aircraft flights.
Stornoway Airport is the gateway to the Western Islands of Scotland. The Sim720 creation of the airport has been developed as a replica of the real airport. All of the buildings within the airport boundary are hand modeled, textured and placed with extreme accuracy. The taxiway and runways are also exact reproductions of the real world surfaces. This scenery package also includes custom auto-gen buildings outside of the airport boundary to further add to the realistic look and I will for these objects during the aerial tour of the airport scenery.
Installation and Documentation
This is a very easy product to install. I received these products directly from Sim 720 so your installation process may be different. After purchase you will receive the setup program and serial key. I have Orbx Scotland installed and the support forum recommends setting FTX Central to the Default or Global setting before installation then switching back to the Europe setting after installation.
Run the setup program, read the important information on the screen, accept the EULA, select FSX or P3Dv1 then enter the serial key. Sorry but there is not a P3Dv2 installer yet for the P3D Version 2 early adapters. Read the Sim720 support forums about other users that are using P3D Version 2 with this scenery if you are interested. That is all there is to it.
Download and install the latest Sim720 Object Libraries after installation of this scenery. A nice 17 page user guide is included with the recommended simulator settings and I followed these settings on my system. This will be my first review with our family’s recently upgraded desktop computer. According to the user guide it says to always start your first EGPO flight with the simulator autogen density setting at Normal. I have already loaded this airport with my default setting of Dense, so I shall see if I have any issues.
Sim720 Control Panel and Stornoway Walking Tour
All of the Sim720 scenery products include a control panel that allows you to adjust various scenery settings and regional scenery product compatibility. Unless you like a clean look (I do not) for your simulated airports or have a very slow system, I would just leave the scenery objects options enabled. The next group options are the 3D grass season selection.
I am the type of person who likes to set it and forget it, so other than for screen grab purposes I am going to use the “Summer/Spring/Autumn/Winter Lvl1 & Lvl2” setting. The second screen grab is level one in the spring (April), three is level one in the summer (August), number four is level 1&2 in the fall (October), #5 is level 1&2 Winter (January) and number six is level 1&2 hard winter (February). I also like to try to capture the screen grabs in the same scenery location for comparison purposes.
These screen grabs also allow me to view the high quality runway textures. As you can see with screen grab two and three, level one grass has a freshly mowed look to it without some tall grass. When I changed to the month of August, I thought nothing had changed, I looked in the distance and the trees and bushes had grown taller and more round. I love when the vegetation textures & features change with the season without having to use a season switcher tool. Switching to the level 1&2 all season option and the month of October I now see some tall grass in places which I prefer and the colors in the trees in the distance has changed to realistic fall colors. I love the green, brown and yellow fall colors.
The all season textures for January brings a light dusting of snow near the runway and it looks like the textures have also changed on the trees in the distance. The hard winter level 1&2 the grass looks the same as the all season grass but with more visible snow and to be honest I could tell much of a difference between the hard winter textures for the month of January and the all season’s month of January. Maybe some more snow and I personally would rather just have the all season level 1&2 activated rather than having to switch to a hard winter setting.
If you like how the hard winter textures look, go for it! Another quick comment about the winter textures, during the months of December & February the snow may be gone but the trees are thinner as you would expect in the winter. I probably will not repeat the above comparison for the rest of the flight adventure parts because unless I see otherwise, the results will probably be the same for the rest of the airports.
The final group of settings is for product compatibility and on my system that had the Orbx Scotland Regional Scenery installed this option was already selected which was nice but I later found out that this was the default selection. The other two scenery compatibility options are default FSX/Orbx Global and Horizon VFR scenery. Now it is time for the walking tour of Stornoway Airport.
For the walking tour I am going to load the FSX Spring setting and start at the same location as comparison screen grabs. The User guide includes the airport layout so I printed that page so that I can reference it during the tour. I will be using the free Orbx Bob product because besides simulated walking & jogging, it allows unobstructed views from screen captures.
Starting at the end of runway 18, I turn around and the first object that I see is the three dimensional runway edge lighting. All of the runway and taxiway lighting objects are also three dimensional and are also very realistic looking. Walking to the west towards the older and unused area of the airport I see several parking spots for the airport when they were used many years ago. I love that the ground textures look just as nice on this side of the airport as they do on the modern side of the airport. I also see some of the first scenery objects that are located outside of the airport boundary and they are also impressive looking from ground level.
Continuing south I come across the fire training area of the airport and although this is accurately placed in the simulator I see some flickering textures on the building here that take away from the experience. I also notice this on the buildings in the distance too. The other scenery object at the fire training area looks great though. It is some form of tanker trailer and the labeling on it is excellent. There is also a very large stain on the ground here that adds to the realistic look.
I sent a support forum request and Sim720 responded and provided an updated file within a couple of days. From my screen grab that I sent they also noticed that the fire training site was also missing another object so they included that file also. This fire training object sits on the large stain that found before the update. I love this level of customer support.
Continuing south, there is not a lot more to see, mostly the unused parking spots but I did take another screen grab near runway 07 because the grass is different here than my earlier screen grabs. Arriving at the southern boundary of the airport I begin to see some of the modern features and I love how the old taxiway (dirt/grass) blends with the modern taxiway which is asphalt and cement. The buildings at this area of the airport are still older looking but have very impressive textures.
The Northeast side of the airport is when I first start to see some of the modern buildings of Stornoway airport. I love how the static objects with this scenery have a weathered look to them, like they have been exposed to the elements. Also signage & the window posters are clear and realistic looking when viewed from a distance which is very nice and provides a very realistic presentation.
Continuing on to the terminal area of the airport, this is where most of the scenery objects are located. As you would expect from a premium scenery title, the static aircraft all look fantastic. All of the other static vehicles also look very realistic including the cars in the parking lot. The parked cars & trucks in the parking lots is where some developers decide to cut corners and usually they look awful to me but the Sim720 presentation of these vehicles look very realistic. Even the small to medium sized objects such as warning cones and air stairs are three dimensional and look great.
The Stornoway scenery does include people in certain areas which add to the real airport look but they are not animated at this time. I commented about the lack of animations with my Catalina Airport review and Sim720 is looking into this and hopefully they will be able to include this feature in the future.
I cannot believe that it would cause that much of a performance penalty and it could be a Control Panel option. On my new system as well as my older laptop, system performance is excellent. I love how Sim720 presents the windows of the buildings with their scenery products. First they display reflections and they were developed in a way to make you think that you can see inside the buildings and this effect is improved with night lighting.
Moving on I come to another group of people near a parked aircraft but I do not quite understand what the person lying on the ramp is doing. Rather than working underneath the aircraft which to me would make more sense, he is just lying there like he is injured.
Taxiway and runway signage is excellent and as mentioned earlier the airport lighting is also very good. If you have it activated in the Control Panel, I like the extra stuff that is lying around near some buildings which again makes this scenery look like a real world operating airport. I already commented about that lack of animations but I did hear some bird sound effects. This may be part of the Orbx Bob sounds and not part of the scenery since I did not see any flying birds around.
Finally, I am going to change the simulator to dusk so that I can capture the ramp and taxiway lighting. I am not sure if I am wild about the halo lighting effect but overall these lights are impressive.
Scenery Area Aerial Tour
I like to use the default FSX Trike Ultralite for scenery aerial tours because it provides me with a large field of view and they do not take up a lot of the screen when capturing from spot view. I printed out the page with the scenery coverage area from the manual to follow and will also have the Plan G moving map open to also know where I am going. I am also going to have Google Earth open for when I travel outside of the Sim720 Scenery area for me to get the first look of what the area around the town of Stornoway looks like with the Orbx Scotland scenery installed.
Even with my new more powerful system, Google Earth caused performance issues so I could not have it open all of the time. When Plan G told me I was over the town or other landmark, I would open Google Earth to compare the results. Because this is a review of the Sim720 Stornoway Airport, I am going to keep my comments about the Orbx scenery to general nature but will still comment on what I like and do not like.
As with my walking tour, I am going to start at runway 18 and fly to the west then continue south to the town of Stornoway (outside of the scenery area) then travel to the eastern edge of the Sim720 scenery area and finally making my way north and returning to airport and landing again at runway 18. Enough background, let’s get into the air.
The first group of objects that I fly over is the Fire Training facility and the airport objects look just as good from the air as they did from the ground. The next group of buildings is what looks like a farm because there are fields nearby and these also look very realistic from the air. Continuing west is what looks like a hotel along with some other small buildings and the first community that I fly over is Steinis. All of these communities that I am going to fly over are located is their real world locations which is excellent. They also look exactly like the Google Earth image.
For example, Steinis is long and narrow in the simulator and looks exactly like this in Google Earth. I love this level of realism and they also look great from a lower altitude which is nice for VFR aviators. I like how the housing developments in the area have similar looking houses which are what you would expect with a housing development. I also like how realistic the neighborhoods look like in these small communities, with houses having driveways connected to the roads near these houses which look like real roads with trees alongside the roads or in the larger yards. Water features throughout the scenery area also look like the real world counterpart for very accurate VFR flying.
Approaching Stornoway, according to Google Earth there is a cemetery (I think this is still in the Sim720 scenery area) and I think I can even see some details of the cemetery from the air. I fly over a golf course and this is in the exact area as the Google Earth image. Also near this area is a small harbor with an appropriate amount of small boats anchored. Now that we are into the Orbx region I want to quickly explain how Orbx creates there regional scenery products.
First other than a few select areas, Orbx does not create photo regions (like Megascenery) where every real world object is included. First they start with accurate mesh of the area (accurate elevation details), then add a vector layer so most roads, railways, lakes and rivers are accurately placed, the scenery includes very accurate land class features so like the golf course, other types of land scenery features such as parks, towns & cities as well as other features are accurately placed in the scenery and finally the Orbx custom scenery objects are placed so the towns and cities should look like towns and cities.
Remember this is not photo-scenery so not every building and landmark is going to be included but even with the generic objects when combined with the landclass features the Orbx town or city should have some of real world features. This is a very simplified explanation and hopefully I got it right.
The simulated version of the town of Stornoway looks nice but to me it seemed smaller than the real world town as presented in Google Earth. On a positive note, I love the range of vegetation colors included with the Orbx scenery, from light to dark greens to various shades of browns, very realistic looking. Also near Stornoway flying east is a group of structures with very realistic weatherized textures which is nice and continuing east is a business park which includes actual FedEx & Airborne delivery trucks with clear textures from the air.
The final two communities on the eastern edge of the scenery area are Branahuie and Melbost and they have the same great qualities as the other communities included with this scenery. The last group of structures is Port Adhar which is located on the airport grounds and I captured several ground level screen grabs in the previous section. Airport and scenery lighting is also excellent from the air.
In summary the scenery objects look just as nice from the air as they do from the ground and I am very impressed with what is included with the Sim720 Stornoway scenery package. Now it is time to leave the Stornoway area and start my first leg of my flight adventure to Inverness Airport.
Flight Adventure Leg 1: Stornoway to Inverness
Rather than flying direct to Inverness, I am going to consult Google Earth to find some of the Orbx placed landmarks along the way and will deviate to see them and depending on the distance may stop at a nearby airport before continuing on. I am going to plan my trip using Google Earth to locate the point of interest objects, then use the Plan G flight planner to create my flight plan and will be using the excellent FSWidgets IGMAPHD iPad app for the moving map and this program also accepts the FSX flight plans so that I can see if I am still on coarse with my aircraft without a GPS.
This time I am going to depart from runway 36 and depart east to Suardail, passing over Loch Shuardail & Loch an Duin. I will then cross the large body of water (sorry could not find a name when looking at Google Earth and other maps) between the Isle of Lewis and the Scottish mainland to arrive at the town of Lochinver. This is where I see some of the first Orbx scenery objects, a small marina located in the exact place that it is in Google Earth.
I will then fly over some highlands roughly following the A387 over Loch Assynt, continuing north until I come to the first point of interest location, the Kylesku Bridge. These hills also provide a look at the outstanding scenery textures with the rock face of the various hillsides that look very realistic. From here I decide to fly northwest along the coast and fly over the communities of Kinlochbervie then travel east along the coast flying over Durness & Totegan before arriving at the next point of interest, the very detailed Dounreay Reactor.
The Dounreay Reactor is located near a former RAF Dounreay Airbase so I decide to stop hear for a quick rest. For the second half of this flight, I travel southeast over Wick Airport. The landscape in this area has changed to lowland textures with various fields displayed in various colors which are nice. I also pass by some wind farms in this area and they are animated and look just like the ones I see here in Washington State. I then continue east over the North Sea to come to the next point of interest, a group of oil rigs.
Flying back to the southwest, the next point of interest is called an Off Shore Wind Park and this is the first time that I have looked at a wind farm located on a water surface, the ones in the Pacific Northwest are all land based. Flying south now over the North Sea the first town I come too is Lossiemouth & airport and just north of this town is the final point of interest for this leg of the adventure, The Duffus Castle. After taking a photo of this landmark, I continue southwest over Kinloss Airport before arriving at the next Sim720 airport, Inverness (EGPE).
I hope everyone has enjoyed part one of my Scottish flight adventure and the review of Stornoway and now it is time to explore Inverness Airport and the surrounding area.
As I was editing this review, Sim720 has started to preview the animations that will be added to their scenery products. As mentioned earlier, I am going to wait to write the conclusion and provide my overall rating at the end of the final review.
· Intel Desktop Computer
· Intel i5 4670K 3.4Ghz Non OC Processor
· 8GB DDR3 1833 Memory
· 2TB SATA HD (7200 RPM)
· NVIDIA GeForce GTX550Ti Video Card with 1GB GDDR5 Memory
· Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick
· FSX with Acceleration, Windows 7 – 64 Bit
· REX 4 Texture Direct
· Orbx FTX Scotland Regional Scenery
· Opus FSX real world weather
Flight Test Time:
· 25 hours