Aerosoft is known to many as an award winning publisher of FS add-on sceneries, so I fully expected to be impressed by this first regional airfield set for FSX. Because these airfields are situated on a string of narrow islands off the northwest coast of Germany, Aerosoft made the fortunate decision to not just package up the airfields, but also the islands. This is what makes this a very attractive package. You get everything you need to fly from island to island, and also a few airports on the mainland to visit, if you so desire.
Here is a description of the package from the Aerosoft web-site: “Fly tourists to the Frisian island Sylt and then follow the chain of small islands along the East Frisian coast. Or fly the daily mail run to the small islands, even if the weather over the North Sea shows its ugly side. German Airfields 1 - Island Hopping is the perfect environment for your flight adventures. Designed to fit perfectly into Aerosoft’s other German scenery, this is the first release of the ‘German Airfields’ range and created by the best designers we could find. German Airfields will cover the best known GA airfields and smaller regional airports like Essen Mülheim and Berlin-Tempelhof.”
Included in this package:
15 highly detailed Airfields:
• Detailed island scenery for Wangerooge, Langeoog, Baltrum, Juist, Borkum,
Spiekeroog, and Norderney with all landmarks needed for VFR navigation
Installation & Documentation:
The package comes as an 510 Meg download, and can be purchased at Aerosoft. The auto-installer worked well on my FSX system and installed the scenery, landclass files, and documentation into an Aerosoft folder within FSX. The documentation includes an excellent manual in German and English, as well as airfield charts in PDF format. Very nice, and complete.
Interestingly, there is also a Google Earth file which, when clicked, takes you to the covered area in Google Earth complete with all the airfields marked and named. If you have a color printer, you may want to print this for future reference! I’ve included screenshots below, first of the total area and then a zoomed in view of one of the islands, Norderney.
Next step, after reading the manual, is to pick a suitable aircraft - the default FSX C172 or the Maule are good choices - and start up a flight from one of the airfields. I’m somewhat familiar with the area, having grown up just across the border in Holland, and I vividly recall a summer vacation as an 8 year old kid on the (Dutch) island of Schiermonnikoog which is part of the same island chain. So here we are, on the westernmost island of Borkum, ready to explore.
Immediately obvious is the great detail with which this scenery is crafted. All the airport buildings are custom designed and additionally, there are cars and people to complement the airfield. If you start with the engines turned off, you can hear the sound of seagulls just to put you in the mood! The pdf files in the documentation come in handy, for the airfields are shoehorned into whatever space was available on the island, which in several cases, means a rather tortured layout. Of course you can cheat by using the overhead view, which by the way also gives you a good look at the photo real scenery. That word is appropriate, for it looks exactly like the Google Earth image with every detail in place.
OK, now it's time to taxi to the runway, one notch of flaps, and here is hoping that you get in the air before running out of pavement! Once airborne, you can look around and marvel at the scenery. Unlike some photo-scenery which looks blurry at low altitude and only really starts looking good at 2000 feet or so, this scenery looks very convincing right after takeoff.
The custom objects, houses, trees etc are so well done and so carefully placed, that it is a real pleasure to look around and admire the scenery. Below are a few pictures from the island of Borkum showing the harbor and the town.
As you fly from island to island, you notice that there is no simple repetition of scenery from place to place, but that each airfield is custom designed with taxiway textures, runway lights, and buildings etc, to match the actual location. The runway lights themselves are masterpieces of detail and make you check the frame rate counter just to make sure that FSX is not going to complain.
Luckily, I did not notice any performance impact on my system. The recommendation is to set both scenery complexity and autogen sliders all the way to the right, which I normally do not do on my system. Here it seems to work all right, and does have the advantage of having every single house and building on the islands show up. Even with my standard settings of scenery complexity at very dense and autogen on normal, the islands look great and the experience is very enjoyable.
For those who would like to take a look, I would recommend visiting the following site where screenshots are displayed, showing off every island and airfield. As I flew over the islands, I had only one wish: that the little island of Memmert, which is not modeled, be changed to photo-scenery as well. This island with stock FSX “desert textures” right next to the lovely custom textures for the main islands, is somewhat of an eye-sore!
Foremost in the list of features, is the highly detailed photo scenery with every building placed and modeled. But also adding to the realism, is the custom AI that is a part of the package - a couple of Piper Cherokees and some Cessna C172's that populate the airspace and the airfields.
The mission that introduces you to the area is in a German voice only, so this may not work for everyone. Luckily, the scenery is ideal for VFR exploration – the islands are close enough together that you can find your way around by dead reckoning and a watchful eye. Just don’t try to land away from the airfields. The detail mesh has every bump modeled and you can find yourself taxiing off a road into a field and crashing your plane, because the road was on a dike and the field is 4 feet lower!
The only flaw I could find, other than some shoreline details which I’ve been told will be cleaned up in a service update, is that the custom runway textures tend to shimmer at certain altitudes, which takes away from the “suspension of disbelief”. This is mentioned in the documentation and explained as a “limitation in FSX”.
I sincerely hope that a way is found to overcome this limitation, because it can ruin the experience. Even native FSX has this irritating habit of advertising the presence of an airport by using conspicuous textures for the airfield, and the purpose of custom scenery should be to remove the standard FSX limitations, not add to them.
To finish off on a positive note, however, here are some more screenshots - just flying around: “Island Hopping”.
This is a truly enjoyable scenery package. I was expecting an impressive product and was not disappointed. The area looks exactly the way I would expect these islands to look; wind blown and rugged, perfect for some peaceful time away from the big city. It also shows off what FSX is capable of in terms of scenery detail, and with totally acceptable performance. The authors have produced another winner in my books!
What I Like About The Island Hopping Package
What I Don't Like About The Island Hopping Package
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