Where shall I start? Who has never heard of famous cities like Marseille, Cannes, Nice and Monaco? Either you have or you haven’t?
Welcome to one of the best places of Southern France, or to be more precise, the French Riviera. Apart of the great villages, white beaches, wine, beer, excellent French cuisine, boats, extraordinary cars like Lamborghini, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and many more, this piece of Franc is famous for the Film Festival of Cannes; and what about Monaco and Monte-Carlo? Too much to write down and unfortunately, my review doesn’t offer you a nice beer or French white or red wine, but it offers an in depth review of this French Riviera.
More important for us as flight simmers, what does France VFR offers us about this package:
Good, great, excellent and that’s it. My French is too bad to understand this. Before helping you a bit, it also means that the current France VFR website is only available in the French language. Hopefully France VFR finishes the translation into other languages shortly. This will help a lot of potential customers who don’t understand French.
Ok, back to this French text. Before telling something about the BasePack and Autogen pack, I would like to make clear that these packages are currently available as a bundle at the France VFR shop, and have been for a while. To be precise; the base pack was introduced in March 2006 while in September 2006, the Autogen package was added to it. Recently, France VFR added the JetSet pack.
The Riviera JetSet package offers more detailed airports along the French coastline including Monaco and many special/famous buildings, boats, animations and many other things. Important to mention, is that to run the Riviera JetSet you need to have the Base Pack installed. The Autogen is not really necessary but on the other hand, with the current combined offer – Base and Autogen – it's worth installing all three packages.
The French Riviera (French: Côte d'Azur, Occitan: Còsta Azzura) is one of the most famous resort areas in the world. Extending along the Mediterranean Sea west from Menton near the Italian border. It includes the cities and towns of Monaco, Nice, Antibes, and Cannes (home of the Cannes Film Festival). Other sources extend the Cote d'Azur further west to include Saint-Raphaël (Var); Sainte-Maxime; St. Tropez, Hyeres, Toulon and Cassis.
The French Riviera has a Mediterranean climate, with sunny, hot, dry summers and mild winters. Winter temperatures are moderated by the proximity to the Mediterranean. Days of frost are extremely rare, and in summer the maximum temperature rarely exceeds 30 degrees Celsius. Along the French Riviera there a number of micro-climates, and there can be great differences in the weather between Nice on the east and Toulon on the west. Strong winds, such as the mistral, a cold dry wind from the northwest or from the east, are another characteristic feature of the Riviera, particularly in the winter and between Toulon and Marseille.
Nice and the Alpes-Maritime
Nice and the Alpes-Maritime Department are sheltered by the Alps, and are the most protected part of the Mediterranean coast. The winds in this department are usually gentle, blowing from the sea to the land, though sometimes the Mistral blows strongly from the northwest, or, turned by the mountains, from the east. In 1956 a mistral wind from the northwest reached the speed of 180 kilometers an hour at Nice airport. Sometimes in summer, the scirocco brings high temperatures and reddish desert sand from Africa.
Rainfall is rare, but can be torrential, particularly in September, when storms and rain are caused by the difference between the colder air inland and the warm Mediterranean water temperature (20-24 degrees C.). The average annual rainfall in Nice is 767 millimeters, more than in Paris, though it rains an average of just 63 days a year.
Snow is extremely rare, usually falling once every ten years. 1956 was a very exceptional year, when 2O centimeters of snow blanketed the coast. In January 1985, the coast between Cannes and Menton received 30 to 40 centimeters of snow. In the mountains, the snow is present from November to May.
Nice has an average of 2694 hours of sunshine, or about 112 days a year. The average maximum daily temperature in Nice in August is 28 degrees C., and the average minimum daily temperature in January is 6 degrees C.
Toulon and the Var
Toulon and the Department of the Var (which includes St. Tropez and Hyeres) have a climate slightly warmer, dryer and sunnier than Nice and the Alpes-Maritime, but is also less sheltered from the wind. Toulon has an average of 2799 hours of sunshine, or about 116 days a year, making it the city with the most sunshine in metropolitan France. The average maximum daily temperature in August is 29.1 degrees C., and the average daily minimum temperature in January is 5.8 degrees C.
The average annual rainfall is 665 millimeters, with the most rain from October to November. The cold and dry Mistral wind is particularly frequent and strong in winter between Marseille and Toulon, blowing down the Rhone River Valley. Strong winds blow an average of 118 days a year in Toulon, compared with 76 days at Frejus further east. The strongest Mistral wind recorded in Toulon was 130 kilometers an hour.
MSFS 2004 Scenery versus France VFR, installation and documentation
MSFS 2004 Scenery versus France VFR
Before starting with the installation process, I think it’s a good idea to uninstall my current FS9 version and re-install a clean version, of course updating it with MSFS 9.1 but nothing more. Then we first have a look and fly around with this basic MSFS 2004 configuration versus an example of how France VFR FLIGHTRiviera would look. Ok, jump into my Cessna 182 and fly with me from LFMN (Nice – Cote d’Azur runway 04R).
Is it really an impressive flight? No, this sub chapter shows you the difference between a life without FLIGHTRiviera and a set of screenshots with the base and autogen software installed. I didn’t install the latest France VFR Riviera software yet – Jet Set - since this comes separately.
The installation process of the two installers, in my case one for the “Base and Autogen” bundle and one for the JetSet package, is straightforward. The installer is available in English and French and the installer automatically detects the correct FS2004 location. Keep in mind that while writing this, there no FSX patch available yet.
After the installation process we've got a lot to read in either French or English. Under the Start button we’ve got a newly created France VFR -> FlightRiviera BasePack folder with different manuals in either French or English as well as an uninstaller. The sub name “FlightRiviera BasePack” is a little confusing since it seems that only the base pack is installed. However, looking into this it’s quite obvious that the AutoGen pack is also installed. For the second installer, we will find under the same France VFR menu folder, a sub-folder RivieraJetSet with an English/French Acrobat file and the associated uninstaller.
One thing to point out is that at the end of both installers you can click the “Display User’s Manual” button. Since I started both installers with the English language, you may expect that when you open the Acrobat file, an English version is displayed. But unfortunately this is not the case.
Instead a French version is opened but I have to admit that directly below the picture on the first page, a link is added to switch to the English version. Is it handy? Not really, since I personally expect an English document after an English installer and visa versa for the French language. This is a probably a limitation of the Auto Installer but at least with the link on the first French page, it helps the English reader.
That’s it about the installers and a first small impression about what these packages change in your MSFS 20904 configuration. A last note from France VFR makers: “Suppose you’ve got FSGlobal 2008 software installed. You can either disable it in the Scenery Library or you can leave it. The France VFR Base Pack comes with its own terrain mesh files, which have a higher resolution then the provided ones from FSGlobal 2008.”
The bundled package comes with the following French and English Acrobat files:
- User’s manual
The Base Pack manual has a handy table of contents in which the display parameters and settings are the most important part. On pages 7 to 9 the necessary manual adjustments are described to get the best out of this photorealistic scenery. If you’re interested in the covered area, then page 5 shows you a nice colored clear chart. Roughly, we can say that the BasePack covers the Mediterranean French coast from La Ciotat to Menton (about 250 km). The area, or if you wish, the zone covers about 12000 km2.
- User’s manual (AutogenPack)
This Acrobat file doesn’t offer too much more than the previously discussed Base manual since no adjustments are needed, simply because it only creates auto generated objects like trees, houses, buildings and many others. Therefore this manual is only 2 pages long.
- Charts and Flight Documentation
The same as the previous review of the Oriental Pyrenees, this Acrobat file contains VFR and IFR flight rules, low and high level en route maps as well as detaieds airport maps, VFR/IFR planning and if applicable, SID/STAR information. The colored VFR planning charts are very nice but I have my doubts about the IFR low and high level enroute charts. Flying over this 12.000 km2 area is fun, even at 10.000 feet, but flying over it at 20.000 feet or even higher, I don’t see the use of it but that’s my personal feeling. Whatever I think, this manual is nice withlots of charts available and they're good for VFR flight planning.
The Riviera JetSet package comes with the following Acrobat French and English files;
- User’s manual
This Acrobat files explains the function of this piece of software. The scenery includes the major airports of the Riviera, Nice and Cannes as well as the most important monuments and characteristic buildings of the region. This add-on provides you a great number of 3D objects meticulously placed on the photo-realistic textures of the BasePack and perfectly integrated with the buildings and vegetation already present in the Autogen add-on for Riviera.
Further, we need to make the necessary display settings as we did already with the base pack. These settings are slightly different than with the base pack and are again divided, depending on your PC performance, in a basic and advanced configuration.
This concludes the manuals of this triple software pack of France VFR's FlightRiviera. Apart of the need for low and high level IFR en route charts, I need to say that everything that is needed for the beginner, intermediate and advanced users is offered. In other words, there’s no need to look for other charts. The only thing that I miss is a VFR overview chart of this area.
An unprepared flight from LFMQ (Le Castellet) to Monaco
As usual, before taking our Michelin auto route chart(s) in our hand, let’s first make a short trip along the coastline in a Western and Eastern direction. Keep in mind that, for example, Marseille doesn’t belong to this scenery package, but that doesn’t matter. It’s around 4 PM when we start at LFMQ (Le Castellet) with nice weather conditions. From this small airfield we fly towards the coast and then head for LFMN (Nice) and a little further to LNMC (Monaco). Unfortunately, we can’t land here since it’s a heliport and we're we flying in a rented Cessna 182. Don’t worry, finally we will land somewhere.
This short flight was just to give you an idea of what you can expect during the rest of this review and more for what the package offers. France VFR is known as a vendor that creates high quality photo-realistic sceneries for FS9 and FSX, although the FSX version is more or less a compatible piece of software. This is, by the way, different than the MegaSceneryX products. With the France VFR products, you get two versions for one price.
Ok, away from this intermezzo, we quickly continue with our VFR flight along the Côte d’Azur.
A prepared morning flight to LFMD (Cannes/Mandelieu)
It’s an early morning in February when I prepare a flight to LFMD. It’s foggy but not that bad to start from this small airport located in the mountains. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we don’t have official charts with us, so I use the Michelin route maps, which are normally used for driving along these routes. Don’t worry, we will find our way towards the Mediterranean Sea.
So, welcome on board of this prepared flight from airport Valberg (0654) to Cannes/.Mandelieu (LFMD). Prepared? Our flight plan should look like this; after take off (runway 01) from Valberg airport, we fly in a westerly direction along road D28 to Guillaumes and climb out to 7500-8000 feet. Here we hope to find road D902, which runs in a southwest direction along the Gorges du Daluis. Here we catch road N202 in a western direction to Lac de Castillon. This can’t be missed since it’s a big lake. Via the eastern bank of the lake, we try to fly and follow road D955 and reach the city of Castellane.
We pick up the famous road N85, also know as the Route Napoleon. Here we should be able to follow the road via the Pas de la Faye which ends in Grasse. Grasse is a famous city, or village if you like, because of the perfumes, especially the Lavendal perfume. From the top of the mountains we drop down to the coast where we fly straight over Cannes and directly to the island of Ste Marguerite. Once there, we make almost a 180 degree turn to LFMD (Canes/Mandelieu).
In between we should have enough time to take lots of pictures of the beautiful scenery. Are you ready to go? …… Everything packed … ?
This time I have rented a local Reims/Cessna Aviation C150L Commuter with registration F-BUML. The MSFS version being used is FS9.1 and not FSX. The reason is because the meters/pixel is the same for FS9/FSX, which is 4.7m/pixel. Apart from that, the FSX patch of the FlightRiviera JetSet is not yet available, so once we reach the coastline and LFMD, some things are missing. Things in this case are special landmarks in Cannes and the redesigned airport of LFMD. Redesigned means buildings, markings, control tower etc. as they should be.
While the lighting conditions are becoming better, it turns out that there is hardly any cloud, so it's time to fly along the planned route. Just a small remark; due to the early morning, the screenshots seems to be very dark but when you click on them, not only does a larger one pop up but also one which represents better lighting conditions.
Flying this route was great and does represent the total covered France VFR area. If it’s early in the morning or in daylight VFR conditions or late in the afternoon, the scenery is and stays awesome. You really believe you’re flying in the real world of the Cote d’Azur. By the way, for this special occasion, I used the French register freeware Cessna 150 L Commuter from Fravin and Frank00, which can be downloaded at FS Tutorials. Enough about that, take the chart in your hand and try to follow the trip I made.
I honestly need to tell you that it wasn’t that easy to follow the roads and rivers, but I’ve succeeded. One reason that it wasn’t that easy was because of the altitude. We where flying roughly at 7700 feet, which was high enough to look over the mountains but a little too high to see the roads and rivers. This was also a result of all the shadows in the valleys. One thing we had for sure was the Mediterranean Sea. Because of our altitude, we could always see the sea, so in case we lost the road, we were always able to fly directly over the mountains to the sea.
But what was important about this flight? I think that’s more or less clear. The sharpness and precision of all the roads, rivers, lakes, villages, towns and many other things and the accurate and realistic view of the mountains. All together it was awesome to fly this stretch.
Sub conclusion; apart of the awesome C150 L Commuter, I have a great feeling about the quality of this photorealistic scenery. The only negative part is or could be, the price. The current offer of the Base and Autogen bundle is good and a reasonable price, but when you want to add the latest FlightRiviera product to it, then another €24.90 ($35.00) is disappearing out of your pocket.
Last but not least, or see it more as a gift, since the FSX patch and FlightRiviera software doesn’t offer anything better than FS9. Find below some screenshots taken in FSX with only the Base and Autogen packages installed. Don’t expect too much. Since both have 4.7m/pixels, the produced photorealistic scenery is or should be the same. One thing to keep in mind when installing the FSX patch; this time you need to enter the base pack manually into the Scenery Library. Not like the FS9 version, where this was done automatically. Apart from that, just follow the provided text file with the FSX patch and off you go.
Riviera JetSet package (FS9 impression)
Since the Base and Autogen package have been on the market for a while, the question regarding the new JetSet package comes automatically … what is the use and impact of this small piece of software. I thought it would be a good idea to check what it’s really doing by simply comparing the standard package with the JetSet package.
I have to make one remark; since I received the bundle software (Base and Autogen package), I can’t check the different between a pure base pack installation with or without the JetSet package. One thing I can tell you already about the JetSet package, it’s worth your money since it not only offers modified or additional landmarks, but it also offers a fully equipped LFMN (Nice/ Cote d’Azur) airport as well as other airports, but the impact of LFMN is the most important one.
First it’s time to look at the following screenshots. These first show you four pictures consisting of the Base + Autogen + JetSet Packages and then four without the JetSet package. I think, no comment is needed.
Good, that was the first culture shock or is it scenery shock, but this is not all. Watch and see what’s also missing when you don’t buy the JetSet package. The following set of four screenshots cover Nice and Monaco. By the way, these screenshots – with/without JetSet package – should give you a good idea what is missing when you don’t have the JetSet package. Other places within the base pack are also modified with the same idea; modified buildings, landmarks, airports and others.
between conclusion; the France VFR Flight Riviera
JetSet package does offer a great change in the
Where ends the real virtual world?
This sub chapter is more or less always the same and unfortunately, when you’re used to flying with photo-realistic scenery add-ons, life is very hard when reaching the border. The border where the normal default FS2004 starts and the France VFR Riviera ends, that is. Let’s first have a look at the following pictures I made at every corner of France VFR's Riviera software.
Google, satellite or MSFS?
What’s next; comparing the photo quality of France VFR Riviera with Google or satellite pictures? According to the France VFR website the created quality is based on satellite pictures, so why should I compare it then with Google? No, this time there's no comparison since the quality at around 12.000 to 13.000 feet is of such a high level that you start wondering if you’re looking at MSFS pictures or Google Earth. Have a look at the following four pictures and then judge for yourself.
About the details; The scenery has an FS9 pixel quality of 4.7 m/pixel. Since the FSX patch is only to make it compatible with FSX, the meters/pixel is thus the same, so no higher standard available here. Consulting France VFR resulted in the following answer: “all the products are on the way to be rebuilt in a 2.4 m/pixel resolution with 0.5m/pixel on the airports areas, but because of the structure of my products, it should be a long work.”
So, good news but we need to wait for that. By the way, the FSX patch for the FlightRiviera JetSet is expected to be released the second half of March.
Special gift…..YouTube FLIGHTRiviera movies
To give it a little more power, I’ve decided to add some YouTube movies. I hope that the four movies below will give you a good idea what this product looks like.
1. LFMN, Nice and surrounding beach.
2. Cannes and surrounding area.
3. Monaco and Monte Carlo and area.
4. The eastern mountains of the French Riviera.
Summary / Closing Remarks
How many words shall I spend here; too many or could I put it into one
Yes, I can ……. “awesome”.
Ok, about the software. Looking back to the beginning, you need the base pack as a minimum. This can be extended with either the AutogenPack and/or the JetSet pack, but what is the JetSet pack really doing. The JetSet creates more special buildings or landmarks or interesting places including detailed airport buildings like at LFMN (Nice) but also smaller ones like LFMD (Cannes/Mandelieu).
Detailed information about all the JetSet items can be found on the dedicated France VFR FlightRiviera JetSet website. What does it all cost and what do you get?
The bundled package, which contains the BasePack and Autogen pack cost you €34.90 (˜ $49.00), while you can add the JetSet package to this. This package costs you another €24.90 (˜ $35.00). According to the France VFR website, you can – if you want to use only the JetSet package – also buy the standalone BasePack with the JetSet and forget the Autogen Pack.
Personally I would say based on previous experiences with the Oriental Pyrenees software from France VFR, always buy the Autogen package since the JetSet pack modifies lots of things along the coastline like cities such as Cannes, Nice, Monaco and large airports as LFMN and LFMD, but no villages or towns in the main land. What I want to say is, the JetSet modifies things that were not created by the Autogen package, so it adds a lot of nice, beautiful things.With this last statement it also means that buying the France VFR FlightRiviera bundle and JetSet packages, you need to pay €59.80 (˜ $84.50) and although it looks great, it’s a lot of money.
Ok, you get the FSX version free of charge, but the FSX version is currently no more then a patch and it’s no more then 4.7m/pixels. Comparing this with the MegaSceneryX Dallas/Fort Worth product, for example, that one offers not only a FSX version (1.19m/pixel – 21.000km2) but also the FS9 version (4.8m/pixel – 10.000km2) free of charge and that's for €18.40 (˜ $29.95). Oops, that’s a huge difference, but on the other hand there’s no other vendor who makes photorealistic scenery of France. I checked it several times, but I couldn’t find any competitors, so in that way France VFR has a monopoly position.
A small word about the FPS (frame impact); I hardly noticed any impact. There probably is but I can’t see it. So flying this wonderful scenery is fun and it even becomes more fun when you fly cross-country VFR flights. Flying IFR is less interesting but still possible.
What more can I add to this? I think that almost everything has been explained in detail; it's a high quality product where navigation can be done with an official ICAO chart, but also with Michelin auto route charts. You can do it with your paper version of the Michelin charts at home, like I have, or you can simply download these for free from the Internet via this Michelin link or you can use Mappy.
What I Like About French Riviera or Cote d'Azur
What I Don't Like About French Riviera or Cote d'Azur
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