Nice Côte d'Azur Airport (pronounced ‘niece’ as opposed to ‘nice’) is France’s second busiest airport located on the Mediterranean coast in the south of France. Nice (IATA: NCE ICAO LFMN) is also located close to Monaco, who has adopted it as that city-states airport and as a result, are responsible for the extensive helicopter traffic that goes back and forth between the two countries.
With two runways (04L/22R – 8432ft and 04R/22L – 9711ft) Nice can comfortably handle 50 movements an hour and has the capacity to handle 13 million passengers a year using two terminals, though it has yet to record numbers this high. A wide range of airlines, close to 35 in fact deliver and uplift passengers from Nice, which is a popular holiday destination given it averages 300 days of sun a year. A dedicated cargo ramp can handle 50,000 tons of freight a year and it’s not uncommon to see 747 aircraft disgorging anything from bread to a Ferrari onto the Nice ramp.
Nice started life around 1913 as an aero club on an area of grassed land next to the sea. Development proper began in the 1940’s and 50’s when a single hard surface runway was built and this gradually evolved through the 60’s to cater to larger and faster aircraft. In the late sixties Nice operated two runways which were actually sitting on a slightly different angle than the current runways, but the second was a lot shorter than the primary runway. It wasn’t until the 1970’s when land was reclaimed did the airport begin to take on its larger and final form as it is seen today. Because of its close proximity to the city of Nice, pilots must observe special noise abatement procedures when flying in and out of the airport. Match this with turbulent air coming of the nearby mountains and sea and Nice could be regarded as a pilot’s dream, or worst nightmare.
When I embarked on this review, the initial release had some serious issues with texture flickering and for me made the airport almost unusable. It appeared these issues were limited to users who had Nvidia graphic cards but after much gnashing of teeth, hair pulling and two releases later, it seems most, if not all, the flickering has been resolved, at least it has on this reviewer’s machine. The question I am left with, now the dust has settled, is why? I own many Aerosoft releases and had never encountered this issue before, so when the initial suggestions were made on the support forum that it could be drivers or people should reinstall FSX to resolve the issue, I was not overly impressed.
At the end of the day, the support given by Aerosoft and the developer himself were second to none once they understood the flickering was a genuine issue. The final release at the time of this review, 1.02, incorporates several changes to the base release that not only dealt with the flicker but also improved performance. So, well done Aerosoft for excellent customer support, other developers need to follow your example.
Installation and Documentation
Nice is available from Aerosoft as a download product and comes as a 200 MB self installer. At this stage there is no indication a boxed equivalent will become available. Like all Aerosoft products, there is a front end process for activating the scenery to enable the install process to then complete. All up, the process took no more than 5 minutes for the installer to gobble up 450MB of hard drive space, adding the Nice Cote d’Azur X folder to others that already sit in a dedicated Aerosoft folder in the main FSX directory.
As usual, the scenery config is updated automatically so you are set to go as soon as you load FSX. Along with the scenery, extensive documentation is also supplied. This includes a manual that outlines the sceneries compatibility with other products such as FS-Global X and three pages of recommended settings for FSX to maximize the user’s enjoyment. Like all scenery in FSX these settings need to be dictated by your system specs and your own experience, but a dual core processor and 2 gig of ram is recommended.
The manual is accompanied by five detailed charts that cover both aircraft and helicopter operations, including IFR and VFR flying. These are great resources and it’s a real plus they are included rather than having to find them yourself and certainly make for realistic operations in whatever mode of flight you choose. The final item installed is a Mip Map tool that allows users to add mip maps when they encounter the fuzziness mentioned earlier. So, installation really was a breeze and the added touch of charts etc, is always welcome and shows polish in my view.
Laisse la mouche loin à Nice (Lets fly away to Nice)
My first impressions of Nice were, and forgive the pun but you knew it would come sooner or later, that it was a very nice looking airport. It appears to me that Nice is a mixture of both classic and modern architecture that spreads across the expansive area it fills with a natural flow that doesn’t require airport charts to help you figure out where you are. The airport space is dominated by two large terminals and the control tower. Terminal 1 is the older of the two and has the tower situated at its end.
The terminal has 6 jetways and numerous ramp parks. The level of detail is very high with the Terminals distinctive angled roof captured perfectly. An example of the detail is along the front of the terminal, each door is labeled correctly rather than using a generic sign and this is on the side away from aircraft operations, so you have to go out of your way to see it but it’s there. Both terminals use glass extensively but I didn’t observe the use of reflective materials so while I am sure the scenery is SDK compliant, it looks like the developer has chosen not to implement some of the unique FSX features. If you use slew like I do to explore, you will find all sorts of places you can go that really highlight how much work has gone into the modeling of the buildings.
The jetways themselves on both terminals are very well detailed, particularly the staircases that lead to the ramp. I was disappointed that they have not been animated. When you consider most, if not all, good scenery produced for FSX these days they have animated jetways included, and most Aerosoft products have this. I have to wonder why they were not included. As it is, the only way you will see these animated is if you have AES.
On the topic of animation and Nice, I can sum it up by saying there isn’t any. Nothing in this scenery is animated and that includes the radar dishes. Given I know what Aerosoft have done with other sceneries in their product line, Mallorca comes to mind in particular, this was really disappointing. Now having said all this, I don’t consider the lack of animation to be a hill to die on because at the end of the day the scenery still stands up pretty well without it.
Leaving Terminal 1 behind, the ramp area leads to areas for fuel storage, warehousing and a dedicated cargo ramp that sits between the terminals. This area also has a few key landmarks with the radar tower and cargo buildings.
The quality of the scenery items remains high across all these areas and attention has been paid to the details, right down to the large ‘Rock man’ (my name for it) that sits in the middle of a round-about near one of the entrances. Moving further around we arrive at Terminal 2. This is an impressive building providing 12 jetways and has a complete glass wall structure providing a full 360 view of operations across the airport. Architecturally this is very striking and I’m pleased to say the glass walls allow a look inside the terminal building, and of course a good view out at the ramp operations around it if you are in slew mode.
Large car park facilities and additional cargo ramps complete this side of the airport itself however there are numerous other scenery items beyond the airport boundary, such as hotels, that add greater realism and detail. The road outside Terminal 1 is a busy highway so if you have traffic turned on you will see traffic moving back and forth.
The Nice ramp area has plenty of static scenery items such as buses, push back tugs, vans, cars and the other kinds of paraphernalia you would expect to find at any large airport. In the middle of the ramp area are a number of aircraft parks and plenty of blast fences, and sitting here is the red airport fire services building. On the seaward side of the airport across both runways sits the helipad area. With 14 pads available, Nice caters well to the elite clientele that use Nice as a stop off point on the way to the city itself or near-by Monte-Carlo.
Nice sits atop hi-resolution photo’s which cover the airport and surrounds. The textures themselves provide a good deal of detail and create a very realistic environment. I particularly liked the effect achieved with the taxiway and runway textures that also have signs and 3D lights across them. For those wanting to fly precision approaches, Nice has fully operational ILS approaches and various other accurate real world navigational aids to assist you. The AFCAD file included is very well done with all the gates and ramp parks utilized. Both runways operate and on a few occasions when I was flying ILS approaches, I shared the approach with an AI aircraft landing on the parallel runway.
While Nice is an attractive airport during the day, it’s at night that I personally enjoyed flying in, out and around this airport the most. Nice has some of the best, realistic and most effective night lighting I have seen and with bloom effects turned on, the effect was enhanced further.
All of the 3D lights on the runway have a wonderful glow to them as do the pole mounted lights spread out across the airport. Clearly considerable work has gone into getting the lights looking as good as they do across the airport and surrounds, buildings included.
Seasonally, Nice lives in the summer so the photoreal base textures are used all year round. So now the really important bit, performance. Overall, I found Nice to be FPS friendly. As you can see in the screenshots throughout this review, I choose to have plenty of AI aircraft and even with bloom turned on for the night effects, Nice held up well and I was impressed with this given the level of detail that has been included.
I used several default aircraft along with the Captain Sim 767 and while I did experience variations in my frame count I didn’t experience any moments when it became sluggish or unflyable.
It’s pretty evident that LOD modeling has been used extensively to assist with this. I’m reasonably confident that Nice will run well on your average FSX machine. If you get good FPS across detailed default FSX scenery then you should have no worries with Nice. As always, adjusting your settings is always going to be the name of the game to maximize performance, but Nice is by no means a FPS drain.
Once the initial issues with Nice were resolved, I now feel Aerosoft has added another excellent airport scenery add-on to their collection that performs well. If anything, Europe has been ‘Aerosofted’ with connecting points across much of the continent now available.
The lack of animation, even the simple radar dish was personally disappointing because I really enjoy that level of detail. In my view, it’s an obvious emission by today’s standards but as a complete package I’m actually pretty impressed by Nice. From the included charts to the fantastic night lighting and detailed buildings, there is a lot to like about Nice and plenty to explore around the airport and beyond the perimeter fence as well, if you choose to spend the time.
What I Like About Nice
What I Don't Like About Nice
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