Menorca X is the third individual release in the Balearic Islands series developed by Sim-Wings for Aerosoft. As individual downloads they are quite large so it’s great to see all three are now available in a box set called Balearic Islands X. A single download is also available. I was fortunate enough to review the initial release that featured the larger island of Mallorca last year so I was eagerly anticipating the chance to return to this amazing summer locale and look around this smaller eastward lying island that forms part of the Balearic island group.
While this release once again covers the entire island with high resolution photo real textures it is the airports themselves, of which there are two, which I am particularly interested in. The first and larger of the two is Menorca Airport (IATA: MAH, ICAO: LEMH) also known as Minorca, the other, Mahón Airport. Opened in March 1969 Menorca operates a single 8500ft runway on 01L/19R. A second runway is now closed but the remnants of the approach lighting are still visible. In the last 12 months Menorca Airport handled close to 2.5 million passengers and is served by most major European carriers, though this number expands considerably with charter airlines during summer.
To the south is San Luis Aerodrome (ICAO: LESL) that was built in the 1920’s. This aerodrome has an extraordinarily long runway for an airport its size, coming in at just over 6000 feet and has some real history around it as it saw service in a military sense during both the Spanish civil war and WWII. Today it is the home of the Royal Mahon Flying Club.
The island of Menorca itself is just under 650 sq km with its highest point being only 358 meters. With a regular population of just under 90,000 that explodes during summer, Menorca does have a rich history with evidence of human inhabitants occupying the area that date back to pre-historic man. I think it’s very cool that a spot our ancestors may have stood gnawing on a tree root and gazing out across the ocean may well be the same spot travelers today do the same thing munching on a chocolate bar. Menorca X here we come or as the locals might say, “Menorca X aquí llegamos”.
Installation and Documentation
I am yet to have an issue with installing any Aerosoft product and given I have reviewed a number of them these past few months, Menorca X was business as usual. For this review it is the download version I am looking at and this is just over 1GB and took roughly 30 minutes to download.
Once installed, which took a few minutes, the scenery populates 1,100Mb of HD space installing a couple of folders with one dealing with the island scenery and the other the airports. As with other Aerosoft releases, a manual is included as is the AES Lite configurator to turn airport and surround traffic on and off.
The manual covered what I needed to know regarding the software and while charts were not included either in the manual or as separate files, a link is provided for a site where these can be obtained free of charge. Some important settings regarding mesh and texture resolution are highlighted in the manual so it is worth checking these out to ensure the scenery displays properly in FSX.
Menorca X is three sceneries in one featuring the complete island itself and the two airports located at the eastern end. Like the two previous releases in the Balearic island series, sim-wings have used 0.5m/pixel resolution as the base allowing for excellent clarity. On top of this are the two airports that have been built in high detail and then autogen has been added to the rest of the island leaving you with a highly detailed and accurate representation of the real-world equivalent. What’s more impressive, from my point of view, is the performance that comes with it. This always catches me out because I typically associate detail and autogen with a FPS hit, but if anything Menorca X has the opposite effect. For the majority of this review I set all of my FSX sliders to max and it was only when I turned bloom on did I notice a real hit to my FPS and this was only while at Menorca Airport itself.
For my initial look-see at the scenery I departed from Mallorca and set myself up for an ILS approach on runway 01. With real world weather applied it was a fairly gloomy day, so my approach towards the island didn’t afford much view, although I did get some tantalizing glimpses through clouds before I broke through. Once established, the approach was pretty standard though I did note strong winds.
The photo real was immediately obvious and the level of detail quite striking as I crossed the coastline. I was able to site boats moored offshore; these are interestingly right below the flight path so you can’t miss them. As I mentioned earlier performance was smooth because at this stage my autogen was pegged back to normal and water was at the mid range so I was very happy with the 30-35 FPS I was getting.
Touchdown and taxi made it immediately apparent the scenery detail was very high and as I approached the terminal building and saw all of the reflective glass fronting on it, it was clear the FSX SDK was fully employed. At the gate the safe dock automatically identified I was in a 737-800 and effectively guided me to my parking position. Then the litmus test, would the jetway animate? YES, high 5! I had arrived and was suitably impressed from the get go on what I had seen.
The Ramp and Terminal
The terminal and areas either side that make up the Menorca ramp are a bustling hive of activity primarily thanks to AES Lite which adds fuel trucks, vans, baggage carts and other vehicle types that drive on set loops around the airport. The terminal building has seven gates with 6 of these having animated jetways available to the aircraft. Each has a safe dock system that as mentioned identifies what aircraft you are flying and adapts its guidance based on that. Additional ramp parking is located close to the taxiway and this is where prop-jobs and regional jets tend to park.
The majority of the building uses glass so expect lots of reflective surfaces and I was impressed with the 3D Menorca sign on the terminal rather than just a texture. It’s a lovely shaped building reminiscent of an aircraft wing and has been modeled extremely well. There are lots of static scenery items along the front beneath each gate such as tugs along with ramp lighting lamp posts. A good example of the accuracy of the scenery can be seen in the detail on the photo real base where the light posts have cast a shadow on the photo textures and how the 3D lamp posts are perfectly placed to take advantage of these shadows.
To the north of the terminal is a cargo ramp and catering building with dozens of static scenery objects located around here. A security entrance point is also located here with the gates handily wide open for you to drive in and out. Further north again is a fire practice area with a suitably burnt out mock airplane and a fire truck.
To the south of the main terminal the area is dominated by the control tower. This is an impressive beast that is extremely detailed and notable for its exterior circled stairway that leads to the top. Next door is the first of two fire stations with what is a unique shaped water tower. Beyond this are more parking spaces for ramp vehicles and around the corner, fire station number 2. The areas not sitting on the ramp such as the control tower are placed directly on the photo real base, so good is the quality and clarity of these textures. I was very impressed with the quality and quantity of scenery displayed and will mention once again the good performance I experienced, even in these highly populated parts of the airport.
An AFCAD file is supplied with the scenery and while I didn’t find the airport to be particularly busy, there were pockets around dusk where a number of 737’s and A320’s came and went. Through the day the primary aircraft type I observed was the Q300 and these utilized the ramp parking opposite the terminal building. Overall the AFCAD worked well and the limited traffic would be more to do with my software than the scenery.
Taxi for Takeoff
The taxiways and runway itself are very detailed with signs, 3D edge lighting and taxiway markings clearly defined. You’ll find oil smears and other marks around the place adding depth and realism. Off to the side of the runway at both ends are located the navigation equipment which consist of a few huts accurately located on the photo textures along with antenna, PAPI lights, animated windsock with animated wind speed cups on top and transmissometers.
The level of detail on the taxiways is very high particularly at the ends where I could see the remains of the approaches for the two closed runways. These now have large X’s marked to ensure they don’t get used. Approach lights are a feature at both ends with the lights included on fully modeled bases rather than flat textures. All the signs and ground markings are particularly clear which suggests to me sim-wings have combined photo real textures with an AFCAD overlay to achieve the final effect. All the appropriate navigational aids are included allowing full ILS approaches on both runways.
Beyond the Ramp
The rest of the airport grounds are made up of three primary areas with all of the buildings and other scenery items placed directly on the photo real base. Directly behind the terminal is the upper drop-off area along with the tourist bus parks to your right as you walk from the terminal, here you’ll find a sprinkling of static scenery items complimenting the scenery. Down a level is the large ground floor parking area suitably detailed with pay machines and exits with barrier arms, this also has cars parked throughout it.
To the right of the raised roadway that loops around the entire facility is additional parking for what appears to be staff and also rental cars and this is accessed by an under road walkway that is fully modeled. Behind this is an area of communication aerials are based along with their support buildings and then further along the road is a rather busy petrol station. Further around is one of the local watering holes cleverly disguised as a restaurant but I imagine more than a few flight crews debrief over a few cold orange juices during the summer months.
On the road leading out of the airport is a large CLH fuel tank farm with various support buildings and static vehicles. The roads leading to and from the airport are an intricate labyrinth with roads leading up, over and under allowing cars to drive complete loops. As you approach the airport and if you go straight ahead, you are led down to the ground level to the departure drops-off point. Along this same stretch of road are various access points to cargo and catering, all with nicely detailed fencing around them.
The fences around the airport are an excellent example of the attention to detail that has gone into the scenery as they all meet up so you don’t get strange gaps around the place. The raised road isn’t hardened so you can’t drive around per se but the detailing is very impressive and with the traffic turned on, I got a real sense of airport bustle.
All of the scenery items are constructed to a very high degree of detail and like the rest of the scenery, utilizes photos for textures without performance being affected. I was particularly impressed with the clarity of the signs for parking, cargo and the main road to Mahon along with the light poles included right around this area. With traffic via AES Lite activated and the large number of static vehicles ranging from buses to vans and trucks, it makes for a busy area both day and night that in my view begs to be explored and appreciated for its depth of detail.
Small is Beautiful
San Luis Aerodrome (LESL) located to the south of Menorca Airport is a great little airport ideal to operate choppers, GA aircraft or even glider flights. The airport buildings, which feature a large hangar, tower and ‘terminal’ along with several smaller hangars, are all well modeled with excellent detail.
Like Menorca, photos are used as textures and provide enough clarity to easily read signs on the buildings. The ramp area itself is small to the point a 737 would effectively shut out any other aircraft, but with a 6000 foot runway 767 operations are quite feasible in terms of runway length and width. However it may be a little more problematic when it comes to FOD, and with very small turning circles at either end it makes for interesting navigation once landed, but trying is half the fun! San Luis doesn’t have any navigational aids as such relying on VFR conditions to be operational.
Beyond the airports lies a world waiting to be explored. With photo real textures Menorca is a VFR pilots dream with the clarity allowing you to see cars and road markings very clearly at very low altitude. I would go as far to say that after having spent many hours driving/flying around the island I would feel comfortable being able to get off a plane and finding my way to the city and other locations such is the clarity at this resolution.
I was very impressed with the coloring of the textures and unlike Mallorca, I didn’t see any areas that suffered discoloration or cloud coverage that led to a bleached look in a few areas. If anything, the textures appeared a little crisper on Menorca. I have already mentioned autogen placement, it’s clear lots of time has gone into this as buildings and trees sit nicely on top of the photo real base and in general are very well placed, though it’s fair to say not every building is included for good reason. The only noticeable ‘error’ (for want of a better word) I found was on the main road out of the airport, it seems trees have sprouted in the middle of the road, something the local authorities might want to look at.
The highest point on the island is Monte Toro and here you will find another scenery item featuring the church and statue of Jesus. This is a good place to get a good feel for the island and the surrounds and it also gives you a good appreciation for the size of the island. Menorca Airport is located near the main city of the island and here a ferry terminal is located. While the building itself isn’t included, the animated ferry that travels to and from the island makes its way around the island to berth here before departing once again.
Menorca Lit Up
At dawn, dusk and night Menorca lights up and is bathed in a glow that brings the best out of this scenery. Both airports use night lighting to good effect in both the buildings and surrounding areas. With the AES Lite traffic, also featuring full lighting along with indicator lights, the parking area behind Menorca is particularly good.
On the ramp the pole mounted lighting is illuminated and the light splash across the ramp looks excellent. The approach lights at both ends come on at dusk and look great. The San Luis Aerodrome doesn’t have runway lighting so it’s a bit limited after dusk but with the ground textures having some light on them, it’s not impossible to land if you don’t have a choice or enjoy the challenge.
The rest of the island employs a similar approach taken at Mallorca and has what I refer to as the blob lighting effect. I actually like the effect this provides even though the lighting doesn’t necessarily marry up with the scenery below. In my view, it’s effective and looks good. Performance remains strong at night across the island which makes for fun visual flights after dark or around dusk and dawn when the lighting in the sky is at its most impressive.
Another quality release that completes the Balearic Islands series. If you are looking for hi resolution photo real scenery for FSX and haven’t dabbled with it up to now, you couldn’t go too far wrong with this scenery. It has the best of hi detail photo real airports with all the bells and whistles and then gives you 650 square kilometers of VFR flying.
If you are into ‘other’ modes of travel such as cars or boats, the scenery is sufficiently detailed enough to use these modes as well. I really recommend the complete set of islands, in themselves they provide a great part of the world to explore and hone your flying skills, whatever your aircraft of choice may be, either fixed or rotary wing.
Most importantly, Menorca X is a fun place to fly, drive or sail to the point I elected to conclude my visit by taking a ferry back to Mallorca rather than flying.
What I Like About Menorca X
What I Don't Like About Menorca X
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