Everybody knows Aerosoft. Everybody also knows FlyTampa. Both of these have set a standard in scenery design that many people want to reach, but can’t. That’s not surprising: both of these scenery developers deliver stuff that is always looking great. FlyTampa’s Hong Kong is an unforgettable experience with top-notch frame rates. Aerosoft has also delivered many top quality European sceneries, and both these developers are still out there, delivering great goods for our enjoyment.
But sometimes, a name comes along that you do not know and at first you hardly pay any attention to it. I am now talking about LatinVFR: this rather small developer doesn’t have much scenery released as of yet, but they are always hard at work. As their name suggests, they focus on sceneries in Latin America, but they extend to the Caribbean and South America. For that I’m grateful: we don’t have that many sceneries for Latin America and South America, save for Brazil, which is filled with nice-looking airports thanks to the work of Tropicalsim.
In this review I’m going to look at one of the latest offerings of LatinVFR: Juana Azurduy De Padilla airport, Sucre, Bolivia. Sucre is the capital of Bolivia, yet its administrative seat is in La Paz, and I dare say that LatinVFR’s scenery is probably the only payware scenery for Bolivia. I like this. No, let me put it more strongly: I praise each developer that goes out there and captures real world airport in FS sceneries that would otherwise have been forgotten. So, for just working on this scenery, I already want to congratulate LatinVFR. It is important we get to see more of the world than just Europe and the USA.
Note: in this review I focus on the FS9 version. What I have seen from screenshots is that the FS9 version and FSX version are hardly different, and the difference seems to be mainly in the quality of the textures, and the addition of a static DC3 model in the FSX version. I did devote a special chapter to the FSX version where I have placed screenshots from the FSX version. That way you can get some idea of how the FSX version looks.
Oh, and by the way, I will not write down “Juana Azurduy De Padilla” every time. For readability sake, I will just say SLSU.
Why this airport?
So it’s great that LatinVFR took the trouble to model SLSU in FS, but what’s so special about this airport anyway? I mean, there’s a reason that so many European airport sceneries are being released: there is a demand for them, and that demand is rather big. Most of them serve well-known, big countries that thousands, if not millions, of people visit every year. But who on earth wants to fly to and from Bolivia?
I want you to think about the approaches and departures which were the most fun that you have done in FS or as a pilot in the real world. If I’d have to think about the approaches, I’d probably say Hong Kong Kai Tak (in FS of course, I’m no real world pilot). The difficult checkerboard approach, coupled with the sheer adrenaline rush I get from flying low and slow over those houses with a Boeing 747 is just great.
Beware of what is a “fun” approach and what is simply “a nice” approach. Forgive my nitpicking on this issue, but I want to be very clear on what I mean, because many approaches are just that: nice. They are not especially thrilling, not particularly difficult. They are simple nice.
There are some notable exceptions: Hong Kong Kai Tak and Innsbruck have some pretty interesting departures. These are certainly thrilling, each in their own right. But Sucre is very different. It simply is great fun. It’s fun in a way I have never really experienced, and so in comparison with Sucre, I tend to think of Innsbruck as “especially nice”.
Why is SLSU fun and Innsbruck “especially nice”? It’s because of the circumstances you are flying under. SLSU is unique because of various parameters. Here they are:
To me, that sounds like a recipe for disaster, and with that a recipe for hours of fun. The problems are clear:
It’s a challenge to get this right. And for those that think that this approach is difficult, consider departure: in that case, you can choose between a hill at one end or an abyss followed by a hill at the other end of the runway. So whatever happens, your plane will crash. The hill again poses a threat, because although you have a 9000 feet long runway, the high altitude lowers your engine’s thrust. Because of that, it takes significantly longer before you reach your rotating speed. Even if you get to it in time, my experience tells me that it doesn’t mean you will get to V2 on time. The only thing you can possibly do is fiddle with your flaps, otherwise you’re in for a short flight.
So, despite the challenge of operating to and from this airport, it is a bonus that the runway is so long. Most sloped runways we seem to have in FS9 are at airports where you can’t really land your airliner aircraft. Lukla, while very nice, can’t accommodate your Boeing 727-200. SLSU, however, can. (heck, just for fun I landed a 747-300 there. It took me multiple tries, but I got the plane down safe and sound, eventually).
This gives you the rare opportunity to operate airliners to and from an airport with some very unique aspects that you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere. To be clear, however: one by one, these aspects aren’t very unique. What makes this airport unique is the combination of all the aspects.
That is why SLSU was a good choice for a FS scenery add-on.
Installation and Documentation
Installation is simple. You get two zip files: one holding the actual scenery, the other holding a patch (apparently, some users reported objects mysteriously placed on the runway. I have seen no such problem, and so I didn’t install the patch. LatinVFR instructs you to only use the patch when you have this problem, and otherwise to refrain from using the patch).
Unzipping the scenery, I found an installer. Installation is quick and easy, although you should not forget to tell the installer your actual FS9 or FSX location. It defaults to the default installation patch, located in the Program Files folder. When that’s all done, though, installation is a matter of a click of a button, and then you wait to while the installer’s progress bar fills up. Note that the patch is not necessary for the FSX version. All is fine there.
After installation, you have to manually add the scenery to the FS9 or FSX scenery database, which is an operation most people should be familiar with. Otherwise, LatinVFR adds somewhat clear instructions on how to do this. Two PDF files are also installed with the scenery and these can be found in the installation’s location (defaults to Add-on Scenery/LatinVFR).
One PDF is a simple manual providing details of the airport and is a very nice introduction with some pretty pictures of the real thing. The other PDF provides you charts, for which I’m incredibly thankful. I wouldn’t have known where to otherwise get them, as Navigraph doesn’t offer charts of SLSU. The included charts are by Jepessen, and they look very good. They include all you need to successfully (try and) operate from this airport.
So far, I’m pleased with what I’m getting. Let’s go look at the scenery itself now. By the way, the procedures for SLSU are actually available in the AIRAC cycles Navigraph publishes. They just don’t seem to offer the actual charts.
There is one thing that puzzles me however: SLSU has various SIDs, but no STARs. Considering the place the airport has been built (on hilly land with lots of mountains), you’d think a STAR could really help making flying into this airport a lot safer. Still, there is no STAR. Why not? (Tip: I asked Ricardo Morillo, from LatinVFR, about this, and he gave me an explanation. Read it in the penultimate chapter).
The airport scenery
What exactly can we expect in this package? The manual says we get the airport, photo scenery for an area of 300 square kilometers and mesh scenery to complement both. Therefore, this is a complete scenery package that gives you all to enjoy this airport. First we’ll will look at the airport itself.
The airport is tiny. Truly tiny, as a matter of fact. There is one runway, a rather small terminal building, some small warehouses and a BP petrol station. There are no hangars, no big, glass, modern structures. There are even hardly any taxiways. It’s mainly a runway and an apron with some buildings, nothing more. The screenshots above show the entire terminal area of the airport to the left, and the right screenshot shows just the terminal building. Let’s dive in and look around.
First thing we encounter is the BP petrol station. It’s not very big, as can be seen. I quite like the detailing of it though. The texturing is rather sharp and looks pretty life like, although you might have already noticed that all sides of these two buildings are practically the same. This is because the same texture is used for all sides of these houses, which looks a bit weird.
The same fan on all sides of the house? That can’t be right. Then again, it’s not disturbing and I think one can easily live with it. One other thing I want to point out is the satellite underground used for the airport. You can see how it has been “cut” roughly where the car stands are. It’s not very neat and I’m not a fan of how this was done. That said, I have seen worse.
I have seen nicer cars than the one in this screenshot. This car looks like it has been involved in a traffic accident. The wheels particularly look strange. I should confess however, that from a distance it really didn’t look that bad. This is a sentiment I have with all the cars in this package: the closer you come, the worse they look. They simply look “muffled”, if you understand what I mean. I wouldn’t want to drive them.
The terminal itself isn’t very big, and it seems to me there are just three gates. I only see three doors through which the passengers could get onto the ramp. Considering the size of the terminal, three isn’t that small a number. I’d find it pretty surprising if at any moment there are actually three aircraft parked here! There are indeed three parking spots, but with only two daily flights and no flights at night, it seems to me that at every point in time either none or just one parking spot will be occupied.
The virtual version of the terminal looks good to me. I like the details, the texturing and the modeling of the building. It looks well done. Admittedly, it doesn’t seem that there are that many details on the building itself. There is a wealth of objects positioned on the ramp in the manner of air stairs, plants, people, luggage carts and various other things. All help to make the airport seem busier and livelier and all look well. I should mention the weird wheels of the trolleys and stairs and such. They have an elliptical form; I doubt rolling them over the ramp is easy!
I really like the looks of that control tower. There is quite a bit of 3D detail in there. So okay, it’s not an Aerosoft thing, but I do end up with very good frame rates because of that. From a greater distance (namely, standing on the ramp with a plane) you really don’t notice the imperfections and all you see is a nicely textured control tower with some hanging wires. These wires don’t seem to be connected to anything however. They just hang in the air, as you can see fairly well on the screenshot of the control tower.
final building on the ramp side of the airport is a warehouse.
I acknowledge there
isn’t much to say about it. The texturing
is nice, the modeling is nice. It looks good to me. I only want
to point out the fire trucks. It’s their wheels that are
weird: they are elliptical and it seems they’ve
miss a bit of the wheel.
The final bit of the terminal-related part of the airport is the back. Here we find a rather large car park, given the minute size of the airport, there’s a nice park with trees and the like and some objects of which I guess are statues or monuments. All in all it looks nice, but I’d like to point out the ground texture. It has an awfully high contrast, hence the very white roads and the blackness around the cars.
I wish the contrast would have been less, it would have made it look nicer. That said how often are you going to onto this car park? Indeed, hardly ever. You’ll see it from the air when flying around the airport and on approach. Even then, it won’t be as noticeable.
You can say many things about the textures found in this package. Some probably find it too blurry in some areas, while for others it’s just fine. What you can’t say is that the detail of the textures used for the apron, taxiways and runway is bad. They are very sharp and they look very good. Tiny cracks and holes are spread over the apron and give a wonderful sense of a used, South American airport. I truly like these textures.
I already told you about the sloping of the runways. Now you can see it for yourself. The first screenshot shows the end of runway 5: you can’t even see the other end of the runway. Now look at the other screenshot, showing the end of runway 23: if that’s not sloped and bumpy, then I’m an Opossum.
I actually tested it out: go stand on the sloped parts, release the brake, and your plane will move down the runway. Why is that great? Because it means FS simulates the effects of gravity: standing on a sloped runway actually makes your aircraft roll down the runway.
So how did they do it? See the third screenshot: the runway is actually built up of pieces stuck together above the mesh. So, the runway isn’t placed directly on the mesh, like would normally happen, but it hangs in the air. This is also the reason AI won’t be able to operate from this airport in FS9. They are not compatible with this sort of thing.
In FSX they are sort of compatible in that they can land and takeoff, but they’ll do all that in the air. So when they takeoff, you’ll notice that on some parts of the runway they will be hanging in midair.
It’s a pity that this workaround to sloping runways is visible. When taxiing on the runway, you can see these lines along and over the runway. These lines are there because a new “piece of runway” starts there. It’s a pity that these are so clearly visible, but then again, it’s something I’d have much rather have than having no sloped runway at all, since the sloped runway add so much to the airport.
Also look at the last screenshot of the series: the runway markings don’t align properly with the rest of the runway textures. The tiles the rest of the runway seems to be made up as they don’t match the tiles as presented under the runway markings.
The last thing I want to point out is the fence around the airport. It is positioned weirdly, certainly where the mesh is a bit bumpy. On these places, you’ll see piece of fence not aligned properly. That said I wouldn’t know exactly how to resolve it…
Let me tell you about one more thing concerning the airport: after installing this airport, you’ll find both SLSU and SLSV in your airport database, yet they signify the same airport. Why is that? It’s because of the sloped runway. SLSV is there for gate assignment.
you want to start
at an actual
you choose SLSU,
always start at the holding point for runway 5.
If you want to make a flight plan to Sucre, however,
this is the official code of the airport.
So far so good. Now let’s take a look at the surroundings. We’ll use the default Bell Jet Ranger to that end. I’m not going to do this in the way I did it previously: I’ll only show screenshots and the descriptions will hold everything I want to say about that screenshot. There won’t be separate paragraphs like in the previous chapter.
The FSX Version, what to expect
As I said, this review is not about the FSX version. I don’t have FSX presently installed and so I do not dare to do an actual review about it. All in all, the scenery isn’t that different from the FS9 version, but I still wanted to show some screenshots of the photo scenery which is definitely a lot better in FSX (screenshots taken from the LatinVFR website).
You can look at many more screenshots at the LatinVFR website.
Flying in and out of SLSU
I have already talked at great length about why operating to and from SLSU is a challenge. Now I am going to show what to expect. I have tried this takeoff and landing in the default C172, the Aerosim 737-200ADV and the Qualitywings 757-200. By means of screenshots and their descriptions I will show you a takeoff and landing utilizing the Aerosim 737-200.
It has taken me some time to understand what flap settings and thrust setting are advisable, but once you have figured it out, you’ll know what to do on most planes that you want to fly in or out of SLSU.
Please note that I will try at great length not to spoil anything for you, so you can try various flap and thrust combinations for yourself. Screenshots can be a source of spoilers however, so beware.
I hope to have given some impression of what it’s like to fly around this place. Let me point out some things especially:
The way the sloped runway was made works well overall. I noticed
however, that at the turning point there is a tiny piece that doesn’t
fit onto the runway precisely as should be the case. As it is now
when your turn the plane drops a foot or so despite the fact that
it should all be at the same height at that point. That should
probably be corrected.
I also tried all of this with the Qualitywings 757, of which I have some screenshots for you at takeoff. Note that Aerosur doesn’t actually fly into SLSU using a 757.
This concludes the 757 bit. If you want to try this with the C172, please remember one thing: crank up the throttle or your engine will cut out. For the sake of experience however, it might be nice just to try it once: just load your plane and wait. After a second or so, the engine will simply stop and it’ll be very silent suddenly. When that happened to me, I felt completely useless. Simply try it out, it’s funny.
I said in one of the opening paragraphs that I did this approach with a Boeing 747, remember? Well, I decided to make a video of that. In all honesty, this is such a case where a picture says a thousand words, but a video “shows a thousand pictures”. I hope you like it!
Performance and AES
I can be very quick about this: the scenery will not be made compatible with AES. The manual explains why:
“ We won’t seek AES implementation because the airport is extremely small, no need for pushback truck, no jetways no need for a follow me truck and also the runway is sloped which hinders any chance of having it compatible.”
I personally find this a pity. I believe every word of what they say, but I still wonder if the moving air stairs and such couldn’t have been included. That would have made the airport even nicer. Pushback and such would indeed be unnecessary, which begs the question if we can get AES without these functions implemented. I won’t pretend to know what can and cannot be done, though. We’ll just have to live without AES, which is very well possible and isn’t needed so much to enjoy this airport.
I can be very quick about performance too: With all planes I tried, performance was great. The scenery clearly is very FPS friendly! You can check the FPS rate I had at most screenshots because I included the FPS almost everywhere. In short: with my FPS locked at 20, I never came under the 20FPS. Probably it was a lot higher than that, but rest assured that those with a better computer can have great FPS here without any problem.
An interview with Ricardo of LatinVFR
Whenever an add-on sparks my special interest, I tend to have a small interview with the developer. This scenery is such an add-on. What makes it special to me are the characteristics and location of the scenery that together makes it something that until now was, I dare to say, unseen in our FS world. I think the interview brought some interesting answers to light and I hope you find it as interesting as I did.
Why did you decide to do this
How hard was it exactly do
to this scenery? It has some
the sloped runway)
they were easy to do...
One thing I would have wished,
is that the area covered by the photorealistic
is the reason you stayed with the
size of covered
area and didn't
it even bigger?
So actually, the photorealistic
part is but a very small part of
the covered terrain,
much further, right? is that what
the 300 square kilometers refers
Do you plan on making more
Bolivian airports? For exmaple,
(SLVR) would be great.
SLSU has various SIDs, but
no STARs. Considering the
mountains, you'd think
having a STAR
would be beneficial for heightened
safety when operating into
this airport. Could you think
reason why there
are no STARs for this airport?
And this concludes this chapter. I would like to sincerely thank Ricardo Morillo for providing me with these interesting answers. It is good news that at least La Paz is worked on (in the near future, if I may conclude that from his answer).
Summary / Closing Remarks
It’s that moment again, when the review is almost finished and I have to tell you whether this scenery deserves a place in your library or not. Sometimes I dread this chapter of the review, but this time I do not.
The scenery gives you a nicely detailed airport with some unique characters that you’ll hardly find in our FS World, like the geographic (and cultural) location, the sloped runway and the lack of ILS. Together with that we get some nice mesh and photo scenery to complement the airport scenery and provide a very nice visual experience on approach to this airport.
In every one of these departments there is some room for improvement, but honestly, that’s something that is true for lots of scenery packages on the market. Ultimately, what you get here is a visually pleasing package with low FPS impact that can provide you with a lot of fun. And you know what’s best? This scenery is, given the stuff you get, very inexpensive. It’s around 16 Euros. And for that you get both FS9 and FSX versions.
So, in short, I truly recommend this airport. It looks good, it’s extremely entertaining and fun to operate in and out of and it’s easy on the wallet.
What I Like About The Sucre
What I Don't Like About The Sucre
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