Salutations et bienvenue à la revue de Nantes Atlantique pour AVSIM. Did that just make me sound all exotic and well travelled? With the places I’ve been throughout the FSX world over the last year I feel well travelled, as for speaking French well that’s nothing Yahoo Babel fish can’t help me with. I thought it would be a nice way to open this review, a tipping of the hat if you like for our friends in France and particularly the team at France VFR who’s latest release, Nantes Atlantique, I have been exploring for the last few weeks.
Nantes Atlantique (ICAO LFRS) is a medium size regional airport in the west of France. Serviced by one 2900m runway operating on 03/21, it has a modern terminal facility, GA parking and general ramp parking. Situated close to the nearby city of, wait for it, Nantes, the airport currently serves around 3 million passengers a year. One of its claims to fame is the location of the Airbus production facility just across the road from the airport. Here all of the center wing boxes for the entire Airbus range are manufactured. The Nantes plant is also leading the development of composite components for the A350XWB and A380.
France VFR have a number of sceneries under their belt for both FS2004 and FSX. This was my first time looking at their work so I was looking forward to seeing what they had to offer.
Installation et documentation
I reviewed the download version of Nantes, which is a healthy 371MB. Installation as you would expect is automated only requiring me to confirm the location of my FSX install. Once complete the actual files populated my Add-on Scenery folder taking up 388MB for the scenery and another 3 MB or so for the documentation that was placed in its own folder in the FSX main directory.
The documentation itself comes in the form of a manual in separate English and French PDF files along with several charts. While brief, the manual does focus on FSX settings to help the user achieve the best results by providing recommended settings, I personally had everything maxed out as I tend to do and depending on my in sim experience, I will then tweak. In this case I didn’t need to but we will come to that.
Including the charts, I thought these were all very good and I particularly liked the helicopter operations chart. I hadn’t seen this type of thing included in other sceneries so it was a good inclusion and my only gripe here is they are in French. While I appreciate the target audience for the scenery would most likely be simmers in France, I enjoy flying across the European continent. Some consideration for non-French speaking simmers would have been appreciated.
Le kiwi rencontre Nantes Atlantique
For Nantes I decided I didn’t want to take the normal spawn at the gate and explore via the slew approach to the scenery. Given an area of 42 square km’s of photoreal scenery has been included around the airport, I decided to fly it properly. I selected Just Flight’s 757 Captain as my aircraft of choice because 1 - this would give me a good opportunity to test the ILS approach and 2 - being detailed, it would give me a good indication of the FPS performance of the airport in FSX. I also selected inclement weather with a cloud base which is also a good way to slow things down in FSX, if indeed that’s what happens.
Flight 784 from Zurich to Nantes Atlantique was running 15 minutes late when we finally pushed back. The flight across Europe was pleasant enough but those clouds looming over France didn’t look appealing. In this case looks can be deceiving and they were more bark than bite with only mild turbulence as we made our approach. The 42 square km’s of photoreal scenery became quite obvious as we followed the ILS down to runway 21, which was taking us nicely down the centerline of the runway. I wasn’t able to admire the approach lighting for long as we got caught in a sudden gust and aborted landing number one.
Applying power we declared a go around and would have to join the right hand pattern to try again, all the while admiring the photoreal scenery and getting my first decent look at the airport and its surrounds. At first look it was clear there were a lot of purpose built scenery items such as the terminal facilities, a unique tower and the Airbus factory prominent on the landscape.
Performance wise, I had been so engrossed in the approach and subsequent go around that I hadn’t noticed the FPS. I didn’t notice any lag or system issues that interrupted the flow which is a pretty good indication that Nantes was frame rate friendly, especially given I was popping back and forth between the VC and external views and had AI traffic at around 50%.
My second approach was successful and we landed just over 30 minutes behind schedule. A pain for the passengers but not the crew, as this was an overnighter before the aircraft would fly out first thing in the morning. As I taxied to the gate, I had a look around and was suitably impressed with the level of detail in the scenery. The main terminal is purpose built and while it doesn’t comply with the FSX SDK, and I say that because it has no bump mapping or reflectivity so I am assuming this is the case, it looks great.
The resolution of the textures is not as high as some I have seen but they are effective, well colored and no doubt add to the performance. The gates are standard FSX default jetways but their placement is realistic as per their real world counterparts.
Nantes is a compact airport with GA facilities to the north, cargo and ATC tower to the south and what appears to be an old terminal next to a hangar on the other side of the airport to the west.
Beau jour, bienvenue vers Nantes Atlantique
For this review I planned to do three things; complete further approaches to test the ILS; have a good look at the facilities around the terminal and surrounding areas; and find some good locations to do some good old AI spotting.
Fortunately, the morning dawned fine with only a mild breeze from the north so ILS testing was my first activity. Given I was in France and Airbus was across the road, I thought it only ‘proper’ to use an Airbus A330 in Air France livery for my ILS test flights.
I situated myself south of Nantes flying on a 25 degree angle from the glide slope at 3000 feet. Like the 757, my A330 locked nicely around 15 miles out and I was happy to allow her to fly the first approach to 500 feet before pulling out and going around. For my second approach I was a bit higher, but once again the A330 captured and took me down for a gentle centerline touch and go before my final approach and landing. Once I was parked at the terminal it was time to take a closer look at the facilities.
Even thought Nantes Atlantique is a compact airport, plenty of scenery objects have been included to give it a full feeling. As I mentioned earlier, the terminal itself is purpose built and reflects its real would counterpart using photos for textures down to the huge advertisements on the terminal exterior. I was very impressed with the level of detail on the terminal roof and car park and around the gate areas.
The hallways leading to the departure gates are all made of glass and this has been modeled with a good use of transparency. I feel this always gives scenery depth as I really enjoy being able to get inside and look out to what’s going on in the virtual world ‘outside’. With some careful maneuvering, I was able to walk up and down the boarding area inside and look out. I found one glitch in this area at the western end; while the walls were transparent, the aircraft was not visible on the other side in this area. It was an anomaly as the rest of the ‘glass’ was fine.
The ramp area has plenty of static objects such as buses and service trucks and these are complimented by default FSX vehicles roaming around as well. Out the front of the terminal, additional parking can be found with more buses and cars populating the area. I noted the scenery does utilize levels of detail so items will appear the closer you get to them and it utilizes simpler versions of the item when you are at a distance.
Moving south from the terminal is a fairly busy area containing the airport control tower, the fire station with purpose built fire trucks, and a cargo area that is a combination of purpose built scenery and default FSX trucks and scenery objects which populates this area. Next to this is the fuel depot which has various default FSX fuel trucks parked at it.
Once again the objects are well made and in some cases have a very high degree of detail on them. This is particularly evident with the control tower. With its unique ‘H’ design, the tower stands high above the airfield offering excellent 360 views. If you enter the cab you’ll note it’s actually manned, which is a great attention to detail and I must say surprised me a little when I entered it.
North of this area the GA and additional ramp parking has some hangers and ground scenery items that complete the western area of the airfield. The last area I looked at inside the airport boundary was the old terminal and hanger on the eastern border. Now I say it’s a terminal but for all I know it could have been a control tower. Researching Nantes Atlantique, I was unable to find any details on either of these buildings so I was left wondering exactly what they were used for. Clearly Nantes has some history.
Au delà de la barrière d'aéroport
Beyond the airport fence to the north and east is an extensive area that covers a number of hotels and, of course, the sprawling Airbus factory that’s well worth an explore. All of these items are well detailed with a very large number of scenery items actually sitting on top of the photoreal base. From what I could see, all of the facilities have been modeled creating a very distinctive landmark. While the detail is high on these scenery items, the lack of FSX reflective and bump mapping was obvious on the glass surfaces.
For the amount of detail presented, I didn’t note any drop in performance, but as I always say that will vary from machine to machine. The focus on detail extends throughout the scenery with street lights along the roads and roads set up for traffic to flow around the facilities. What I really like about Nantes is that it captures an area not just of the airport itself. France VFR gets full marks for going the extra distance on this.
Taking the C172 up for a few circuits at about 600 feet gave me a good appreciation for the photoreal base. There are some interesting landmarks such as the quarry to the west and of course the Airbus factory to the east. Areas of water inside the photoreal area appear correct and the autogen has been worked on as well, so the wooded areas are filled and houses appear in the right places.
All of the scenery is night lit and I felt the effect VFR France has achieved with this is very good indeed. It’s moody without being glaring, so night operations are very easy on the eye and remained easy on performance as well. There are no seasonal textures to speak of, the photoreal scenery stays the same through all seasons.
There are plenty of locations for AI spotting around the airport and of course the roof car park provides great views of the ramp area. Nantes receives a considerable amount of traffic with a diverse range of airlines presented, but as you would expect, this is dominated by Air France. I spent a good amount of time flying return flights from Nantes to various other locations with Hannover and Zurich being two of the more frequent destinations, in various aircraft types from the default 737 through to the Level D 767.
I like to mix it up and fly different aircraft to get a better feel for sceneries and while obviously for a review, the idea is to give you, the reader, a view of what it’s like. In my mind, part of that is not just hanging around the airport all the time but actually flying to places from it and back to it again. In all the aircraft I used, Nantes performed well and has become a bit of a favorite destination when I’m flying in Europe.
Overall I really enjoyed Nantes Atlantique. It has a cozy, friendly feeling and that’s because it’s not a huge airport but it has lots of facilities and you can comfortable fly a twin engine heavy in and out if you wish. The overall level of detail is very high, both within and outside the airport’s grounds and the photoreal base it sits on completes the effect.
I would have liked to have seen a higher resolution base but only because I’m a detail freak, what is supplied works perfectly well particularly when you’re flying in the circuit or on approach. The mixture of purpose built and default FSX scenery items are interesting and the first time I have come across this in scenery. Part of me likes it because it means things like animated jetways are available for my aircraft, but I also wondered if not making them was just a way to make porting the scenery over to FSX easier with the lack of FSX details such as bump mapping and reflection. It suggests this is the case.
That’s not a criticism because it doesn’t detract from the scenery and in this case, the mixture actually works quite well and I would rather have the default jetways available than static ones. The complexity of some of the models, particularly the control tower, and attention to detail has led me to forgive the small things.
If you fly in this part of the world then I see no reason at all why you wouldn’t want to add this scenery to your collection.
What I Like About Nantes Atlantique
What I Don't Like About Nantes Atlantique
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