AVSIM Commercial Scenery Review

Rio de Janeiro International Airport

Product Information
Publisher: TropicalSim
Description:  Rio de Janeiro Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport

Download Size:
19.7 MB

Simulation Type:
Reviewed by: Angelique van Campen AVSIM Staff Reviewer - August 4, 2007


TropicalSim are an enthusiastic group of two Brazilian scenery designers who are responsible for several Brazilian, Caribbean and North America airport sceneries. Their goal statement is “the sceneries must be extremely detailed and similar to the real thing, may not have impact on frame rates, must bring an enjoyable atmosphere when in use, and our support service has to be fast, effective and transparent for our customers. We do not reproduce adjacent and nearby areas, nor hotels, restaurants, resorts, cities and things like that. The target is just the airport!”

Rio de Janeiro, "River of January" (English) is a major city in southeastern Brazil and the capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro. The city was once the capital of Brazil (1763–1960) and of the Portuguese Empire (1808–1821). Commonly known as just Rio, the city is also nicknamed A Cidade Maravilhosa or the "The Marvelous City".

Some of the most famous details of this city are; its spectacular natural setting, its Carnival celebrations, samba and other music, the beaches and the giant statue of Jesus atop Corcovado Mountain. Since August 2004, with the transfer of many flights from Santos-Dumont Airport, Rio de Janeiro International Airport has returned to being the main doorway to Brazil.

Overview SBGL with Terminal 1 and 2
Courtesy of Airliners.Net

The airport complex also has Brazil’s longest runway at 4,240 meters, and one of South America’s largest and best equipped cargo logistics terminals. Besides linking Rio to the rest of Brazil with domestic flights, Galeão has connections to more than 18 countries. It can handle up to 15 million users a year in two passenger terminals.

Ok, that sounds not too bad and gives us a lot of hope, since some sceneries from others have a huge negative impact on our FS frame rates (FPS). While the TropicalSim designers are saying about themselves that hotels, restaurant etc. are not simulated, that’s up to the individual to like or dislike it.

For me personally, FPS are little more important then having too many things available around the airport. What is frustrating is approaching an airport and FPS start dropping with the result a slide show during your final approach and landing.


After downloading either the FS9 or FSX product and having the registration in your hands, it’s a simple and straightforward installation process.

Once finished, a window pops up with the last and important relevant information. It also includes how to manually activate the airport scenery. That sounds a little odd and strange to me, since adding a new scenery to the FS library could also be done automatically. For some, this procedure could only lead to misunderstanding and disappointment. Unfortunately it isn’t automatic , so we have to live with it.

How the installation process really looks like can be seen and followed by the different screenshots. For additional software updates/patches, I would like to bring the following to your attention. There are a few issues which are not working yet.

- - - - FS9 (FSX) installation windows - - - -
Start with the LH top picture, follow to the right and then one row down!

After e-mail contact with TropicalSim support, they promised me that the issue of the movable jetways in FSX and disappearing airport buildings in both FS9 and FSX while flying over the airport or approaching it, will be patched and will be available ASAP on their website. In other words, keep watching the site for this upcoming patch and future updates.


This will be a very short story! There is no documentation at all except for the FS9/FSX pop-up windows, as can be seen above.

Now, everybody worldwide starts to compare documentation or manuals with other scenery providers; what they offer and what they don’t offer. Generally speaking, a scenery can and will do it by itself. An introduction is not really needed, but probably some background information. Again, that’s up to the individual. Personally, I think for sceneries like these, there’s really not a need for documentation as nobody will look at it.

Although a possible manual is missing, what I really miss are airport, approach-, SID and STAR- and other related charts. Since it only covers one airport – SBGL – it couldn’t be that hard to collect some charts and add them to the download package. Since the airport is mainly for IFR flights, those charts are, in my opinion, a minimum requirement to have, or at least a link to where you can get those charts for free.

A Quick Look

A first impression under FSX shows me frame rates that really disappoint me, especially when I compare this scenery with FS9 FPS values, but is this a TropicalSim problem or just a problem of FSX itself?

Test System

Dell Precision 650
Dual Intel Xeon 3.06Ghz
4Gb RAM DDR 533Mhz
nVidia 7800GS+ 512Mb AGP
RAID-0 HDD’s - SCSI 340Gb
Windows XP Professional SP2
FSX with SP1
CH USB Pedals
CH USB Flightsim Yoke

Flying Time:
18 hours

To find out, I checked the three default FSX large worldwide airports that have more or less the same complexity as Rio de Janeiro. I went to KJFK (New York John F. Kennedy), which produces, depending on the airport location, an average of 9 to 13 FPS. Then I moved to LFPG (Charles de Gaulle Paris), which also had an average FPS of 9 to 13 and even Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport (EHAM) was not impressive, more or less between 10 to 15 FPS.

Conclusion, the frame rate impact of this TropicalSim scenery of SBGL (Rio de Janeiro), is kept to a minimum! In other words, the FPS reduction due to this add-on scenery is more or less the same as the default airport sceneries from FSX itself, so that’s ok!

Since we are busy checking FPS, let’s have a quick what the impact is in Flight Simulator 9. It’s amazing! With a default FS9 airplane standing on several locations at the airport, an average of 20 FPS is reached and that’s good, especially when you compare this, for example, with Aerosoft’s LFPG Charles de Gaulle airport scenery. I want to add that this is with all my sliders in FS9 set to the maximum and all boxes are activated. All those frame rates do depend of course on your system, but with the tested system specifications you could at least have an idea what you can expect yourself.

But there is something else, which could improved the reality of the airport without frame rate reduction.

Comparing the TropicalSim airport overview with Google Earth pictures, shows me that the TropicalSim scenery simulates a brand new airport. What do I mean by brand new? On the runways, taxiways, platforms and other locations there is no sign of used spots like touchdown stripes, no dirty spots on the taxiways and parking locations etc.

Unfortunately this is not real. An international airport of this size and used daily should have those dirty spots and stripes. I hope that the TropicalSim designers will see this as a challenge to provide the user with an update to add this feature.

Courtesy of Google Earth
FS9/FSX Screenshots

Another thing which is missing in FS9, are static baggage cars and buses. Personally I don’t miss those static objects and in most of the cases those objects are located on places where you don’t want them. For FSX the story is different, since here we are able to control a lot of stuff on the airport.

Our quick look finally ends with very good frame rates in both FS9 and FSX, although both depend on your PC. On the previous screenshots we can see that due to lack of details of dirty spots and missing touchdown stripes on the runways, the average of the scenery is pretty satisfactory. After consulting TropicalSim support they will look into it to add a more realistic look by adding dirty spots on those places where needed. Also for this item, keep tracking there updates!

A typical flight around the airport ….

To get a good impression of the airport, you can slew on the ground from East to West and from North to South, but I want to see it when really flying over the airport.

  FS9 airport overview FSX airport overview
Starting half way from runway 33 with our default Cessna 172, we’re flying at runway heading to an altitude of 2300 feet. When we’re around 5NM out of the airport, we make a 180° turn, which results in flying back towards the airport. What we are going to see in the screenshots is applicable in both Flight Simulator versions and is very weird and to me, not normal!
As you can see, even at 2300 feet altitude and already very close to the airport, there is nothing. The maintenance area, the apron or platform around terminal 1 and 2 and even the cargo terminal, are all empty as if there is nothing there. Except for the runways and taxiways, of course. When you experience the same thing, it’s time to look at the TropicalSim website where a patch is waiting for you to solve this problem.
While doing so, we fly in a South-West direction over the airport towards the cargo terminal. When reaching the cargo area, we make a sharp turn towards the VEM maintenance area. When passing almost at the beginning of runway 15 (RH screenshot), we can see that the cargo, apron terminal and second maintenance area are blank. Hardly any buildings visible! Since there are no special guidelines to adjust your display settings to see this airport scenery, it should be visible. To check and convince myself, I installed the Aerosoft's Marseille/Cote du Provence (LFML) but there was no problem seeing the airport building even at 7NM out of the airport.

When flying back to LFML, the same as I did here, the terminal and other buildings where still there and didn’t disappear. I consulted TropicalSim about this problem and they are aware of it and within days a patch will be available on their website, otherwise you'll have to continue and close your eyes. TropicalSim is working on it!

Let’s go for an FS9 walk

Although in real life walking and crossing the apron is not allowed. However, within the flight sim world everything is possible. Apart from the missing dirty spots on the aprons and the missing carts, belts and others vehicles, I have the feeling that this Flight Simulator 9 airport scenery is a good detailed representation of SBGL.

Let’s start along the opposite side of the terminals. With it’s dominated high light towers which spread their light on the apron during the evening and night hours, they give more then enough light to work here. Almost next to each light tower we will find some airliners own cargo or baggage hold locations. Personally, I think it’s quite detailed although others will always want more, but it gives a very good impression what’s happening there.

That was a long walk and there is still so much more to see. The TropicalSim website shows lots of screenshots of this airport, so we will limit this a little bit. Our goal is to give an objective impression of this double scenery. In the mean time, we have reached the other side of the apron, where terminal 1 and 2 are located. Those are huge buildings with lots of jetways or gates if you like.

There is one difference, or at least one that’s easy to recognize, and that’s the roof of terminal 2. On top of each building are lots of those light towers but they don’t look that high because they partly fall into the terminals themself. Comparing the TropicalSim terminals with the real ones gives us a good idea of the details.

Ok, we always want more but since these buildings are straightforward without complicated structures, we cannot do any more with it. The only thing what really disappoints me, and this is especially for the FS9 users, is the lack of anything driving around on the apron or lots of baggage carts standing in and around the airplane's area. Looking at those screenshots, it’s so empty except for airplanes!

With permission granted to AVSIM, we are able to enter the control tower, which is more or less standing in the middle of terminal 1. The advantage of the control tower is that we have a clear view of the whole airport.

Once in the tower we took several pictures, starting to the left (terminal 2) to a straight forward shot and finally a right hand look at terminal 1. While the control tower is really the official “simulated” height, the controllers don’t have any visual idea of what’s happening in front of terminal 1.

Since the simulated view is equal to the real view, we have to accept this limited view but it was sure a nice moment. Most simmers will probably stay in their aircraft or just do a walk-around-check.

Our last visit is located on each other side of the airport, the cargo terminal and the VEM maintenance area.

Close to runway 15/33, we find the local cargo terminals with the postal/logistic distribution centers from Correios and VARIGLOG. Some of the buildings are not bad, although I have my doubts if the flight simmer is coming and parking here, except for the cargo freaks.

I think 80-90% will go directly to terminals, to find his/her parking place. They have an average to good realism but more important, here we do find a lot of cars, buses and other vehicles. Those cars, buses and others is what is missing, in my opinion, around the terminals in FS9/FSX.

The maintenance terminal from VEM (VARIG Engineering and Maintenance), is located on the other side of the airport halfway between runway 10/28. Impressive to see is the hangar from VARIG. Is has no hangar doors, but that’s normal for this region since the weather throughout the year is pretty stable and not freezing.

On purpose I made all the screenshots without the air traffic option activated. That means no additional AI aircraft are available. This option depends of course on what you want, flying online with IVAO, VATSIM or FPI or just standalone.

Let’s go for an FSX walk

To convince you that the FSX TropicalSim scenery is more or less the same as the FS9 version, you will find a small collection of screenshots below.

The airport scenery doesn’t look different in FSX. That means that all previous FS9 screenshots are also applicable for FSX, so that’s a quick conclusion. One thing that FSX offers is the creation of extra cars, baggage carts, belts etc. apart from the aircraft.

The option of AI aircraft was already available in FS9 but doing this in FSX, selecting aircraft, general aviation and buses, unfortunately results in frames of 5-8, which is very, very low and hardly good to taxi and/or fly with.

As mentioned earlier, the upcoming free patch not only solves the disappearance of buildings at the airport, but it also makes movable jetways possible, so keep looking on their website.

Night view?

Daytime gives a very good idea what this airport scenery has got and what it doesn’t have.

During sunset, night and sunrise, we face a completely different airport. The buildings, aprons, andrunway details are no longer directly visible but instead we get an ocean of lights shining on airplanes, the apron and so on. Looking at both FS versions, there is no difference in light effects, so there is no visible difference.

With these screenshots I want to give you an idea of what you can expect during those dark hours. There are, of course, many other locations at the airport with their own lighting effects but generally this should give you a good idea.

Company storage area Terminal 2 Terminal 1
FS9/FSX sunrise airport view at 07:33 AM
FS9/FSX night airport view 01:00 AM

Summary / Closing Remarks

Yyou can download both Flight Simulator versions of the Rio de Janeiro International Airport, or also know as ICAO code SBGL, while using the same registration key. We cannot complain about the fact that it’s only the airport scenery itself and nothing around it. TropicalSim informs you on their website what this scenery is really covering. I don’t know the airport personally since I’ve never been there, but these days Google Earth and other pictures will help you to get a realistic impression of what this airport scenery is offering.

The only thing that is left are the unfinished dirty spots, runways touchdown stripes, and the fact that when flying at an altitude of 2200-2300 feet, the airport partly disappears and there are some missing static aircraft in front of the VARIG (VEM) hangar.

After consulting the TropicalSim e-mail support, it seems that this group of people are open to any suggestions or improvements of their product. They will release a patch ASAP or have already done it, which solves the disappearing buildings as well as solving the movable FSX jetways problem. Making the airport aprons and runways look more realistic by introducing more dirty spots and touchdown stripes on the runways is in progress. Hopefully many more patches or updates are coming.

Reviewer's Comment:

Via the following link - http://www.flyvba.com.br/fp/cartas/SBGL/ - you can download the necessary airport diagrams, SID, STAR etc. There are more available via IVAO and/or VATSIM, but at least this is something to start with.


What I Like About Rio de Janeiro International Airport

  • Realistic impression of SBGL
  • Hardly any frame rate impact
  • Two products (FS9/FSX) for the price of one!
  • E-mail request are answered quickly and professionally
  • TropicalSim seems to me an open minded organization, open for any suggestion, which could improve their product


What I Don't Like About Rio de Janeiro International Airport

  • You need to add the TropicalSim scenery manually to the library, which was better when it was done automatically
  • Missing airport-, approach- and other charts.
  • It looks like the airport is brand new.
  • Touchdown stripes on the runways are missing as well as dirty spots on taxiways and platform.
  • In FS9 there are around the terminal itself, no cars, buses or luggage carts. This makes the terminal area a little unrealistic



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The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment. This disclaimer is posted here in order to provide you with background information on the reviewer and any connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

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