Ellsworth AF base was not always known as Ellsworth. When it was built in 1942, it was known as Rapid City Air Force Base. The name was changed a few times, but public outcry was so strong that it was changed back to Rapid City Air Force Base.
The current name was given to the base after the base experienced one of its worst peacetime tragedies in March 1953, when an RB-36 and its entire crew of 23 crashed in Newfoundland while returning from a routine exercise in Europe. On 13 June 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower made a personal visit to dedicate the base in memory of Brig Gen Richard E. Ellsworth, commander of the 28th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, who lost his life in that accident.
Ellsworth Base has had a long history of different aircraft stationed on the tarmac, ranging from B-17’s during WWII, B-29’s and B-52’s during the cold war era to the modern B1-B’s that are stationed there now. The base is the home of the 28th Bomber Wing and there are some 4,165 people stationed on the base.
Installation and Documentation
Installation was easy. Open the zip file and extract the files to a temporary location. Then open the readme and follow the instructions in the readme file. This is the only documentation that is included with the download.
You need to copy the folders in the temporary directory to your Flight Simulator X/addon scenery folder. Then you need to copy the aircraft to the simobjects/aircraft file. The readme describes the setup in flight simulator to activate the scenery. People who have installed freeware scenery will have no problem with this what-so-ever.
There is also a note about the scenery density and traffic settings to ensure the static scenery and AI traffic is displayed. There are no charts or terminal procedures included, which is becoming the norm for commercial sceneries these days.
This airport is a military base, and as such, doesn’t have as much going on as a busy commercial airport would. Having said that, there is still a lot to look at around the airport.
The Ellsworth base is one of the main bases for B1-B "Lancer" and support aircraft. Hence, included in the package are static and AI traffic of the B1-B and C-130 Hercules aircraft. Ellsworth was also a missile base, one of the few facilities that had both an air force base and a missile base.
The Minute Man II missiles were based in silos to the north of the main air force base. What little traffic there is at the base is generated by the AI in the package, but I still feel that there could be a lot more activity at the airport.
The base layout consists of one main runway, one main taxiway and ramp areas at the northern, southern ends and a small parking area on the south-western end of the base. There are two control towers, one on the western side of the runway and one on the eastern side, on top of the emergency response centre.
Static & AI Aircraft
There are static B1-B’s outside of the hangers on the northern end ramps and on the outskirts of the base to the south. They look good, but to my eye, don’t quite look like the pictures I have seen. They seem to be a little elongated and the nose doesn’t quite capture the shape of the B1-B’s nose. They are what I class as 100ft models, they look good at 100ft away but don’t stand up to close examination. But as static and AI aircraft, they look ok.
The other aircraft that is included is the C-130 Hercules, and these look really good as they look exactly like a C-130 should. The difference between these and the B1-B’s are like chalk and cheese. There only seems to be two C-130’s stationed on the base at any one time, so the AI does accurately reflect this. The B1-B’s are known to take-off for far away places, but there only seems to be one leaving every few hours. In my 12 hours of testing, I only ever saw one B1 taking off and never saw one land.
Airport Layout & Buildings
The layout of the airport and main runways look accurate. While having never been to Ellsworth (or to America at all), I can only go on the internet and use good old Google Earth to compare the layout and buildings. In fact, it is surprisingly difficult to find any pictures of the base itself.
Skysim’s depiction is not 100% accurate and only covers the air base itself and the base township, but it gives a good feel for the air base. The old Minuteman silos are not depicted in either the add-on or the default scenery. The main Runway is 13497 long x 300ft wide and is used as an emergency landing field for the Boeing 747 shuttle transporter.
The main runway textures look good and so do the taxiways, but again I found the problem of finding comparable pictures or information on the internet reared its ugly head, and the Google Earth images are bad to say the least. What is depicted in the simulator looks like a well used but well maintained air force base and the textures for the runway and taxiways look like they are modified default textures.
There are main hangers on the north-eastern side of the main runway and most of the hangers are depicted. There is the fire station and maintenance hangar depicted along with light towers on the open aprons. The township for the base is added, as well as autogen for the houses. The base township on the northern side has been well depicted, if a little blurry, and some of the buildings don’t suit. There are multi-story buildings where there should be houses, as this is the base living area. There are some custom buildings in the township, mainly the water towers that are a big part of the skyline.
None of the hangers are animated, or if they are I do not know how to use them as there is nothing in the readme about how to open the doors, if they open at all. There are some emergency service vehicles parked outside the rescue centre, and that is all the vehicles that are on the airport, apart from the static B1’s that are on the ramp and the northern end. The addition of some service vehicles around these B1’s would have made the base seem a lot more alive than it currently feels.
The textures are crisp, with the odd bit of blur, but that could be due more to my system than anything. There are custom built hangers and towers for the airport, but again all the hangers use the same texture set, so every hanger of the same type looks exactly the same. There are no runway signs or taxiway signs on the base whatsoever, but again trying to find information about these proved difficult. So I think the developers had the same problems I did. I could not find any information about the descriptions of what the hangers are and what they are used for.
The chain link fences around the airport are very realistic and look the part, but there is a small problem with them on the southern end and they sit at the same height as the base. But the land slopes away from the end of the runway, so the fences sit about 10 ft above the ground. A minor issue that you will not really notice unless you are very, very, very low on the approach!!!!
The night lighting is good, with approach lighting and taxiways lit. The light towers cast good light over the ramps and getting around the base is not hard at night at all. One small gripe, and it is not a big one, is that the light towers on the northern ramp are lit day and night, it does stand out a little, but does not detract from the base too much.
The scenery sits well with the default scenery, but there is a noticeable line around the base where the grass is greener on the base side, it stands out a little, but this effect only becomes really noticeable when you are close.
Summary / Closing Remarks
This is a nice add-on. There are a few rough edges as mentioned. I have seen a lot better depicted freeware airports that have everything buttoned down. But having said that, I enjoyed flying around as the default scenery looks so bare in comparison.
The overall impression
left me happy but more could have
done, and the minor hangers and buildings could have been added along with
more traffic and ground vehicles to make a truly realistic version of the
What I Like About Ellsworth Air Force Base
What I Don't Like About Ellsworth Air Force Base
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