Not as close as I wanted but still just a 3 hour drive from my home. Hamburg Fuhlsbüttel was more or less one of my standard locations when I did Airbus training for LTT (Lufthansa Technical Training). Although my business home base was Frankfurt am Main, I’ve been in Hamburg several times to conduct Airbus A340 and A310/A306 training at the second or third largest Lufthansa Technik base.
Lufthansa Technik is a member of the LHT Group. It consists of many other German and overseas located maintenance companies. Anyway, driving around at Fuhlsbüttel is not strange for me since I’ve seen it with my own eyes and what I’ve seen so far, I can tell you that it looks impressive. The review covers only the FSX version, however an FS2004 version is available as well, but generally those are more or less the same except for the FS2004 limitations.
Enough of this; it’s time to start with a small history of Fuhlsbüttel and then right on with Aerosoft’s presentation.
Fuhlsbuettel or is it Fuhlsbüttel?
Fuhlsbüttel is an urban quarter in the north of Hamburg, Germany in the district of Hamburg-Nord. It is known as the site of Hamburg's international airport, and is the location of a prison which served as a concentration camp in the Nazi system of repression. In 1871 at the declaration of the German Reich, the village Fuhlsbüttel was given to the State of Hamburg. In 2006 in the quarter of Fuhlsbüttel, 11,890 people lived there . The population density was 1,806/km² (4,678/sq.mi). 14.6% were children under the age of 18, and 20.5% were 65 years of age or older. 9.7% were immigrants. 508 people were registered as unemployed. In 1999 there were 6,768 households and 49.7% of all households were made up of individuals. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles (Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt), in the quarter of Fuhlsbüttel, 5,004 private cars registered (425 cars/1000 people). There were 2 elementary schools and 1 secondary school in the quarter of Fuhlsbüttel and 26 physicians in private practice and 5 pharmacies. Since December 2008, Fuhlsbüttel was served by the Hamburg S-Bahn S1 with the Hamburg airport station.
Hamburg Airport (IATA: HAM,ICAO: EDDH), also known as Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel Airport (German: Flughafen Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel), is an international airport serving Hamburg, Germany. It originally covered 440,000 square metres. Since then, the site has grown more than tenfold to 5.7 square kilometres. The main apron covers 320,000 square meters. The Airport is 8.5 km north-west of the centre of the City of Hamburg in the Fuhlsbüttel quarter.
The Airport was opened in January 1911, making it the oldest Airport in Germany which is still in operation. In the 1970s, there were discussions of moving Hamburg airport northward to a site near Kaltenkirchen. This plan was subsequently abandoned and the airport is currently completing a major modernization that includes new terminal buildings, a new hotel right across from the terminal, new roadside access and a connection to Hamburg's rapid transit system (S-Bahn). Hamburg Airport (measured by the number of passengers) is the fifth busiest of the 16 German commercial airports (after Tegel International Airport in Berlin). The shareholders of Hamburg Airport are the City of Hamburg (51%) and Hochtief AirPort GmbH. (49%).
In 2008, Hamburg airport served 12,840,000 passengers and 173,500 aircraft movements. Hamburg airport has 17 jet-ways and 54 apron positions. Runways, taxiways and aprons are able to handle the Airbus A380, although there is no scheduled A380-service expected. Hamburg Airport is the diversion airport for Hamburg-Finkenwerder Airport (XFW), the airport of the Airbus plant in Hamburg, where all A380 are being painted and interior fitted.
Installation and documentation
The Aerosoft installer does its work quickly without too many complicated questions. Before I forget, the installer asks you if you would like to have static airplanes or not. Later in this review, I’m coming back to this small sentence. It seems that static airplanes are not always a success except for a few AI airplanes. I know; static versus AI airplanes are not the same thing but one thing I do know, both are additional created planes.
On purpose, I left this option open since I’m curious about the FPS impact together with the suggestions in the manual, however this needs some investigation. Ok, selecting Aerosoft static aircraft ON or OFF is up to you but when decide not to activate this option, you’re not able to select it afterwards to ON. The only possibility to get those Aerosoft static ones activated is to uninstall Hamburg X, re-install it again and tick the static airplane option. The question that pops up is; if this is handy or not? Personally, I don’t find it handy but on the other hand, I can’t change it so therefore this paragraph is here to warn you.
When the installation is done, you have access via the Windows Start menu to several shortcuts. You can find them via Aerosoft -> German Airports 3. There are two Acrobat manuals; one with all the necessary charts and the other gives you enough information about the products itself with some history information and other features of which the adjustments are the most important ones.
Then there’s a “Season tool”, which allows you to control the environmental colors depending on the time of the year. Finally, yet importantly, there is an AES lite (FSX Dynamic Airport Enhancement Services) EDDH Traffic Configuration tool. It allows you to control AES lite platform/apron ground traffic by simple selecting it ON or OFF.
Is this all? Yes, there’s nothing more but I will come back to you with more information about these two separate tools.
The Hamburg X manual - Manual_EDDH_X.pdf - is divided in a German and English part and covers 42 pages with a lot of useful information as well as interesting background. With the help of a table of contents, it’s easy to find your way through it. For those who don’t want to read the whole manual, at least take some time to read pages 39 - 43. These cover the advisable FS2004 and FSX settings to give you a smooth airport environment. Of course, these settings are further up to your PC specifications and if you can, just select the sliders higher. Since this review covers only the FSX version, I’ll stick to the FSX settings.
Let’s pick out some highlights from the English manual; Hamburg X is compatible with SP2 / Acceleration Pack FSX and DirectX 9.0 however using DirectX 10 preview is not recommended. Furthermore, page 36 offers some information about the built in APIS (Aircraft Parking and Information System) system or in normal English, aircraft parking help while the next page adds a AES lite option, for those who don’t have the Aerosoft AES FSX 2.x software.
There’s not much to tell about the second manual – Charts_EDDH_X.pdf – which offers lots of charts like the EDDH ground map, parking locations, STAR (Standard Terminal Arrival Route), SID (Standard Instrument Departure), Instrument Approach charts and some more. Anyway, enough charts to fulfill your dreams and to make professional departures and approaches.
EDDH during real daylight operations
It’s always tricky to compare an FSX airport with real pictures but still I want to give it a try. You never know how realistic it’s made or how impressive the airport hotel rooms – sorry, no rooms available - look like or the car park. All those details and in this case some details outside the fences, are important. Although I’ve been here on several business trips, ranging from a few days till a month, I hardly took any airport pictures. Finding good shots seems not as easy as expected. Finally I found a bunch of good shots showing you the real EDDH but before I continue, let’s have a look at these ones.
Some of the above pictures are old ones while others are pretty fresh. The old picture with the Lufthansa Airbus A300-600 (RH upper corner) is not important except for the tower, which we will see later, it seems that the Aerosoft one is a very good replica of the real model. Although Hamburg EDDH is not a large airport, it’s complicated or should I say compact. It houses too many gates, crowded taxiways and oops, some runways. On one side of the airport there’s the third largest Lufthansa Technik aircraft maintenance facility.
By the way, the largest maintenance facility of LHT can be found at EDDF (Frankfurt am Main) and finally at Munich airport in Bayern unless this has changed in the last few years. According to these people, it’s the biggest LHT plant but I’m not going to fight about what is correct and what is not. Fact is, Hamburg offers many hangars and shops and it serves not only DLH (Deutsche Lufthansa), but also other customers. Enough about this: back to the airport buildings, gates, trucks, carts etc.
As said before, the airport is small however many airliners are arriving and departing daily and not only small ones but A340s as well. At high times, there’s enough to see and when it looks like the gates are occupied, there are always apron gates available. How simple it looks in real life, how difficult tiny details could be by making them. Just have a look at the middle upper photo; a simple gate offers so many details like the colors, big and small letters, electrical cables and much more visible components. Whatever is there, we have come to expect all of this in the Hamburg X scenery and we will see that in a minute. Just have a look for yourself ao these photo’s and let’s hope that during our first quick Aerosoft impression you and I will see .. WOW!
Main EDDH impression
Before heading by car to Fuhlsbüttel, it’s a good idea to adjust all my FSX sliders to the recommended settings in the manual. You can see for yourself what PC specifications I have and together with the suggested FSX settings, the FPS outcome is roughly 25. I’m satisfied but there are a few things I’m not very happy with.
Let’s start at the beginning where I’m driving on the roads around the airport. It seems most of the cars and trucks are not always driving where they should be. That’s strange and guess who’s wrong? The problem is the enabled Ultimate Terrain X Europe scenery from Flight1. There’s nothing wrong with the UTX Europe software, but unfortunately this time the repositioned lanes result at some spots that cars and trucks are driving outside the designated roads. So keep this in mind, when you own UTX Europe you need to disable it in combination with the FSX default road traffic unless you accept that at some locations around the airport it’s not always going to look like it should. The problem/trick is that without UTX Europe, there’s no road traffic around Hamburg X airport. When you’ve installed and activated UTX Europe, UTX allows road traffic to be shown out there and this results in misalignments in certain spots.
My first impression of the Aerosoft airport area is great although you haven’t seen anything, but I’m working on that. That said, I’m impressed but I need to add - again – something to it and this is that you disable/deactivate during the installation process the static aircraft option. As you can see the right hand screenshot, it doesn’t look great and this is than only one model standing on the airport. Probably the thumbnail isn’t that bad but the moment you click on it, I think it’s a Boeing 777, but this is not important for now. What’s important is that it destroys the beauty of the airport itself. I know, we always want the best of the best including AI or static aircrafts or other objects, but it seems this is not always possible. Anyway, out there on the Internet are enough freeware FSX AI models available or you can decide to go for payware AI aircraft packages like the Aerosoft My Traffic X, those are AI models and not static models. But the quality of those aircraft is better than these static ones.
Ok, it’s time we were jumping into one of the airport security trucks and drive along the airport passenger terminal and along the south side to the Lufthansa Maintenance area. I don’t want to add too many screenshots but unfortunately I can’t do it without that. Too many screenshots are like a slide show and won’t help anybody but under some conditions it can and will help me explain what I’ve seen and more important, it will help you with your decision for buying this great Aerosoft Hamburg X replica.
No, I don’t get anything free from Aerosoft and no, I’m not paid under the table. This is my own impression of the airport environment and sorry for those critics out there, it’s a well designed airport but that’s with most of the Aerosoft small and large airports.
Since it’s my first impression while driving around at the apron, I see so many things, so many details, all very well created and even sharp. Just have a look to the gates or airways. Above you’ve seen a real gate/airway and below you see the Aerosoft version. Ok, not 100% the same but let’s say 99% the same as the originals. Even the electrical cables are hanging on one side of it and probably not as detailed as the real ones, but altogether a very good replica of the original ones.
Together with a real photo image material of the apron, it makes the airport even more impressive. Just have a look at the right hand upper screenshot; you want more or is this enough and does it reflect a real looking apron? To be honest, I’ve seen this technique for the first time with the FTX Orbx Simulation YMML Melbourne, and I was impressed by it. Added into the Aerosoft Hamburg X scenery makes it just different from others who don’t use this technique. While walking on the tourist promenade it seems that the developers had a tremendous eye for many details. Look to the light masts, the passenger terminals, all the cars, trucks, baggage carts, movable stairways, belts and more of that. That’s one of the reasons to show you these six screenshots. These reflect, at least for me, the quality of this Aerosoft airport but more is coming so let’s move on.
The next set of screenshots – below - offer you an overview of the surrounding airport area like platforms, taxiways and runways including the grass or at least images of grass. Words can help explain something but screenshots – when taken from the correct angle – say much more. This is also true for the following six shots. It offers a great view of the overlaid real photo material from platform/apron images including the yellow lines as well as the text.
A special compliment goes to picture IV, which seems almost a real airport picture from a passenger sitting on the right spot at the right time. One thing needs your attention and although it’s outside the airport fence, is the difference in ground texture quality. It’s not a big problem for me but I need to bring this to your attention. Look to screenshot III and IV and please click on this thumbnail. On the lower LH corner you can see the difference in pixels/meter between the airport apron area and the ground area at the border of this location.
Another view offers picture IV. Look at the lower airport apron quality outside the fence and clearly can be seen the lower ground texture quality. Ok, you’re probably not doing those comparisons by yourself and when flying To/From EDDH, the chance that you see this is not that big but I think it’s worth showing you the different ground texture quality.
However, I think it’s a good idea to contact one of the developers. I asked him the following “Could you give me an idea of the LHT maintenance base ground texture pixel/meter quality? Comparing these real ground textures with the main EDDH apron/platform quality, I've got the idea this is of a lower pixel/meter resolution. This brings me also to the next question; why is a lower resolution used for the apron around the hangars. Is it else resulting in a too high FPS drop or is this because of another reason?”
I got the following detailed answer “There are no overlay apron polys drawn on the LHT maintenance area. This is caused by a technical problem caused by the z-buffer of the graphic engine. The z-buffer doesn’t work correctly in FS9 and FSX; if you draw a flat poly using a "layer call" above a 3D mesh using a "perspective call". To avoid the z-buffer "flickering", I had to raise the flat polys more than half a meter above the mesh and this would not look very realistic. That is the reason why we use in this LHT maintenance area only the original aerial image with the lower resolution of 0.5 m/pix without semitransparent overlay polys. It has nothing to do with the performance (fps); it’s only a graphic problem”.
That brought me to another question, which can be seen on screenshot III, so let’s go “Is this explanation also applicable for the ground textures outside the airport passenger terminal? I saw also here some differences between the passenger area apron and the area where you've got the parking houses etc.”
Peter Hiermeier came with the following answer “The z-buffer problem appears only with polys drawn above a 3d mesh. On flat aerial images, I can draw the polys with layer calls on any place I wish, as long as it is flat but in our projects we used to draw the overlay polys only on the main areas where the aircrafts move. In areas, which are behind the main Airport buildings or at the edges of the Airport area we don’t draw the overlay polys (saving frames). So you can say, we draw the overlay polys with high resolution apron or taxiway textures only on those places/areas where the aircraft is (possibly) moving”.
I hope the above answer is a little explanation as to why some ground textures look blurry although you normally won’t see it while taxiing on the apron to or from your gate. At least it’s an open and honest answer, and that’s what I appreciate. Thanks Peter.
Picture V shows you the nice quality of the taxiways towards runway 23 and what do you think of the surrounding grass quality, but hold on … first have a look at picture VI. You can see it’s a FSX shot but to be honest it’s very well done. No, this is not correct … it’s almost a perfect replica of how it really looks like … very nice.
A perfect replica because it’s a terrific combination between photo real ground texture material – taxiways, runway, grass, apron – and developers craftsmanship. Is there a need to add something else to this or is it enough? The pictures show you very well what to expect when you decide to buy it and together with the created buildings, it’s a “real” FSX EDDH.
What’s not yet finished with EDDH. This is just one part of the airport while the other side offers a realistic look of the Lufthansa Techniek hangars, so please join me on my virtual trip in and around the maintenance area.
LHT (Lufthansa Techniek) maintenance area impression
I won’t say it’s a larger area than the passenger terminal, apron and other buildings together although walking from the main LHT entrance to the far end of the Lufthansa plant will take you 30 minutes for sure. Although these screenshots do not show you all of what’s available, it should give you a good idea of the created buildings and platforms.
All the buildings – hangars, shops, offices etc. - are made with a highly realistic value and give me a good idea of the overall quality. The only remark I need to add here, which is clearly visible from a certain altitude, is the lower quality ground textures but that’s already explained why this is. On picture I you see the main entrance – the wing look alike building – and the dark grey base building which looks very realistic. Other buildings like the ones on the pictures II, III, V and VI look all great but the overall platform concrete ground textures are unfortunately of a lower quality. Apart of the previous explanation why this is, it’s also not fair since those shots where all made from a certain altitude while taxiing from a hangar to the passenger terminal, you’ll never see this. On the other hand, when taxiing and sitting in an Airbus A340 cockpit, you will definite see the ground textures compared for example to the crispy ground textures of the main passenger terminal.
Along one of the older hangars (picture II) we find the yellow/amber control tower. I’ve seen two of them on this airport and therefore I’m a little lost as to which one is in use. Anyway, picture IV gives a very good overview of the nearby parking apron, which is partly made of photo real ground textures and handmade ones. While standing just a few yards… oops meters, from the dominated yellow/amber control tower, I must say that this tower, including the offices, is showing what’s possible and tells me something about the overall quality of this airport area.
Due to the already complicated maintenance area with an unbelievable precision of accurate buildings, none of the hangar doors can move so there’s no way to use a specific frequency to control the doors. Is this a problem or a disappointment? No, it isn’t at all.
Comparing this Hamburg X airport maintenance area with other non Aerosoft airports, I must admit that this is really awesome. Ok, it’s up to every flight simmer if he/she wants a realistic maintenance area but it completes the overall EDDH scenery.
Where does it end?
Always an interesting question but the outcome is not always fantastic. Not fantastic has a lot to do with what you expect and how the borders integrate with the rest of Germany. Since I want to keep it as clean as possible, I didn’t want to integrate the associated Aerosoft VFR Germany scenery.
As you can see at some locations, the border equals the road but at other positions, it is the forests which divide the Hamburg X airport scenery with the rest of the FSX default scenery. Wherever you are, you will always see the border between the end of an add-on product and the default FSX scenery.
This is also applicable for this combination but this will change the moment you decide to buy Aerosoft’s Germany 2. Suppose you don’t have it or don’t have any interest in buying it, then activate Ultimate Terrain X Europe. Apart from the previous car and truck problem, this also integrated very well with each other. Anyway, let’s have a look to the following screenshots showing you the airport borders.
The above screenshots are pure. This means without UTX Europe and believe me this will change the moment you’ve got or decide to buy Aerosoft’s VFR Germany 2 for FSX. Recently it was reviewed at AVSIM and received lots of compliments from my colleague reviewers. The moment you decide to install both VFR Germany 2 and Hamburg X, the blending is perfect and together with the overall VFR Germany landscape, it’s really awesome to see. Oops, by the way; the geocontent aerial airport image resolution is 0.5 m/pix while the semitransparent apron overlay polys are drawn with a texture resolution of 20 pix/m. When you decided to install both packages it should look like this …
As you can see for yourself, the indirect airport landscape scenery looks suddenly very different or I should say what you may expect from detailed VFR scenery because that’s what we’re dealing with. Ok, VFR Germany 2 – North – is not cheap to be honest, but I must admit that the VFR quality is really a pleasure when flying above this part of Germany and thus not in the direct area of EDDH because of the “too green” look, which is my personal opinion.
Not only that, but together with all the autogen options set, it looks as real as it gets. Not surprising since the download version is just over 13GB while the box version covers 4 DVD’s, and with these sizes you may expect to get a detailed scenery. This brings me to my in-between conclusion that it’s worth the standalone Hamburg X borders, although those are not always impressive.
Late arrival but worth ….
During one of my Hamburg X flights as well as driving in a security car around at the apron, I’ve seen lots of things. Now it’s time to see Hamburg X by twilight and I can tell you that it looks very nice and even for those few hours, worth flying to and from this Aerosoft airport.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any idea about the real lighting conditions but the screenshots show a balanced overview; this means not too much light and not too little.
These six shots should give you some idea, although it will never represent what I’ve seen during my taxi from the runway via taxiways to the apron. That should not be a problem. The pictures show you a mix between the maintenance area, the apron and even the outside with the two impressive car parking buildings.
Not strange but with the proposed Aerosoft settings, the frame rates went up to an average of 40-50, which is quite high to be honest. I must admit that these shots are made in combination with Windows 7 RC1, which offers me a more stable operating system with higher FPS.
Summary / Closing Remarks
Let’s first start with the overall important question if it’s worth you money. This question is quickly answered; absolutely!
Of course, it all depends if you like flying to and/or from Hamburg airport. If you do, then this is really worth every penny. When adding VFR Germany 2 it even becomes an even greater sensation. Again, you should like VFR flying and flying in the north of Germany and keep in mind the green ground texture problem directly at the airport borders.
Let’s give you a summary of what I’ve seen so far and then in particular within the airport fences. I mentioned it already, professionally I’ve been in and around Hamburg airport several times to instruct the courses for the Lufthansa Techniek ground engineers, mechanics and shop personal. Apart from being in the Lufthansa Techniek restricted area, I’ve flown a few times from/to Frankfurt am Main, which was my home base.
Anyway, let’s start with the maintenance Lufthansa area. Is it well made or is it “simulated”? What does it matter, I can only say that most of the buildings look indeed as they are in real. Ok, the ground textures of the apron/platform in front of the hangars is not always very sharp and disappoints me a little but this is explained before. However, the overall look, including the ever standing Airbus A340-200 or is it an A340-300, makes it all complete.
The airport itself including all the buildings gives me the feeling that a lot of work is put into it with the result of having a highly realistic replica of the real EDDH. I know, it’s so easy even for me to say that it’s far from real but this is not the case with this Hamburg X. The static aircraft however, which I activated during my second installation, do look average. The only thing to keep in mind during the installation is, if you want to activate – read installation of the static aircraft – these aircraft. Afterwards changing it is not possible according to one of the developers although I know from previous Aerosoft airport products that you’re able to rename a file or files holding the word “stat” in them.
Searching into the FSX Aerosoft folder tells me that there’s one file name and to be exact, EDDH_A_fsx_stat.bgl. Ok, I tried renaming it - EDDH_A_fsx_stat.blg – and it worked but I need to say immediately that you constantly get a scenery.DAT error message. It seems there’s no reinstallation needed but you’ve created another problem. So, not a good idea!
Time to go back to the airport environment itself with all its gates or bridges, luggage carts, trucks, airport authority cars and whatever else drives around on the apron. Deactivating the default FSX airport cars while enabling the AES lite option, which gives no conflicts and fits much better in this Hamburg X scenery, is realistic since it’s specifically made for it. Complicated? Not at all since the manual tells you all about it! The results are nice looking cars and trucks driving around the airport.
Are there more things to convince you about Aerosoft’s Hamburg X? I could continue for hours but there’s no need to. For one price you get both the FSX and FS2004 version, not too many adjustments are needed except the ones written in the manual. Just follow their advice and check afterwards if your system can handle it. If it can, play with them since ending with a stable 20-25 FPS is perfect. More than that is not really needed! I know, not everybody agrees with me but I also know that having the FPS counter too low could frustrate you while FSX doesn’t seems to have any problems with it.
What I Like About German Airports 3 - Hamburg X
What I Don't Like About German Airports 3 - Hamburg X
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