Can This Be Paradise?
The Cook Islands, the heart of the South Pacific, consists of 15 islands scattered over some 2 million square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean. Most of the Cooks are very remote and offer airstrips with rudimentary services, it is fitting that the current thirteenth season of the reality series Survivor has been filmed on the atoll of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands.
Creator Christian Stock, well known for his New Zealand scenery and still a personal favorite , brings an enhanced realism to the Cook Islands.
Flying over vast stretches of water without geographical references makes a challenging flight requiring good flight planning and especially careful fuel planning. Add a mix of weather and getting lost out there in that great big ocean can be a lot easier than one would think. Then arriving on one of those secluded white sandy beaches just in time to see the perfect tropical sunset is a spectacular site.
So lets fill-up the tanks and have an up close look at these island gems.
Installation and Documentation
Installation of my downloaded version was once again the straightforward typical install. Run the installer and a few steps to add the scenery to the FS9 scenery library, and I was up and flying in record time. I also got lost in record time too, so back to the books.
In the installation manual it is noted that since this package replaces the default scenery completely, other 3rd party mesh scenery should be completely removed as it may cause conflict with this scenery. 3rd party airport scenery should be installed in the FS9 library above this scenery.
Provided in the Cook Islands folder, is a manual as well as a shortcut to HTML documents. Colorfully illustrated and informative descriptions of the Cook Islands can be found giving an abundant resource to facts of each Island that would make Captain Cook himself proud. Myself, living inland, nowhere near such tropical beauty, I found it a pleasure to explore the history provided and gained quite a bit of knowledge of an area I had never explored before.
For example, I learned that Aitutaki was also known as the Blue Lagoon of the Pacific. I looked a bit deeper into the subject here and found it was also discovered by Captain Bligh shortly before the famous Bounty mutiny occurred. This famous lagoon is considered by the rich and famous as a heavenly hideaway, hmmmmm makes me wonder how to sign up for this Survivor stuff.
The Cook Islands Scenery
As compared to the default scenery of green patches of Islands in the great big ocean, Christian Stock's scenery adds real life terrain features and accurate airstrips, bringing life to these Islands. Now since this scenery came out nearly a year ago and as the evolution of scenery designs go, Christian has addressed the upcoming FSX compatibility questions. This scenery, much like New Zealand, while lacking the eye candy and animations of newer products, does offer a lot.
There is zero impact to frame rates and still provides a “base” open to other designers much like what New Zealand has provided. The Cook Island Scenery includes highly detailed geographic scenery along with four real world weather scenarios, as well as seven adventures to explore the Cooks.
Developed using the Land and Information New Zealand (LINZ) digital data, the final 40m mesh scenery provides a high resolution, realistic and accurate scenery for flight sim. The scenery also includes all mapped roads, much of them dirt roads or white coral, very much like the real Islands. Golf courses, well okay both of them, streams and lakes as well as several 3D objects have been added to the scenery. Default FS9 buildings and a large number of huts have been placed throughout the Islands. Sailing boats, water towers, churches, hotels, petrol tanks and power stations are included to add to the realism and charm of the Cooks.
The five default airstrips have been rebuilt from scratch, as well as an addition of six other airstrips. Included are all nine existing airstrips of the Cooks, as well as two decommissioned strips. Position of these strips was developed using the ERSIE Australian Air Force data, meaning it is in the right place no doubt.
Runways markings for the coral strips, generic buildings and GPS approaches are now added to the Cooks, giving a realistic impression of the existing Cook airstrips.
Lets go Island Hopping
Well not withstanding the unusual exotic names, Island hopping is more like Island leaping. There are significant distances between these Islands, so a trip from one favorite to another may need a stop over on several others to top up the fuel. All depending on your choice of favorite aircraft, of course. In fact, my second trip covering the furthest southern to furthest northern Island left me surprisingly lost and bobbing in the water out of fuel. But I was in my favorite floatplane; it must have been a headwind.
Now with the lack of references over the spans of water, flying with a GPS is the only way to go. But for my challenge, let's just say the moisture fried the GPS and I was flying the old fashioned way. Well, you’ll soon find there are limited nav aids out there, so figuring out the winds and correcting headings all account for every drop of fuel in the tank. And you’ll need it.
Now I do fly my GA aircraft fair weather, but the four included weather themes adds to the realism. The themes include the typical nice weather day, steps up to a cloudy day (hot and humid, so watch those short strip take offs), next to a Tropical rain, and on to an all out Cyclone. Cyclone flying, though very interesting in the sim, would make me tend to run for cover in the real world.
Even though the coral strips of the Cook Islands can be a challenge on a fair weather day, most are suited to the smaller GA aircraft. So attempting landings on Islands like Penrhyn with any aircraft other than what could actually make it in there....well good luck. These strips are more like the bush flying stuff, just a lot less bush and more sand, water and tricky shore lines.
Multi-engine prop flyers won’t have any troubles here but trips in and out by heavy airliners are only suited at Rarotonga.
a Flight”, you’ll find the seven
adventures included with this package and don’t be surprised
on the times required to complete the adventure. However there are
those quicker scenic
out cold and dark on the ramp. From Rarotonga Scenic Tour, Southern
Group Holiday, Treasure Hunting, Black Pearl Farming, Cyclone Martin
Rescue, Northern Atoll Adventure, and Aitutaki Day Tour, the adventures
provide a taste of the Islands all would enjoy.
Summing It Up
Like the Island of Suwarrow, the population one, or the Island of Rarotonga with two bus routes (running clockwise and counter-clockwise), the Cook Islands scenery reflects the remoteness and beauty of the Islands. Though you may expect more frills from the scenery, the realism is that the Islands are not over commercialized or over populated and the scenery is a reflection of that realism.
The excellent documentation assists in making the flying experience in the Cook Islands a learning experience. This scenery package will definitely test your "over-the-water" flying skills, while some may find the amount of water to cover from island to island may be a bit much.
Although the buildings may seem a bit dated and I was expecting more at NCRG, overall, the affordable Cook Islands Scenery offers a unique, highly detailed South Pacific Island experience.
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