Beauty and the Beast
Located about 15 minutes north of Hannover in picturesque northern Germany, Hannover International Airport, referred to by some as the heartbeat of Northern Germany, was opened in 1952. Over the years it has grown in size and importance to the region, and now operates three runways, two for commercial operations and a smaller one for GA use, and has three terminals providing facilities to a myriad of international and domestic airlines, as well as the regions General Aviation flyers and enthusiasts.
Hannover International Airport comes to flightsim, and specifically FSX, courtesy of the team who created the original German Airports series and who are now behind the development of German Airports 2; with HannoverX being the first release in this new series designed with the advancements both FS2004 and FSX have to offer in mind. The German Airports team is known for quality work, so what these guys would deliver in FSX has certainly been highly anticipated.
While Hannover has evolved in the past 50+ years into the airport it is today, Airbus has taken considerably less time to evolve its latest production aircraft from what began with the A300. Starting life in the early 90’s, the A3XX was always going to be a beast, and what eventually came from the Airbus design tables has turned out to be the double decked, four engine behemoth we know as the A380.
For flightsim enthusiast we have always been lucky, a new aircraft is announced by the manufacturers and within a few months we typically see a rendition of this aircraft, often developed from vague diagrams, gracing the skies of the flightsim world.
The A380 is no different, with various versions from both the freeware community and payware developers coming online over the past few years. I haven’t followed the development of the A380 in flightsim particularly closely with my experience mainly revolving around building a never released AI model. The truth is, I’m a Boeing fan who feels joysticks in planes that don’t fire missiles just isn’t right, but having said that, I would like to think that even the most devout Boeing fan, myself included, would be hard pressed not to acknowledge the engineering feat the A380 represents.
From this aspect, and the fact I wanted to learn more about this aircraft, I was keen to see what Wilco have come up with in their version of the A380. I’m not familiar with the original v1 release and at the end of the day that may well be an advantage, as it meant I could look at this aircraft for what it is today.
So ladies and gentleman, sit back and relax, we’d ask for your full attention while we go through the installation and documentation briefing to follow, and then we'll be on our way in the A380 from Toulouse to Hannover, with plenty of time to discuss its features en route before we land and tour HannoverX.
Installation and Documentation
The A380v2 and HannoverX utilize self installers that make the process a breeze. The A380 uses just under 900MB of hard drive space filling it with 11 skins, a unique sound set, panel, mission files, manuals and a Configurator with the total install taking less than 3 minutes. The manual for the A380 is very comprehensive with 50 pages that primarily focuses on the panel and its functions, but also outlines in detail, adjusting FSX settings to maximize the fly-by-wire system, using the Configurator and providing an extensive tutorial flight to get you started. This was definitely a manual that gave my printer a work-out, but without it, it was clear I would be a fish out of water. For convenience, all the A380 docs and Configurator are added to a menu through your Windows Start button.
HannoverX, like all Aerosoft add-ons, is installed inside an Aerosoft folder in your main FSX folder. The files are split between the scenery and landclass files and will use around 222MB. Charts for the airport and its manual are supplied in PDF format and these, along with a small utility for changing the vegetation's seasonal appearance around the airport, are also accessible from the start menu. The HannoverX manual includes both the German and English versions, so while it covers 28 pages, only 11 of these are in English.
The manual is thorough in outlining suggested settings for maximum performance and also outlines the team's approach to developing the scenery. It’s clear that FSX users won’t be treated to any of the advanced FSX visual features in HannoverX, as the team has gone for performance over aesthetics in this area. I’ll confess to being somewhat disappointed when I read this, and while I appreciate German Airports wants to be as accessible as possible and perform well, I have to say from what I have observed it's still possible to achieve this and still have the visual richness effects such as reflection to offer. But hey, I’m no scenery designer, just a guy at the end of the line enjoying the product, hopefully.
Overall, both packages reflect that Wilco and Aerosoft are not new to the game of FS add-ons. They present their products well and professionally, and make the process of getting them onto your machine and up and running as simple as you could want it to be.
Going into this review, I recognized I knew very little about the A380 and its development, nor did I have the ability to appreciate its engineering in any great degree. As part of my research I purchased a couple of books, the first was ‘Airbus A380 – Superjumbo of the 21st Century’ by Guy Norris and Mark Wagner that chronicles the development, construction and early flights of the A380. The second was ‘Airbus A380 – Superjumbo on World Tour’ by David Maxwell, which is a photographic record of the certification flight program. Both books quickly became my bibles in helping me firstly appreciate this aircraft, but also to allow me to appreciate and comment on the package Wilco has released.
External Model - Wilco has produced a reasonably accurate looking A380, though I’m not convinced they have captured the nose or the engine shape quite as they appear on the real aircraft. The nose looks a little more angular from the side than its real world equivalent with a bit of a crook to it, and the cockpit windows, while looking accurate in shape, have something funny going on with textures on the edging.
The oval shape of the fuselage looks good with the A380 looking quite impressive front on, and overall the fuselage has very smooth lines and captures the bulk of this aircraft well. I’m very pleased to say thqat the FSX SDK has been used in compiling the model as all the FSX spec mapping and emissive effects are present.
Night lighting is good; the light splashes are appropriate and realistic, with landing and taxi lights also pooling realistic glows in front of the aircraft. I noticed no light splash on the fuselage itself which appears to be an oversight.
The model has a number of visual and animation issues that on their own are not huge, but together have, in my view, let this package down. During dusk, night and dawn, I noted a number of components appear to have different emissive qualities as they are much lighter on the aircraft. This was limited to the rear cargo door, port rear passenger door and main gear doors but was quite noticeable and left me wondering how it could have got past the beta testing.
The textures are effective and appear to use a combination of photographs, noticeable around doors, and standard painting on off-white with shading and details added to the texture rather than relying on FSX to do this. Overall, I thought this worked quite well until the light was bright and the large dark shadow on the fuselage textures above the wing root looked more like soot patterns you would see on the old 737-200’s from their reversers than a shadow; the use of bump mapping on the fuselage would also have enhanced the visual quality somewhat.
11 airline liveries are included, and while these represent the airlines effectively, none of them got me overly excited. A couple of examples why: Emirates - while the red area on the bottom of the fuselage is included, the Emirates name is missing. China Southern – The windows have been painted over with the blue stripe. On the up side, a paint kit is available for those wanting to give painting the A380 a go for themselves.
The ‘gull’ like shape of the wings from the wing root to the tips has been captured very well, and in flight, the wing flex looks impressive giving a good sense of the weight involved in the aircraft, the spoilers and flaps are also modeled appropriately. The leading edge slats are poorly animated as the outer set go the wrong way, rotating from the bottom edge rather than from the top, and the middle and inner slat also rotate sideways slightly leaving their top edge on an angle lower than the wing itself.
I appreciate animating flaps can be a challenge, but the angle these are out by is quite large and given this is a payware model rather than freeware, I don’t expect to see this type of error. Once again I had to wonder about who beta tested this model? The flaps themselves animate well as did the spoilers, with the flap boats being an accurate shape having nicely cut out join points, retract and slot back into snugly.
The landing gear is modeled well with good detailing on the struts and support beams that compress and retract on landing and takeoff. A couple of issues I noted here were that the bogeys tilt the wrong way, hanging back rather than forward, and the tyres use a shiny, reflective material, a quality one wouldn’t expect in rubber.
The massive Rolls Royce TRENT 900 engines have 21 fan blades individually modeled allowing you to see further back inside the engine. I noted the actual 900’s have 24 blades, so they don’t allow the same level of inside view as the Wilco version which means the hollow interior is more obvious behind the fans. As mentioned earlier, I feel the nacelle is fatter on the Wilco A380 than the actual engines. I also noted the textures on the right hand side of the engine are flipped so the RR logo is backwards.
A technical note about the A380’s engine, originally it seems Airbus were not going to have any thrust reversers fitted, but the FAA disagreed with this so Airbus fitted the inside engines only with reversers. Wilco’s A380 has all four engines fitted with thrust reversers.
On the ramp, the 380 is an impressive beast. Its huge wingspan and fat body is a unique site and dwarfs pretty much everything it sits beside, so initially I rather enjoyed simply getting a feel for the size of this aircraft if nothing else. Unfortunately, the modeling issues outlined above left me wondering how much research had gone into the aircraft.
I don’t doubt the passion of the aircraft modeler, attention to detail in many areas is excellent, yet the engine reversers and direction the wheel bogies hang are two examples of quite obvious things incorrectly represented and more robust beta testing, in my opinion, could have ensured these were sorted out before this aircraft came to market. These issues aside, I can't deny physically, in FSX at least, the overall effect this model provides is impressive.
The smooth lines of the fuselage and nicely shaped wings provided some real ‘wow’ moments during the flying portion of this review, and has left me keen to see the real aircraft once it starts operations into Auckland with Emirates hopefully next year. Unfortunately Wilco don’t appear to have a forum, so I have no idea if they intend to address any of these issues. Get the visual and animation issues sorted with a patch Wilco and the external model at least will keep most FSX users satisfied.
Flying the A380 - VC, Cabin, Panel & Flight Model
Many FSX flyers, myself included, have become accustomed to pure VC flying with 2D panels becoming things of the past; in this case the Wilco A380 includes both. I completed a number of sorties in the A380 with the goal of one of them being a trip from the A380’s base in Toulouse to Hannover in Germany. This is just over 600km and was the ideal trip to put the aircraft’s panel/VC and systems through their paces so I could then share my experience with you.
Virtual Cockpit & Cabin - FSX default aircraft set a standard for VC’s and for those of us who now use them almost exclusively, the quality of the modeling, textures and cameras really determine how usable they are. Overall I feel the A380 VC is at the lower end of the scale in terms of detail when compared to photos of the flightdeck and also other ‘heavies’ available for flightsim. Having said that, it does the job and is a fair representation of the big bird’s flightdeck.
The cockpit layout itself will be familiar to Airbus aficionados with the standard gray and blue upholstery, and in the case of the A380, no fewer than 3 jump seats. I thought the shaping of the overhead area, windows and panel were very good, but given the detail, it isn’t ultra high which is fine in terms of assisting performance, but the flightdeck does look quite empty. The panel itself is standard Airbus fare with VDU screens that are the central focus for pilots; the autopilot sits above these and the centre console that includes the FMC (Flight Management Computer), ECAM (Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor) and radios are between the pilot chairs with the overhead sitting above.
The VC reflects the 2D panel in terms of functionality with a good portion of the buttons and switches not actually working, which is a shame. In the VC, most of the 3D buttons are eye candy rather than functional, and I did note a number of switches in the 2D panel not present in the VC such as the flight director; also the auto-brake switch doesn’t work in the VC either, even though it's 2D.
Only one camera angle is available in the VC and that’s the captain’s seat. Its default location is not aligned with the rudder pedals and I found one of the cockpit window struts impairs visibility somewhat. Manually moving my point of view to the right right resolved this, but it meant I was hanging off the seat, suggesting the seat is incorrectly positioned.
Because of the lack of cameras, flying in the VC was difficult and frustrating at times and effectively I had to use the 2D panel for effective flying. But before I get onto that, I’ll talk about the final visual aspect of the aircraft model and that’s the fully rendered bottom deck of the A380.
All 3 classes have been modeled to a fairly high degree of detail, probably more so than the VC to be honest. Once again a lack of camera angles makes exploring this space less than easy. But perseverance will get you through all 3 classes to what appears to be a guest shop at the rear of the aircraft, and what I originally thought was an open door; but then discovered it was actually a missing aircraft panel.
While this gives a great sense of the space available in the A380 and is ‘nice’ to look at, I was left wondering if the development time would have been better spent on the VC and sorting out the other issues mentioned in the A380 Walkaround section. Still, if you enjoy sitting in the cabin gazing at the world as it flies by, then you have over 100 seats to choose from. It's just a shame you can't see the wings from the cabin as these haven’t been included.
Fly By Wire – As we know, Airbus pioneered the fly-by-wire approach to large aircraft design and as a result, a large degree of automation is built into their aircraft. In its simplest form, the system is designed to be set up prior to flight via the FMC, you then take-off moving the thrust levers to a set position, switch on the auto-pilot and then sit back and drink coffee while you monitor the flight, allowing the aircraft to fly the pre-programmed flight plan within the parameters set.
The A380 is no different to this approach, and the panel, gauges and flight characteristics allow us to get a glimpse into the world of an Airbus pilot’s life. While all aspects of the system are not possible to reproduce in FSX, Wilco have managed to recreate the fly-by-wire approach with some realism by bringing the centre of attention to the highly functional FMC, and also providing some setting suggestions for your controls to help with the ‘feel’.
In my view, the FMC and aircraft systems are the heart of this. Master these and you master the beast. Luckily, Wilco have supplied a very extensive manual on how to get the best from the aircraft systems and also how to set up the FMC and make it work as intended. What I like about the FMC is that you can create a flight plan in the default FSX planner and then import it; validate the plan and set up the aircraft performance parameters, runways, weight and fuel etc.
This cuts down the time required considerably, and if you use the FMC in beginner mode, yes it comes with three modes from beginner to expert, it will effectively give you the data you need to get going. Of course for the purists and those who like a challenge, expert mode will require you to calculate things such as weight, V1, etc yourself. All up and in simplistic terms, the FMC will effectively tell the A380 what runway to take-off on, how much thrust to use, how fast to climb and to what altitude, when top of descent is reached, how fast to descend, what runway we will land on and what approach to use, and how fast the aircraft should be going at touchdown. Phew!
For my trip from Toulouse to Hannover, I chose to set up the initial flight plan in FSX and then imported it into the FMC. I was scheduled for an early departure, so I planned for a fairly direct route across France and into German Airspace. Once set, it was onto the checks and prep for departure and a closer look at the functionality of the panel, which I’ll say now, is quite extensive.
The panel layout is split into 4 panels; 3 of which are accessible from switches on the 2D main panel. These include the centre pedestal with thrust, flaps, spoilers, trim, radios and ECAM controls. The overhead allows management of lights, electrics, fuel, air flow and cabin temp along with the GPWS (Ground Proximity Warning System). The main panel has standard flight displays and navigation info linked into the autopilot on top, and finally the FMC.
Strangely, and annoyingly, the ECAM window does not have a switch to pop it up, pressing SHIFT+9 allowed me to bring this up easily enough but given its importance in the A380’s systems, being able to bring it up as a panel would have been helpful. The systems recreated are quite extensive yet not overly complicated once I was familiar with the layout.
The main panel has three main screens; each one clickable, enlarging it considerably and making seeing the information very easy. A number of the buttons are just images and do nothing, this doesn’t appear to effect aircraft operations at all and would suggest those systems Wilco could not model or chose not to include. The autopilot has two modes of operating, the first is based on manual navigation values entered on the autopilot itself, and the second is full auto flying linked with the FMC. One nifty feature is the VDU’s brightness that can be adjusted to suit both day and night flying using the mouse wheel.
The centre pedestal has some quite juicy features, the main one being control of the ECAM system. The ECAM allows the pilot to monitor the aircraft systems, as well as indicating problems when they arise. Wilco points out in the manual that the A380 is a ‘dark cockpit’ aircraft, this means unless there is a problem, things stay ‘black’. Ironically, this means when you start the aircraft first thing instead of a dark cockpit, it's lit up like a Christmas tree, only as systems are turned on does it go dark.
Depending on what mode you are in, the ECAM screen will automatically display information; start the APU and the ECAM will display info on the APU until it's running, move the rudders or other surfaces, and the ECAM will display these movements as they happen in real time. Typically everything is green but if a system goes down this will turn red, so you know exactly what has failed.
The ECAM also shows you visually what is happening as systems are turned on or off, this can be seen really well in ECAM Electrics 1 above. You can see that the aircraft is running on external power, this is highlighted on the overhead panel with both the EXT B and EXT A switches glowing blue and the power lines in the ECAM running to these sources. The APU is also running as you can see it is also glowing blue in the centre, close to the bottom of the OHD panel. When I switched both EXT switches from ON to AVAIL (available) the system switches the power source to APU, in turn the ECAM display changes to reflect this change with the entire system now connected into a line feeding to the APU.
The overhead panel is quite extensive and initially confusing to look at, but remembering this is a modern commercial airliner that takes years to learn how to fly properly, I didn’t beat myself up too much over my initial confusion. So back to my flight from Toulouse to Hannover, with all the systems up and running, engines started and push-back clearance gained, I was ready to go.
Flying the A380 – With a bit of grunt from the Trent 900’s, the A380 moved away and I began to taxi towards my departing runway. On the ground the aircraft has quite a heavy feel but is easy to manoeuvre, managing quite tight corners. Because it’s so big, I did have to think ahead and tried to select taxiways that would allow for ease of movement rather than tight and narrow taxiways. With those huge gull wings temptingly hanging the Trent’s to suck up any FOD (foreign object debris), the 380 does require room to move.
As I taxied, I completed my final set-up to ensure the FMC and aircraft would play together nicely once we were lined up, a handy checklist appears on the centre screen and items disappear as they are completed so you know you are in the correct mode for the take-off role. As I continued to taxi, I could hear the cabin crew speaking to the passengers, a nice audio touch over the sound of the Trent 900’s purring. A word of caution here, don’t change views from the cockpit to tower, the A380 will hop as soon as you do creating a cloud of smoke under the gear and the flight attendant will announce we’ve landed and the flight plan in the FMC will disappear.
The first time this happened I didn’t connect the change of view to the hop, the second frustrating time, I did. Wilco actually mention this in the manual, claiming this is an issue with FSX and is tied to sensitive fuel weight issues with the A380. It’s a real nuisance especially after you have spent 30 minutes setting up the FMC and decide to grab a nice screenshot from the tower as you taxi by.
Once lined up and cleared, I moved the throttles into position and the A380 started to move, I had already determined optimum thrust and speeds in the FMC, so once I pushed the A/TR button the aircraft effectively took over and engine management became an automated process. At V1 the appropriate call-out came from the co-pilot, and V2 saw me pull back on the side stick and the behemoth lifted off the Toulouse runway into a dark sky, the golden sun just starting to light the horizon as we would soon be heading towards it to our right.
I switched on AP1 and the aircraft was now alive and flying automatically as per my flight plan. With a positive rate of climb established, the gear was raised. I found the flight smooth with the A380 turning right early to ensure we would remain on track and avoid course corrections after our first waypoint, climb was steady and I noted with interest the thrust controls working to maintain climb and speed. A little early morning turbulence through to 5000 feet was easily passed, with flaps raised and speed increasing, we continued to climb to flight level 370, giving me the chance to grab a cup of tea before I would take over mid-flight to fly the second portion of the trip manually.
Once TOD was reached, I moved the stick and autopilot disengaged. I will note here that the switches that work make suitable ‘click’ noises to the audio feedback confirming the visual. In the case of the seatbelt and smoking signs, these also trigger cabin announcements as do changes in flight conditions such as descending. With me now ‘flying’ the A380, I decided to fly a number of patterns to get a feel for the flying characteristics of the aircraft.
My overall impression was a big heavy aircraft and while it responds well to stick inputs, from what I was able to read on the matter, the actual aircraft flies very light. Using a combination of manual and automated flying keeps the aircraft performing well inside safe operating parameters, another feature of the Airbus fly-by-wire approach. So no matter what I did, I was not able to roll, climb or descend beyond the parameters governed by the flight computers, which appear to be modeled well within the flight dynamics.
My approach into Hannover was uneventful. While I had the ILS set-up, I flew this manually and touched down around 80 minutes after leaving Toulouse. The A380 certainly stops well, I deployed thrust reversers and spoilers and the big bird stopped well before halfway down the runway so I could appreciate why the original thinking of why reversers were not necessary. Taxiing was a little bit trickier in Hannover as the taxi-ways were a lot narrower, but I got her settled at the gate, shut down and was reasonably satisfied with my efforts.
Overall, it would seem Wilco's A380 is in line with Airbus’s ‘feel’ for flying in that you operate within parameters but step beyond them and the aircraft corrects itself to avoid stalls and overstressing. As mentioned, I’m not convinced the ‘heavy’ feel is accurate, but those more qualified than I would be better placed to assess that.
Sounds & Extras
The sounds included with the A380 are a mixture. Ambient sounds are great, the cabin announcements, APU, switch ‘clicks’, GPWS, crew calls, alarms, etc, are all excellent and add depth to the flight experience. I wasn’t convinced, however, about the Trent sound set. Having watched a fair number of videos of the A380, you can’t miss the Trent’s characteristic whine and this wasn’t present. So while start-up, changes in thrust settings during flight, and eventual shut-down were all present and worked fine, the overall engine noise was pretty bland in my view and certainly didn’t represent an aircraft with Trent engines. At the end of the day, the sounds were of good quality and enough were included to allow the broad spectrum of aircraft operations to be heard smoothly, the ambient touches were an added bonus and I enjoyed those.
Before we de-plane and begin to explore Hannover, I’ll finish by mentioning the A380 Configurator that is installed and the missions that come with this package. The Configurator is a very useful utility for setting up the aircraft in FSX itself, whether you want to determine what level of experience you are as a pilot, fuel quantities, passenger numbers and weight or what keys on your keyboard and joystick will do what, you can do it here.
It’s a good addition to the package allowing great customization options which are done visually. The missions that have been included allow you to fly the A380’s first flight. You have the choice of VFR, IFR or night-time versions. The missions begin with the roll-out of the A380 using a nice cinematic visual with plenty of vehicles and Airbus workers surrounding the A380. The flight takes you through pre-determined waypoints and events with a total flight time of around 45 minutes to an hour, depending on some choices you make. This was a good extra for this package and allows you to appreciate the aircraft and its handling in a more ‘controlled’ way. With the A380 parked and being prepared for its return flight, it was time to say farewell and begin my tour of Hannover.
Hannover isn’t the biggest airport in the world by any means, but for its size, it has three runways and provides facilities for over 100 airlines, GA aircraft and cargo and maintenance facilities. I’ll say from the outset, a high level of detail has been packed into the scenery area all sitting on ground textures Aerosoft say equal 1 meter per pixel, and it's clear from aerial views that as a result the accuracy of building placement and scenery detail, means this package provides a highly accurate portrayal of its real world counterpart. The runways and taxiways don’t rely on the photoreal textures and have a top layer that uses higher resolution textures for detail, with both ends of the main runways having full approach lighting.
Some technical details to begin with. Hannover allows full IFR and VFR flying and has been supplied with the most comprehensive set of charts I have seen with a scenery add-on. The airport DME and NDB’s are included and can be utilized to get you lined up for a full CAT III ILS approach on 27L/09R, which allows for a very nice centre line landing in any weather condition. If the heavies aren’t your cup of tea, the small GA runway, which is strictly for VFR use, allows circuit flying or scenic flights around the region without impeding commercial operations. But before I get carried away with visual flying over the German countryside, let’s take a closer look at the terminal and other airport facilities.
Buildings and Textures
All the facilities and buildings in HannoverX are purpose built and when comparing them to photos, capture their real world counterparts very well. They are all of a high standard with plenty of detail if you care to look closely and explore the scenery. Hannover has 5 key areas, so we'll look at each in detail.
The main terminal area is the central focus; Hannover has a unique set of 3 triangular shaped terminals that provide parking for up to 20 aircraft at once. Each terminal has jetways that are like everything else in the scenery, modeled after their real world counterparts. Sadly, the jetways are not animated and while this continues to disappoint me in supposed FSX scenery, they are well presented and detailed.
The quality of the textures is excellent in this area, as they are everywhere, with all the buildings using what appear to be high resolution photo textures that give an excellent end result. I was particularly impressed with the care that has gone into modeling the ramp light towers with each lamp included. Around the ramp area are a huge assortment of non-animated vehicles such as fuel tankers, vans and catering trucks, these all add to the realism, but like any scenery, density of these is governed by your scenery settings.
Naturally the higher your scenery settings the more you will see, but given they are made carefully with a good use of level of detail technique, I found I was able to set my overall scenery settings at max and still get flyable performance, and this was with AI traffic included.
You will find default FSX baggage and pushback trucks throughout this area, in fact in any location aircraft parking is available. I was very surprised to find the airport does not have callable refueling facilities even though I spotted several tankers zipping around the place.
The AFCAD file has been done very well with aircraft parking in the correct locations; I did note a small glitch at one particular gate where aircraft insisted on parking on top of each other. Looking at the file in FSX Planner, I couldn’t see any reason for this, so it was rather odd. Each of the parking spots at the main terminal is fitted with an AGNIS docking system that guides you to the right spot. While nifty from the VC, I actually found this system to consistently put me just right of the centre line and typically not at the wheels stop point painted on the ramp. Given the jetways are not animated this isn’t a problem. It would be good though if it was a little more accurate.
Behind the main terminal buildings is a vehicle ramp that allows cars to enter the airport at one point, drive a one way circuit to drop off/pick up passengers and then leave. I was impressed to see that default FSX traffic follows this ring road and while they don’t go up the ramp, they flow around the terminal underneath.
On the first level, static vehicles are included, and beyond this is a large parking building. The top level is open and filled with cars. I particularly liked the frontage of this building, even though it uses textures, the resolution allowed excellent levels of detail that I found gave a very realistic look. Several glass towers line this building and I’m still not sure if there is a hint of reflectivity on these as the textures are done so well. That’s one thing that is obviously missing throughout Hannover, a lack of reflective surfaces. I appreciate this effects performance, but I do love windows that reflect as I pass them.
The onsite Hotel for Hannover sits next to the car parking building, so if you fancy a night stopover I’m sure the folks at the Miritim Hotel will be pleased to see you, and if they are full, the Holiday Inn is a few hundred meters down the road and still inside the airport perimeter.
To the north of the main terminal is the cargo/freight area. Once again, plenty of static scenery objects can be found here with containers, trucks and other interesting airport equipment filling the area. The original Hannover control tower is located in this area; its distinct look is well captured and is a prominent feature as it's painted bright orange.
North of here is the open ramp for regional type aircraft that can’t or won't dock at jetways. A protected area for buses and other airport vehicles is a prominent feature here mid ramp, and further beyond this is the new control tower and its support buildings. This is one of the highest towers I have seen and comparable to Heathrow’s new tower. I slewed to the top of this and you certainly get a great view of all three runways and all the airport facilities and the area beyond the airport grounds from here. A little further north the Hannover Airport fire department is stationed; this is another well detailed building with static fire tenders sitting outside. Next to this is an unidentified glass building that I’m picking is likely to be where snow plows are housed, but without any signage it’s hard to know.
Beyond this is open taxiway with a few additional areas of interest. One of these being a bunker type area that I wasn’t able to find any details about with what appears to be a small control tower of some description. Beyond this is a jet engine testing bay to allow full engine run-ups; look inside and you’ll find a 737-700 running a test.
Back down just south of the cargo area is the Hannover GA facilities. These comprise of a number of buildings that can accommodate private jets or smaller twin and single prop types. Nearby is the smaller runway where you will find a number of static aircraft parked. A small terminal is provided with customs and as with the other areas of the airport, the quality of modeling and texturing is excellent with some of the signs on the buildings looking like they use higher resolution textures than the buildings themselves, so they are quite readable as are all the other airport advertising boards.
This area of the airport features a large variety of buildings, some storehouses, others that look like offices and other facilities housing airport support functions and small hangars for the GA aircraft that operate from the airport. You’ll find a number of large chimneys in this area which all have white smoke coming from them. I found them useful for getting wind direction when I was flying, and they certainly add character to the scenery. Further south from the GA area is a very large car park with more of the excellent car ‘models’ seen around the main terminal. West of here is the airport tank farm and the Sky Chefs building nearby, once again plenty of static scenery items populate the area.
I might as well talk about performance at this point. Overall I was impressed with HannoverX, not once did it dip into single figures even when I was flying the Wilco A380, and from a polygon perspective, that model is not exactly an AI aircraft. Once at Hannover, I activated the AI and as the screenshots show, there was a fair amount of it around and still performance was good with FSX maintaining FPS in the high teens.
I should note here I lock my FPS at 25, when I set this to unlimited the maximum fluctuated from the teens to the high 50s, sitting comfortably around 18 most of the time. I experimented with a number of scenery density settings going from maxing everything (11FPS was the lowest) to mid range. Realistically, an average single core machine will run this scenery quite comfortably with medium to high complexity. As always , consider your use of AI and effects that will influence performance, but if you run a dual or quad core machine, crank up your settings and enjoy.
North from the fuel park the Tuifly maintenance facilities can be found. These comprise a number of large hangars and support buildings. I was a little disappointed I couldn’t park my plane inside them, the one with a partially open door uses a texture to show a 737 sitting inside, and a static 737 is also parked in front. On top of the hangar is a large red Tuifly.com sign that illuminates at night and this leads me to talk about the signage that you find throughout the scenery.
Clearly Hannover is a Tuifly hub and you’ll find a number of large billboards and even some animated rotating Tuifly signs (these are on top of the glass towers at the parking building) throughout the terminal area. While nothing extraordinary in their own right, I mention them because they represent the attention to detail and care that has gone into this scenery.
My favourite time of day at HannoverX would have to be dusk. The airport is transformed at that time as the night lighting kicks in and I have to say that the night effects in this scenery are some of the best I have seen. All the buildings have great detail in their light effects, with windows and light splashes from spot lights looking realistic rather than being included just because it might look cool. The colouring is realistic and ensures the detail in the textures is highlighted rather than diminished. The ramp area has excellent glow from the tall flood lighting towers without being overdone. Across the broader airport area, Hannover looks like it is being bathed in the light of a full moon. I actually quite liked the effect though I’m not sure it’s wholly realistic. There are plenty of red warning lights dotted around the buildings and the runway and taxiway lighting is excellent, making the entire experience very immersive and lots of fun visually when flying in and out at night.
Hannover features different ground textures for summer and winter, with both spring and autumn using the summer textures. My only grizzle with this, and it is a small one, is that during autumn the airport grounds stand out against the browner countryside around it. The winter textures are the same textures used for the other seasons but recoloured to represent winter, and this works well enough.
As I mentioned at the start, the ground textures represent 1 pixel per meter, this does allow a high level of realism and detail with trees, mower lines and dirt tracks all clearly visible. I think the colouring, which is an art form for photoreal scenery, is about as good as you could get, the grass is a good grass green rather than being washed out or overly bright. The airport contains no autogen as such, instead the developers have elected to use their own tree models and placed these by hand to match those clearly visible on the ground textures.
As seasons change it does mean you need to change the season of the trees manually, but here a handy utility has been included that allows you to select what season you are flying in before you start FSX, it then copies the correct textures into the right place and once you are at Hannover, the trees reflect your selection.
For the final portion of my review time with Hannover, I decided to check out the plane spotting potential. I like to do this at all the FSX airport add-ons I review, and Hannover provides some great views particularly at 27L. Here the aircraft fly over a main road and it looks like it’s a popular area for spotters if the photoreal textures are anything to go by, as it looks like several cars are parked on the side roads next to the runway. Being a hub, you are guaranteed a good variation of aircraft visiting regularly. The only disadvantage of having two operational runways is where do you look, as I saw aircraft arriving simultaneously on both 27L and 27R.
Summary / Closing Remarks
HannoverX is a great scenery package. While it doesn’t use the FSX SDK to its full potential (no animated jetways is a pet peeve for me and a few reflective windows would be nice) it certainly doesn’t detract from what is a comprehensive and highly detailed representation of this airport. The level of detail is excellent, the development is sensible in regards to what appears in your field of view to maximize performance, and the photoreal nature of the buildings and ground textures gives you a realistic experience. The developers of German Airports are clearly back. If they keep producing scenery of this calibre, German and European simmers who operate in this part of the world will find little reason to leave the homeland.
The Wilco A380
is a mixture of high aspirations but average implementation, with many ‘faults’ that
should never have got past the beta testers. While I was impressed with the
functionality of the 2D cockpit, the VC really
doesn’t stack up to what you expect from payware products these
days. Externally, the model is very good, yes it’s let down by
some poor animation in the leading edge slats and strange emissive qualities
on cargo doors, but
overall the sheer size of this aircraft and its shape have been captured
well. I’m not convinced the flight dynamics are where they need
to be, she flies heavy and that seems to contradict what pilots
are saying and what I have seen in video footage of the aircraft's ability
to respond quickly. Overall,
I was disappointed with the A380, particularly when the majority of the
issues it has could have been so easily fixed prior to release. It's
still worth a look
if you’re an Airbus fan, but there are other options if your keen
to own an A380.
What I Like About The A380 and HannoverX
What I Don't Like About The A380 and HannoverX
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