AVSIM Commercial FS9/FSX Scenery Review

Anchorage X

Product Information

Publishers: Aerosoft

Description: Commercial scenery package of Anchorage International Airport and surrounding areas.

Download Size:
2.3 GB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FS9/FSX
Reviewed by: Benjamin van Soldt AVSIM Staff Reviewer - October 23, 2011

Introduction

I tend to favor cold places. When all my friends go to Italy, Greece, Spain and Turkey, to drink too much and dance until they drop (which, actually, can be great fun), I tend to head to the north or east. Realizing this, it’s strange that I haven’t seen anything of Scandinavia yet. I’ve been to Prague, Berlin, Budapest and Barcelona the past few years (lots of B’s, maybe because my name starts with a B?), and that while I have always wanted to go to Oslo and Stockholm. Both of these cities are high on the most expensive cities of Europe, perhaps even the world. Still, I’d gladly pay the price to get there.

Why do I like Stockholm? It’s because of FS. My first MSFS was FS98. At a certain point I discovered that free add-ons existed. My first free add-on scenery was Stockholm Arlanda, ESSA. From that point on, ESSA holds a special place in my heart.

A “problem” with ESSA however, is that it’s not a really important airport in Scandinavia. Sure, it’s big and busy, but it’s only the third largest in Scandinavia, after Copenhagen en Oslo, respectively. This is not because it’s a northern airport, if that’s what you think. For there is an airport, far away to the west, but also in one of those cold places, that sees not so much passenger traffic, but is one of the biggest cargo hubs on our little blue/green planet. I’m of course talking about Anchorage International Airport, PANC, at Anchorage, Alaska.

Aerosoft has built this scenery for FSX and will build it for FS2004. They didn’t quite stop at the airport, modeling the passenger terminal and the huge cargo terminals aprons with the multitude of warehouses and cargo terminals. They also modeled the very big (biggest in the world) sea plane base “Lake Hood” and included large chunks of Anchorage surrounding both airports. This way they modeled not just the airport, but also part of the city and its beautiful surroundings, including the shorelines of the small Anchorage peninsula.

Please note that PANC includes full winter season textures, so you can fly into this place in winter. I have not shown any screenshots of this, instead focusing on summer, but do know that winter is included.

A word of warning on the FSX/FS2004 deal

It should be well-known by now that FS2004 use may be declining, and FSX use is increasing. This is according to the statistics of Aerosoft. There is something very important here: Aerosoft is a big publisher as we probably all know, and as such they have some idea of who uses what.

Now comes the important thing: there are lots of statistics you may use to gauge who uses what. Personally I have seen polls at Vatsim or at VAs, and the members of such organizations then tell Aerosoft that Aerosoft’s statistics are wrong. Now, one is allowed to believe whatever he wants to believe, the point here is that other statistics are not relevant to Aerosoft. They have a user base, and they gauge the FS use from that user base. If that user base shows signs of FS2004 decline, they assess whether developing for FS2004 has any use. As long as they think they can sell product that covers developing cost, a FS2004 version will be made (provided that it’s possible).

For Anchorage there is a problem on this front. It seems that the FS2004 user base is now sufficiently small such that making a FS2004 version may cost too much. However, Thorsten Loth of Simwings, the developer of Anchorage X, will still make a FS2004. The pricing is just different.

Remember how it used to be? For a mega airport of the likes of Anchorage X, you’d get both FSX and FS2004 versions in one package, for 24,95 Euros. This has now changed for Anchorage X. The idea for Anchorage X is that you buy one version for 24,95 Euros, and then buy the other version separately for a 50% discount. This means that you buy whatever version you wish for 24;95 Euros at first, and then later you can always buy the other version for 12,50 Euros.

When the boxed version comes out, it will only include one version; not both. This has angered some people of course, who say they will not buy any Anchorage version whatsoever. That is their prerogative. In this review we will see if that mentality is truly justified, for what is the worth of the airport scenery? How detailed is it and what features does it include? Is it worth buying the airport for 24,95 Euros and get only one version? We’ll soon see.

Installation and Documentation

Installation of Aerosoft products has always been a breeze. After purchase, you get a download link (note the size of Anchorage X: it is 2.3GB!) and a serial key. After downloading, you start the installer. You pass the usual screens, like a license agreement you have to accept, but noteworthy is the question whether you have UTX: Alaska installed. As such, Aerosoft Anchorage X is compatible with UTX: Alaska.

Soon you insert your email address (with which you bought the product) and the serial key, and the installer does its work. All this is customary and will not surprise anybody. The newness starts when you are prompted to install the Aerosoft launcher.

The Aerosoft launcher is a new program of which the main purpose is to make pirating harder. In general, I support these kinds of things. If they are not completely unintuitive or customer unfriendly (see Ubisoft’s DRM), I think a company should get the space it needs to protect its products. Aerosoft did it by ways of the Aerosoft launcher. However, it seems to do more than just offer better protection. It also includes links to the manuals and such.

The protection works by ways of an online activation. I’m not sure how it works, but I guess the program checks whether your online account at Aerosoft has an entry for Anchorage X that matches your serial key. If that’s the case, activation will ensue, and you can enjoy your scenery. If it doesn’t work, you’d better contact Aerosoft support. I however, didn’t  have any problems and was soon sitting at PANC’s tarmac.

The scenery: Passenger terminal

The passenger terminal at PANC isn’t very big. As the gateway to Alaska, that may seem strange. Basically, you see lots of Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 aircraft, and then some Boeing 747 aircraft of Korean, Chinese and Japanese airlines. Alaska Airlines and some other US airlines fly to Anchorage from an assortment of US cities, some of them only seasonally.

The “big boys” will frequently visit Anchorage, although maybe not so much to pick up passengers, but to refuel. They fly from East Asia, let’s say Seoul, in South Korea, to Anchorage, where they refuel. From Anchorage they then fly on to Washington DC. It is these planes that we see parked at Anchorage’s terminals.

Overview of the domestic terminal.

I say terminals, for there are two: a domestic one and an international one. Most flights are from the domestic terminal and in relative size, the domestic terminal is also the largest. The international terminal, however, also has quite a large amount of gates, but a seemingly smaller footprint. We’ll start out with the domestic terminal, then move on to the international terminal.

The above shot gives an overview of the domestic terminal. There are several concourses, labeled A, B, C and L, of which C is the Alaska Airlines concourse. It’s not a big terminal, but it has several jetways and a host of ground equipment can be found around the terminal. We will move around the building and see what there’s to see.

C concourse of the domestic terminal.

The first thing we’ll look at is the C concourse. Several Alaska Airlines aircraft are parked here, like indeed should be the case. The concourse is a long, rectangular building with gates only on one side. Every gate seems to be equipped with a jetway.

Overall, the modeling is good. It is both comprehensive and efficient, omitting the small details, like the pipes on the roof, and including the vital details. All other details are present using textures. These textures are very nice, too. They appear crisp at a modest distance, but if you do get very close, they might turn out a bit blurry. In all honesty, I’ve seen this with all sceneries, so it’s not really a downside of this particular scenery. For the rest, I’m a fan of the ground equipment you see standing around the concourse.

Thanks to the configuration of the jetways, not too much ground equipment is needed to give a filled-up feeling, and what also surely helps is that not all jetways are positioned the same way. Instead, they all have a different position which makes for a dynamic and “messy” look, like would be the case at an airport. Part of this effect is caused by the unusually long walking bridges of some jetways, which gives the impression that gate waiting areas aren’t as logically placed as you’d think, requiring some passengers to walk another few hundred meters to be able to board their plane. Gates C4 and C5 are an example of this.

Concourse B of the domestic terminal.

At concourse B we find most of the US carriers, including Continental, Delta and American Airlines, though mind you, many of the destinations served are only served during the summer months. This concourse is different from concourse C in form, being a long walkway with a rotunda at the end, with jetways at both sides all along it.

The concourse is not very different in appearance, having the same white exterior and blue-ish windows as concourse C. We therefore also find the same kind of modeling. The overall form seems to be represented accurately. Smaller details are also present, like the yellow gate number signs, which are fully 3D. There are also lamps, and the rotunda stands on rectangular poles, with some of those orange traffic cones around them. Also notice the lamp posts, which are long and slim and are well-modeled.

The texturing is also rather good, like at concourse C. Here though, the texturing has less of a prominent role in portraying small details. The roof only has some dirt, no pipes and whatnot, although you can see some air conditioning and air refreshing equipment. It would have been nice if these were modeled in 3D. The way it is is good, however, and it conserves some FPS.

I would like to add that I am really fond of the dirt around the aircraft’s parking areas. The pattern of dirt you see on the floor corresponds to a DHC 7 or perhaps a Boeing 747, seemingly having four engines. The dirt does seem a little bit unrealistic, in that it looks like several “layers of dirt” stacked onto one and other instead of it being smudged. Having it smudged might have been better, but it’s fine the way it is.

Concourse A of the domestic terminal.

Concourse A is the smallest concourse of all and does not include jetways. At many airports this signifies a low-cost status of the airlines that use the terminal, but at PANC it seems there are only two airlines that operate from terminal A: Pen Air, which is a regional carrier utilizing small turboprop aircraft, flying into places like Unalaska’s Dutch Harbor. The other airline seems to be Eva Air, somewhat to me surprise, since most international carriers operate from the international terminal (info from Wikipedia, by the way).

The terminal has been nicely rendered in this scenery, although it looks somewhat basic. The modeling isn’t very detailed, but there isn’t a lot to model in this terminal, so that’s not really a problem. The texturing is quite good and looks realistic. The addition of some ground equipment, including also some orange pylons, is very welcome to fill up an otherwise empty looking concourse.

We now turn our attention to the other side of the terminal, where passengers get in and out. Contrary to what you might think after seeing the airside of the terminal, the entrance is really good looking and features a grand glass front, as seen below.

Entrance to the domestic terminal.

I wouldn’t say the entrance is big. It’s actually quite small, but given the size of the terminal and the amount of flights in and out of PANC, a bigger entrance probably isn’t really necessary. The modeling of the entrance itself is quite good, and I especially like the smooth look of the round roofs. Also the poles that hold the roof up look really nice. The addition of parked cars besides the AESLite cars that move around is also welcome, although they aren’t really needed because you can’t seem them anyway. Still, it’s nice that it’s present.

What I commend the developer with is the texture quality. These are really nice and crisp on the traffic signs and airport name sign on the side of the domestic terminal’s entrance. I have always liked it when you can actually read what’s on these signs. The textures on the buildings are also very nice, although they appear less crisp to me than the traffic sign textures. Not that they are bad – not at all – just less crisp.

In front of the entrance, there are two big parking garages and the train station. The train station is positioned between the two parking lots. The parking lots are very nicely modeled, and I really like how good the ramps between the garage’s various levels look. It’s good that these are actual ramps, not just flat textures. I always found that hard to look at, especially because this is actually something you will see. Maybe not when taxiing around the airport, but certainly when you takeoff or land!

The train station looks as good as the other buildings, but it has something special: a moving train that makes horn sounds. A screenshot of this will appear later, but suffice to say that it’s very funny to sit at a gate and hear a train’s horn from behind the terminal.

We will now move on to the international terminal, or N terminal. Basically, it’s one big, long structure with jetways on both sides. As such, it’s rather dull looking, but what can you do.

International terminal, airside.

As I said, a long, dull building with jetways on both sides. For as far as I can see, the modeling is accurate and done well with smooth surfaces where needed, and otherwise texturing has been used in such a way that it at least looks convincing enough. What pleases me is that the cooling fans and air refreshing fans have been modeled too.

The texturing here is probably the best thing, though. I really like the texturing of the upper rows of windows. They have a slight shine to them which looks very well in this context. The shine diminishes in looks when applied to the big block of windows on the left-most edge of the terminal, but still it’s not bad at all.

Another good use of the texturing, is where light posts are concerned. Some of these are placed on the roof of the terminal, not on the apron itself. Here you see that the texture sports a shadow, which works very well together with the modeled lamp post. Save for some small fences and such here and there, that’s all modeled detail. A bit more might have been nice, and I would have welcomed more ground equipment. This is supposed to be an international terminal after all; with big planes everywhere. It looks a bit empty now.

The entrance to the international terminal.

The entrance to the international terminal seems to sport more detail. The entrance itself (the doors) are hard to see because it’s all so dark, but at least we see some nice yellow poles and a parking lot. At the entrance to the lot we find levers, some very nice green hedges and small booths. It’s a pity the ground textures are so non-descript, because it’s hard to know what’s actually parking and what is road, for example. In that sense, the quality of the ground textures should have been higher. The same goes for the road along the parking lot, where Google Maps shows, with great certainty, that road crossings should have been here. You can sort of make them out in the scenery (as white smudges), but it would have been nicer if you could actually recognize them.

This completes the passenger terminal area of the scenery. Both domestic and international terminals look really good and sport a good overall balance between detail and efficiency - greatly helped, by the way, by the fact that not a lot of detail could have been modeled into the passenger terminal. All in all, these terminals are a worthy start or end of your passenger haul. What about the cargo terminal?

The scenery: Cargo terminal

What Anchorage is most famous for are the cargo operations to and from the airport. A huge assortment of cargo airlines from all around the world visit this airport. Not only planes of FedEx, UPS, Cargolux, Nippon Cargo Airlines and Eva Air Cargo or, more locally, Northern Air Cargo, but also a cargo airline like the Russian Volga-Dnepr, which operates the world’s largest AN-124 fleet. It is therefore no strange thing that Anchorage cargo terminal is absolutely huge.

Overview of the cargo terminal.
Overview of the cargo terminal, from the other side.

The above two shots show most of the cargo terminal, but it’s not all of it. Some cargo aircraft are parked at the other end of the airport, along one of the runways. So as you can see, the cargo terminal is everywhere and it defines the airport in a great way.

Overview of the second part of the cargo terminal.

The cargo terminal consists of an assortment of warehouses and facilities. I can’t really say which of these facilities cater for what airlines, but you can tell a lot by the aircraft parked in their vicinity. For example, the facilities on the lower screenshots are bound to serve FedEx, and perhaps several other airlines. Everything is filled by FedEx planes. Mind you, the cargo terminals look very good. The detail on the buildings isn’t that noticeable, and there really isn’t that much 3D detail, but lots of objects have been placed around the buildings in the form of cars and such.  More detail could have been added on the roof though, for example. On the other hand, the texturing is very good.

Probably the FedEx terminal

This is just one of the many facilities. Another is surrounded by all manner of UPS planes. Here we also find two silos, some cars and some other small buildings and poles. I quite like the look of this patch. Without the addition of lots of models, Aerosoft managed to pull off something rather nice: first of all it looks filled because a variety of models have been placed at sufficient distances from each other.

A piece of cargo terminal surrounded by UPS aircraft.

Secondly, the atmosphere here is nice. I think this has been achieved mostly by means of the loose packages you see lying around in a somewhat orderly fashion along the right edge of the apron to the right of the big, white building. You also see them lying around next to the smaller white building with the grey garage doors.

Another cargo facility worth mentioning is a facility that specifically states that it’s a DHL facility. How do we know this? It’s the only facility it seems that has a sign, and with that, multiple signs even. It’s also the only facility where there doesn’t seem to be any aircraft parked, so it’s good that there are some signs on this building.

The same commentary applies to this facility. The modeling might be a bit basic, but it includes all details necessary and the texturing is good, although this particular facility seems to have most of the detail that could be modeled on this building. The detail around the apron seems rather minimal however. There is the odd cart here and there, but it could have been more. Overall, the apron looks good, if a bit bare.

The DHL cargo facility.
The DHL cargo facility.
An off-apron part of the DHL cargo facility.

 

Funny things is that the DHL facility has a second part to it, off the airport’s apron. It’s smallish and doesn’t seem to look like much. The detail is rather minimal, but in all honesty, there isn’t too much detail to model anyway. The texturing takes care of most of that, and does it very effectively. The textures aren’t that crisp though, but since the facility is not directly at the cargo terminal’s apron, you won’t really see this anyway.

A hangar at the cargo terminal apron.

Besides the bigger facilities and warehouses, there are various small and large hangars and other buildings. The hangar in the above shot is one of the big ones, with some nice detail modeled. For example, there is an assortment of square protrusions modeled on both sides of the front wall, above the main hangar doors. The texturing here is also pretty good. A bit more in the distance you can see another hangar, though smaller, surrounded by a host of buildings.

Facility of the US Postal Service.

The final big facility we find on this part of the cargo apron is the facility for the US postal service (USPS). This is a very big facility and it doesn’t stand on the cargo apron, but in its vicinity. The modeling is good, and the facility looks the way it should. Due to the absence of any structures on the roof, the details are correct and the texturing does all the work.

So this summarizes the first cargo apron. As I said, there is a second one spread along the other end of the airport. Here we find some more hangars, some more warehouses, and some more cargo aircraft, both big and small. For one, we find an AN-124 of Volga-Dnepr. We also find several Boeing 747-400 aircraft.

One surprise for me is a cargo Boeing 737-200. Apparently Northern Air Cargo (NAC) is still using these old birds to transport cargo all over Alaska.

As always, all the hangars, buildings, cars and boxes look very good. Even if the modeling is not the most detailed around, the texturing surely takes away any such deficiencies. As such, we find buildings that look really good without slowing down the computer due to unnecessary detail. That’s of course the entire point: try to model everything as close to detail as possible, but doing so in an efficient way: know when to stop. Thorsten surely knows how to do this, resulting in good-looking buildings that don’t hit performance much.

More cargo facilities.
More cargo facilities, with two Boeing 747-400 aircraft.

These are the cargo facilities at PANC. They are big, numerous and cover most of the airport. Besides the passenger and cargo facilities, there is more to see at this airport.  An assortment of buildings whose exact function is unknown to me, and the various textures used for the runways and taxiways, all will be looked at next.

The scenery: Miscellaneous buildings and airport features

First of all, let’s take a look at the textures used for the taxiways and runways. You have already been getting a view of the ground textures around the various cargo and passenger terminals. As you might have seen, it is always very nicely detailed. Using a special texture layer on top of the ground photoscenery is a very good way to make sure that even if the photoscenery is a bit blurry, that the runway and taxiway lines remain clearly visible. Mind you, and those that have read more of my scenery reviews will know this, there is a very find line in my opinion between these things done well, and these things done badly, or sloppy.

View of runway detail.
View of taxiway detail.

The above two shots give you an impression of the detailing of both runways and taxiways. You can see the repetitive nature of the top detail layers, featuring the cracks, but this is not something you really notice when taxiing around the airport. What I really like and what I think is the main thing here, is that the blurriness of the grass doesn’t invade the taxiways and runways. The grass has a rather high resolution mind you, but in my mind it is not enough to be the quality necessary for taxiways and runways.

Do not think that the blurriness of the grass isn’t present at the taxiways and runways. As a matter of fact, if you look closely you’ll see various hues of grey on the paved surfaces. This is because in essence what we see is photoscenery, but on top there is this extra texture layer. This extra layer contains cracks and other details for the paved surfaces. Also taxiway and runway markings are laid on top of the photoscenery. The result is clean-looking taxiway and runway without every inch of them looking exactly the same, like on the default airports.

For the default airports, there is a separate texture for taxiways and runways. These will also be present for Anchorage X, except that they are hidden under the photoscenery. There are still scenery add-ons that use this method, though, one of which would be Bajasim’s SJD X, reviewed some time ago here at Avsim.

What approach suits you is purely subjective of course, and as far as I’m concerned, it depends on the way it was done and the textures it was done with. Here in PANC, it looks really good as far as I’m concerned.

Moving on to the buildings around the airport, I can be short and simply say each one of them looks really good. Like with the cargo facilities, the 3D detail might not be the best on the world, the texturing always makes up for it, exchanging 3D beauty with efficiency and better performance. Don’t think that they are less beautiful; they are not. But instead of making everything highly detailed, some detail was left out in order to get better performance.

None of the detail is missed however, because the texturing shows the vents, chimneys and glass roofs anyway. In short, you don’t miss these things that much. The result is a collection of good-looking buildings that return better performance than they otherwise would have.

This building stands adjacent to the passenger terminal. It’s relatively empty, devoid of any cars, but still there is stuff to be seen here. The exquisite fuel pumps looks great, and so do the buildings you see standing around. Also of note are the taxiways markings you see running in front of the pump and such. These connect PANC to the Lake Hood seaplane base, to which we shall come later.
Here we see the airport’s fire department. I have often seen how a fire truck graphic is “stuck” to the fire truck’s garage opening, to sort of show that there’s a fire truck inside. I always found this approach unrealistic and weird-looking, which is why I was so happy to find actual fire trucks standing outside of the fire department garage, and all garage doors closed. It looks more realistic. Plus, the trucks have been modeled very well, making them a great pleasure to look at. Also of note is the nice Boeing 727 model, which I guess is used for training purposes.
Here’s one of the few Alaska Airlines offices and hangars I have seen at this airport, and at that, it’s not even a very big one either. Modeling is good, and I especially enjoy the roundness of the hangar roof. The texturing is as good as always.
Behind the Alaska Airlines hangar, we actually find some more cargo facilities. Here we find some more cars and buildings, all of which look just as good as the rest of the airport. I especially enjoy the textures on the building to the left of the shot.
Here is a rather large cargo facility, shown on another shot already, but this time in more detail. Of note is the modeling. You can see what kind of detail has been modeled, such as the garage doors, which are not merely textured directly onto the building’s exterior, but are bulged inwards and only then textured. Also note the small protrusions along the roof of the building. The area behind the building also looks very nice, with several cars parked at a parking lot. Trucks and other cars are driving over these roads, courtesy of AESLite’s traffic, not merely those of FSX default.
Here’s a shot of what might be a GA area. We see a private jet parked along some smallish hangars, all well-modeled and well-textured. I want to draw special attention to the train you see behind the hangars, driving along the road. The train is very well animated and drives up and down this bit of tracks to the terminus at the airport terminal. It also makes sound, by the way: you can hear its horn from all over the airport. I’m not sure if this is entirely realistic. I should think that the sound should be softer, but it’s a very nice touch. There’s also a separate, larger hangar, in which we find a Boeing 737-200 parked. How do I know this? Check the shot from the other side...
...where we see that the plane parked in the hangar is a plane of NAC, or Northern Air Cargo, which flies Boeing 737-200 aircraft.
In this shot there are various things to see. First of all, note that ground textures. They are very good, with a low level of blurriness. This provides for a very good level of detail that is a pleasure to look at. Secondly, the cars. These cars are courtesy of AESLite, which means that they also stop for the user aircraft. This is very nice, because it adds a whole new level of interaction between the user aircraft and the surrounding. I for one get the feeling that my aircraft counts on this airport. I’m not merely a bunch of pixels, but I’m an entity through which a car can’t drive. This is what AESLite provides at Anchorage: realism. And if that’s not enough, each of these vehicles looks great. I’m especially a fan of the blue tanker sort of car you see on the foreground.
On the other side of the runway, we found several hangars and offices of the Alaska Air National Guard, which, like the US National Guard, is probably a kind of civilian’s army. Here we find various hangars and parking spots where probably military aircraft of all sorts should and could have been parked. As it is, there are none. It gives everything a rather empty look, but it’s not Anchorage X’s fault and I don’t really miss the aircraft anyway. Instead concentrating on the buildings, these look really nice. The texturing is convincing and the modeling is detailed enough to provide a good replica of the real thing. A bit strange is the shadow of the large, grey hangar. It seems interrupted by a piece of tarmac. These shadows are “baked into” the scenery, drawn onto the textures, for I have no building shadows turned on. This is probably some texturing error.
Here we see the red hangars more up close than on the other shot. Modeling is very nice, and so is the texturing, which has a good resolution, offering both good detail on the roofs and on the ground. I quite like how the leftmost red hangar’s door is slightly opened, which shows the detail-oriented spirit of this scenery, without offering so much detail that performance declines.
A last shot of PANC shows some more hangars, probably fit for smaller, GA aircraft. What I like in this shot is mainly the red/white pole with the water reservoir, and the trees. Especially the trees give PANC a true Alaskan feel of wilderness, even though Anchorage is far from wilderness the way we imagine for that you may go to PABU, or Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, which incidentally is another scenery made by Aerosoft.
The control tower of PANC looks just like this in the real world. I find that it’s very nicely modeled with quite some detail included and a nice texturing to top it off. Overall looking good.

This pretty much concludes this chapter. I hope you’ve gotten a good impression of the features of PANC itself. From the very nice ground textures on taxiways and runways to the moving, horn-sounding train and the cars that stop for your aircraft when you cross the road. It all looks very good for sure, with some efficient yet beautiful modeling coupled to some very good texturing. Now we will (sort of) take to the waters at the Lake Hood seaplane base.

The scenery: Lake Hood seaplane base

Lake Hood is, like PANC, somewhat of a center of aviation but not for passengers, cargo or military, but for GA aircraft. It is the biggest seaplane airport of Alaska and the US, maybe even of the world. On one side of this lake we find lots of small, wooden houses and tiny piers, around which we find dozens of GA seaplanes.

On the land, we find a gravel strip and all around the island we find GA parking areas, hangars and a very long taxiway that connects all these areas to PANC. The below shots will give a tour all the way from the seaplane area to the hangars on the shore of the lake, following the one, very long taxiway that has been laid out here.

The seaplane base is huge. There are multiple piers, all filled with little shacks and seaplanes pulled onto the land to keep them from drifting a way. Although there is some repetition to the shacks, it’s not that noticeable thanks to the amount of shacks modeled.
Along the shore we find a “normal” GA aircraft parking area. A short gravel runway is more than enough for the GA aircraft operating at Lake Hood. The taxiways are rather makeshift and without taxiway markings, as is the runway, but it’s more than enough to work with. The look of all the Lake Hood’s runways and taxiways is very nice, looking very authentic with good texturing, although hardly any real modeling was necessary, except for the planes. These look really good and a wide variety of repaints for these airplanes makes everything look really nice.
There is another peninsula, filled with shacks and seaplanes towed onto the land. A multitude of hangars fill the land part of the peninsula, and here there wooden piers have been constructed. A long taxiway allows passage to the planes to the gravel strip, and we even see some normal, wheeled GA aircraft parked, together with some nicely modeled cars.
Following the taxiway around the lake, we soon reach an area filled with medium sized hangars, and a large apron filled with GA aircraft parking spots. The apron is actual asphalt, not mere gravel or dirt, and we find taxiway markings here too. Along one edge there is a long taxiway. A multitude of tiny GA aircraft fill the GA parking area, but it’s not enough to fill it up. This way there is a good balance between giving a filled-up impression yet letting the user choose the spot he wants to park his plane.
This is a piece of taxiway between the large asphalt apron that hosts parked GA aircraft and the gravel strip we looked at previously. It’s a fun little thing, for what we see here is an aircraft/road crossing, where the GA aircraft cross the road to park at the asphalt GA parking. It seems that the default situation is a closed taxiway. When a plane needs to pass by, the gates open, and the plane is allowed to taxi over the road.
When we keep following the taxiway in the direction of PANC itself, we come across another mooring place for GA seaplanes and a wheeled GA aircraft parking apron, although it doesn’t seem as luxurious as the one we looked at just now. Along it we find some more hangars, probably all private and costing a fortune due to their prime location.
We now come across another rather big parking area. There are some lager hangars over here, and another big asphalt apron where a multitude of small, wheeled GA aircraft can be found. Lots of wooden piers can also be found here, giving the seaplane owners a chance to “park” their planes in style.
The same area, but seen from the other side. We now have a good view on the true hugeness of this GA parking. As you can see, there is a large asphalt apron, but also a part that is simple grass, without taxiway or parking markers of any kind. Different price categories perhaps?
Further down the taxiway, we find even more hangars, some bigger than others. Some more wooden piers can be found, but no real GA parking to speak off. Still, all modeling and texturing looks very good.
Here we seem to have arrived at a maybe more expensive part of the Lake Hood seaplane base. We see a lot of wooden piers and several large hangars, amongst which is parked an old Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-200. In real life, this old beats has been taken out of Alaska Airlines’ service, but in my sim, using MTX, they still proudly fill the Alaskan sky and I have seen many of them flying around Dutch harbor, trying to land sometimes failing at that (which made me grin evilly).
This is the last area at Lake Hood. A fence restricts access to this sealed-off area, which makes me wonder what it is, for it doesn’t seem to be anything private, that is, for normal GA aircraft and their owners. Suffice to say that here too, the modeling is good and the texturing is well done.

I was very impressed with Lake Hood. Not just by the modeling, but also because it’s such a nice place. It seems to have been built around the lake and it was done in a very nice way. With one long taxiway connecting the various aprons to the small, gravel strip and on the inside we have the large lake where landing and departing is made possible for the multitude of seaplanes that are towed onto land or moored at one of the wooden piers.

Lake Hood has, without a doubt, never been done better (if it was done at all), and I think for GA flyers, Lake Hood is an experience. Couple it to OrbX and Tongass Fjords, and you have a real nice place to fly that GA aircraft of yours to and from.

The scenery: surrounding area

Besides great airport scenery, modeling some of the surroundings can be just as important. I think that nothing can quite break the tension of a perfect landing at beautiful scenery in the way that default scenery does when it appears just along the boundary of the airport perimeter. It looks unrealistic.

This is not to say that’s always the case, as it depends a bit on the airport. Its location and size are the main factors. PANC is an airport along the coast. Having an airport so close to the water without adding photoscenery that runs from the coast to the airport is often a missed chance to give a good airport a spectacular approach.

Fortunately, it seems Thortsen agreed with me as he modeled some of the surroundings. The result is that, no matter from what direction you approach the airport, you always have something to look at. The most eye-catching is the coastal part of the surroundings which has some beautiful blending of photoscenery and water layers, but the photoscenery is also very good for the other parts around the airport.

This way you fly over actual forests and houses on that final approach to PANC. I am very pleased with how it all turned out and I think it was done very well. The photoscenery has sufficient coverage, too. I only wish it would have had more vibrant colors.

It seems to me that there might have been a very subtle cloud layer when the photoscenery was captured, and as a result the colors are a bit washed out. Still, that’s nothing big. I included screenshots for your viewing pleasure.

This shot shows the photoscenery coverage. I think it’s sufficient, although sadly the colors seem a bit washed out.
I love this kind of photoscenery/water layer blends.
The washed out colors of the photoscenery does not combine very well with the vibrant colors of the autogen trees, but to me it’s no real biggie.
Good autogen annotation. The houses fit their photoscenery locations nigh on perfectly.
Some autogen houses do not belong at the places they are located, but I really like the highway with its moving traffic.
Good autogen annotation, and nice shoreline.

The scenery: at night

PANC is an airport add-on, and airport add-ons need to have some sort of night lighting otherwise they will be mocked by most of the FS community. Flying at night can be a real treat, and it would be a pity if an airport, especially one as central to a region as PANC, did not have it. Fortunately, PANC has it and it looks very nice.

The night lighting is a silver variant and looks very good wherever it is used in this scenery. The light bulb shining effect on the lap posts looks the way they should, and the light effect on the ground is well done. Some add-ons have some very sharp edges where the shadow begins and where it ends (games like Doom 3 also have it), which is exactly what I hate. I think those look unrealistic. Fortunately, PANC doesn’t have that, but has smooth transitions like you would see in real life.

Concerning shadows, I’m very pleased to say that the jetways actually have shadows “baked into” the scenery. This is good and bad. The good thing is that you don’t have to worry about turning on ground shadows, and thus lose a lot of FPS.

On the other hand, the jetways move with the help of AES (yes, there is AES support), but the shadows do not. The result is that shadows keep to the same position while jetways move around, and that simply looks strange.

Other than that oddity, I think the night scenery is very nice. Below are some screenshots to show it off:

Performance

PANC isn’t a really big airport, but the scenery includes Lake Hood and some surroundings. As a result, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Plus, some users on the forums were rather negative regarding the performance, while others seemed quite positive.

Test System

Computer Specs

Windows 7 64 bit
FSX
Intel i5 Quad @2,79 GHz
ATI HD5750
12GB RAM DDR3
FSGenesis mesh, REX, MTX, GEX

Flight Test Time:

6 hours

When I fired PANC up with the PMDG 737NGX, I got about 12 FPS standing at gate C3 from within the VC, but about 20 FPS when viewing the plane from the outside. When taxiing to the active and not facing the terminal, the FPS inside the VC quickly climbed to about 17. When turning onto the runway and getting the terminal back into view, it went to about 13 FPS.

I had hoped for higher FPS given the relative emptiness of the airport (it’s not like EHAM which is huge and very busy), but in hindsight, at most airports of the size of PANC I get about 12 FPS. So I shouldn’t have been surprised and as far as I’m concerned, PANC performs roughly the way you’d expect it to perform.

On the forums there has been some complaining though, so you might want to check the Aerosoft support forums for yourself (albeit most of the discussions are about the new way of pricing PANC)

Summary / Closing Remarks

Aerosoft’s Anchorage X is by all means very nice scenery. The modeling is good and the texturing looks nice, as with all Simwings airports. Sometimes I had hoped that the details would be a bit more extensive around the terminals buildings and aprons, but the fact is that it looks good just as it is.

The extensive cargo aprons are a welcome sight and the passenger terminals looks fine. I had actually hoped for better performance, but I guess my computer just isn’t good enough to handle it at high FPS.

All in all, a good scenery. I can recommend it to those that want to fly into Anchorage. I’m quite sue you won’t be disappointed, and the price is good.

Extra add-ons

A final note I have is a list of extra add-ons you might want to use in conjunction with Aerosoft Anchorage.

- UTX Alaska is a product that adds roads, rivers and coast lines, and corrects the default ones. I do not have this myself and I didn’t test Aerosoft Anchorage together with it, but the program comes highly recommended. Read the Avsim review for more information.

- Aerosoft’s Dutch Harbor is scenery of Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, which is a tiny airport at, you guessed it, Unalaska. Part of the Aleutian chain of islands, this airport is famous for its bad weather and short landing strip. I find it a great companion for PANC, because it’s a very challenging place to land and the terrain surrounding it is quite beautiful.

- Taburet’s Anchorage Photorealistic X adds photoscenery for the area of Anchorage. The coverage expands on that of Aerosoft and seems to add a lot, plus it seems to have more vibrant colors than Aerosoft’s Anchorage X. Do note I did not test the two together, so this is entirely at your own risk!

Goodbye, PANC!

 

What I Like About Anchorage X

  • Nice balance between detail and performance.
  • Good modeling.
  • Good texturing.
  • Lake Hood included.
  • Moving trains and cars with AESLite.
  • Modeling of some of the surroundings.
  • Good photoscenery coverage.

 

What I Don't Like About Anchorage X

  • Washed out photoscenery colors.
  • Some parts of the terminal seem a bit empty – more ground equipment might have done the trick.
  • I was hoping for better performance.

 

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