Samba samba ….. Cuzco
Time to go somewhere else ... time to see something else … time to experience a totally new scenery. This time not somewhere in Europe, the United States or Australia but Latin America and to be precise in Peru, at the airport of Cuzco or is it Cuzco or Qusqu? No matter how you see it, it all represents the airport of SPZO.
I’m in the lucky position of flying with Lan Chili (flight LP 023 / Airbus A319) from Lima to Cuzco and can therefore see with my own eyes this FSX scenery from Latin VFR. I’m curious if there’s a way to compare it with FTX Orbx products or the ones from Aerosoft, like the recently released German airports? And let’s not forget the Just Flight scenery software …. or is this fair?
It’s always worth trying to, but on the other hand, it’s more important to compare it with the default FSX scenery and see what they have made. That’s fair since not everybody has the same tools for making scenery like others can or don’t have the experience.
It’s probably a better idea to check what this airport and surrounding area offers and I can tell you, only the Latin VFR guys know that. But what is this software really covering, what is changed/modified compared to the default FSX scenery and what makes it so sensational to add this to your collection?
The Latin VFR website gives us the following information:
Certain things speak for themselves while others show us that the airport is well designed and an in-depth simulated. If this is all true, that’s my job to find out. There’s at least one huge advantage; there’s nobody else out there in the MSFS world that has created this airport. Furthermore, it tells me that both FSX and FS2004 sceneries will cost you no more than 19.99US$ or via SimMarket €14,99, which is a very competitive price. Will this price tell us something about the scenery’s quality or not? That’s another question I need to find out.
Again, it’s not fair nor worth comparing it with the big ones since there’s nobody out there who offers this. What’s also worth checking out is the pixels/meter quality used within the airport fences and around it. In other words, there’s a lot to figure out and therefore it’s time to move on and see how it really looks like. Oops, I almost forget it; the review covers only the FSX version because my FS9 was dumped in the container.
Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport
The real airport is located in the city of Cuzco, a city in southeastern Peru. Cuzco, a principal tourist attraction in Latin America, receives various domestic flights as well as some international flights. Its runways are completely paved. Currently, it operates at a limited capacity due to its precarious location near the city's center.
It was named in honor of the Peruvian pilot Alejandro Velasco Astete who was the first pilot to cross the Andes in 1925. This first flight was from Lima directly to Cuzco. Later that year, in September, while trying to avoid crashing into spectators at an air show in the city of Puno he crashed and was killed. In recognition of his pioneering achievements in Peruvian aviation history, the airport was named in his honor.
Previously, the airport was served by American Airlines on a JFK-LIM-CUZ-LIM-JFK routing in the late 90s (1998-1999) using Boeing 757-200 aircraft. However, these flights were discontinued due to difficulty with airport services and facilities. American still holds the rights to this route and can resume flights at the company's discretion.
There have been a number of talks about construction of a new airport in the suburb of Chinchero, but this has created controversy as this area is home to the Pampas of Chinchero, an ecological monument.
In the past, the airport received flights from Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano from Bolivia but with the bankruptcy of that airline, flights to Bolivia have been replaced by Aerosur. Cuzco also formerly received flights from the city of Arica in Chile.
The design of the airport has a number of commodities which attend to the multitude of tourists that visit the city of Cuzco. A number of years ago, it was the first Peruvian airport to make use of jetways. The runway is paved and is 3400 meters (11,155 feet) long and 45 meters (148 feet) wide. There’s something else which is special about this airport; it’s situated at an altitude of 10860 feet or 3310 meters. Think about this elevation; you can hardly breathe here or at least we who live at sea level find it’s difficult to understand that life is possible here.
Believe me it is and even for the airplanes it’s possible. It’s not going that easy to plan takeoffs where runway and environmental conditions are crucial for safe takeoffs and don’t forget about the landings. Since the airport isn’t equipped with an ILS – only a VOR/DME – the landings and approaches are not as easy as you would like. Ok, a good pilot can make any type of landing. however having a valid ILS isn’t always a luxury!
Installation and documentation
My FSX installer is the one from SimMarket, which is straightforward, there are no complicated questions except for the license ID but above all, there’s an automatic MSFS directory detection. It sounds strange but too many times you see that installers are not created/made in that way to detect the MSFS location automatically from the Windows Registry. Anyway, within no time you’re done and ready to go, so let’s go!
Hold on … we’re not yet finished. Before we continue with the next sub-chapter, we need to look what’s all installed apart from the Cuzco scenery itself. Via the Windows Start menu button, you get access to the SimMarket folder CuzcoX FSX. This CuzcoX folders offers two Acrobat documents; one for the scenery itself and another offering the necessary charts. Ok, then the folder offers an uninstall and repair shortcut and now we’re ready to go.
Before I’m finished, it’s worth mentioning that for the FSX platform there’s a patch available. It’s a patch that corrects errors on the tarmac and where textures are missing. It also corrects the blending of the photo real scenery around Cuzco. Since it’s not an auto installer, you need to install it manually by unzipping the contents of Scenery.zip and Texture.zip folders into the respective Scenery and Texture folder where Cuzco X is installed. These are the following folders -> X:\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X\SimMarket\CuzcoX\Texture or Scenery, where the first “X” represents your own FSX drive location.
This will be compared to many other reviews, a very short section. It comes with two Acrobat files, which will be explained in a minute. There’s not much information found here but still to say something and it’s worth reading.
The Manual.pdf document is not big but it seems to offer what you need as a enthusiastic flight simmer. It explains something about the airport history, something about the current airport, but most importantly, what this airport scenery package offers and it looks like it offers a little more outside the airport fences than normally can be expected.
The Charts.pdf document helps you understanding when flying to and from Cuzco. The nine charts – of course outdated but that shouldn’t be a problem – are for me enough to make instrument approaches, departures and VOR/DME landings. I’m sorry, it seems there’s no ILS option available, so practice is needed.
Let’s first start with …..
A common mistake is installing your software and never knowing what was live before. That’s the same for this Latin VFR Cuzco airport scenery. It’s not only covering what’s all inside the fences, it’s also offering a lot of ground textures around it. We just saw that’s so difficult to know the difference between how it was and how it has become.
Unfortunately, I was also too quick with installing this software as well, but there’s no need to uninstall it completely. As with others, go to the World -> Scenery Library menu and un-tick CuzcoX. It disables our installed Latin VFR software on the fly without restarting – only applicable for FSX – FSX and there you go … default Cuzco compared to the add-on scenery!
Oops, I can tell you the default FSX scenery looks horrible ..! It seems Microsoft never had an in-depth look into this area, which results in an average airport scenery. Far from the reality and not even worth flying into and that’s a shame. Latin America offers great airports with lots of challenges to fly from and to, and that’s also applicable for the Cuzco Airport. Anyway, let’s show you some screenshots of how life was before and after the installation of this Latin VFR software.
These screenshots are just there to give you impressions of the kind of differences that are to be expected. More screenshots do not need my personal opinion since these are already offering an overwhelming difference and thus a huge improvement to this default Peruvian airport and surrounding scenery. Based on these pictures is seems that the offered software is already worth every penny but hold on, not too quick. We need to look a little more in detail and that’s what we’re heading for.
The Latin VFR airport itself
Before we can start with our approach into Cuzco, I’ll first need to inform you about some technical details. The FSX Cuzco airport offers outside of the fences approximately a 1.5m quality, while within the fences it’s less than 1.0 m. For FS9 it’s slightly different; it’s approximately 10.0m per pixel outside the fences and 1.0m pixel within the fences.
Ok, than there’s another important note; an FSX patch. The patch solves some problems with black lines within the photo scenery. For your convenience, find here the direct link -> http://latinvfr.com/CuzcoPatch.zip.
Ok, time to see what LatinVFR offers.
The above shots are just a few of the many to come. I don’t want to offer you a slide show but only where needed or to pinpoint something. I would like to remind you that this offered airport scenery is not only what’s behind the fences or in this case the red brick wall. It’s much more and thus more worth your money. Ok, I can’t always compare it with some FTX or Aerosoft material, but for sure it a nice add-on also because there’s nothing else. Oops, I’m running out of where I should start.
The pictures show you some hot spots of the terminal building, the fire department station, the apron, taxiways and other parked or moving vehicles on the airport. It makes a nice impression, gives you a real good overview of how it looks in real life although there are a few items that could be better.
Looking at picture III, I have the idea that the red pawns are without any depth, which is not really something to worry about! But what about the controller in the middle of the two planes? I believe it’s a “she” but that’s not important but what’s important is that it looks that there’s a visible square around it and the visible square equals the grey platform.
Click on it and check for the yellow square. Although I’m not a programmer, I understand what’s happening here and at the same time I’m wondering how other developers are solving this. Anyway, that’s something you only see from a specific angle and then still I’m wondering if you will notice it.
Picture IV and V offer a good few of the platform construction as well as where the taxi part starts. I don’t own any better real photographs of the platform structure but I think – looking to the rest of the airport – this is in real also consisting of those concrete plates. What’s always visible with others as well is when you’re too low at the ground, the concrete or asphalt looks fussy however, 10 to 50 meters higher and it suddenly looks great.
Ok, this performance can be dramatically increased like the developers of FTX did with one of their latest airports. Does this mean I’m disappointed .. not at all! Although not belonging to the airport area, the fact that so much effort is added in creating houses along the whole airport area gives me a good feeling and I can tell you, it doesn’t stop with a row of houses. There’s much more outside the brick wall.
Let’s stay for a moment with picture V; what’s very well visible is the change from meters/pixel within the airport fences compared to outside of the fences. Just below the lower part of the small terminal building, you can see some red houses and the resolution around it. This seems to me of a much lower quality. Not really a big deal but when hovering around the airport, it’s something that’s picked out quickly. It’s also something which is visible on screenshot VI and then in particular at the parking lot and right of the highway. Still not really to worry about and please do not compare it with the latest FTX products. These are io my opinion offering the highest airport quality I’ve ever seen.
Back to Cuzco ramp area and building. On the next set of screenshots, you can see the weird looking windows of the terminal building. I know exactly what happened here and to be honest, it doesn’t look nice. There’s a kind of reflection created which doesn’t look natural, it looks as if there’s another surrounding area used for filling these window reflections.
I can’t change it and we have to live with it but it’s not my favorite way of creating window reflection. The top left picture is not bad at all but I miss something … let’s say some depth, some reflection. Clearly can be seen that real digital material is used but it could be better. This is the same with the right hand top screenshot; the first impression is ok but when digging deeper into it we see that strange window reflection and for the airstairs it’s the same as mentioned before … it’s misses something, it misses depth or a 3D effect. Apart of these items I still think that the airport offers a huge improvement compared to the default FSX airport and although not tested within FS9, there you can expect the same huge difference.
For the three lower screenshots, which offer you some details of the area outside of the brick wall, you can clearly see that the ground resolution is of a lower quality. As long as there are enough houses, it doesn’t make any difference, however where there is nothing but ground textures it’s not always nice to look at and thus it was a better idea when these textures had a higher resolution.
Circling around Cuzco at high altitude
Before taking you on the different approaches and thus showing you the quality and realistic X-factor of this area, I’ll take you first on a high altitude circling around the Cuzco area. To make it clear … it’s important to show you where this Latin VFR scenery ends and not how it looks like since flying at an altitude between 30.000 and 25.000 feet, doesn’t show any details anymore. No, here you can with your own eyes see how far the scenery extends and although it doesn’t look that far – don’t forget your looking from a high altitude – believe me, it is and all for the same price.
Approaching runway 10 and obviously 28.
I thought it would be a good idea to offer you some shots when approaching both ends of the runway although 190 is the one having a PAPI but for a good idea of the surrounding scenery both approaches where made. The advantage of adding this to the review is that it gives me and you a good idea of where the scenery stops and when you can’t see that, how far it reaches from the runway or airport apron itself and I can tell you already … it’s far, far away from the main airport ground.
Ok, let’s first have a look for a runway 10 approach and oops .. I made a mistake. Screenshot I is showing you the default area and not the reviewed Cuzco from Latin VFR. Lucky for me, I made a second shot of this location and altitude with Cuzco activated. This is available on screenshot II. The other four shots are showing the runway and surrounding area when approaching. When you have a close look and compare the first two screenshots with each other, you can see that this scenery doesn’t offer only the airport itself but as written on the website, much more. There’s suddenly a city, the small houses just on the other side of the airport fences or wall and don’t forget the additional mesh to recreate the real mountains including the correct colors. Later I’ll show you some shots where you can see where this scenery really ends and for an airport scenery, that’s very far away.
When coming closer to the runway, you can see more details – not always sharp and unfortunately fuzzy – and typical houses as well as the highway running around the airport. Fact is, that when coming closer more and more auto-gen pops up and makes the landing even more realistic than expected. The runway itself looks very similar to the real one and reflects good textures.
More or less the same you will see when approaching runway 28.
You would say or suggest that this approach is the same as the previous one but that’s not entirely true. Of course, one big difference is the 180 degrees different approach but moreover, a different overview of the surrounding Latin VFR scenery. It all starts again with a screenshot on the top left hand, which shows you the approach without the installed scenery, while the screenshot directly next to makes a huge difference.
Keeping the earlier real arrival pictures in mind, it seems again that the Latin VFR team did a good job from this distance. It really looks like the real one from an altitude like this. While you’re looking at all the arrival screenshots, I’m descending along my path and the more we come closer to the ground, the more I’m impressed about the realistic X-factor. Even the lower ones, except from one taken from the cockpit, still shows me a nice airport scenery. The screenshot from the cockpit gives a good overview of the terminal building and again I had hoped it was offering a little more depth quality. Am I complaining?
I’m critical but at the same time realistic. I know that what they do with FTX and Aerosoft, did cost time to achieve this and although the FTX airport was already at a high level, the borders where dramatically extended to new high levels. Is it worth writing and comparing this with the Latin VFR scenery?
Yes and no …. yes because it’s always worth comparing products and see what others can do and no because there’s nothing to compare this airport with since nobody else has done it before. Anyway, while the ground textures are of a good but not high pixels/meter quality, the approaches show me a worthy surrounding scenery and airport environment.
Before closing this airport, it’s a good idea to have a look to some evening shots. Unfortunately, the airport apron and buildings are not at all illuminated. If this is real, I’ll keep this open. The surrounding area outside the red wall brick is illuminated and not bad at all but here’s the question; is this real?
It’s not a big problem for me but an airport apron not illuminated at all without any reflections on the windows makes it a little unrealistic. Anyway, I hope you still like the following night views and remember one thing; when double clicking the images, I purposely lit the images more than needed and thus these thumbnails are not the real colors.
Summary / Closing Remarks
Although this review did cost me a lot of time to finish, I still have a good impression of the overall quality. Ok, I must admit that the offered quality is not the same as I’ve seen with FTX (Full Terrain Experience) products or those from Aerosoft. Keeping the price in mind and the created area around the airport itself and the fact that’s there’s no other developer who makes it, it’s still worth your money and as I said before, you only pay €14,99 for both the FS9 and FSX versions. Altogether, I did like the review title but sincerely hope that the developer can and will increase the overall quality.
Compared to the default FSX scenery, this Latin VFR product does dramatically change the old look into something highly realistic. Thus I think I’ve proven this by being on the same longitude/latitude location and making a screenshot from the default FSX scenery and then when Cuzco is activated. Only looking at those screenshots and seeing the huge differences, do I think it’s worth every Euro/cent.
When flying-in either a GA airplane or a jet, it’s still worth looking around since the minor mistakes are not really visible. When landed and taxiing to the gate and turning onto the airport apron, things become more visible and thus the inaccuracies. Apart from this, it’s 200% better than default Cuzco.
Final word; when you like flying in Latin America, then this is worth looking into but beware of one thing … the offered images on the Latin VFR website seem sharpened to me and with the clouds, it sometimes gives a slightly offline impression. Anyway, testing Latin VFR’s Cuzco was fun!
Reviewer's Note: Last incoming note from Ricardo from Latin VFR "there isn’t any light bulb on the airport or anything in that order. During the development Ricardo from Latin VFR tried to find out if there is any lighting on the airport but there isn’t, for the obvious reason that no night operations are allowed. The reason being no night flight operations available, is because for a departure and/or approach it is necessary to have visual reference because the airport doesn't have any NAV guidance equipment".
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