Search the Community
Showing results for tags 'marlon carter'.
Found 2 results
An AVSIM review by Marlon Carter. Product by FSDreamTeam. INTRODUCTION When it comes to the best scenery products available, FSDT has maintained itself among the top 5 scenery developers known for creating detailed and innovative products. Since the release of their Vancouver scenery, FSDT has been busy with the development of more popular U.S airports. The newest of these products is the Memphis International airport which is well known as the busiest cargo airport in the U.S. Being the major hub for FEDEX, this airport sees constant airline traffic at nearly all hours of the day. With regard to passenger operation KMEM sees some 3 million passengers each year and is serviced by nearly all U.S major and domestic airlines. Given these details, KMEM was a wise choice for FSDT and a welcome addition to flight simulator enthusiasts. With FSDT constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible within the FS platform, what can we expect from this new product? Let’s have a look at some of the features. FEATURES Fully customized ground and runways in high resolution, DX10 Compatible Ground terrain seamlessly integrated with Flight Simulator. Optimized for the Avatar mode in Prepar3D. Immersive Surround Sound Effects. Smart animations and people with almost no impact on memory and fps. Support for SODE Jetways. Woking EMAS system. Use of the advanced material properties, like bump and specular mapping. Fully 3d taxiways lighting. Intensive use of LOD techniques in order to offer the best possible performances. High resolution building textures. Complete GSX Integration ( requires GSX, free version ) YouControl™ menu, to turn on/off static airplanes. Video Previews After examining the features and previews of the KMEM airport scenery, there is no doubt that this product was created to be a further evolution in scenery design. With this in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to find out some additional information on this product and how it was created by having a chat with Umberto from FSDT. The following are his responses to a few questions that you will find very enlightening. 1. Why did FSDT decide to create KMEM? First and foremost, by listening to our users. We had a poll on our forum in mid-2014, and KMEM arrived first: http://www.fsdreamteam.com/forum/index.php/topic,10563.0.html We also thought the Cargo flyers community was too much neglected, and we also have a GSX extension in the works, which will cover Cargo operation in better detail. Which is also why, we have a separate team working on KSDF (Louisville, home of UPS), which should be released not that very far after KCLT. 2. What would you say are the obvious improvements over past products such as KIAH and CYVR? We always try to do something different with each scenery. No two sceneries were ever created equal and, with each one, we sometimes purposely question everything we did before, and try to wonder “could this be made differently?” or “what we can do better than the previous one?” CYVR was and still is, a scenery ahead of its time. It was designed when MS Flight was still available, and P3D wasn’t like it is today so, we were frustrated we couldn’t get the nice light environment which is standard with every other game (except FSX) and that MS Flight also improved, which was proper real-time shadows, which changed depending on the time of the day. So, we tried to work out within the constraint of the MS SDK, to do something like that in FSX. With the help of the Couatl engine, we add the Couatl script that runs CYVR, to perform astronomic ephemeris calculations, to obtain the correct sun position at that date/location, and draw different objects with pre-calculated shadows, so the scenery wouldn’t be “frozen” in time. This happened a bit before people started to realize that FSX, as a 32 bit app, has an hard limit of maximum 4GB, regardless of the OS used or the total amount of RAM available. When FSX was initially released, it was assumed that nobody would ever hit that limit, but after 10 years, with addons getting more and more complex, memory has become a scarce resource. CYVR, because of this, took a little bit more VAS than your usual large airport scenery, not much, maybe 10-15% more than, let’s say, our previous KLAX but, when you are short on memory, and when the airport resides in an area where there were other popular addons available, it could be the “straw who broke the VAS camel’s back”. Of course, you cannot say what is really “responsible” for an OOM: the scenery ran just fine by itself, and even with several addons added but, it couldn’t always work together when many of them were used at the same time. User realized this, and CYVR probably raised the awareness of memory being a limited resource, to be managed carefully. For the next scenery, KIAH, we took a different approach. We wanted reliable scenery that didn’t cause any problems so, we tried to hit memory as low as we could, and restrain ourselves, since KIAH is not by any means a small airport. This totally succeeded, and KIAH is by far our product that requires less support. However, the downside of it, is that some users found it a bit bland and less exciting. But after CYVR, how we could do it “better”, without breaking the memory at the same time? That was the main reasoning behind the development of KMEM. Doing something good to look at and never done before, as in CYVR, or making a reliable and good performing product, that might look a bit dull? The additional complication was that KMEM, frankly speaking, is not what we can call an architecture masterpiece. Nothing like some of the fancy European or Asian airports with designer-made terminals full of glass/steel and easily recognizable. It’s quite plain, with no fancy passenger terminals, and an enormous cargo area which is even more boring, with so many open spaces, that we could consume all the available memory by filling it with stuff, and people will still perceive it as being empty. So, the design challenge was quite high, because we had to do something good to look at, when even the real airport is nothing to write home about... In the end, we decided to invest in: - Applying new graphic styles and techniques, most of them coming from the “real-world” game developers using more powerful graphic engines, and the raising trend of Physical Based Rendering, which is the actual big thing in game graphics. They are a game-changer, allowing to approach photorealism on 3d objects, in real time, without being significantly more taxing on the hardware, provided the video card is reasonably recent. Sure, FSX and P3D still cannot do proper PBR, but many of the workflow and techniques can still be applied and benefit the FSX/P3D engines and, when PBR will eventually arrive on the platforms, we’ll be ready for it… From a graphic design point of view, applying the lessons of PBR, means working not just with “nice textures”, but thinking in terms of real world materials, and the interaction (which is ruled by known scientific rules) between the different parts that makes a texture, such as colors, normals, specular and glossiness. This allows us to have less materials and less textures, but with a more realistic behavior, especially during different times of the day. The advantage of this approach is that, the better the sim graphic engine becomes, the more realistic the objects will look, without having to remade them again. - Another area we wanted to focus on was special programming features. Trying to stay true to our requirements to be as conservative as possible in memory, but doing a large and good looking scenery at the same time, we tried to leverage our in-house scripting tool, the Couatl engine, help us adding features that will not take any precious memory away from the sim, and keep the scenery engaging. Since Couatl can run an entire complex add-on like GSX, which also have its code running outside the sim, we can use the same system in our sceneries. To us, a scenery is made by two separate and entirely important parts: the graphic part, which is the objects and the textures, and a code part, which is the script that runs the scenery. In KMEM, the Couatl Python script is doing A LOT (and not alone) while the script language is Python, which is one of the most used game-scripting language out there (together with LUA, probably, but we like Python more), for the really complex things, we need the help of fast C++ routines, which are running inside Couatl.exe. And for KMEM, we did something a bit crazy, like writing our own “collision engine” from scratch. What’s wrong with the built-in FSX/P3D collision engine? Well, nothing really but, it might be expensive in term of performances, it’s not very fine in resolution and if you try to make it finer, it will totally destroy the fps. Have you tried getting closer and closer to an airplane with the P3D Avatar, only to realize you can’t? That’s the default collision engine in action, it’s based on the very well-known Octree system, which is a grid of boxes around the airplane, which are not very detailed, because it’s easier for the graphic engine to calculate collision over a rough grid of boxes rather than on the actual mesh. So, you couldn’t be very precise with it. Also, the default collision system is really only good to know if you “crashed” into something, nothing else more useful could be done with it and, apart for printing a “You crashed” message, the only other feature that got some usage of the crashbox, was the Avatar. With its frustrating and tantalizing inability to really go close to things. With the Avatar available and P3D becoming more and more popular, we wanted to let users visit the airport from a different perspective, and experience it in different ways. Like walking IN the Control Tower, and visit it from the inside. But it couldn’t be done with the default collision detection system, because it wasn’t precise enough, but if we just disabled it, it would have been possible to simply walk into anything, ruining the experience and the suspension of belief. So, we went ahead and added a whole new collision engine, built into Couatl, and accessible to the script that runs scenery. The most obvious think it does, is to allow a very fine control over which surfaces becomes “hard”, since it can use the same kind of data used to create the actual scenery objects. We can make any polygon in 3D Studio Max to act as a logical barrier (without even being exported in the visible scenery), and have the Avatar, or the airplane, react in some way, for example not being able to pass through it. This is what made possible for the Avatar to climb the fairly tight staircase that goes in the Control Tower control room, and being realistically constrained by the internal walls. But that was just one use of the collision engine. We added custom behaviors too so, for example, something like an animation or a sound or any other event could happen, if the user or the Avatar crossed into an hot area. This way, we could make the Control Tower elevator doors to be opened automatically as soon as the Avatar get close to them, and close them automatically too, when he gets away. This is how the EMAS system is working: as soon as the airplane enters in that area, we display some visual effects and we slow down the airplane. We also added the ability to have objects appearing/disappearing if the user enters in a certain area, which is not just a center/range or a rectangle, it can be any shape and, with a custom behavior too. This is the way we added lots of animated scenes with people, available on almost all parking spots (there are about 180 of them), which appears as soon as the airplane enters in a certain parking, but not immediately and not while the user is taxiing or flying, in order to preserve the smoothness. There was no way we could ever be able to fit hundreds of animated people and additional details in memory and, even if we could, they would have destroyed the frame rate anyway, so it wasn’t possible doing it without using some kind of logic. But it’s all handled as different cases of the general “collision detector” system, which we of course could use for many other things, like future sceneries and future versions of GSX. Other interesting things at KMEM were the sound effects. Sure, we had our own sound engine for a while, since GSX uses it too. It’s based on OpenAL, which is a standard open library which (under Windows) stays on top of DirectSound, and allows to do amongst other things, positional audio and sound filtering like reverb, occlusion, etc. Again, being handled by Couatl, which runs externally of the sim, we could play sounds; allocate WAVs, etc, without ever touching the ever-precious VAS. So, with the KMEM Control Tower, we really exploited both the positional audio features, but also the occlusion/filtering features of OpenAL. Inside the control room, there are several telephones, and there’s someone typing on a computer. So, we took the exact 3d coordinates of these objects, as they are visually modeled, and pass them to the Couatl Python script that handles KMEM, so it could create several sound emitters, for a ringing phone, or a person typing on the keyboard, which are located exactly where the object is. OpenAL would do the rest for us so, if you have a surround sound system (it's especially effective with 5.1/7.1 Headphones), you can walk with the Avatar into the office, and hear a realistic sound ambience all around you. You’ll hear a telephone ringing behind you so, your instincts might tell you to turn around in that direction and…there’s a telephone, right there where the sound came from! We have some sampled chatter, taken from the real KMEM live ATC, which comes from a radio in the office. During development, we even toyed with the idea to play the *actual* Live KMEM ATC, since Couatl/Python can easily access the internet and download everything, including an audio stream, but then we argued that it would be distracting to hear the real world ATC, without having matching AI airplanes so, we dropped it, maybe something for the future… By taking advantage of the sound occlusion features in OpenAL, all sounds in the control room, which is on the 2nd floor of the room, will be more “muffled” and muted if you are still on the first floor so, as soon the elevator doors opens up, you’ll hear some sounds, which will become more and more clear, while you are climbing the stairs. We added several other positional sound effects to the scenery, the large FedEx hangar, which can be opened with the KMEM menu, has a big sound representing the opening of its main door, and inside of it (the Python script will not even create the detailed internal if the door is closed, so no memory is wasted if you don’t need that feature), there are several rails on the ceiling that moves randomly, and they also make a sound that comes from their actual position. 3. Does this product offer a much better experience for P3D users vs FSX user? Absolutely. Lots of its features has been designed with the Avatar mode in mind, but with the latest update, we made a very important part of the scenery ( the background textures, everything which is not 3D ), using the native P3D SDK, which allowed us to save a lot of complex mechanics we were always forced to use so far, to fix the longstanding issue with doing complex layered backgrounds, without being forced to rely on the slow and bad looking FS8 ground polygons, or having to rely on the sim doing the wrapping over the round earth, which comes at some cost in fps. In previous sceneries, we had to raise the background depending on the user eyepoint, in order to prevent heavy flickering (because the scenery wasn’t processed in any way by the sim, thus being faster), but in KMEM, we had so many objects to raise, that this was starting to take a toll on Simconnect, especially when used together with many other add-ons that also send many commands to it for various reason (such as weather engines), we started to get reports of stuttering. Using the P3D SDK, we cut on 90% of this activity and got rid entirely with the need to raise the background in real-time, which results also in a more visually reliable scenery, which is also way less prone to stuttering and which will keep the good framerate that we would have lost, had we used other more conventional methods of doing the background, since P3D finally has a feasible solution that proved to work just fine. We’ll surely use it for all the upcoming sceneries, and we’ll likely revisit several of our most recent existing ones, like KLAX, CYVR and KIAH, to use the same method. I suggest all KMEM P3D users to be sure to download the latest installer (or the smaller patch we published on our forum), because it’s runs so much better than the original release. But in addition to that, P3D is simply way more stable, especially compared to the normal FSX (the Steam version is a bit better). We are now starting to feel constrained by FSX, which is showing all its age. We are *not* at the same stage as we were years ago, when we felt constrained by FS9 and decided to stop supporting it, but are are getting closer to that moment. The P3D SDK is SO much better, and we still have used only a tiny small fraction of it, because we couldn’t probably afford to do a P3D-only product but, we took this “soft” approach, of adding more and more P3D-only features, one step at the time, while the user community is moving towards it, together with us. 4. As usual, the quality of your textures are outstanding, are they custom created or do they also include real world photo textures? KMEM uses hand-made textures almost entirely. We never have been fond of photorealistic textures so with each scenery, we tried to move away from them. They might be nice for flying in wilderness areas but, if you are doing an airport which is mostly aprons/grass, which must be hand-made anyway for quality, what would be the point to place a satellite photo underneath, only to be covered by custom aprons and 3d buildings? So, we might use photorealistic images as a reference, internally, but what will end up in the scenery has been remade so heavily, which is basically a whole new texture. KMEM uses more of this method and, with the previous discussion about PBR materials, the supposed “realism" of a photo, can be matched and surpassed by a material that behaves realistically under the different lightning conditions in the sim. 5. Finally, can you explain a little about Coualt and any advantages it has over the traditional methods of scenery development? Well, I think I have discussed already quite a bit of what Couatl does, and how it has been invaluable for us, allowing to do entire products with it, like GSX and XPOI, and being the heart of all the special features in the scenery. Another thing that does on KMEM, is the water puddles. Sure, several other developers have custom water puddles that comes out when it’s raining but, isn’t a bit odd that, as soon as raining stops, the apron gets dry again immediately? With a small Python routine running at KMEM, we added a bit of logic to it, and instead of relying on the standard SDK way of doing wet surfaces, we checked the weather and, in case of rain, we display the puddles independently, take notice of when the rain stops, and have them disappear after a while, so you could get the effect of getting back a clear sky and sun shining, but with parts of the apron still wet, because not enough time passed since the rain stopped. Another feature we use it for, is for further optimize the usage of texture memory. With the way FSX/P3D works, if it’s day, an object will load its day textures, if it’s night, it will load the night textures but, in Dusk? The day and night textures will be blended together, so both textures will be loaded, which means 2x the texture memory will be consumed at Dusk, which might be a problem, if the scenery is massive. So, we reused our handy astronomical calculator we made for CYVR, so we can both decide when switching from day into dusk and into night (instead of relying on the sim, which sometimes has troubles with time zones), but we can also display a specific dusk version of an object, which contains a pre-blended texture which is appropriate at dusk, instead of loading day & night together, saving a bit of memory in the process. Since we licensed the Couatl engine to Flightbeam, which is in my opinion the most talented scenery developer out there, they used it in some of their sceneries, like KIAD and KSFO, to display different apron light effects, depending on the visibility, thus simulating the effect that fog would have on the spreading of the light over the apron at night. So, basically, there’s really no limit to what Couatl can do, since its more accurate description is: - A scripting interpreter based on the Python language. And not just any Python language, but a version especially designed for real-time games, which is called “Stackless Python”, which has lots of optimizations when many snippets of code need to run together at the same time, which is the typical scenario of an “open world” simulation, with many vehicles, objects, characters, all running their own behaviors. - An external add-on module, running as an .EXE, so it will have access to its own VAS, so it can access lots of memory, running even complex code, without taking away any VAS from the sim. Being an external .EXE, it can take advantage of the task allocation made by the OS, so if there’s one of the cores of a multi-core CPU which is idling, the OS will automatically allocate an .EXE to it, without any special programming on our part, something that we would need to do if we were running in-process (like a DLL or a Gauge) - It’s the “glue” between what Simconnect can do, what Simconnect cannot do, and what we do in a custom way, outside the sim (like the collision engine or the astronomical engine), which might be individually very complex to do, but are instead wrapped in a very user-friendly and powerful language like Python. I certainly want to take the opportunity to thank Umberto for his insights into this product. When it comes to innovation, we have seen a constant forward progression when it comes to aircraft design. With scenery products however, the innovation has been quite limited over the years with only a few developers testing the limits of what can be done. As we can see from our interview with Umberto, KMEM is a product that is unlike anything that we’ve seen thus far and we will be taking a closer look at some of the innovations that were implemented later in this review. For now, let’s move on to talk about the Documentation that comes with this product. DOCUMENTATION As with all FSDT products, the documentation is thorough and easy to follow. The documentation not only mentions the features of this product, but it also takes you step by step through each feature and how users of FSX and P3D utilize these features effectively. For example, the Control Tower Experience operates a bit differently if you are an FSX user verses P3D users who have the ability to use Avatar mode. An added benefit of the documentation is that it also includes a full set up charts for the airport and this will be useful to those of you who enjoy having easy access to the departure and arrival charts. Let’s have a closer look at this scenery and some of the new features that have been implemented. THE SCENERY If you’ve had the opportunity to try FSDT’s KIAH (Houston International) scenery, you will no doubt agree that it was a vast improvement over their older products such as KORD or KFLL. After seeing the stunning textures, modeling and detail that was packed into KMEM it is quite clear that FSDT is on a mission to constantly improve on the features of their products. Given the fact that the FedEx facility at KMEM is the largest cargo operation in the U.S, it comes as no surprise that the terminal buildings and ramp area used by FedEx would preoccupy a significant part of this airport. The detail of the cargo terminal and ramp areas are outstanding to say the least and they include not only high quality textures, but also numerous minute details such as ground equipment, light poles, powerlines and animated ground crew personnel. As we move over to the main passenger terminal and other areas, it becomes quite clear that KMEM doesn’t really offer much in terms of a unique airport design. However, there is no doubt that FSDT spent a considerable amount of time in creating a detailed model of FBOs, Hangars, ANG ramp and Terminals A, B and C with perhaps some of the most detailed Jetways I have ever seen. The textures used for the Terminals are all high quality textures that perfectly capture the “used” look of these buildings. The ramp area surrounding the main passenger terminal buildings not only has an accurate layout, but it also has a set of very detailed textures which go as far as showing the cracks in the ground. Also included with this scenery is the special effect of having standing water on the ramp and taxiway during rainy weather condition. This dynamic effect certainly adds to the overall realism of this airport in addition to the nicely modelled vegetation throughout the airport. As an added bonus, your experience at the terminal is further enhanced with the addition of GSX which works for free with FSDT airports. For more information on GSX, please read this review HERE. During the night, this airport truly takes on a new life with 3D lighting effects and outstanding night time textures that are the most convincing to date from FSDT. A very special feature that many of you will enjoy is that FSDT KMEM allows user to control the night lighting within the FEDEX maintenance hangar. While this may seem insignificant to some, this shows the level of detail sought after by the development team in order to deliver a product that is unique. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few screenshots showcasing this amazing airport. With most scenery reviews, after discussing and showcasing the terminals, textures and special effects we would typical start discussing our summary of the product. However, in this case we may actually be just getting started! As mentioned in the interview portion of this review, KMEM has a host of special features including a custom collision model, Tower view and 3D sound positioning. What does all of this mean? Well let’s examine some of these features and how they enhance the value of this product. The custom collision modelling allows for the first time, (from my recollection) the ability to actually hit 3D objects throughout this scenery. The first time I experienced the collision modelling was while parked at the FEDEX ramp without my parking brake on and the aircraft rolled into a light pole. What happened? Well the aircraft hit the pole and rolled backward. There was no sound effect or damage associated with the collision (I always have damage turned off), but this shows that you can’t pass through 3D object as you would with the majority of other scenery products. This unique feature also allows for FSDT to implement a working EMAS system (Engineered Materials Arrestor System). This is basically a bed of engineered materials that are laid at the end of a runway to stop an aircraft overrun with minimal damage to the aircraft and human injury. When an aircraft overrun is eminent, the aircrafts is slowed down as the landing gear crushes through the EMAS material. This may typically be accompanied by a crushing sound in addition to materials being dispersed. With the FSDT KMEM scenery, this system has been nicely implemented and thanks to their custom collision model it works quite accurately. The next and perhaps most significant feature of this product is the Control Tower view. This might seem like a useless feature of some, but to those of us who enjoy attention to detail, the Tower view feature of this airport is perhaps one of the most intriguing features of any scenery product to date. If you are a P3D user, this feature will open your minds as to the possibilities of scenery design. Using the Avatar mode, you can walk up to the control tower, open the door, and take the elevator to the control room area. Once you’ve gotten to the control room area, you will see a fully modeled control tower equipped with animated ATC personnel (2) and numerous computer screens with static images that change depending on the time of day. While this in itself is stunning to look at, FSDT has taken things to another level by adding positional sound effects. For example, if a phone is ringing, you will know the position of the phone based on the sound. Additionally, you can also hear ATC chatter just as you would in a control tower. If you walk away from the control tower, the sounds from that room can no longer be heard. While the sights and sounds within the control tower are quite stunning, the view of the entire airport from the control tower window is equally breathtaking. From the control tower you can have a full view of the airport including AI aircraft and roadway traffic if enabled. With this feature, we now have the choice of flying out of KMEM or sitting in the control tower and enjoying the AI action. For FSX users, you may be wondering how this feature can utilized given the fact that FSX doesn’t have avatar mode. Well you will be quite pleased to know that this feature can also be utilized by FSX users but it will require a 3rd party camera program such as EZDOK. I haven’t had the opportunity to test this with Chaseplane but I can only assume this program may work just the same. The downside for FSX users however, is that you won’t be able to open doors or use the elevator. Ultimately, this feature is an outstanding example of what can possible when a developer thinks outside the box. While this review focused on some of the primary features of this product, it is important to note that this product has many other intriguing features. As an example, it offers users the ability to enable runway sound effects which are common when the landing gear rolls over the center lights, ability to warp to various parts of the airport including hangars, the ability to open and close hangar doors, use animated Jetways to your liking and to Hide and enable static aircraft. Many of these features are accessed through the YouControl menu which is opened by using the Ctrl+F12 command. If you would like to make use of the Animated Jetways using SODE, you can also do this by using the Ctrl+Shift+F12 command and I can guarantee that once you’ve used these features, it will be difficult to go back to using other products that do not support these features. Here are a few screenshots showcasing the features we just discussed. PERFORMANCE With so many features, the logical question on everyone’s minds is whether or not this scenery product has an impact on performance and VAS. Thankfully, FSDT has done an outstanding job in offering such a detailed product that has no significant impact to performance. For the purpose of this review, I’ve tested the performance of this airport along with products from PMDG, FSLabs and Carenado and I was quite pleased with the result. Even while using addon weather programs such as AS16, the performance remains quite stable. With regard to VAS usage, thankfully this product doesn’t consume a massive amount of VAS due to the new techniques in scenery design used by FSDT. Unlike some older products which had a slightly high VAS usage, you can feel confident that while using your favorite aircraft, you will not see any OOM errors. Ultimately, while everyone’s experience may differ, I am certainly impressed with the performance aspect of this product given the high level of detail even when using World of AI. FINAL THOUGHTS To conclude this review, FSDT’s KMEM airport is by far one of the most innovative scenery products available today. While other developers may come close or even match the high quality textures and modeling, the special features of this product that are made possible by the Coualt scripting engine are simply unmatched. Three of the most outstanding and innovative of these features is the able to enjoy this product from the perspective of an Air Traffic Controller which is a first for FSX/P3D. To fully enjoy this experience, it is highly recommended that you use a 3rd party AI traffic product or simply log onto VATSIM to enjoy the movement of aircraft traffic. The second feature is GSX is another product worth having that works for free with any FSDT airport. GSX truly adds a new level of realism to your experience at the airport. The third most outstanding feature is the EMAS which allows users to experience the consequences of a runway overrun whether it is due to pilot error or a system failure of the aircraft. This is a feature that is a first for FSX/P3D and it is a fine example of what can accomplished with a little innovative thinking on the part of developers. It is for this reason; I honestly believe that FSDT deserves an AVSIM Gold Star for developing an outstanding product with new and innovative features. With all of these features (and more!), you will be pleased to know that you can have FSDT KMEM airport for only $29.00 USD. At this price point, FSDT offers a product that exceeds the quality and performance of many other products that come with a higher price point. For those of you who would rather the try before you buy method, FSDT offers a trial version of the product which offers you the full product with a time restriction of about 5-6 minutes. Within this time period, you will have more than enough time to assess the performance impact and the special features of this product to make a decision to purchase. Why not give it a try? You won’t be disappointed! Acknowledgement Special thanks to Umberto for his assistance in providing some additional details on the product and the development process. In case you were wondering, here is a list of the other Products seen in this review: PMDG 777 PMDG MD-11 (No longer available for purchase) Alabeo Piper Seminole Carenado Cessna Caravan Cargomaster
NATURE AIR A review by Marlon Carter. Highlights Nature Air is a new addition to the Just Planes lineup and in addition to being a newly featured airline, we will also have the privilege of flying to some 11 new and intriguing destination! In this program we will follow the flight crew of Nature Air’s Twin Otter and Caravan operations in Costa Rica. Some of the destinations we will be visiting are Quepos, Palma Sur, Tambor, Nosara, Punta Islita, Puerto Jimenez, Golfito, Tamarindo, Liberia and La Fortuna! When I first saw the extensive list of destinations, I initially thought that many of these flights would be more or less the same. After viewing the program in its entirety, I can honestly describe this program as one of the most interesting adventures that Just Planes has to offer. Here are some of the highlights. Our first flight takes us from San Jose to Quepos and Palma Sur Costa Rica onboard the Cessna Caravan. Most of these flights border on 20-50 minutes in length and no one will be complaining since driving to these destinations can easily take up to 4 hours! For the duration of our first leg, our primary view came from the wing mounted camera that pointed directly as the aircraft and it also offered a wonderful view of the surroundings below. On our second leg to Palma Sur, we experience the majority of this flight from the cockpit of the Caravan. While flying low altitude enroute, the Captain pointed out interesting details about the flight and the region as we fly overhead. The landing at Palma Sur easily reminded me of landings in St. Barts since we had to dive to the runway due some very tall trees surrounding the threshold. After a very turbulent arrival back at San Jose, the Captain chats with the viewers about various destinations and their attractions. This segment was very enlightening since it teaches you about some of what Costa Rica has to offer. In addition to this presentation, the Captain also discusses various details about the Cessna Caravan. One of the things you will immediately notice about the Caravan is that it comes with the legacy cockpit verses the newer G1000 display units. The Captain explains that Nature Air chose the legacy cockpit due to its reliability in harsh climate conditions of Costa Rica. Other operators who used the G1000 often experienced overheating which resulted in maintenance issues. Thereafter, the Captain also delves into a very thorough cockpit presentation of the Cessna Caravan, which was a definite highlight of this program. The next sequences of flights take us from San Jose to Tamarindo, Nosara, Punta Islita, Puerto Jimenez and Golfito onboard the Twin Otter with a few flights also featuring the Caravan. Many of these flights feature stunning views from the various cameras mounted on the tail, wing, gear and belly of the aircraft! Some flights are films entirely from these views and they offer a beautiful perspective of this tropical region. The return flight from Golfito to San Jose was by far the most memorable flight on this program. The cloudy sky conditions at dusk created a stunning experience that has to be seen to be truly appreciated. As the program draws to an end, the CEO and Founder of the airline talks with the viewers about the history of the airline and its importance to tourism and job creation in the region. After viewing this presentation one can’t help but be impressed with the large role of this small airline. What is even more so impressive is that Nature Air is the world’s first Carbon Free airline. How can any airline be Carbon Free? Well I am not an environmentalist but apparently there are equations that determine an airlines carbon footprint. After taking into account that Nature Air preserves the rain forest with its profits, this environmentally conscious airline has offset their carbon footprint to nil. After this intriguing presentation by the CEO, we delve one last time to some flying action with a few clips of Nature Air’s fleet in action. This is followed by a few Twin Otter flights that also include a thorough cockpit presentation! As the program comes to an end, it was hard to believe that nearly 4 hours had gone by. This program offers a wonderful view into the operations of Nature Air and an intriguing look at the region of Cost Rica. For both pilots and enthusiasts, this program is definitely a keeper and it will no doubt provide hours of nonstop fun and adventure. Additional information is available here.