The TFDi Design 717 has been one of the most highly anticipated addons for FSX and P3D for a couple of years now. It has seemed as if there may be a new kid on the block ready to bring us high fidelity aircraft simulations. The TFDi 717 has had its fair amount of hype, and after releasing on December 22 for $59.99 USD, it seemed as if everybody had this addon as quickly as the overloaded servers would allow.
TFDi said earlier in the year that 2016 would be “the year of the 717”. They did what most developers don’t by giving a release date. It seemed as if this added to the excitement of the 717. Developing anything is often a fluid process that can take two steps forward and one step back. As such, developers don’t like giving release dates because it puts them in a situation where they have to either release a product that isn’t finished, or deal with the angry customers. TFDi stayed true to their word by releasing the 717 in 2016, but does it hold up to the hype though?
It’s the worlds fifth busiest airport, has 6 runways to serve traffic from literally every wind direction, serves one of the worlds biggest air fleets and recently celebrated its 100th birthday. Obviously I’m talking about Schiphol airport. It’s been almost two years since FlyTampa announced a new project on their forums which was quickly recognised as the famous airport. After some much anticipated previews, many questions about the progress and sometimes even doubts whether the airport would still release, it’s finally here.
The year was 1962, we were doing The Twist, and the world was watching as President Kennedy lead the United States in the worsening Vietnam war. The Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, KY took delivery of what was then designated as the HU-1A. This Bell turbine-single engine helicopter was meant for evaluation only. Despite this, the Army quickly re-designated it the UH-1A and deployed nearly 7,000 to Vietnam.
Of course, we now know them as the ‘Huey’ (a nickname from the original HU designation) family of helicopters. The Huey defined helicopter for most people, known for the distinctive thumping noise made by the rotor disk. Unfortunately, the Huey has gained infamy as a symbol of US involvement in southeast Asia. Young men with very little training flew the platform into battles supporting ground troops and giving ‘magic carpet rides’. This often lead to disastrous results. The combined armed forces, and Air America, lost over 5,000 of the aircraft.
When Orbx announced that they would be bringing Catalina Airport and the entirety of Catalina Island, I think I heard the entire aviation community in California jumping in excitement. Why? This is one of the most popular general aviation airports in the state. Maybe it’s thanks to its lush green forestation or its challenging airport due to the high altitude. Whatever the reason may be, Orbx have given Simmers the chance to try out their skills and fly to this beautiful island.
As a standalone product to the Orbx library, it’s a welcome change to not have to rely on other products to get the most from the product. As a result all 22 miles of Santa Catalina are beautifully rendered and full of life, all without any hit on performance. Unsurprising really as it’s a small island in the distance.
Hammerfest. You can’t go more north before you start going south again. Okay, that isn’t completely true but Hammerfest is often considered to be one of the most northern cities. The small town got a water airport in 1933 and thus Hammerfest airport was ‘born’, even though consisting of nothing more than buoy where passengers were carried to by boat. Nowadays the airport is a lot bigger and not on the water anymore, too. And who’d have guessed: the small airport of Hammerfest is actually the third busiest airport in Norway.
Now it hasn’t been too long ago since Orbx (and developer Finni Hansen in particular) decided to treat us with this small, yet beautiful airport. So lets get into the details with this FSElite review!
Hammerfest has a very short runway with a curve in it, making for a challenging but very fun approach. Due to technical issues most developers stay away from making curved runways, but I’ll get back on that in a bit. Other than that, ENHF comes with a lot of details and features. The airport features full interior modeling, the entire cityscape of Hammerfest, automatic seasonal textures, HD textures of the surrounding area, custom effects, custom AI vehicles and the Orbx Flow technologies. These features all sound very cool and I assure you that they are and look great, but they are what we have come to expect from Orbx by now. No bonus points there, but definitely worth mentioning!
The installation of Hammerfest couldn’t be any more straight forward. Simply purchase the product from Orbx Direct and start downloading it. Did that go too fast for you? Buy it, download it. That’s all there is to it. Hammerfest comes with a Control Panel but there aren’t too many options. You can opt to disable or enable the people flow and choose to disable or enable the custom effects coming from chimneys. Nothing too fancy, but it’s nice to have at least these two options. Oh and when you love Orbx’ Norway region as much as I do and you might just so happen to run the Airports of Norway package (not by Orbx), make sure to disable Hammerfest. I was a dummy and forgot about this the first time, running into all kinds of elevation issues.
Amazing. What can I say more? Orbx Hammerfest just simply performs amazing. Now that may be partially due to its size and the simple lack of anything in the region other than the town itself. But even so, Finni Hansen has spend a lot of work creating the entire town and region with a lot of detail, buildings and objects and my FPS is through the roof while VAS usage remains low.
I already mentioned them above, but I’m gonna dive into some of them a little deeper. The features that make Hammerfest so special. Starting off with the full interior modelling. Wanna wait in the departure hall while enjoying a coffee? Check. Wanna join the ATC controller in guiding in other airplanes? Check. And while you’re at it, join a fireman maintaining his equipment or have a chat with the guys over in the Bristow hangar maintaining the helicopters there. Or get on a computer in an empty office. All possible. Although I personally don’t spend too much time looking at interiors, it is definitely a nice to have and even better when you can keep the performance this friendly.
The curved runway works like a charm, too! I’ve not had any issues with landing on it or departing from it. I did notice some small bumps when leaving or entering the runway, but nothing really bad and it didn’t cause me major issues. Now the issue with curved runways has often been that AI can’t land any planes on it. This issue still persists and the runway will swallow these planes without mercy. But depending on your AI package you won’t even get any AI aircraft here, so I wouldn’t say it’s too much of an issue.
One more feature I’d like to touch upon is the night lighting. Hammerfest is so far up north that the sun never rises during winter times, so good lighting is of the essence. Hammerfest looks amazing by night. The runway and terminal building lighting is on point, you can see street lights in the city and there are beautiful effects on the oil refinery where a big flame and smoke come from the flare stack.
So far all seems fine with this airport and definitely worth your money, right? Well, nothing is perfect and neither is Hammerfest. Although two very minor issues, I’ll still mention them. First of all, the runway markings are white. According to all data I could find these should be yellow. And I am not sure who chose the font for the runway signage, but I’m willing to take a bet and say that these shouldn’t be with the Comic Sans font (Finni, if I’m wrong about this then please let me know). Is the airport now worth your money? Well… yes and no. Orbx puts this airport under their ‘Gold Tier’, making the price $32.95AUD. And although everything works and looks absolutely great, Hammerfest is rather small. Now the developers have spared no expense at putting in as much details as possible and making it seem as big as they can, but there is no denying it. Within 5 minutes of flying you already can’t see Hammerfest anymore. And flying around the entire area to take a look at all the details can be done in about the same time. There just isn’t very much here. It doesn’t matter that it’s small, but I am not sure if the price is completely justifiable for this product. The fact that FTX Norway is a requirement for this product doesn’t make this a better deal either.
Update: Finni contacted us about the two small issues with the scenery. Turns out that all airports in Norway are using white runway markings as of recent. As for the taxiway signage: using Comic Sans was the closest he could get to replicating the actual font.
Features - 9/10
Performance - 10/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 7/10
Orbx have done an outstanding job with Hammerfest. The performance is amazing, the details are amazing, everything looks amazing and the curved runway is a particularly cool feature. If you are an avid flyer in the Norwegian region, this airport is definitely something to take a look at. However the airport and surrounding region are, although packed with details, fairly small and the price is on a rather high side.
TOGA Projects ENVTEX is a newly released texture enhancement package for Flight Simulator 9, Flight Simulator X, and Prepar3d. The goal of the product is to provide sky and ground textures, as well as special effects, to enhance your simulation experience. There has been some confusion about what this is, so I want to point out that this is more than just sky textures, but also includes some ground textures, special effects, water textures, and texture corrections to the sims default textures as well. This would be a competitor with products like REX or Cielosim texture enhancements, as well as FSFX PrecipitFX . TOGA Projects released this product on December 8, 2016. So, how does this product hold up against its competitors? Is it worth it? Let’s find out in this FSElite Review!
I’ve installed this product on my machine running Prepar3d v3.4. My system is running an i5-2500k OC to 4.5ghz, 8GB DDR3, a GTX 960 4GB SSC, and it is running off of my trusty old Corsair SSD. This system combined with my P3D settings and other addons is able to achieve 30 FPS in most situations (extremely dense places like San Francisco, New York, and London will give me fits). I want to stress that your experiences will differ depending on your simulator of choice, system specs, as well as sim and ENVTEX settings.
Aberdeen is an airport I’ve been waiting to be developed for what feels like a lifetime and I was overjoyed when UK2000 finally announced it. Aberdeen Dyce as its formerly known is a major industrial hub for the Scottish offshore oil industry with the majority of its traffic being helicopter traffic by Bond, Bristow CHC-Scotia and NHV Helicopters.
With that being said it is also a destination for many domestic and international carriers. Notable operators include easyJet, British Airways, Aer Lingus, Flybe and Eastern along with other scheduled carriers and during the summer months charter services by Tui and Thomas Cook to name a few. Aberdeen is of particular interest to me due to its relatively short runway and its at times challenging weather conditions that frequent the north eastern coast of Scotland.
Aberdeen is available to purchase through UK2000 website and as with all products by this developer a full try before you buy demo is available giving the consumer the opportunity to see if its really a scenery for you. As if there was any doubt. I believe UK2000’s pricing structure to be the most realistic in terms of quality vs. cost. The download takes moments and comes in the form of a zip file with installation via an executable. In typical UK2000 fashion its very straight forward and any kinks can soon be straightened out by taking a look at their forums for support.
Orbx Valdex Pioneer Field was provided free of charge to FSElite for the purpose of reviewing for the community.
One of the newest Orbx sceneries is Valdez Pioneer Field, located in Valdez, Alaska. We’ve become accustomed to a certain high quality in Orbx releases, so have they done it again? Join me in this journey around the area to find out in the FSElite review!
A little background on Valdez before we begin. Valdez is an interesting quaint little town that is located in South Central Alaska on the northeast tip of Prince William Sound. Despite its small size, Valdez is an important part of the Alaskan economy as it sits at the southern end of the Alaskan pipeline. Oil is loaded on to ships at the Valdez Marine terminal and shipped all over the world. Additionally, a large amount of freight moves through Valdez destined to the interior of Alaska. Tourist often flock to Valdez to experience the nearby glaciers and marine wildlife, as well as those looking for a deep-sea fishing experience or heli skiing on the nearby mountains.
Now onto the review starting with the installation. The installer file was a Flight Sim Store installer that extracts the files required for installation into a temporary directory and then deletes them once you’re finished. It’s a slightly different than normal approach because the FSS installers remains open after launching the product installer. It doesn’t present any difficulties or challenges, but it is different from what I am use to. Installation was fairly easy to do. I should point out that I also installed the recommended Southern Alaska region for this review and that I am running Prepar3d version 3.4, so those of you with FSX, FSX:SE, P3D V1.x or P3D 2.x may have some slightly different results in the performance portion of this review.
After installation I left the scenery configured “as is” in FTX Central with the exception of the frozen lakes. I turned that feature off simply because of P3D compatibility issues. I loaded up my sim and verified the scenery was in my scenery library. Everything looked good so it is time to fly!
I decided for this review I wanted to fly something modest so that I could take in the beautiful surrounding area. I opted for the A36, Beechcraft Bonanza, for this flight. As I loaded into the Valdez scenery the first thing I noticed was the obviously high texture quality. Since it is fall, which means winter in Alaska, the airport was covered in snow and the surfaces were frosted over, a very nice and immersive detail. I did a quick look around I noticed birds flying in the distance and the people moving in the distance which only increased the immersion. But enough of the looking around, I need to get up and fly!
I started the engine and began a taxi out to runway 24 for a departure out over Port Valdez. On the climb up to 1,500 feet and took in the view of the port as the sun rose, yeah it was absolutely stunning! I started my left hand turn in the pattern and observed the detailed buildings and trees below. Orbx has spared no detail in this scenery and you can tell. As I turned to final for runway 24 I decided that after this touch and go I’d go out and explore more of the town, the port, and try to find the end of the Valdez Marine Terminal.
I once again started to climb out from the main airport and flew runway heading. It wasn’t long before I was over the small town of Valdez, modeled to perfection, covered in snow and frost. As I began to make my way south to fly along the other side of the port and stumbled upon some large white tanks. As I got closer I realized this was the Valdez Marine Terminal and where the oil was being sent by the Alaskan pipeline. It seemed as if Orbx spared no detail on this either as it looked very realistic and even included what appeared to be a flare stack where the gases are burnt off. This was fun to see but it was time to make my way back to the airport, so I began a turn to the east to follow the port in. I noticed the frozen river flowing off into the steep mountains which I thought was pretty cool. The port would look better if it was frozen, however I have the P3D limitation to account for here. I landed the aircraft and taxied in to park nearby some other aircraft, but the review doesn’t end here!
Because I am using P3D I have the unique ability to go into “avatar” mode and freely walk around the field to observe some of the finer details you won’t notice from within the aircraft. I began on the western part of the airport and started walking along the frozen ramp. My first stop was a couple having a nice discussion in front of a small hangar. While people flow is a neat feature of Orbx scenery, they can be a bit awkward to walk up and see closely. I got a good chuckle out of it and moved along to other parts of the ramp including an aircraft that was parked and being worked on by a mechanic (with a British registration), a ramp full of parked aircraft and people, a gate with security and even a dog, the passenger terminal with a parked Era Alaska Dash 8 (should be Ravn Alaska as Era rebranded to Ravn a while ago), and finally an Era Alaska hangar with another Dash 8 parked inside. As I walked around I couldn’t help but noticed the immense amount of detail Orbx has put into this scenery, staying to true themselves and detailing even the smallest of things on the field.
Orbx did leave some weird things in though, I noticed a few as I walked around the airport. An interesting oddity I noticed, the aircraft on the ramp getting repaired was a Cessna with a British registration number. Maybe I need a better imagination, but Valdez, Alaska seems like a long journey to make in a Cessna 172 and I felt as it that took away from things a little bit. Furthermore, this same aircraft is spotted again later on at the airport parked by other aircraft. So we have an aircraft with a British registration, FAR away from home, spotted in two different locations, I’m not a fan of that. Another oddity I spotted as I continued my walk was a random gentlemen in a suit all alone in front of the fire station. He felt very out of place for me. I felt as if somebody like this should be near the terminal or by a business jet and not way over in front of the fire station all alone (especially when it is cold out, he’s going to catch a cold). Lastly, and not an oddity or anything negative, but Orbx included a fat ramper standing by the Era plane. I got a good laugh out of that (#stereotypes).
So we know it looks great, we know the scenery creates a high level of immersion, but how does it perform? Well, before I dive into this I want to reiterate that I am running P3D 3.4 and the recommended Southern Alaska region. FSX users may get some slightly different results. As I did my flight in the Bonanza my VAS stayed steady at just slightly over 2GB and never went above that. It did very well actually. I think FSX users can expect 2-3GB (depending on other installed addons) to be a starting point, but the VAS will increase. My FPS stayed steady at 30 were I have it set and never dropped at all. Overall it was a very enjoyable and smooth performance. I did want to try this out with another aircraft so I loaded the Flight1 Cessna Citation Mustang to see how it compared. Out of the gate my VAS was at 2.3 GB and my FPS was again smooth at 30fps. The VAS never really changed despite flying much longer and the FPS was only getting an average of 2-3FPS dropped at the most. All in all, the scenery performed fantastic for me, but again I caution the FSX user that VAS will be different for you. The installed scenery takes up 3.36GB of space on the hard drive, which is a lot in my opinion. For reference, my entire FlightBeam folder is only just over 2GB and includes all of their products.
In conclusion I think the Valdez Pioneer Field by Orbx is a fantastic addon that stays true to the high level of detail and quality we’ve come to expect from them. My biggests issues with this scenery are the out of place guy by the fire station and the two British registered C172’s on the ramp. The size of the scenery is a bit much for me as well. This is all very little to be upset about though. For $40 AUD/ $29.67 USD this isn’t too shabby if you are looking for a fun small field that isn’t too far away from bigger airports such as Anchorage, Fairbanks or Ketchikan. Valdez will prove to be a perfect combination for flying between any of the other Orbx airports in Alaska. I recommend the product to anybody looking for just that. Last but not least, I want to thank Orbx for giving FSElite the opportunity to review this product.
Features - 9/10
Performance - 10/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 9/10
The Orbx Valdez Pioneer Field scenery provides an immersive experience for flying into a small town in Southern Alaska at a good price point.
The Southern Coastline of Spain has been missing this key Spanish City for many years now, but however we can finally say that Aerosoft Malaga X has been released and FSElite is enthralled to be able to review it!
Malaga is the fourth busiest airport in Spain after Madrid, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca. It is an important airport for Spanish tourism as it is the main international airport serving the Costa del Sol. It is 5.0 miles from the city of Malaga and the airport has flight connections to over 60 countries worldwide. In addition to this over 14.4 million passengers passed through it in 2015. The airport operates with three terminals. and offer a wide variety of destinations from these terminals the airport provides a daily link with twenty cities in Spain and over one hundred cities in Europe. Direct flights also operate to Africa, the Middle East and also to North America in the summer season. For all you virtual Air Europa, Vueling, Norwegian and Ryanair pilots this is a key airport you need as they are all based at Malaga. Other airlines with a large amount of destinations from LEMG include easyJet, Thomson, Jet2 and AirBerlin.
Just Flight Socata TB-10 & TB-20 was provided free of charge to FSElite for the purpose of reviewing for the community.
I want to summarize my Scoring system. Everything is carefully calculated. ) means the product did So bad it can only be described as unfinished. 1-3 is Low Quality, 4-6 is Average Quality. Average is not bad. Its just average, run of the mill, normal, nothing special. 7-8 is High Quality. 9 and 10 are reserved for Not only High quality, but new and innovative things. Things that have not been done before. However all that only applies to Performance, Avionics Modeling, Visuals, Sound, Flight Model, and Options. Overall quality and value are more subjective, and I already explained above. I personally would put this addon in the Low budget AAA range of $20-$40. And on the lower end of that. However I’m attaching a caveat to this. If the main problems I have mentioned get fixed. The problems like GPS position, and HSI Drift. And add an Option to swap the Altimeter out for one that lets us set it by inHG; I could see this addon being on the higher end of that range. However Just Flight charges $41.99 for this plane. And it ships with the issues I mentioned. That puts it on the lower side of the High AAA price range.
Justflight recently released a small airplane named the Socata Tobaga. A small single engine airplan that if I had to compare it to another airplane, it seems to want to fill the role of a Cessna 172. It even uses the same engine as the early C172 the O-360. Unlike the C172 however it has a constant speed prop. Just Flight was kind enough to include the TB10’s more complex cousin the TB-20 Trinidad. Which continuing the Cessna comparison, is most like the C182. In fact these planes are so much like the C172/C182 that honestly with the exception of the bigger engine in the TB-20; Everything I say about one essentially carries over to the other. They fly roughly the same, and are operated roughly the same. So while I did test flights in both airplanes, I’m only going to focus on the TB-10 in this review. Rest assured however they are mostly the same and any differences I will point out.