One quick glance at my Volanta profile will tell you a few things. I live in the UK, judging from how much I fly there. I try to emulate real operations where I can with airliners. However, more obvious than any of these is the fact that I love flying low and slow in light aircraft. I am incredibly lucky to be able to occasionally go up with a friend in his Cessna 150 to tour the English countryside, and my love of the scenery and landscape is reflected in my recorded flights.
I also wrote in my head-to-head review of Girona Airport comparing RD-Presets with MK-Studios that I find it difficult to fly into the auto-gen airports. I’m sorry Asobo and Blackshark, but looking at the same generic hangars and immaculate apron textures is boring now. You’re victims of your own success in that regard.
Fortunately in Microsoft Flight Simulator we are also blessed with best-in-class orthographic and photogrammetry data, along with some exceptional scenery developers specifically aiming at airfields around the United Kingdom. Burning Blue Design and Pilot Plus come to mind, but we have also seen some great additions by UK2000, Pyreegue Dev Co, Orbx and others.
So when I saw that Haverfordwest had been released by Fly2High, I was immediately curious. If I am being totally honest, I had not heard of Fly2High before now – but seeing them have a go at a small general aviation airstrip in south Wales piqued my interest.. Is this going to be one of many from Fly2High? How does it hold up in terms of quality to some of the aforementioned competitors in this space? There was only one way to find out; get my hands on a copy and tell you all about it.
Before anything else, some context. Haverfordwest Airfield consists of two runways (03/21 and 09/27) which cross over each other towards the middle. Originally there would have been a third runway completing the triangle or ‘starfish’ layout which was so popular during the war years. However the old third runway now serves as a taxiway and is situated near the tower. Also nearby resides a small apron and some hangars. There are also areas which were in use during the war but have since either been decommissioned or allowed to fall into a state of disrepair.
When I reviewed Girona Airport I mentioned that ground textures can really make or break a scenery for me. I’m pleased to say that Fly2High have done a good job on Haverfordwest in this department. The runways and taxiways look good with their fair share of faded markings around the thresholds and weathering present and visible. I would have liked to see more tire marks on the runway but that’s not such a big deal when what we have here is already so much better than the autogen default. The only thing I can really pick at here is that there is a hold short bar on runway 09/27 (at least according to satellite imagery) which isn’t present in the scenery.
I was really impressed with the areas of the airport that are no longer used, such as the now disused runway. It functions as a taxiway, but the sections that aren’t still used have fallen into a state of disrepair. The texture work on these areas in particular are really really good. I’m guessing the developer has allowed some transparency in their apron texture to let the satellite image underneath bleed through into the texture, and the end product is a very convincing bit of neglected concrete. Even the visible cracking and lines from where it has been laid down in sections are clearly visible. Overall, I’m really impressed.
The airfield itself only has a couple of buildings, although it is surrounded to the north by half a dozen farms and to the south lies the town after which the airfield is named. The town doesn’t have photogrammetry sadly, although it is in a pretty remote location so I’d honestly be more shocked if it did. That being said it doesn’t make a lot of difference – all of the surroundings make for a very scenic area and the circuit pattern you fly from all of the runways is absolutely gorgeous.
The tower and surrounding buildings including the helicopter centre, passenger lounge, and hangars all look good and have varying degrees of what you would call interior modelling. The tower is the most detailed of the buildings, with textures that held up well to my microscope. One of its defining features is a massive taxiway sign for charlie, and the upper floor of the tower is interior modelled along with two of the most detailed human character models I’ve ever seen in MSFS. Their faces are so well defined, it makes me wonder if these two guys are the ones running Fly2High?
The hangars have less detail on them but they still look great, and most of the time you won’t be near them anyways. One thing I really liked about them was how Fly2High has incorporated the folding doors. They could have just used a 2D texture here and probably gotten away with it, but instead they have created a fully 3D door which looks great up close. It doesn’t open or close, but the benefit of having it be 3D is that light reacts to it more or less as you would expect in the real world.
According to the CAA, this airport should have lighting on both of its runways as well as an APAPI system on the longer runway 03/21. I am pleased to report this is the case in the Haverfordwest scenery too, although I wouldn’t suggest trying a night landing here unless you’re experienced in flying the pattern in the daytime first. The runway lights, while visible, can be hard to make out amongst the surrounding area (not criticism – just a word of warning!).
Around the apron, night lighting has been included where appropriate. Given that this is a small aerodrome I was hardly expecting it to be lit up like a beacon, but I was pleased to see that the floodlights covering the hangars and apron have got the right sort of warmish-orange hue which I would imagine older lighting systems put out. The buildings nearby such as the airport lounge and tower also have interior lighting, which is a nice touch as you’re parking up. Although one rather odd thing I did notice on the apron was that the floodlights themselves don’t actually light up at night and instead the light is coming from an invisible source. I can look past it, but that is a shame.
The surrounding area hasn’t been touched too much, although where the developers have gone in and tinkered with some buildings in the nearby business park, the night lighting is great. The lights are more modern-white, but not so blindingly bright that they look out of place or drown out other areas.
Most of the time at a scenery in MSFS I’m within the airfield boundary. I don’t often venture beyond the aircraft unless I’m really taking a detailed look around at what’s been included. Well, Fly2High have really gone the extra mile here and there’s a lot to unpack.
Earlier in this review I mentioned that the surrounding area had a lot of farms and there was a business park nearby too. I figured I would go and have a look at these areas while gathering my thoughts for this review – why not? Well, I’m glad that I did. To my amazement, Fly2High has not only gone in and modelled the individual buildings that comprise the business park, but applied signage to each building which (at least according to Google Maps) is accurate. I was very pleasantly surprised while whizzing around the airport to find the likes of West Wales Karting (if I ever fly here in real life, I know this is where I’m heading after the cafe!), Green’s Glazing, Spunhill, Puffin Produce, and several other local businesses dotted around the immediate surrounding area. Fly2High has also included farm buildings on the nearest farms, as well as hay bale props around the sheds to give it the look of a working industrial farm from the air.
One thing that did really confuse me though was the giraffe(!) wandering around by the runway 27 threshold. At first I figured there must be a zoo nearby, but apparently not. So how exactly this long necked native of savannah grasslands managed to get into a pen with cattle and horses is a mystery to me. At first I found it off-putting and kind of annoying – something that took away from the realism of being on short final. However the more I think about it the more I think it’s actually really quite funny having a random giraffe on the loose around South Wales. Maybe the giraffe should stay? Alternatively, this is not a mistake at all and Fly2High have put the giraffe in as an easter egg. In which case I am so completely dense that light bends around me.
All of these areas have also had fantastic night lighting installed so they don’t look ridiculously bright or suspiciously dark once the sun has gone down. Another big tick for Fly2High.
I’ve talked a lot about how good this scenery is – and it is good! However there were some things I noticed that were not so good which didn’t really fit into any of the other sections, and this ‘bit’ of the review is going to be devoted to those.
Firstly, I noticed that something seems to be wrong with the NPC ‘people’ at this airfield. For whatever reason they congregate in large groups around two locations. One cluster seems to form behind the apron, and another is visible just outside the trampoline Hangar 5. A few dynamic people dotted around the airfield are a good thing – they make it look and feel more lifelike. Here though, we’re talking about 10-15 people just aimlessly standing around in the middle of a disused runway. Why they’ve been put there is a mystery to me. Maybe they are just spectating aircraft movements, although in that case they would be stood in some of the worst places to observe that. They stand out as something really odd, and I hope they can be patched out.
Additionally there are two ‘dynamic’ moving NPCs around the apron who walk across the taxiway towards the hangar. Surely there shouldn’t be pedestrians on an active taxiway? More annoying though is the fact that as soon as they get to the hangar, they teleport back to the taxiway and walk back again ad infinitum. Why is that so bad? Well, upon arriving at the apron I stopped the plane so that these people could cross, and after getting back up to a taxiing speed again they had suddenly warped to be 10 feet from my Cessna’s propeller. I fear that at least one of them may have met their grizzly end very shortly afterwards in between expletives. Again, I don’t know how or why this got added to the scenery, but I hope it can be removed in a patch. Clearly it isn’t working as planned.
There is a road to the west of the airfield which you fly over on short final for runway 09. I can imagine it must be a spectacular viewing spot – indeed Google Street view confirms that were you to stand here in real life, you would have planes passing overhead very low, and a full view of the runway 09/27 (since you’re on a slight hill). In the scenery this road exists, although it hasn’t been done to a great standard. I find that a shame, since the approach to runway 27 got so much love with farm buildings, animal pens and giraffes while 09 seemingly didn’t get as much attention paid to it.
My issues with the road continue around to the airfield entrance. This area has been done to a standard which I don’t have any word for besides ‘poor’, I’m afraid. It looks like Fly2High just slapped down an asphalt texture for the road and called it a day. There are even some trees in the middle of it. Which I find peculiar again because just behind the road is a custom-model for the Welsh Spitfire Museum. According to Google Street View, the airfield’s entrance is hardly on the same level of grandeur as, say, Goodwood (which was covered in great detail by Burning Blue Design) or Biggin Hill (which got a payware makeover from PilotPlus – including the landside entrance), but there are some signs that point to the facilities and cafe, and the trees have been scaled back a few yards from the road. Fly2High has done a great job on some areas of the landside, but this is one of only a few where I really feel like they could have gone further.
Unfortunately in some areas there textures which are for lack of a better term ‘baked in’. Take for example the car park besides the go-kart track. Fly2High have gone in and done a great job creating a custom building for the track, as well as custom signage to mimic what’s there in the real world. They have also placed some 3D cars near the building which I’m sure is meant to be a car park. So why then, are there still 2D cars visible on the ground texture? These are clearly a remnant of the satellite imagery which was already in the simulator, so it’s not like they’ve been put there intentionally. It’s a little annoying though. Fly2High went to so much effort to get the tiny details right and they deserve praise for that – but then just next to those little details leave visual artifacts from satellite imagery that can be easily removed in the SDK with an apron texture. Why? I can’t understand why they would go 90% of the way to getting a really detailed airport, and then decide to leave the last 10% unfinished. The area around the Go-Kart track is just one instance of this, but there are several other ‘baked in’ textures around the airfield which shouldn’t be there.
My final little bug bear also relates to the approach for runway 09. As the picture below shows, there is a big tree which stands alone just to the right of the runway, but also a tree line in the distance which forms the border between two fields.
In my testing of the scenery I found it very difficult to fly the runway 09 approach. Some of those reasons are natural and understandable – for one thing, the terrain slopes downhill towards the threshold, so it feels . This creates an illusion where, unless you put yourself in a situation where all of your experience of simming tells you that you’re low, you’re going to be approaching the runway at a very steep angle.
However the other issue with this approach are those trees. On Google Street view, it’s clear to me that the treeline I described is not nearly as tall as it is depicted in the scenery. What that means is that were you to approach the runway at what feels like a normal height, you would barely clear the tops of those trees., I want to be clear that I don’t entirely blame Fly2High for this – in MSFS’s SDK (to my knowledge) you can’t pick the height of individual trees. MSFS simply puts trees into an area which you draw on the ground and tell the game ‘now put trees into this area’. However, where it’s an issue that affects your ability to fly the approach correctly, I would hope it can be addressed. The solitary tree to the right of the 09 threshold definitely should not be there, at the very least.
So, my summary. Is Haverfordwest a good scenery? Yes. Is it worth the money? Yes. Despite all the little issues, the scenery gets the important stuff right – textures are well defined and crisp, lighting is done well and in the right places, buildings are detailed properly and even some of the smallest tiny details like signage and props have been placed true to life.
There are issues, but on the grand scale of things they are all pretty minor and I would hope that after this review goes live, they can be patched out. Even if they weren’t, they are so minor in comparison to the price we are being asked to pay for this product that in its current state I would be happy to recommend Haverfordwest by Fly2High.