In Colorado, USA lays an airport that has long-established its place among North America’s most scenic, yet most challenging airports. Nestled atop a plateau a thousand feet above the San Miguel River, the Telluride Regional Airport (KTEX) is known for its rugged beauty, high elevation, and often harsh conditions. Pilots need to be at the top of their game and prepared for anything as a successful outcome isn’t always assured.
This challenge is what brings virtual pilots from around the world to Telluride in Microsoft Flight Simulator. Seeing an opportunity to enhance the airport in MSFS, developer UK2000 Scenery has recently released Telluride 2022 for MSFS. But does this scenery do the legendary airport justice? Let’s find out!
Most of the flight sim community should be familiar with the UK2000 Scenery name as they’ve been developing scenery add-ons since the FS98 days. Whilst the majority of UK2000’s products are centred in, you guessed it, the UK, the developer has recently been expanding their MSFS lineup to include US-based airports. This includes the recently released Telluride scenery. UK2000 Scenery offers its products for sale on its own website www.uk2000scenery.net as well as on Simmarket, flightsim.to, and other websites.
Purchase & Installation
I purchased UK2000 Scenery’s Telluride scenery directly from their website for £9,99 ($12.00 / 11,50€) and was immediately able to download the installer via my account. The file size is 23 MB but does require an additional scenery library download of 65 MB. (A separate, no-static aircraft installer is also available). Once downloaded, the install wizard makes the process straightforward and easy. It is worth noting that beginning in December 2023, UK2000 Scenery has stated that products sold on their website will only be available for two weeks after purchase so users are encouraged to keep their purchased installers safe or to buy from a 3rd party retailer.
A Mining Town, Reinvented
Located six miles east of the airport, the former silver mining town of Telluride has reinvented itself as a skiing, hiking, and outdoor mecca. People flock from around the world to be surrounded by the beauty and ruggedness of the 14,000+ foot (4,267+ meter) peaks of the San Miguel and San Juan mountain ranges. Each summer, an annual jazz and film festival draws thousands and, in winter, the Telluride Ski Resort becomes the area’s major attraction. Telluride itself has a population of a mere 2,595 residents but the airport sees over 9,400 aircraft operations per year.
Up for a Challenge?
Telluride Regional Airport (KTEX) is situated at 9,070 feet (2,764 meters) above sea level making it the highest airport with commercial service in the US. A single 7,111 foot (2,167 meters) runway, 9/27, serves close to 10,000 aircraft operations a year. Pilots landing at KTEX must negotiate a steep, 3.55° glidepath to runway 9, or an even steeper 4.0° glidepath to runway 27. Engineered Material Arresting Systems (EMAS) overruns are installed at either end of the runway to prevent the otherwise inevitable plunge into the valley below.
The terrain and weather conditions around KTEX can be unforgiving. Winds can change abruptly and cause severe turbulence and downdrafts. In the winter, snow storms can reduce visibility to near zero and the region can be buried under several feet of snow over the course of an afternoon. Yet somehow, the challenge of this mountain airport is hard to resist.
Attention to Detail
After installing UK2000 Scenery’s version of Telluride, I was immediately struck by the amount of realism it adds vs the default scenery. The default version always seemed bland and lacking in airport ambiance. UK2000 Scenery’s rendition of the airport feels more alive and brings a much truer representation of the feeling of flying into Telluride. With the UK2000 Scenery, KTEX comes alive with animated people, vehicles, ground service, and deicing equipment. Vehicles in the car park are low-poly but appear realistic enough from a distance (although they feature UK-style number plates). Air-side vehicles and service equipment are well-modeled and fit the environment. Even the static aircraft on the ramp and in the hangars look great.
The terminal/FBO area in particular feels much more true to its real-life counterpart thanks to transparent window textures, antennas, vegetation, and other “airport clutter”. A portion of the inside of the building is modeled and features animated people as well as phenomenal views of Mt Wilson to the south of the airport through the transparent-textured windows. Interestingly, the FBO interior, as well as the exterior of the passenger terminal, each feature a prominently placed Christmas Tree regardless of the time of year loaded in the sim – though odd, it seems fitting given the alpine environs.
A Tale of Two Seasons
Using my sim setup – unmodded with seasonal texture add-ons – the summer and winter textures for KTEX work as expected. Summer colors are the vibrant brown-green of the Rockies and the ground textures and vegetation selected by UK2000 Scenery match well. Conversely, winter can be awash with snow cover. With winter conditions in the sim, parked vehicles and aircraft get a realistic covering of snow, which certainly is a possibility from early September until late May in the Rockies.
While summertime at KTEX is depicted rather nicely, I did notice some anomalies when it comes to winter textures. For example, ground textures should include more brown tones as vegetation dies or becomes dormant. Snow effects cover roadways, taxiways and ramps, and the car park but sometimes end abruptly, or are missing. This is the case with the snow textures along the airport access road and ramp. Further, grass textures occasionally show up instead of snow on the sides of taxiway A3, behind the maintenance hangar, and on the hillside near the car park. It should be noted that the scenery includes just the immediate airport area and not the surrounding town.
In spite of the level of detail involved and the number of static and animated objects, the framerate impact is only slightly more than the MSFS default scenery. Regardless, I found the fps acceptable with no major slowdowns or stutters using my mid-range system (Intel I7 9700k at 3.6 GHz, RTX2080 Ti, 32 MB RAM).