In early 2015 MK Studios posted a cryptic terrain mesh of an airport that needs no introduction and asked the community if they knew the airport. This would lead to months of excruciating anticipation for the community. However almost two years later the saga was brought to an end and we welcomed Madeira Evolution X with open arms.
I think you’ll be hard pushed to find anyone who hasn’t heard of this infamous airport or its toe-curling approach so much like the majority of the community I was itching to get my hands on a copy. Madeira Evolution X is available on simMarket for £22.79 Inc VAT or if you were the owner of the previous versions an upgrade fee is payable. Like most products on simMarket the file is a direct download with an approximate size of 1.2GB and once purchase is complete you will receive an activation key for a straight forward installation. There is no customization tool available which isn’t a major issue given that this is a small airport. It may seem common sense but I personally recommend reading the user manual. I was so eager to fly that I skipped the manual and ran into a few issues that due to my negligence took a few days on the forums to identify. I’d also like to say that the support team are very good and attentive so if you have any issues go straight there after the manual of course.
In my review I will be discussing my observations and thoughts regarding the initial release. I am aware that several updates have been released fixing many users issues within FSX. I’ve focused the majority of the review on the initial release with some amendments based on the latest version. Some features include photo realistic island coverage with custom height mesh, highly detailed rendition of the airport Funchal Madeira, changes to the terminal made in 2016, SODE 3D lead in lighting, and AI and GSX compatibility. Of course, there are also plenty of VFR objects littered around the island including bridges, wind turbines, people and animated traffic. All of which help to immerse you into the island experience. Due to the nature of the airport and the complexity of the approach, also included are extensive manuals and charts.
Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago located in the North Atlantic Ocean southwest of Portugal and 250 Miles north of Tenerife. Funchal is the islands capital and is a year round destination attracting visitors from all over the world with an average visitor count exceeding one million visitors per year. There are two ways to visit the island. One: by air using Madeira airport. The other is by the port of Funchal. Madeira is a very popular choice for travellers of many interests and the airport boasts a quite extensive flying program with operators from easyJet, British Airways, TUI, Air Berlin and not forgetting TAP who is the largest operator with several direct flights to Lisbon per day. Of course we mustn’t forget the regional operators who provide air links to the numerous islands in the archipelago and slightly further afield. It goes without saying that Madeira airport was ranked the ninth most dangerous airport due to its often hazardous weather conditions and its tricky approach path which challenges even the most experienced pilots.
Coincidentally I was rostered to fly to Funchal Madeira several days before release so I was really eager to make a visual note of any details for comparison in my review. I’m pleased to say that weather conditions were good and we performed the visual approach to 05 without a hitch.
Now this is the only sim version of this magnificent airport so the hype has been unreal over the past years and I’ve been following the development quite intensely so as you can imagine I was very excited to even produce my OFP. I was blown away by the amount of detail placed into the terminal facade and exceptionally high standard of modelling. The airport feels alive with ground equipment parked, hydrants and air conditioning units. Everything is so intricately modelled and on the face of things great care has been taken to ensure nothing has been overlooked. The tarmac has a weathered effect which really adds charm and character the airport. I was impressed to see rubber and oil markings on the stands to extend that feeling of immersion. The markings on the taxiways, apron areas and runway are all very accurately placed and have a very realistic baking texture.
I particularly liked the amount of rubber skid marks on the runway accentuating the perceived difficulty of landing here and perhaps the many balked landings that have taken place. Several of the advertising decals on the airport exterior really caught my eye and upon further investigation with the avatar I was able to read the advert as if I was actually standing there in front of them. This level of detail is testament to the hard work and professionalism MK studios development team have extended to this product. Even the interior has been partially modelled with vending machines and the like. I implore you to explore the airport yourself using avatar mode if you are a user of P3D. The airport just feels so alive. I would have liked to perhaps have seen some ground traffic moving from here to there or a bit of movement in the baggage sorting area. Also there’s always a fire engine or two patrolling the airfield so a bit of animation there would have sealed the deal. The animations of the birds are fantastic. Much like its real world counterpart there are often swarms of birds dancing on the airport boundary skilfully evading the airfield operations teams.
I heard from many developers how notorious this airport is to develop due to its difficult terrain mesh and of course the stilted runway extension but I must say from a non-development background. MK Studios have done a stellar job modelling every inch of the airport and immediate area. I was comparing stills and video material to aid my review and it’s just phenomenal the level of work that’s gone into this. Lighting is sublime and really pushes the scenery to the next level. I would have liked to see some customization as during certain hours the lighting can be very garish. Runway lighting and taxiway lighting is 3D which is becoming more commonplace in the developing community – a nice touch. I liked the attention to detail with the lighting on top of the masts around the island to aid identification of high terrain during dusk dawn and darkness.
From above the island is beautiful and really looks lifelike. It was extremely visually pleasing to just fly VFR around the island exploring the nooks and crannies of the terrain. Now as you can tell from the above the airport itself is immense that being said I wasn’t overly thrilled with the blending between the airport and terrain. There is a very obvious texture partition, which although not devastating, does distract. It’s disappointing to say the least when you consider the lengths the developer has gone to with the airport itself. I did notice that depending on what season you select it can soften the harshness of the line. This is my main issue with photoscenery – Looks great from above, not so great up close. I also wasn’t thrilled with Porto Santos, the neighbouring island which I’m all too familiar with when things go wrong at Funchal. The photoscenery is sloppy and careless. I landed there after a VFR from Funchal and was greeted by this barron abundance of brown and green. Terminal detailing however was nice to see, but a shame to see that MK Studios were holding off updating this for this updated version. Instead, they’ll be offering it as a paid upgrade in the future.
Performance wise, the scenery performs very well. Surprisingly though I did experience a few obvious stutters and loss of VAS when operating intense aircraft in and out during my trials. This was strange because I own a high end setup that’s capable of running the majority of major VAS intense airports coupled with the latest aircraft. This could have been just a hiccup but upon another approach it happened again while around 100-50 feet above the threshold or while making the visual turn to 05. VFR flying I experienced no problems at all which one would expect.