When you think of challenging approaches within Europe, your mind probably immediately rushes the likes of Innsbruck, Funchal and Gibraltar. They certainly do pose a challenge and all three of those airports present their own difficulties for pilots in any condition. However, there are still countless other airports within Europe that also give a similar challenge but are often overlooked.
Tivat Airport in Montenegro is one of those airports that offer similar challenges to those mentioned above, along with stunning views of the mountains as you make some tough approaches over the coastal city and surrounding regions. Having visited there in real life just two years ago, I can vividly remember the hot sunshine beating down on my face as I watched multiple aircraft take on the low approach coming into the airport.
Digital Design, known for some incredible sceneries in the past, surprised everyone just a few short weeks ago by announcing that they were bringing this airport to Prepar3D V4. The eager beaver I am, I immediately downloaded it as soon as it was available and I have been reminiscing about my summer holiday ever since. The question is, how well did they do in bringing this hidden gem to the simulator?
Tivat, and Montenegro as a whole, have seen huge tourist growth in the past few years, with over 6,800 aircraft movements each year. The vast majority of these movements is from seasonal or charter routes, but more and more airlines are offering services to Tivat. This increase in popularity has meant that a new terminal was required. Terminal 2 opened in 2018 to help ease congestion at the airport and provide a short-term solution to the continuous growth of the airport.
What makes Tivat one of the more interesting airports in Europe is the challenging approach to both runways. Whether you’re heading for runway 14 or 32, you will have a very scenic approach, flying low and close to various terrain. Regardless of which approach, you will end up hitting the TIZ VOR. After that, you will have to perform a hand-flown circling approach onto runway 14 right over the port, or you will track the offset LOC towards 32. Tracking the localiser for runway 32 will only take you to a marker about 3 miles away from the runway. At that point, you have to then bank gently to the left to line yourself up for landing on the 8,200ft runway. Challenging approaches that give you multiple options is always a plus for me when picking up an airport for the simulator and gives me something to work towards and consider after a few hours up in the cruise.
The challenging approach has clearly been considered by Digital Design because many areas of which you cover at low altitudes have been custom built by the developer for the product. In particular, Digital Design has worked hard to provide life to Tivat City and Porto Montenegro. Exploring the coastal city is a delight thanks to the numerous custom-made buildings and accurately placed trees and foliage. The port is littered with a variety of boats, yachts and marine cranes. There is also a flock of birds playing around high in the sky. It’s details like this that make the product feel alive. I would have liked to have seen some more wear and tear details on some of the buildings, in particular, older hotels and the shops which are a little more inland. That’s a very minor detail to pick up on as you come in fast over the top of the city. Furthermore, with such an active harbour and airport, it would be nice to hear some airport environmental sound effects, which are starting to appear in other scenery products.
Moving into the airport area, some of the same traits appear here. Whilst the terminal building modelling and texture work is of high quality, there’s a lack of environmental texturing. In the baking sun, I imagine there to be a lot more faded paintwork and cracked concrete, but these small bits of detail are missing from Digital Design’s rendition of the airport. It’s by no means going to affect your enjoyment or experience of the product. With that said, there are a lot of excellent bits of detail within the airport that I would like to highlight.
One of my favourite elements of Digital Design products is how vibrant the texture work is. The colours stand out and don’t have this washed out look many other developers seem to go for. This then helps to ensure you can distinguish between various material types (e.g. tarmac looks vastly different from the smoothness of concrete). This texture work is in super high-resolution throughout with minimal impact on performance. Digital Design also conforms to the new standard of including PBR material with their scenery products. They did a great job at implementing the material work as the reflection from the sun looks fantastic. Furthermore, when it rains, I really enjoyed seeing the ground puddle effects. With more developers taking advantage of the new SDK in Prepar3D for changing the characteristics of ground handling when it is wet, that would have also been a nice touch to include, but it’s not currently present in Tivat.
As expected from Digital Design, the actual modelling work looks fantastic. From the ATC tower and the airport logo sitting high on top of the terminal building to the runway lighting and smaller details such as air vents and drainage pipes look great. They have smooth edges and clearly use plenty of polygons to make the details pop out.
Other details I enjoyed seeing was ground clutter throughout the airport. Traffic cones, animated vehicles and detailed blast fences were scattered around the airport in realistic places giving a bit more life to an otherwise simple layout for an airport. The static Aeroflot 737 is also a nice addition to the apron, however with no configuration tool, you can’t turn it off – nor any other setting for that matter. Personally, I feel configuration tools are an important part of scenery design as it gives users options, so this was a bit of a let-down for me. [Editor’s note: You can manually turn off static objects and dynamic lighting by renaming BGL files. I don’t feel this presents a user-friendly option for the vast majority of people, nor do I want to encourage developers to use this lazy method].
Whilst it’s not something that is important for all simmers, Digital Design does include interior modelling. Having stepped inside the airport myself just a couple of years back, I was impressed at the some of the smaller touches found inside including accurate signage and excellent placement of things such as the duty-free shops, security area and gate seating. There are some static people inside, with extremely poor resolution. This slightly soured my experience inside as it would’ve been nice to have seen some more attention given to them, along with some small animations to keep the immersion alive.
Outside of the airport fence are some more features to keep you exploring. Cars travel along the roads, advertisement signs are relevant, and a few other FBOs and hangers are represented with the product. There are some very iconic visuals for pilots when approaching the airport, including hotels and industrial estates. They have been modeled within the product to ensure you can complete the visual approaches as per real life.
Tivat Airport may be small, but it offers some nice variety in terms of aircraft and of course the aforementioned interesting approaches. Despite the size, Digital Design has done a wonderful job at expanding the attention to detail outside of the airport by including Porto Montenegro and the surrounding city. All in all, I believe that €18.00 for Tivat is good value for money. It’s not the most complex or in-demand airport available for flight simulation, but brings a lot of character and charm with it to make it a worthwhile purchase.
- Airport has been modelled to a very high standard with great texture work
- PBR material and wet puddle effects look gorgeous
- Challenging approach and the surrounding area has been recreated wonderfully
- Port Montenegro and Tivat City are nice additions to the package to give the product more character
- No stand-out features such as sound effects included
- Could do with more weathering or environmental effects on some of the buildings
- No configuration tool for users to customise the airport