As per our Community Charter, all of our reviews are free from bias, prejudice and favourtism. Don’t forget, each reviewer has their own style and thoughts, although they all abide by the Review Guidelines - something I suggest you have a read.
The Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, which is also known as Wold-Chamberlain Airport, is a major hub airport serving over 155 different non-stop markets, including 126 domestic and 29 international. The airport is Delta Air Lines second largest hub behind only Atlanta and serves as the headquarters for Endeavor Air (who operates as Delta Connection) as well as Compass Airlines. In addition, it also serves as the hometown headquarters for Sun Country Airlines, which primarily focuses on flying to warmer destinations.
Because MSP is such a large airport, it was long overdue for some love in flight simulation. With a portfolio that most notably includes San Francisco and Denver, both done extremely well, there is probably nobody better that Flightbeam to take on an airport such as this. Naturally, this has been a highly anticipated scenery for some time now and I couldn’t be happier to review the product! Before we jump into the review I like to offer up an idea of what I am working with to conduct the review.
This review was done using Prepar3d v3.4 which is running off of a 240gb Corsair SSD. I’m using a now outdated Intel Sandy Bridge i5-2500k overclocked to 4.5ghz, Asrock Pro4 Z77 motherboard, 8GB DDR3 Corsair Vengeance RAM, and an EVGA GTX 960 SuperSC ACX 2.0+ 4GB graphics card. I’m using Windows 10 Pro 64bit as my operating system. This hardware coupled with my settings in Windows, P3D, and Nvidia Inspector will net me 25-30 FPS on average in most scenarios with most add-ons. For me, I consider 25-30 FPS acceptable on this particular setup. Now that this is out of the way, let’s jump into the review!
Once you’ve purchased the scenery you’ll be able to download the product right away. Installation is rather typical and you’ll need to register your product. Once you’ve got the scenery installed you can simply load up your sim and fly, or you can configure different options for performance using the brand new Flightbeam Manager, which should soon support all Flightbeam products. The Flightbeam Manager replaces the old Couatl software used in previous releases.
The Flightbeam Manager is simple to use and offers some small but helpful features such as the ability to change config settings to the recommended values. This is optional and doesn’t force the change or make a change without your knowledge. Some of the things you can change include static aircraft, moving vehicles around the airport, SODE or static jetways, season, static passengers at select gates, and more.
I really like the new Flightbeam Manager. It’s a true upgrade over the old Couatl software from yesteryear. However, it did not create a link in my Apps folder in the Start menu. I have to actually navigate to the Flightbeam folder inside of my P3D folder and launch it from there. It’s a little inconvenient but it is the only unpolished item I have noticed in it. I simply pinned the application to my Start menu and stuck it alongside other flight sim programs I use.
There is a well-written manual for MSP, which you can download directly from the product page on the Flightbeam site or open directly from the Flightbeam Manager. Inside, you’ll find some basic instructions for installing the scenery, as well as some settings you’ll want to set inside of FSX if you use that platform. I really admire the design and effort that Flightbeam puts into its manuals. It is not just a blank white page they fill with text and some headings; no, they actually take time to put together a nicely formatted document that echoes their brand and identity. There isn’t too much in there, as it is just a scenery after all, but they still put forth the time to make good quality documentation. Just a small note, if you’re wondering – yes, there is also documentation for the Flightbeam Manager if you need it.
When you’re done configuring the scenery and finally load it up in the sim I think you’ll notice the same thing I did: it’s very immersive. The texture quality is magnificent, the modeling is fantastic, and overall you feel like you’re at the real Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport! The scenery includes static aircraft that are placed on cargo and maintenance ramps, various carts and equipment in the gate areas, cars in the parking lots, and more.
You’ll find Delta B757’s on a few of the ramps, UPS 757s and FedEX MD11s on the cargo ramp, various GA aircraft on the Signature Aviation FBO ramp, and Minnesota ANG C130’s near the military ramps and hangars. I actually turn off static models in most scenery, even if it means manually deleting a BGL file, but here Flightbeam put together some nice models that really add to the scenery in my opinion.
Around the jetways you’ll find well-modeled baggage carts and vehicles you’d expect to see near a jetway. The texturing on the jetways and equipment is absolutely phenomenal. The jetways are modeled correctly and even include the air conditioning unit attached and the yellow hoses that run from them. As you pull into a gate you’ll notice the gate number on a red sign attached to the terminal and a digital sign next to it that says “Work Safely”. In real life these will have flight information populated in them. I’m not sure if there would be a way to pull info from the FS flight plan to put up there, or what that would do to performance, but it would be cool if they fully functioned. Still, Flightbeam did pay attention to these and left some blank and some with “Work Safely” in there, as it is in real life where there is no aircraft at the gate.
The detail to the smaller details around the terminal is also impressive. For example, pull up to gate D1. You’ll notice a small cab type room atop of the building with windows. That’s a somewhat hidden observation deck passengers can go up into and watch aircraft (I’ve been there in real life – it’s a pretty fun way to waste time and get some privacy). They didn’t just model the room accurately, but they also added in the antennas and vents you can see up there as well. This holds true throughout the entire scenery. Flightbeam has spared no detail, including things like vents, antennas, and signs in the smallest places. It is very impressive.
I’m extremely impressed by the quality of the work Flightbeam has done here, taking an extra step to model the inside of the terminal much like the did in their San Francisco and Denver scenery. This is becoming a new standard you can expect from Flightbeam and they manage to do it without impacting performance. You can see the podium at the gate, textured for the airline that uses the gate, static passengers at select gates, and even some surrounding advertisements hanging on the walls in the distance. This an extremely immersive quality to Flightbeam sceneries and I’m happy to see it yet again at MSP.
Something I found nice about this scenery is that they paid attention to the surrounding buildings such as Delta Airlines Building C which serves as a maintenance hangar, Endeavor Air headquarters, and Compass Airlines headquarters, and the Mall of America, various hotels, and even the Ikea off in the distance. The trees modeled around the airport look fantastic and are a nice replacement for default tree models (Flightbeam Trees should be a thing….just saying…10/10 would buy).
The fact that they not only modeled the Mall of America, the various nearby hotels, Ikea, the I-494 freeway and MN-77, and the Target store down by runway 17 threshold is an appreciated attention to detail. While not part of the airport itself, it can be seen when departing and arriving runway 35/17 and while taxiing around the airport. There is also some personal attachment to that area as it is where I stayed and spent most of my time while working for one of the airlines based in Minneapolis, so it is cool to see in the sim. My hat is off to the Flightbeam team for these small extras!
Some of the other great features included in the scenery are over 100 highly detailed and optimized SODE jetways, custom terrain bridges and tunnels, unobtrusive static aircraft that look fantastic, static passengers in the terminal area at select gates, custom environmental effects such as water puddles and lamp glows, volumetric grass, and animated vehicles. There is a lot going on in this scenery and I think you’ll be hard pressed to find much missing, other than perhaps the new Intercontinental Hotel being built at the airport, which would be nice to have.
On that note, there is one thing I wish was present, and that is winter equipment. In the Flightbeam Manager you can select your season, so given the location of MSP I had to check out the airport in the dead of winter, and it was great! Everything was covered in snow and frost, and it was truly a frozen tundra. However, I was upset to see there were no de-ice trucks on the de-icing pads, no snow plows, nothing. Not every airport needs a feature like that, but in my opinion, MSP does. Perhaps in a future update?
Ok, you get it, Flightbeam made lots of cool things that look cool and so on, but how does it perform? Well, as far as VAS goes (and I guess it is a moot point if you’re on P3D v4), it’s not bad at all. I tested the scenery with a few popular aircraft you might expect to fly around MSP including PMDG’s NGX, and Aerosoft’s CRJ and Airbus. In the NGX I managed to average about 2.9GB of VAS usage and on average 25-27 FPS with an occasional moment sitting at 30 fps. When I loaded Aerosofts new CRJ I managed 2.6 GB of VAS and on average 30fps with occasional dips around 25 fps, which isn’t out of the norm at a scenery like this. In the Airbus I used roughly 2.7GB of VAS and averaged 30 fps, which is great. Of course, performance may differ a bit if you’re using FSX or Prepar3d V4.
In all cases, without looking at FPS or anything, the sim did seem to run smoothly. This isn’t a scenery that you need to be overly cautious with, as it does seem to be very well optimized, at least as much as they could given the features it comes with. I feel comfortable taking any aircraft I own into MSP.
Overall, I think the scenery performs rather well, however, I did reduce some of the settings using the Flightbeam Manager. I did not turn anything off completely though, which indicates this scenery is pretty well optimized. I’m sure you could leave everything at default settings if you’re running a better system and not have an issue with it at all. Of course, performance can be a little subjective and will depend on the settings you choose within both your operating system and simulator platform.
Flightbeam’s MSP scenery comes in at $29.99 USD and your one license key will work with FSX and all versions of Prepar3d. This is a major airport serviced by major airlines and it is done about as well as you can do it. The addition of the Flightbeam Manager in place of the old Couatl software is a great addition and the attention to detail in this product is top notch. I will say $29.99 is a fair price for this and more than worth it. If you often find yourself flying Delta flights, or perhaps you want to do something different and fly a Sun Country route to Mexico, or even find you’ve got a hankering for a Canadian lawn dart flight, MSP is a safe bet for you. I think most people could safely purchase this scenery and find they get a lot out of it.
In conclusion, the Flightbeam Minneapolis-St Paul International scenery for FSX and P3D is a fantastic add-on. The new Flightbeam Manager is a great addition to Flightbeam products, the texturing and modeling are top notch, and the team paid attention to even the smallest details. The overall performance is very good and you can tell the team took their time to ensure everything was well optimized. The scenery is extremely immersive, works with FSX and all versions of P3D, and the price point is very fair. If you fly in the United States, enjoy flying Delta Air Lines, or are looking for something different, then this is a must get scenery for you!