Flightbeam is known for their mastery in scenery creation. Since the original San Francisco release, Amir, founder of Flightbeam, has purposefully spent countless years refining his craft to create a brand that is known for quality, great customer service and satisfying simmers’ needs for varied and desired airports. It was quite a surprise to see the Flightbeam brand expand beyond the imagination of Amir and shared along other high quality developers. First we saw Bill Womack team up with Flightbeam to bring Portland to our sims, and the second release in 2019 saw Dreamflight Studios team up to release SEQM Quito (Mariscal Sucre International Airport) as a Flightbeam product. The question is, does this airport carry that same quality we have come to expect from Flightbeam?
Let’s start with the airport’s basic details.
The high altitude means that take-off performance is limited and decelerating is also trickier because there is less time to bleed off that speed. It’s also exciting due to the high surrounding terrain, and requires careful planning to ensure you have enough power in the event of an engine failure. This is the recipe for a great airport to have in the simulator – even if it’s not the world-class, high-volume airport you would come to expect.
Quito Airport, in the real world, sees a variety of different aircraft visit. From the local carriers in narrow body jets, to the large freight companies bringing in their Queen of the Skies to carry cargo the world over. This route variety is what keeps me very engaged in the scenery after its release. Added to the fact that it’s got good connections to South and North America, I have plenty of destinations to fly to.
One of the standout features of Flightbeam’s Quito is the modelling. Flightbeam airports are known for their accuracy in modelling, and Dreamflight Studios has kept that reputation strong. No building has been spared any details. The cargo buildings are littered with details and excellently rendered. From the geometry of the curved roofs to the intricate details such as doors, windows, etc – there is a lot to enjoy visually from the modelling alone. Part of the fun with scenery products is exploring them to the fullest, so be sure to find areas such as the Wyndham hotel, the Tame Airlines A320 in the maintenance hanger and the helipads.
When it comes to texture work, I believe there are few that can compete with Flightbeam. Whatever magic tricks they have up their sleeves always seems to impress. It’s undeniable that the texture quality of a Flightbeam product is of a very high standard. Ground textures are in 4K, enabling you to get up close and personal and not witness any blurry textures. Dirt, mud and oil are scattered across the airfield and ground markings have some distinct wear on them from heavily breaking aircraft and ground vehicles. The static aircraft models are also of a high standard and make the airport feel alive, though they can be switched off from the Flightbeam Manager should you so wish.
As resolution and realism becomes more important in our simulator experience, it always impresses me to see the level of detail that goes into a singular airport. For example, the details on the main terminal building are sensational. From the small flood lighting to massive airport signage, there are details in every frame. On the terminal, air vents, cabling, and brick work are all clearly visible. Multiple areas also have weathering effects applied, to give a much dirtier appearance, which makes sense for a building battling the elements on a daily basis. There is also some limited internal modelling, which bears no impact on the frame rate, but does help provide a bit of immersion when sat at the gate in an aircraft whilst you await passengers to board. The SODE jetways are also rich in detail, with the modelling so well done you can see the corrugated indents on the metal casing, which provides a neat 3D effect.
Other modelling elements I enjoyed seeing were the fire trucks poking out of the nearby station, pallets of cargo at the side of the ramp, and also the ground service equipment. Smaller modelling details such as the airport fences were nicely done and I didn’t see any visual anomalies when viewing these from a distance. The airport building itself is clad in a pallet of whites and greys, which is to be expected in the region of the world we are in. In general, the modelling and texture work felt immersive and gave me a good sense of what the area is like as a whole.
There is certainly a lot to love with Flightbeam’s Quito. However, there are also a number of things which stop it from becoming a must-have airport. As we have seen over the past few months, airport products are becoming more and more sophisticated, with new features becoming the norm for many. Despite being made specifically for Prepar3D v4, there lacks any PBR material being applied to the airport. Whilst that may not be a deal-breaker for some, standards are rising from a range of other developers and usually Flightbeam is leading the charge on innovative scenery design. Another P3Dv4 feature notably missing is how weather will impact ground movement, which would only add to that challenge if it was actually modelled.
I mentioned this at the beginning of the review, but one of the best aspects of Quito is the challenge of flying into or out of a high-altitude airport. Sitting at approximately 7,800ft above sea level, precipitation, cloud coverage, winds and air-density all have a massive influence on aircraft performance. The changing weather also means you need to keep a close eye on everything, even during cockpit preparation as even the slightest shift in wind direction could mean you’re overweight to take-off. The high surrounding terrain also means that engine-out procedures are more important than ever as the margin for error is slim.
Simply looking at the approach overview on our aeronautical charts of choice we can see there are plenty of options depending on the aircraft you’re flying. Mariscal Sucre International Airport utilizes an ILS for both runways (perfect for those low-cloud days), along with RNAV and VOR approaches. The important thing to remember is that you’re landing at a high-altitude airport. Your speed, engine power and altitude all need to be watched carefully as you navigate the terrain. In particular, flying aircraft known for their slippery speed with give you a challenge here and you will have to consider bleeding your speed off earlier in the approach than usual as you have less altitude to use to lose it. The same challenge applies to the take-off. If you’re heavy, and it is a hot day, be prepared for a long take-off roll down the 13,400ft runway. It sounds like a lot, but when you’re travelling 170 knots in a 747, it’ll soon be gone from under your wheels.
So, whilst the landing and take-offs are exciting in their own right, there’s very little custom coverage beyond the airport fence from Flightbeam. Whilst there is some level of detail outside, thanks to some photo imagery, don’t expect any buildings, points of interest or other exciting landmarks. I also noticed that it didn’t blend particularly well in my sim and there were still cars and other elements that would have looked better had they been edited out. It may not be a densely populated area, having additional models and ground imagery will always be appreciated to help fully immerse us into the experience.
As with other Flightbeam airports, Quito does take advantage of the new Flightbeam Manager, enabling you to change options to suit your computing power. As mentioned, Quito is really light on frames rates anyway, but these options are good for those who may require just a bit more performance. In the manager, you are able to toggle things such as static aircraft and 3D grass and dynamic lighting. Turning off most of the eye-candy will result in a lesser detailed experience, but your overall enjoyment of the scenery will still be very good, whilst enabling a slightly smoother experience depending on your system.
Looking at imagery online, as well as Google and Bing maps as a reference, Flightbeam has done a fantastic job at bringing the airport to the simulator. All the taxiways are present, with every single building at the airport wonderfully modelled. From the cargo area to the main passenger terminal, no detail has been spared. Ground markings all appear to be accurate based on current images and even areas where the ground surfaces have been re-asphalted have been accurately modelled within the scenery.
Quito does come in a little cheaper than other Flightbeam products. I don’t believe this is a reflection on the quality you get from the product itself, but perhaps due to the less complex nature of the airport (and thus development) or down to the more limited scope of usability in terms of what airlines and routes are available. I very much welcome the lower cost to entry and believe that you’re paying a fair price for the product you get.
Overall, I have been impressed with Quito. During the summer, I frequently ran plenty of cargo between the US and the Netherlands. Quito has proven to me that external developers certainly have a place under the Flightbeam banner. It may not be the most innovative airport scenery packages we’ve seen, but the scenery and challenges the airport presents make for something unique and exciting.
- Wonderful location with lots of unique challenges
- 3D modelling is highly detailed
- Great and smooth performance in whatever aircraft
- Lower cost than other Flightbeam airports
- Lack of real P3Dv4 features (such as PBR)
- Would like to see some additional details just beyond the airport fence to help capture the immersion on approach / take-off
- Some areas of the photoreal scenery are blurry and not well matched to the surrounding area