It’s the land of kiwis, hobbits and unprecedented natural beauty. It’s also the country of Flightbeam Studios’ latest scenery. Of course, I’m talking about nothing other than the wonderful country of New Zealand.
For an area of the world that receives so little love, it’s great to see some developers give it some attention. Luckily Orbx has done this in the past, with their excellent NZ North and NZ South Island region packages, as well as a few airports. And there is Flightbeam, who announced back in August of 2016 that they were working on the main airport of the country, Auckland Airport. Unfortunately, this project was delayed again over a year ago due to ongoing work at the airport. But, in the meantime, we’ve got their Wellington scenery to keep us happy.
Wellington may not be quite as large as Auckland, but it’s still the third busiest airport in the country. It offers connections to Australia, Asia and a long list of regional destinations. It also has some challenging airport conditions. The runway is rather short, limiting the use of the airport for long-haul destinations. It also has challenging weather conditions, due to strong and gusty winds coming in over Cook Strait.
Let’s take a look at the airport. The installer is very simple, all you need to do is install the scenery package to your sim folder. It will automatically be added to your scenery list using the now popular addon.xml method. The scenery package also installs the Flightbeam Manager. In the manager you can configure several options to customise the airport to your liking. For performance reasons you generally don’t have to do much, because of the lack of big population around the area, but more on performance later. From the manager you can also easily access the documentation, with some interesting information about the history of the airport, its layout and some recommended settings for your sim.
Time to load up the simulator at your new scenery. As soon as you’ve entered your cockpit, you’ll notice right away how high the texture quality is on the terminal building. An issue you often face with sims is that, once you get closer to terminal buildings, the textures will start to look a little bit less sharp. This is not the case for Wellington, which is great. The next thing you’ll notice is the custom looking jetway, with a little help from SODE. These also look great, and I like the custom Air New Zealand banners on the sides. We’re still in the plane and we’re not done being amazed yet. From the flightdeck you’ll look straight into the terminal building (depending on which gate you’re at). Here you’ll notice terminal interior with benches, tables with chairs, flight status monitors on the wall as well as storefronts. On some of the posters inside the terminal, the resolution is so high that you can read them from where you are sitting at the gate.
Looking around a bit, you’ll notice how well the terminal has been modelled. I can’t imagine this has been an easy task, as part of the terminal building has some very artsy and odd shapes. Particularly the in 2010 opened international terminal expansion, nicknamed ‘The Rock’. It has some very unique shapes which Flightbeam has modelled amazingly well. The rest of the terminal has also been modelled with great precision, with plenty of detail and accents throughout. On the other side of the airport, on the western apron, you won’t find terminal buildings. Instead, you’ll find some very nicely modelled hangars. These are typically used for general aviation as well as business customers.
Good modelling is nothing without good texturing, however. Luckily, these don’t disappoint. The textures everywhere around the airport look great. High in definition, very clear and sharp. No blurries or jagged edges to be found anywhere. The glass on the terminal building looks slightly dirty around the edges, and has a nice glass reflection effect, adding to the feeling of immersion. Other textures on the terminal show an abundance of detail in the same high quality. It all adds to an incredibly good and immersive experience. The apron textures are also very accurate, and all the taxiway and apron markings have been recreated. The quality of the ground textures is of just as high quality as that of the building textures I mentioned of before. Here too, you won’t find any blurries or jagged edges, which is very nice when you’re following the markings on the apron in your aircraft. One particular texture element I want to mention here, though you won’t find it on the airport, is the water texture along the coastline. This has a beautiful depth pronunciation effect and blends in perfectly with your default textures where the scenery ends.
The amazing quality of the airport shines through in all parts. The apron area is scarcely littered with apron vehicles or other stuff. Traffic cones will be laying around, some baggage carts here and there, or some vehicles. There are also some animated vehicles driving around the airport and apron areas. If selected in the configurator, you can see some static planes on the apron areas. There are some general aviation planes on the Western apron, and some jets and turboprops on the Eastern one. The latter of these are all modelled in incredibly high detail and if you’re running an AI traffic pack, you’d have a hard time telling the difference between the AI and the static planes. The static planes also come in the ever so great looking white and black livery of Air New Zealand.
Wellington also comes with a feature called Wet-FX. If it’s raining, puddles will start to form on the apron area and the ground textures will start to look absolutely flooded. The rain effects, as well as the textures and the reflections look absolutely gorgeous.
However, once leaving the airport, this addon starts showing small flaws. The scenery also features the surrounding area of the airport. However, this is limited to the hills to the West and East of the airport, which is a bit disappointing. Wellington isn’t a huge city, and it would have been nice to see the entire city modelled to at least some extent. If you’re not running Orbx’s NZ North Island region, you’ll be greeted with boring looking terrain and bland autogen rather soon after leaving the airport, which is a disappointment. The colours of the airport also don’t entirely mix with the default textures, making for very odd shades of green that don’t cross over in each other. Finally, if you don’t have your autogen settings set to at least high, even the scenery area will only be sparsely populated with buildings and vegetation, making it look very empty.
The lighting of Wellington is very accurate. The terminal area features nice dynamic lighting, and all of the taxiway lighting and runway lighting has been recreated very accurately. Unfortunately, the real life airport has rather uninteresting runway lighting. No bright colour palettes or super pronounced signage lighting. This has been accurately reflected in this scenery. Flightbeam Studios has added very small effects to the lights, but these are still not very well noticeable and perhaps they could have done a little bit more to make the airport lighting stand out a bit more, as particularly the taxi lighting can be hard to see during nighttime.
Last but not least is performance. Wellington is in a great position when it comes to that, both literally and figuratively. Because New Zealand is such a remote part of the world, and Wellington is not a big town, your sim won’t struggle here, even with high settings. Add to that the additional performance enhancements that Flightbeam Studios has used, by using the P3Dv4 SDK amongst other things, and you have an airport that runs incredibly smooth in any circumstance. I did not find the need to switch something in the settings to increase my performance. Though I assume that if you do run into problems, you can make it work very quickly by turning off or lowering the ‘grass’ effects as well as the static aircraft and vehicles around the airport.
- Beautiful and high-quality modelling and textures
- Wet-FX is simply gorgeous
- Lots of little details all around the airport
- Static vehicles look great
- Performance is excellent
- It would have been nice to see parts of Wellington city covered as the immediate area by the airport isn’t that exciting
- Some changes to night lighting would be appreciated to make it a bit fancier for the sim