LatinVFR Fort Lauderdale: The FSElite Review

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Sitting less than 30 miles north of Miami is the beautiful town of Fort Lauderdale. A year round average temperature of 75 degrees makes Fort Lauderdale an exciting getaway in both winter and summer. About 2 miles inland from the warm and white, sandy beaches is Fort Lauderdale International Airport. Fort Lauderdale is a focus city for jetBlue, Spirit, and Allegiant Airlines. Silver Wings, a small commuter airline in the US, has a base in Fort Lauderdale as well. In 2019, the airport served over 36.7 million passengers on one of the 26 airlines that fly into the airport.

Purchasing and installing the airport from LatinVFR was very straightforward. After downloading the installer, you are prompted to enter your serial key and with a few clicks, LatinVFR’s Fort Lauderdale is installed. A configuration tool is included with the scenery, however, it does not appear after completing the installation, it has to be run manually. The configuration tool can be found in the folder you chose to install the scenery to.

Loading up my first flight, I was full of anticipation. I was very excited to have a proper Fort Lauderdale scenery as the one previous hadn’t been updated in years and was missing the new terminals and a longer southern runway. I first loaded up in my plane at the newest terminal at the airport, Concourse A. It was mid afternoon with partly cloudy skies, the PBR materials all over the airport were glistening in the sun. Puddles of water are scattered around the airport shining in the mid-afternoon sun. I really enjoyed seeing the puddles scattered about. With Florida’s climate, showers and storms pop up on an almost daily basis and having those puddles present really helps to immerse yourself in the environment. The apron features ground clutter and SODE jetways are used to dock your aircraft with the terminal.

One of the highlights for me in LatinVFR’s previous New Orleans scenery was their attention to detail, especially inside the terminal. Sadly, I cannot say the same for Fort Lauderdale. There are only two interior models, every other terminal has a blue-greenish window texture. I was very disappointed by this, Southwest’s newest terminal has a large glass front and it’s a shame to not see any attempt at modeling an interior. Something as simple as glass with a textured interior would have really been great. With all the new scenery on the market with full interiors modeled, having no actual windows is very disappointing.

Moving on to the other buildings, every building on the airport has been modeled with PBR materials and they look great. The many parking garages in the center of the airport have been modeled as well, however, they have pretty low resolution textures on them. The billboards around the airport have current ads and logos on them but are lacking a decent resolution. The closer you get you’ll notice how pixelated they become. Another small detail that appeared to be overlooked is the fact the billboards have no backward facing texture. If you are looking at a billboard from behind the image will be flipped making the billboard undesirable to look at. The cars on top of the parking garage also leave more to be desired, I counted 3 different car models on the top floor of the garages. Having only 3 models results in the same cars being duplicated over and over again. The same black and silver car is used hundreds of times with a random red car every now and then. It would have been nice to have more variety or at least different models of cars. Luckily it’s not too much of an issue as you really don’t see the tops of the garages unless you are looking out a wing view or taking pictures of your plane after takeoff.

One of the options available in the config tool, is moving traffic. With the option enabled there are only a few vehicles that move around the airport. For me this is a great thing, I really like that there aren’t parades of vehicles buzzing around everywhere. The vehicles drive at a believable pace and due to the fact there aren’t a lot, they don’t really get in the way. Again, I see this as a positive thing. I like the lower amount of traffic, there’s enough so it’s not totally dead but there isn’t an overwhelming amount of vehicles driving through your plane while you are pushing back or pulling into a gate. I only noticed one slight issue with the fuel truck that drives around the northern loop of the airport, it doesn’t drive in a straight line. It is angled to the right, almost like it’s fighting some crosswind on the ground. It’s a very minor detail but I did notice it while parked at the gate.

The most unique feature of the airport is the sloped southern runway that extends over Route 1. Opened in the fall of 2014, the expanded southern runway is 8,000 feet long and has a 1% slope grade that begins just before the middle of the runway. LatinVFR not only modeled the sloped runway, they made it usable with the AI traffic. AI traffic will both takeoff and land on the sloped portion, something that hasn’t been done on another scenery, until now. The slope on the approach end of 28L actually makes it more difficult to land on, especially when you are aiming for a specific point on the runway. The area on and around the runway where the slope starts blends in very nicely with the surrounding photoreal terrain. There is a very slight color difference if you are really looking for it but it doesn’t degrade the overall look of the airport. The only real issue I encountered with the slope is the fact that it starts right where the AI tends to rotate off runway 10R. With AI E190s and A320s the plane will rotate just slightly before the slope and will graze the slope creating tire smoke. Tire smoke is also created by the AI when taxing to 28L as they pass over changes in the gradient.

Sticking to AI traffic, I use AI traffic all the time when I fly. LatinVFR spent some time in the AFCAD assigning the correct parking gates for the airlines. This is usually a step most other developers either don’t put time into or simply don’t care about. I usually end up going in and changing the codes myself so I don’t have 15 different airlines parking at the same terminal. It is refreshing to see LatinVFR taking the time to assign the correct gates from the start. The right airlines parking at the correct gates just adds another level of immersion and it’s greatly appreciated. The underlying taxi links also match up with the ground polys so the AI taxi on the taxiway centerline. Other airport developers have lacked this detail in the past leading the AI to taxi left or right of the centerline. While it’s not a showstopper, it is nice to taxi to a runway following the AI and have them taxing on the centerline.

Overall Summary
The airport along with all the ground markings and signage was modeled with detail and accuracy. All the terminals and parking garages are perfectly aligned and match real world specifications. The textures on the terminal are good but the lack of interiors or any see through windows on almost all the terminals is disappointing. Same goes for the low resolution textures used on the parking garage and billboards. Some portions of their airport simply appeared rushed. There are many great features and welcomed additions to the airport, like the use of a sloped runway, but simple things like the billboards appear to be completely overlooked. The little details are what holds this airport back from being top notch. I really enjoyed LatinVFR's Fort Lauderdale Airport and everything the scenery had to offer. This is for sure a welcomed addition to my scenery library.
  • Poor texture resolution on airport billboards and parking garage
  • Lack of interior modeling in most terminals
  • AI traffic tire smoke while taxiing on sloped taxiways

Daniel Wasinski

The author Daniel Wasinski

I have been a flight sim enthusiast for over 10 years starting with Flight Simulator X. Always eager to listen and gain knowledge about all things flying whether it be in the sim or the real world. Currently, a student pilot enrolled at ATP Flight School so I can turn my hobby into a career. I can always be found in the evening on projectFly crisscrossing the United States in my 737!
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