Along the Golden Coast lies a beautiful oceanside town called Half Moon Bay. Home to fancy restaurants and private golf fields, Half Moon Bay is quite a high-end place, and the views you can capture there are nothing less than that. It’s the kind of airport you would fly into for the afternoon, grab a bite to eat at the famous cafe before circling the bay on the way home. Following along the beautiful California coast into and out of this airport makes it quite unique. An interesting fact about HAF is that it is almost always IFR, as being on the coast it is subject to the Bay Area’s marine layer that comes in every morning and evening. Only in the summertime may it be possible to have clear skies here. Another interesting thing is that the airport lies right underneath SFO’s massive class Bravo airspace. The different shelves require you to skim the ocean at 1,000FT AGL to be able to duck under the shelf.
Being right across the ridge from San Francisco it’s not too hard to understand why this airport hasn’t been created for FS yet. The scenery surrounding HAF is breathing taking and worthy of being put into a sim, but its virtual location near a heavy scenery area has made it hard to do due to VAS and other performance sacrifices, but Orbx has defied the odds and made a beautiful rendition of Half Moon Bay without too much of a performance hit. Luckily this airport isn’t large, so a lot of detail was able to be put in small things both on and off the airport.
On the airport, everything has been modeled nicely. There are some T-hangars along the taxi route for you to keep your plane in. I really like the static aircraft for this scenery, they aren’t blocky and have some nice AI next to them. It’s mostly small single-engine aircraft with a twin or two. A majority of the aircraft kept at Half Moon Bay sadly don’t fly a lot, especially the ones at the south end. The AI themselves also look really improved, they do give some life to the small airport, but I would have liked to see a little more movement – maybe amongst the cars or something.
Although there are very few, the buildings on the airport grounds are nicely modeled and have some interesting coloring. There is a maintenance hangar in the middle of the ramp and as expected the metal support beams are brown and rusty. Being next to a salty ocean they couldn’t have lasted long. Other than that there are only small hangars scattered around. All of the doors are closed which is unfortunate, having a few of the hangars open to park your plan would have been a bit better.
Just off to the left of the runway, there seems to be a housing complex. I’m not sure who would want to live that close to an airport, but it looks pretty neat. Since this airport doesn’t see too much heavy traffic, all of the markings are pretty simple. Nothing is extremely clear and crisp, rather faded and soft. Building textures are clean though, as well as the grass and ground textures.
Off the airport grounds, the quality remains amazing. The surrounding town has neighborhoods with decent looking houses and a nice layout. Just off the approach end to runway 30 is a small shopping center with some restaurants on the ocean side and a dock with some boats. There’s a landmark called Pillar Point right next to the airport; it’s nicely rendered with the radar dome and complex. A tip I have is to make your base to final turn for runway 30 once you’re past that building, so you don’t get too low and strike it!
One thing that I want to applaud is the color palette used. The colors for the coast and ground textures are amazing; Orbx used the exact colors of the terrain and it makes the scenery look stunning. Most of the time, seaside airports have beaches with bright colors. Not in NorCal; slightly darker greens and yellows were used and it makes the scenery so many times better. The sand on the coast is a dark and dirty yellow, with the immediate ocean a deep and dark blue. Near the shore, there are some white-capped wave textures that, with moving water, look real. Textures and detail for the rockier mountainside also look well done, and they have roads that wind along them and lead into the town.
When the sun sets, so does the activity at this airport. Since the marine layer comes at night, trying to duck in or takeoff out isn’t such a good idea without a properly equipped aircraft. On the airport, the runway edge lights come on along with some dim taxiway lights. At the ramp there are a few light posts that light up only a few areas on the ramp, so be careful taxiing at night. Along the side of the airport runs Cabrillo Highway, and it has many lamps along its length. Definitely use that as a visual leadway in!
To close, Orbx’s Half Moon Bay is a really nice airport! It’s not groundbreaking but it is a very simple and modest product. If you are based in the Bay Area or in Northern California like I am, I think it’s obvious that you need this scenery. The blending between the product boundaries and Orbx’s Northern California scenery is seamless and perfect. The performance here is actually really good given its proximity from San Francisco. I have Flightbeam’s KSFO and having it be only a few miles away did not seem to affect performance too much. That being said, I wouldn’t expect a consistent 60 frames especially if you throw in some real world fog. The airport is simple and small, as it is in real life, but the airport surroundings are fantastic and again look exactly how it is in real life. Orbx’s Half Moon Bay airport is a very nice product, and as said before if you like Northern California or like flying along the coast it’s definitely for you!