When Orbx revealed they were working on Kern Valley, I personally had no idea what airfield it was or why anyone would be interested in it. As the previews rolled in, my attitude towards the tiny Southern California airport had changed. It looks pretty good, is set in a nice location, and had complimentary scenery around it. As soon as it was out, I went ahead and downloaded it and have been enjoying some awesome GA flying ever since.
What’s important to remember with L05 Kern Valley is that this is more of an expansion of Orbx’s fantastic FTX Southern California. You need the aforementioned scenery to be able to use Kern Valley, which already begins to add up in terms of cost. If you’re interested in the region, then I recommend you purchase SOCAL, fly around and enjoy that before you invest any further. You’re probably thinking, “but why?” The answer is simply because Orbx have designed to integrate into the region. Everything from the vector to the landclass has been designed so that the airport fits in perfectly.
The scenery itself looks really good, blending a nice use of photoreal scenery and custom texturing. You have to remember that Kern Valley is just that: a valley, hence there are a lot of brown textures, barren areas and plenty of mountainous terrain. I found myself thinking that elements of the texture work near the airport appeared blurry and lacked that overall polish I would expect from an Orbx airport. With that in mind, you’ll still find plenty of cool areas to discover whilst you fly around. From the little farm houses, to the lakes and river routes leading you out of the valley itself, there’s ounces of detail everywhere which is to be expected from a Orbx product.
The airport itself is really well modelled. As a GA airport, there are plenty of static aircraft laid across the apron and a few maintenance hangars to secure your expensive aircraft in. I’ve become a fan of internal hangar modelling and I’m pleased to see it with Kern Valley. It helps add to the immersion of the small airfield. There are also a few other structures including cafés, information huts and utility buildings, all of which have been designed to a high standard. Furthermore, you can take time with your avatar to interact with the other ‘human’ elements of the scenery including spectators and airfield workers.
One of the most exciting elements of the airport is the location itself. Being situated in the valleys in the middle of a California desert, temperatures can reach scorching highs, the mountains are difficult to climb past and as a result there is plenty of turbulence in the area. Flying a heavy GA aircraft out of Kern Valley for a long flight to the coast can be quite challenging and requires proper planning. The narrow, yet long runway gives you some flexibility, yet it also provides an interesting challenge during the approach. There are plenty of helpful visual clues scattered around the airport itself to help with guiding you down onto the runway. This is certainly a key feature of the airport and a reason to justify the expansion to the area. Whether you simulate Kern Valley tours or choose to do some airport hopping – it’s ready to provide even the most skilled pilot a challenge.
So who’s the airport actually for? Well, this is a tough one due to the size and audience for the airport. Fans of the area will undoubtedly enjoy the scenery as it is nicely designed, performs well and features plenty of little quirks to make you visit time and time again. Also, as I said above, if you’re looking to expand your collection of airports in the region (providing you already own it), it’s a relatively small price to pay for the GA airport. On the other hand, if you haven’t bought SOCAL, then I suggest you hold off on Kern Valley just yet and see how you get on with the region itself. There’s plenty on offer with the FTX package alone without the extra cost of expansion payware airports. Don’t forget, FTX regions beautify default airports in that region anyway.