San Jose International is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, one of the largest tech hubs in the world. San Jose Airport (KSJC), is one of the three major airports in the San Francisco Bay Area and is the second-largest in terms of passenger volume. For many years, I personally felt that SJC was very underappreciated by the community, but now that Orbx has stepped up and delivered their rendition of the airport, it looks like things are finally turning around for one of the fastest-growing airports in the country. As this is my home town airport, I just had to take a look at this scenery. But is this scenery up to the Orbx standard we all know and love? Let’s find out.
Buying and installing the scenery has been made easy with Orbx. A while ago they introduced Orbx Central which allows the user to buy, install, and manage their products with ease. SJC is no exception to this and the installation went by without any problems.
After the scenery has been installed, there are a few options that can be toggled on and off such as the static aircraft, choosing which set of dynamic lighting is turned on, normal or high detail textures, enabling or disabling PBR models, and more.
The documentation can also be found in Orbx Central. This offers some information about the scenery features, some recommended settings, a coverage map, and more. A pretty basic document, but it still contains some good information for the user.
Overall, modeling at the airport is quite good. The detail on the terminals is great with lots of small details like air conditioners, satellite dishes, vehicle bollards next to doors, and more. The jetways also look great and are positioned in a way where there is no problem connecting to aircraft. However, there are issues with the stairs that lead up to the jetways on Terminal B. These are misaligned by quite a bit and are consistently the same way on each gate that has stairs.
Orbx has included a few static aircraft at the terminal. They are all Boeing 737-800 models with three in Southwest and one in Delta colors. The modeling is substantial enough for static aircraft, you are able to identify which aircraft type they are and they help the airport look busier if you are flying offline or without traffic. I do wish there could be some variation in the aircraft type or some static models placed over at the Fixed Base Operators.
The terminals have received some attention landside too. Both parking garages have been modeled with a good amount of detail to them. Items such as light poles with signage, fences, and other signs like one of the real banners used to advertise a real new flight have been added. The parking lots just outside of Terminal B however looked very unfinished. The parking lot is empty, with no markings to even suggest that is where a parking lot is currently located.
Moving around the airport, both the cargo areas and FBOs have a decent amount of detail to them. The modeling is clean with details added in places to make this airport feel like the real-world counterpart.
Around the airport, there are clear markings on the ground textures that would indicate either a building or a tree which have not been included/modeled. Confirming on Google Maps shows these items have been in place for a good amount of time. Items like a gazebo near the general aviation parking, a missing gas station just off the north end of Terminal A, and a large open patch of what looks like gravel with shapes on it have not received custom modeling of any sort, making these areas feel incomplete. Taxiway signs are placed all around the airport. The modeling is adequate, but the placement on many of the signs is misaligned with the ground textures or in the wrong place completely.
The airport has 3D grass that is scattered around the edges of the taxiways and runways but leaves empty spots without 3D grass in open areas. This can be fairly noticeable if you are in a taller aircraft like a 747. Most of the grass blends nicely with the ground textures, but some areas of grass are colored as if they are from the summer months. These stand out quite a bit and doesn’t fit with the way the airport is textured.
The surrounding areas also received some attention with this scenery. Custom models for places like the Avaya Stadium, SAP Center, and the shopping center to the south of the airport have also been included. The modeling has enough detail to help with flying VFR and bring the surrounding area to life. However, some larger landmarks have not been included like the Caltrain Facility.
On the buildings included for the main part of the airport, the texturing is mostly good. The detail is true to what the real airport buildings look like in most aspects. Comparing the roof of Terminal B with Google Maps, the roof is the wrong color and is missing some large areas of green that are extremely hard to miss when looking at Google Maps. Other than that, all of the building textures are recognizable and accurate.
The ground texturing is fairly average, which depicts lush green grass even during winter or springtime. This does not match the surrounding areas, even with TrueEarth Northern California, which has dry yellow grass, typical of summer textures, surrounding the airport. Orbx decided not to map each island of concrete for taxiway signs and other airport equipment. Each island is from the photo texturing which makes each edge very jagged and makes the ground textures look lower quality than they really are.
The taxiway and runways textures also feel a bit average. The textures look like they were taken out of a library of premade textures and don’t convey how SJC really looks, the taxiways appear too clean or new. Some places on the ramp in Google Maps show that the ramp is filled with cracks, but the scenery shows a brand new area of pavement. A lot of the color changes between different pavement types feel exaggerated in areas as well.
Taxiway markings are very sloppy. All over the airport, there are taxiway border markings that line up with the change in the surface material. The markings in the scenery are all over the place making the markings feel rushed. There is a taxiway which has its centerline far off-center and missing markings at various points. Parking spots feel overly clean as there are no oil marks on the ground compared to what I see on Google Maps. There are also missing markings for vehicles such as the fuel farm parking at Atlantic Aviation.
Nightlife at the airport is great in some places while disappointing in others. Airside terminal lighting does a nice job of lighting up the ramp. Landside feels a bit underwhelming and unfortunately looks quite dark in areas, especially when compared to the freeway and city all lit up close by. The north cargo area has lighting as well but the main parking is quite dark considering that it is where the planes are parked and where the work will occur during the night. The south cargo area also has issues where all the lights appear to be illuminating the wrong way towards the street and not the ramp.
Moving over to the general aviation side of the field, there is little to no lighting in areas. Some of the buildings have night textures for windows with varying brightness, while others don’t have any at all. No dynamic lighting is found on this side of the airport here, making night ops almost impossible. I have been told this is for performance reasons, but I have seen many other airports with better dynamic lighting than this airport, and with greater performance.
Taxiway and runway lighting looks great with my only complaint being the centerline taxiway lights being fairly dim.
Parking is set up in 4 different groups. Terminal A and B, North Parking, and General Parking. Terminal A and B, and North Parking are all set up correctly. General Parking is a bit of a mess. Opening the airport in ‘Airport Design Editor’ gives a good picture of what this section looks like. The parking numbering system is all over the place with no sense of order, making it very hard to figure out what parking to select when using GSX. Parking spots at Atlantic Aviation have been flipped around in the wrong direction which is disappointing as a quick look at Google Maps shows the correct direction. The Signature FBO area has also been completely left out so there are no options to spawn on that ramp. Some parking spots are placed where they shouldn’t be at south cargo. Overall, I wish the numbers were better organized and different ramps on the airport had different names associated with them.
It is also worth pointing out that not all the taxiways are also mapped out in the AFCAD. On the general aviation side, there are plenty of missing taxiways, and the ones that are included are likely mislabeled. This means that not only will the default ATC not give the best route, but it will also give incorrect taxiway identifiers making it impossible to taxi without using the progressive taxi arrows. The commercial side of the airport is mostly correct but has errors in the AFCAD here and there.
All the airport navigation aids are working as intended at the airport.
San Jose is quite heavy when it comes to performance. Loading into the sim with a default aircraft, The FPS hovers around the 25 FPS marker. Since I am running TrueEarth along with this scenery, I tested if TrueEarth was having any effect on the performance. Disabling TrueEarth improved performance by maybe 2 FPS. When I disabled San Jose and left TrueEarth running, the FPS increased by over 100% reaching 55FPS easily, and some points reaching over 60FPS. Having both disabled did not increase the FPS by much more, so it’s safe to say that TrueEarth has little to no effect on the FPS of SJC.
At night, the performance story doesn’t get any better. Dynamic lighting has always been a known performance killer, but most sceneries have done a good job with the balance of keeping good performance with the visuals. This balance is not present with this scenery. Sitting at the terminal during the day gets around 25FPS. When night comes and the dynamic lighting comes on, the FPS drops to 6FPS, and that is with a default P3D aircraft. The first patch turns the extra dynamic lighting off by default and doing this didn’t make much of a difference in terms of my experience.
Loading times for this scenery are much longer than loading in without the scenery enabled. Sometimes it feels over three times as long to load in.
VRAM was also an issue. Running a GTX1080 with 8GB of VRAM, I have had multiple graphics card errors while flying in or out of SJC with aircraft like PMDG. Along with these errors, the VRAM often gets high enough for P3D to automatically turn off enhanced atmospherics, something I think is unacceptable to happen with a higher-end card like a GTX1080.
- Modeling of main airport buildings
- Up to date terminal layout
- Easy purchase and installation
- Poor performance
- Night lighting basically missing from one side of the airport and poor performance where it does exist
- Incorrect texturing on some buildings
- Missing structures or objects on and outside the airport
- Low-quality look for ground textures