Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport is an incredibly busy airport; it’s the busiest and biggest airport in the world. It has about a million aircraft movements and more than 100 million passengers every year. It’s a major hub for Southwest, but Delta is the main airline in Atlanta. Atlanta is also jokingly called “Delta International Airport”. The airport has about 300 stands spreading across 4700 acres.
And that size is exactly the problem, because modelling an airport that big in a simulator that is always limited on performance is quite the challenge. And besides the usual look and feel of the scenery, performance will be the major focus of the review.
Installation and configuration
The installation process was easy. Simply run the installer and that was all. Or so I thought, because the SODE jetways didn’t work. I had to manually download and move the SODE files to the correct folders to get it to work. However, after I fixed those issues I had no problems enjoying the scenery. (EDIT: SODE Jetways are now available via the configuration menu. Check out this post for more info: ImagineSim Scenery SODE Update.) Imaginesim also provides you with the usual documentation, including some information about the airport, a chart, and a guide of how the docking system works. It also includes a nice FAQ section at the back of the document.
First, I had to choose the options I wanted. There is a special configurator for the scenery where you have a range of options. Simply select the options you want, and it automatically configures your scenery. There is also a option to turn off dynamic lighting, choose seasons and many more.
Atlanta has quite a few nice features. The first and probably best feature of the scenery is that it has SODE jetways. For me, SODE jetways always add a lot of immersion. With the latest update to the ops center, installing SODE is now as simple as checking a box. It’s really easy and gives users flexibility on whether they use them or not.
One of the other features is the realistic docking system. It works for every type of aircraft, and is based on your viewpoint. That’s the only drawback, I found that if I moved back in the flightdeck the docking system would give me the wrong position. However, it does include this working system and I appreciate that I can use a it based on the one in place in real life.
Finally, the scenery includes a number of surrounding buildings, moving vehicles and vehicles parked in car parks. All the trees surrounding the airport are placed by hand. Even the streetlights surrounding the airport are custom made and placed. This really adds to the immersion and makes you feel like you’re really at Atlanta airport. It also includes seasonal textures to help with the blending. All of these options, again, can be adjusted in the configurator.
The airport itself was released in late 2015, but has now been updated and made available for P3Dv4. There aren’t a lot of differences. The scenery itself looks good. The textures are of good quality, the modelling looks accurate. I really don’t like when scenery packages look cartoonish, so I’m pleased to say that ImagineSim did a pretty good job of making it look realistic and alive. The apron has dirty spots on it, and so do the terminal textures, adding quality to the overall product. The package also includes 3D grass, vehicles and other small details that make this airport look alive. It’s these small details that take a scenery from average to good.
I did find that some of the night textures look a bit odd while I was on approach. The colour looked a bit off with areas not really mixing together too well. However, during the day I couldn’t find any issues that prevented me from really enjoying the airport. The 3D grass looked like it was placed in a cross shape, which isn’t necessarily a problem during normal flight operations. However, I did see it when taking screenshots after the landing. These are minor details, but something I feel could be improved upon in the future.
The dynamic lighting makes every airport look a lot better at night. I really like that ImagineSim took the time to implement dynamic lighting into an older scenery. Instead of just releasing it for P3Dv4 they improved the scenery too. Of course, it has a huge impact on performance, but this really isn’t ImagineSim’s fault. I will say that maybe they could tone down the brightness somewhat to make it less of a light show and more realistic.
Atlanta has always been a bit like the London area in flight simulator. It has always been hard (if not impossible) to get good performance in Atlanta. Imaginesim took the risk to develop a scenery, and with the older version, there were some performance issues for some people. However, in Imaginesim’s new Atlanta they have been able to improve the performance. Even though there are still spots where performance can be problematic (they admit this themselves, and I like that honesty) the overall result is impressive.
Even with all the bells and whistles switched on, I was still able to get about the same performance, and in some places even slightly better, as in other major airports like FlyTampa Amsterdam, FSDreamteam KLAX and the like. This is hugely impressive for the area, the size of the airport and the surrounding city. This is also a real improvement over the previous version of the same scenery. As mentioned, some areas of the airport perform better than others, but to be able to pack in this much detail into the airport yet maintain a comfortable frame rate is great. Obviously the performance isn’t perfect, but let’s face it: it is Atlanta.
Imaginesim’s decision to release their scenery for P3D v4 has been one with some major improvements. The airport has a decent amount of features, the texturing and modelling looks good. Where they really scored their points is for the performance. Even though it’s not perfect they have done a good job at making a nice airport scenery while keeping the performance in Atlanta acceptable. What is really exciting is that for existing customers, this update is free for those that own the 2016 version of the scenery. If you don’t own it already, I’m confident those who buy it will be impressed with the quality and the value for money you get from the package.