PESIM’s Bordeaux (LFBD) is the biggest project of PESIM to date after La Mole and Montpellier Airport. Bordeaux Merignac Airport, as the airport is called, is ranked 8th by passenger figures in France, with 7 million passengers. While the high speed train line from Paris to Bordeaux that was inaugurated in 2017 was thought to hurt the airport passenger figures, bold investment by the managing board of the airport in the early 2010’s and the opening of a low cost terminal (dubbed Billi, “Bordeaux Illico”) helped the airport sustain its growth, doubling the figures in just 8 years. Reaching its maximum capacity, the airport started heavy terminal overhaul work in 2019. The new work includes an extension of the Billi terminal, a junction of Hall A and B and the overhaul of the transportation network. While this will not bring a major revamp of the airside, this will definitely help improve the passenger experience at Bordeaux airport.
In addition to the regular airline traffic, the civilian apron also hosts a wide variety of business jet and general aviation aircraft, as well as several emergency response and firefighters helicopters.
Bordeaux Airport is also an important military platform. The south of the airport hosts the Base Aerienne 106 (Air Base 106), which hosts the “Commandement des Forces Aériennes” (Air Force Command) of the French Air Force. While there are no more fighter squadrons in Bordeaux, the Air Base hosts a permanent helicopter detachment with Fennec helicopters that are on quick reaction alert with snipers. The base also hosts a liaison squadron with TBM-700 turboprops, and various Air Force support units. It is also used in summer time as a temporary base for water bombers aircraft.
Finally, on the northwestern side of the airport, pilots will find the final assembly lines of Dassault Aviation. This is where all the Dassault aircraft are assembled and make their first flight. Traffic there hence includes Dassault Rafale and Falcon jets. Novespace and their Zero-G Airbus A310 are also located on this northwestern part of the airport, as well as a Sabena Technics maintenance facility which service up to A380 aircraft.
The whole airport is hence quite crowded with various traffic. Two runways support this traffic, a 3100m / 10100ft 05/23 and a shorter 2415m / 7900ft 11/29.
The installation comes with two files: the PESIM launcher and the scenery itself. Install the scenery first. The scenery will by default be installed in your program files folder. It is possible to install the scenery in another directory, it will however require a manual editing of the LFBD.xml after installation, which can be found in your documents folder.
The PESIM launcher is also required but does not need any installation. It ensures the scenery stays up to date. Before updating, the user will be reminded to set the scenery in its default state, which is done through the PESIM LFBD configurator. This tool is the well known configurator from 29Palms that is in use in many other sceneries, such as the Flightbeam line of products. It is easy to use and PESIM has included a lot of possibilities to configure your scenery. This helps simmers with a lower end computer configure the scenery in order to keep good frame rates.
PESIM Bordeaux comes with a manual that is written in French and in English. The manual explains how the scenery interacts with the various add-ons and how to configure the sim properly. In case an automated feature does not work, it is very likely you will find a workaround in the manual.
PESIM has rendered the airport in its current early 2020 state. The developer promises to update the airport following the real life changes from the current construction work. This is a good move by PESIM, because there is nothing more annoying than buying a payware airport that will soon be updated. The process of updating the airport is automated through the PESIM Launcher.
The airport is rendered on a 60 km2 photoreal satellite picture. This covers the entire airport, and a few industrial areas that are directly next to the airport. There is no rendition of Bordeaux city. All the previously stated infrastructures of the airport are modeled.
The scenery offers an extensive list of details that can be activated or not, such as static aircraft, terminal details, ground clutter and more.
The scenery gives you the choice between a GSX Level 2 profile or default jetways. The GSX profile is automatically installed, but in case the automated installer did not work an explanation of how to do it properly is available in the manual. GSX is not mandatory, and users who do not own it will have default jetways. However users who will want to see animated windsocks will need to install SODE. The SODE installation must be done manually by the user and PESIM provides no support for this. While most users probably have SODE already installed in their sim, I have a feeling this is something PESIM could have included through their installation process.
Overall, it feels like the scenery comes with a rather complete packaging. Everything is automated, and in case something does not work, instructions to overcome the most common problems are provided.
As I have stated before, the airport is currently represented as it is in the real world. Even the lesser accessible areas such as the Dassault factories and the military base have been rendered. The scenery also includes starting points for these areas. Accessing all the ramp positions and buildings just like I would in real life is a pleasure, because Bordeaux Airport had so far never been represented with this much detail.
Starting up my helicopter, I decided to take a tour of the facility. The ATC tower, designed by famous French designer Philippe Starck, is here, standing in its full glory. After flying around it, I decided to go visit the car parking lots of the airport. As silly as it may sound, I found it was actually a good start to visit the area I know the most at Bordeaux. I was actually impressed by the 3D modelling of all the buildings, especially the short term, four story parking that is located right next to Hall A. It felt exactly in place, just like flying through the terminal building with my R66 (with crash deactivated of course).
There is one very impressive thing done here by Kem from PESIM on the entire airport: the geometry of the terminal buildings feels surprisingly right. Something I have encountered in some previous sceneries are buildings that look right but are sometimes actually much bigger, or windows or stairs that are misplaced. None of this in PESIM’s Bordeaux: everything is right where it should be and how it should look. The scenery uses SODE animations on flags, which will turn with the wind. It is the addition of small features like this that make the scenery immersive. When flying at altitude above the airport, we will however notice that the photoreal ground is tightly trimmed to the immediate airport area. The colors seem a bit off compared to the Orbx textures. The road network is however very precise and links well with Orbx VECTOR. If you don’t have any landclass addon for the area, you might find the border between PESIM Bordeaux scenery and the default scenery quite harsh.
The texturing of those buildings has been done using PBR textures for “99% of them”. I have not counted every single texture file, but I have not found the remaining 1%. Any 3D model will reflect the light depending on sun position. It is a great pleasure to wake up on a sunday morning, fire up my sim, look out the window and see the same lighting on the airport that I can see outside. It feels great, yet it is not perfect. A minor downturn is that I found some of the textures to be a bit too bright. Now, it is true that the entire airport looks like an aluminium tank sometimes. Yet, during bad weather as we had lately, I found the buildings were standing out while the ground textures had gotten pretty dark, just like the light outside felt like sunset at noon. It might be due to the heavy use of shining textures. Maybe adding some weathering effects could help tone down this feeling, and make them look less “new”. This might sometimes give this impression that dated development techniques were used, while it is in fact rather the opposite.
When coming close to the textures, they appear to be hand drawn and they are indeed very bright. In broad daylight and sunny days, there is absolutely no problem with the current modeling though.
During bad weather situations, rain puddles will show up on the ramp and will reflect light as if there was a small layer of water. It is very immersive.
Night lighting is another area that has received good care. It is accurate in the manner that the Bordeaux Airport is actually rather “dark” at nights, mostly due to its huge terrain surface. The terminal lighting is rendered very well, however while their buildings have lighted windows, I found that neither the Dassault nor the Air Base ramps were lighted, which is a bit of a pity. While these ramps are not the most used, we would have appreciated an option to enable lighting in these areas through the configurator.
The last thing I regret about the representation is the lack of Bordeaux city modelling. Designated a UNESCO Heritage Site, the city of Bordeaux is very visible during the approach to both runway 23 and 29 (the most used runways), and would have certainly enhanced very much the immersion of the scenery.
While the Bordeaux area is very bland in the default simulator and is not included in the PESIM scenery except for the airport, there is an easy way to improve a bit the area by adding some freeware stuff produced by Aquitaine Sceneries.
I recommend getting the “LFDO Camp de Souge” scenery, which is located right next to the airport, and both the Robert Piqué and Bordeaux Pellegrin Hospitals, since they are directly under the runway 29 approach path.
There has been one thing that needed troubleshooting at first was the scenery performance. I fired up the sim with the settings that usually work with other developers. As soon as the terminal area came into view, the FPS came from a locked 30fps down to the 20s. While it was not terrible, the drop was noticeable. After lurking around with the help of Kem and deactivating various options, I found out the ground clutter objects really took their toll on the framerate, even on my strong PC. Once they had been deselected, the scenery performed flawlessly. PESIM is aware of this issue and is planning on releasing an update that will include less frame rate intensive vehicles in the sim. This update is scheduled before the end of April 2020.
- Airport accurately rendered.
- Realistic ground layout and rain effects.
- GSX profile.
- Configurator with many options
- Bordeaux City not represented.
- FPS drop under certain circumstances.
- Textures could benefit some toning down and weathering.