Turbulent Designs has been making waves in the flight sim community for some time now. Whether it’s developing stunning mountain airports, busy inter-city hubs, or utility products to enhance the quality of the trees within the sim. The next big thing for these guys was developing exclusively for 64-bit platforms only. Not long after the release of Prepar3D V4 they have finally released their first P3DV4 exclusive product. Glacier Park International Airport is the first airport in a long string of airports looking to take advantage of this new modern technology. Let’s dig in and see if developing exclusively for P3D has paid off.
Located in Montana, the airport serves as an international airport bringing in tourists, aviation enthusiasts, and locals on business trips. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that the airport really started to see passenger traffic and has seen an increase in usage ever since. Despite the international tag in the airport name, current routes are all domestic, meaning they all come from within the US. Airlines such as Alaska, Delta, and United all send smaller jets like CRJs and A319s on routes to Seattle, Vegas and Denver. So if you like flying within the US, there’s some nice route choices available. Otherwise, you will probably be more interested in the general aviation and business side of things.
The airport sits right beside Glacier National Park, right below the border of Canada. This is an interesting setting for the airport as it provides some spectacular views as you bring in your aircraft. Whether you’re going low and slow or fast and high, there’s some wonderful terrain to admire. As you pass through all of this and the airport comes into view, this is when you start to realise how glorious it looks.
My first impression of this airport was how natural it looked. No textures looked out of place and everything looked in proportion to what it would be in real life. This detail is really emphasized by the quality of the texture work on materials. What I mean is that wood actually looks like wood, and metal has so much detail that it looks truly authentic. For example, take some of the wooden supports on the terminal entrance: each plank of wood is textured differently. Whether by design or by fault, I couldn’t spot a single texture element that looked the same. The same effect applied to things like dirt, scratches and rust on some of the metallic surfaces. No repeating textures in sight. This really impressed me and shows just how far Turbulent Designs is willing to go for a faithful re-creation of the airport. One thing to note is that whilst the texturing is of a high standard, I did miss the transparent texturing to represent windows on the building work.
The attention to detail doesn’t stop there.
I absolutely love how Turbulent Designs creates ground polys for their airports. Each texture and component screams with realism that continues to impress me. The high resolution of the textures ensures you can enjoy the visible wear and tear, environmental effects, and oil marks that are scattered around. Reading taxiway signage is easy and the taxiway markings curve and join naturally – which is unlike many other scenery products I’ve seen as of late. 3D grass is also littered around, providing that extra bit of immersion simmers would expect from a product in this day and age.
Venturing beyond the terminal building also showcases the care Turbulent Designs has taken to create a realistic airport. The surrounding airport vehicles add lots of charm to the airport, whilst the road signage is detailed down to the finest point. For some simmers this won’t make much difference, but it’s showcasing what modern techniques can be achieved now that memory restrictions are no longer an obstacle.
Whilst I enjoyed exploring the outside of the airport, I was disappointed to see that the internal elements of the airport were completely missing. I praised their work with MBS International especially for the internal modelling as it was detailed and added lots of immersion. Whilst the terminal itself lay empty, they did take on my feedback from Idaoh Falls whereby I said it would be nice to see some internal modelling on the GA hangers. Fortunately with Glacier Park, there is somewhere for your Comanche or Cessna to park up overnight. I hope to see more of this in the future.
One of the more interesting uses of technology within Glacier Park is how SODE has been implemented to create custom ground textures based on weather. During dry weather, the ground textures represent a dehydrated look. But when rain starts to pour, you’ll see the ground textures turn into wet concrete, with a glaze of water splashed all over them. The same happens when it snows. The ground will be populated by snow-flakes and other wintery elements giving you the impression of a cold snap. No need to restart the sim – it’s all done on the fly based on your simulator. Right now this effect is limited to an on/off state, with no variation depending on how much precipitation there is.
Night-lighting is another element that falls down for me with Glacier Park. Over in the general aviation section of the airport, the use of dynamic lighting is subtle, has a great use of colour and performs well. However, when you move on over to the main terminal, the experience becomes almost unbearable. My frame rate plummeted to mid-teens, despite seeing smooth 60+ frames during the day. This is even more shocking when Glacier Park has been designed and exported using the P3DV4 SDK and technology. I remember having a similar experience with previous airports from Turbulent Designs, but put that down to the fact it was a cross-platform airport. I’m hoping that this is something that can be adjusted in the future as it’s a real let down when the rest of the product works so well. Of course, if dynamic lighting isn’t for you, you can adjust the amount that fills the airport via the configuration tool.
The configuration tool, dubbed Turbulent Terminal, is a simple, clean, and effective way of enabling certain features, reducing, or disabling them to help with performance. With Glacier Park, you can also adjust the visuals to a SD version which will give you a performance boost, as well as adjust some of the features like ground clutter, static vehicles and the airport car park. All these little tweaks will give flexibility for those who desire it.
When it comes down to the price, it’s getting challenging to real put a value score to these things. For the price you pay, you’re receiving an excellent product with lots of neat features and some of the most advanced techniques yet seen in flight simulator scenery. On the other hand, the lack of routes and airlines may not appeal to many people. There’s certainly some interesting routes with some of the more unique airliners around, but it may not hold your interest as long as other airports in the same category. With all this experience in P3Dv4, I would love to see Turbulent Designs take on a more well-known airport in the future which will showcase their ability to the masses.