Turbulent Designs is a relatively new face in the world of Flight Sim developers, but the team have been around for many years. Through the years, Turbulent Designs has built their team, and always increasing their ambition to create highly detailed and interesting airports for the sim. Their previous project L35 Big Bear City Airport was a favourite of ours, so when they announced they were working on an international airport, we were pretty excited. Despite MBS International Airport not being the largest, the idea of a commercial aviation terminal being created by Turbulent Designs was an exciting prospect.
The airport itself is located just outside of Saginaw, Michigan in the USA and serves a range of commercial, general aviation and police activities. The single main terminal building offers passengers a simple experience from the car to the plane, and most gates are equipped with jetways. These little regional airports are perfect for aircraft such as the CRJ and the 717, as they offer plenty of city-to-city route pairings at a high frequency. Sadly for the airport, passenger numbers have started falling as a result of nearby airports, which has meant airlines are slowing down their operation. Whilst it doesn’t impact the simmer, if you want to fly realistic routes, then your choice as a commercial pilot is rather limited. On the other hand, those who enjoy private jets or general aviation will be well served by MBS as it has plenty of parking and hanger space.
The airport area itself is massive. There are two runways (both over 6,000ft long), a variety of aircraft hangers, cargo areas and more. In fact, there is even an old World War II runway currently not used – though it can be used to test pilots who choose to break a few rules. Before I talk about the main airport itself, I want to draw your attention to the level of detail within these areas. Usually, developers consider lesser used areas like the fuelling zones, car parks and ramp areas to be less important; as a result, they lack the detail and complexity you see elsewhere. Turbulent Designs have turned this usual practice on the head by ensuring that even the smallest details are included in MBS International Airport. Cars have number plates, fire hydrants are placed accordingly and even dumpsters have rubbish seeping down the sides.
The quality continues to the buildings themselves. Light fixtures are placed inside the hangers, rust appears in the tin and there is even clear material changes where panels have been repaired or replaced. Every area of the scenery is detailed, textured and rendered in excellent 3D modelling. Even around the airport itself, you will notice smaller houses, towers and other objects have been created to a high level of detail to immerse you into the airport.
At the most northern point of the airport, you will find the passenger entrance and terminal. If you’re using P3D at this point, the first thing I recommend you do is take your avatar from the car park through the whole passenger experience. You will be able to walk from car park to bag drop, through security – grabbing a sandwich along the way – before handing your boarding pass to the gate agent and walking up the jetway. This entire trip is possible as Turbulent Designs have modelled the entire building in spectacular fashion. Inside, the signage is clear, boarding gates are legible and there are even posters and advertising material scattered around. Check out some of the screenshots below and you’ll see what I mean.
Typically, this is another area developers are just getting comfortable with and thus don’t tend to focus that much attention on it. After all, this is a flight simulator and unless you’ve done something horribly wrong, your aircraft should be outside. Regardless, Turbulent Designs are now pioneering the next level of detail developers should be aiming for when modelling and texturing indoor locations. I appreciate that it can’t be done for all airports, but there’s now no reason why a developer can’t create this level of detail.
Even outside of the terminal building, the attention given to the textures is incredible. They were created using high definition textures, which were aided by the real world photographs the developers took when sourcing the airport for information. These textures have translated beautifully into the sim. From dirt, scratches and tyre marks, everything is there to give you the most comprehensive representation of the airport possible. Surrounding the gates are well-modelled 3D cars and service vehicles which also include interior modelling. Each of the jetways are operated by SODE and between taxiways you will see Turbulent Design’s stellar RealFloral technique. I did notice that some of the 3D grass effects look odd in certain lighting within the sim. For example when I had cloud shadows enabled, the grass textures didn’t blend well into the surrounding terrain. Not a deal breaker, but noticeable. Nonetheless, whether you’re flying a small propeller jet or a twin-engine, you’ll be able to appreciate the niceties included here.
Apart from the terminal areas, the team have done a superb job on the taxiways and runways. The 3D light fixtures look really good; in addition, the signage is clear and distinguished, with high resolution textures. The markings on the ground are accurate and show enough signs of wear to be believable without being too over the top.
Some users may be worried about whether their PC will be able to handle the load of all these additional details. Luckily, Turbulent Designs have included their brand new “Turbulent Terminal”, which will allow you to configure the scenery to your liking. It’s really clean looking, simple to use, and all of their other products use it as well. The manual that comes packaged with the product provides a good overview of the airport and the product, but installation in general is pretty straight forward.
This is one of my first reviews conducted for the new platform, Prepar3D V4. As a result, I was able to test the new dynamic night lighting. Without a doubt, the night lighting is some of the most impressive I have seen. Buildings light up in reaction to the lighting as opposed to standard textures. This adds a new level of realism, thanks to the power of P3DV4. Further, Turbulent Designs have created great lighting effects on other light fixtures inside the terminal buildings, as well as the runway lighting. Everything you see is believable and absorbs you into the airport. The airport and surroundings look stunning during those early morning departures.
When it comes to value, it’s really hard to put a price on this. The detail, dedication and hardwork clearly represented in MBS International Airport make this an immediate masterpiece. I suppose the argument is there for any airport: if it interests you, then it will be good value for money. On the other hand, as an international airport with only a few real-world flights, it makes it difficult to imagine jetliner pilots will use MBS much. Either way, however, it’s a brilliant airport with a rich history and a variety of flying to do.