MBS International Airport, located in Freeland, Michigan, is a small airport which services both general aviation and commercial operations. Once used as a World War 2 base for the United States, MBS reopened for commercial use in the mid-1940s and saw a boom in aircraft movements during the 80s and 90s, as airline expansion meant more and more would operate services to and from the small airport. Unfortunately, the growth didn’t last long, with the current figures showing a decline in movements by over 50% in the last decade and now there are only two airlines left to ferry those who still choose to use this public transport hub: United Express and Delta connection. In this review, we will be looking very closely at Turbulent Designs’ accurate rendition of this small Michigan airport. With nothing much in the way of unique terrain, large terminals or famous landmarks, I find it a particular mystery as to how Turbulent Designs have managed to create such artwork out of a particularly ordinary place.
MBS International is a relatively small airport, with not much room for detail, unlike some other airports. So, as is typical for the developer, Turbulent Designs included a moderate area surrounding the airport as part of the scenery (20 square kilometres, to be precise). Throughout this expanse, we can see Turbulent Designs’ incredible attention to detail, because included with the scenery is a plethora of custom objects including houses within suburbs, farms, and airport vehicles – which truly make this scenery feel alive. Custom photographic textures really make the user appreciate the hard work put into this scenery.
Encompassing the whole area is a 60cm² per pixel orthophoto, which as an ortho addict myself, I loved. The textures were quick to load and, when a couple of hundred feet or more above the ground, do not appear blurry or washed out. In addition to this, the custom objects previously mentioned are extremely high quality, with the scenery going so far as to show off the age of the hangars, with rust and amazing ground textures. I was particularly surprised to discover how high-res the runways, taxiways and aprons are; all of which are surrounded by a generous, yet not overpopulated, collection of 3D grass models. To achieve this, Turbulent Designs used their very own Real Flora technology, which adds highly realistic trees, bushes and flowers without compromising on frame rate.
Installation of this scenery was as typical of an X-Plane scenery installation as it was easy. Upon clicking on the download link found in your Turbulent Designs account, you will be presented with a ZIP file. This file, when extracted, is simply copied into X-Plane’s custom scenery folder. This was made even easier by the lack of finding and downloading separate libraries required.
Included in the file is a user manual, which summarises the included features and coverage area of the scenery, making it simple to see if part of the scenery is corrupt or isn’t working. There were also charts for the airport, which is always a nice addition to any scenery document, and an easy to follow guide of how to properly file bug reports so issues can be handled as quickly as possible by the team.
I did find myself needing to file a bug report initially because there was a problem with the scenery’s objects not loading depending on my X-Plane settings. However, the team at Turbulent Designs quickly replied to the forum post, found the source of the problem, and released an updated version with a fix within a day of me requesting help. As a result, new users should not encounter this problem.
As is becoming increasingly frequent with modern flight simulator scenery, Turbulent Designs spared nothing when designing what can only be described as an impeccable rendition of the interior of the terminal. Inside, I was flabbergasted to see the detail. The model encompasses check-in, car hire, baggage claim, security and departure terminal; my favourite part was being able to look up within the check-in area and seeing the unique curved structure of the terminal roof.
In addition to this, a few – unfortunately static – jetways can be found outside, ready to board the passengers onto the CRJs, which fly the 3 commercial flights offered from MBS. This scenery doesn’t just cater to the modern pilot though as the remainders of the old WW2 runway are still visible and available to those who want a challenge on an old bumpy strip. For the more daring pilot, an amusing feature can be found buried just east of the airport boundary: an old drag-strip.
I was also stunned by Turbulent Designs’ expert use of X-Plane 11’s dynamic lighting to create an intense immersive environment at night, with flood-lights dotting the car park and illuminating the apron, and shining within the open hangar, so you can sit and stare in awe at your flying machine, even when sun has dropped below the horizon.
X-Plane 11 scenery doesn’t usually come with configurators, and unfortunately MBS is no exception. However, given minimal performance impact with all the features mentioned, I do not believe one is necessary, as I find no reason to want to remove objects.
Despite a dense flora and expansive housing estates surrounding the high fidelity airport, I saw no significant drop in performance. Frame rates were consistently high, and no stutters were experienced. I personally find this quite surprising given the high polygon count and the sheer number of objects drawn throughout. Even night time, when the custom lights were shining bright, I found a pleasantly smooth experience was to be had.
Of course, as is always the case, it’s important to note that experiences can differ from system to system, but for now: a pretty perfect performance from Turbulent Designs in this category.
This scenery is priced at a pretty comfortable £19.99, which is surprisingly low for the sheer calibre of scenery that this is. I do, however, think that for the immense detail supplied, the relatively low price is justified by just how infrequently the airport is used in the real world, which can happily be rectified when used to its full potential within X-Plane.