When you think of major airports in the UK that play a large role in the British economy, what comes to mind? London Heathrow is likely right at the top of that list, Gatwick is probably in there too, and Manchester is surely there too. I’d nearly put money on it that East Midlands is somewhere toward the bottom.
It might surprise you to learn that despite being the 13th busiest airport in the UK in 2016/2017, having handled only just over 4.5 million passengers, it plays a huge role in receiving and dispatching huge amounts of cargo every year. In fact, it serves 36 destinations spread over 10 cargo operators, just with freight alone. That’s a huge amount of cargo for a single-runway airport! So if you’re a simmer like myself who enjoys hauling your MTOW of cargo on the odd occasion (mainly because cargo doesn’t complain about those hard landings), you’ll appreciate the job that UK2000 have done in bringing their rendition of East Midlands to X-Plane.
UK2000 have always been a name that represents quality and accuracy in sceneries for Prepar3D and FSX (and they even still develop for FS9), and so to expect the same with the X-Plane products is a natural thing. Fortunately, UK2000 doesn’t let us down by just running their sceneries through a conversion and calling it a day – they’ve quite clearly spent the time making sure every last detail is perfect for the X-Plane world. Comparing with satellite imagery, you can spend time yourself going over the airport grounds and spotting out small details like light placements, one by one, and finding that they’re exactly where you’d expect to find them.
The texturing of the building and scenery object models is done in a high resolution, and running your sim with maximum texture resolution will give you a heightened sense of immersion around the airside of this airport. The smaller things being clearly visible, like hangar signage, are what make all the difference to a scenery like this. Of course, not everyone has the hardware to do such a thing – myself included. I’ll touch on this a little more later on.
UK2000 has gone to great lengths to make the aerodrome feel alive. One of the features that achieves this is the placement of people objects throughout – even as static objects, their presence gives off the impression that this is a busy airport, and one that is always bustling with activity on a daily basis.
There’s also a carpark on the landside that’s half-filled with cars and a bus station with parked buses with some more placed further up the airport drive on their way into the airport.
During the sunrise and dusk hours in the simulator, the airport is well lit with plenty of lighting around the aerodrome. The apron is flooded with light, as are the DHL and UPS freight warehouses on either end of the airport. Sadly though, the landside seems to be missing detail in this regard, with light poles placed around the carpark and entrance to the terminal, however, no light is emitted from these. I can’t help but feel that if these lights were functional ones, it would add an additional sense of immersion to the scenery.
Now, we are reviewing the X-Plane version of this airport here, so it’s worth pointing out that this version misses out on a few things that our counterparts over on P3D will enjoy with their scenery.
Firstly, UK2000 mark “3D approach lights” as not being included in this scenery. What their definition is of this, I don’t know – I say this because by heading to the end of the runway in an aircraft or free-look camera, you can quite clearly see approach lighting on the lead-up to the threshold. So this one is a little puzzling – perhaps what they mean by this is that the lighting is not custom-made like may be required in P3D, FSX and FS9 (all of which this scenery is also available for).
Another item marked as not being included in the X-Plane scenery is animated traffic. This is a little disappointing, as a lot of major scenery developers are including ground traffic in their sceneries these days. The addition of ground traffic gives a little more life to the scenery, especially when users have static aircraft switched off (like myself). It means the airport feels like an operational, real-world airport.
This brings me to the next item of static aircraft. As I said, I’m not one for having static aircraft in my sceneries – I will manually remove them from any sceneries that do include them because I feel that they intrude into one’s ability to park/spawn where they like – but I do understand that there are many more people out there who do enjoy static aircraft in their sceneries. As a developer, adding static aircraft to a scenery is quite easy in X-Plane. There are many freeware libraries available with many types of aircraft to choose from, or you can simply tell X-Plane to draw static aircraft in certain positions if the user has the static aircraft option switched on. Why UK2000 did not go down this path, I’m not sure, but with no static aircraft and no ground traffic, it makes for a pretty desolate feeling airport.
Furthermore, we also miss out on “grass effects” and “museum aircraft”. The grass effects are understandable – where the ESP platform struggles with large textures, X-Plane manages perfectly fine with uncompressed satellite imagery (aka, ortho). Hence UK2000 have chosen to place the airport on top of some high-quality satellite imagery in place of some tacky looking grass that you find in most ESP-platform sceneries. That said, the museum aircraft is a little disappointing to miss out on.
At the western end of the aerodrome sits the East Midlands Aeropark – an aviation museum and viewing area for the East Midlands aerodrome. The museum displays vintage aircraft, mostly in restored states that are otherwise not commonly found nowadays. UK2000 list on the product page of their website that this is not modelled in the X-Plane version, but when slewing around the aerodrome it is quite clear that this is not the case – on the corner of a roundabout, just outside the airfield sits a number of significant military and civilian aircraft next to a large shed which you would imagine to be the museum premises.
Aside from these downsides, the airport scenery doesn’t “feature” much else – it’s a smaller airport with some aprons and parking, surrounded by a handful of buildings. It’s exactly what you’d expect from an airport that handles some budget airlines and more cargo than people, and it looks very good in doing it.
I must confess that this review has been published much later than intended, and part of the reason for that is that while initially reviewing it I found myself encountering poor performance on this scenery. It wasn’t only this scenery though, as my video card was getting on in years and starting to struggle with the 4K textures that are becoming the norm in most things these days. This scenery did seem to struggle more than others though, so it was at that point I opted to order a new GPU.
Fortunately, once the new GPU arrived I found this scenery to be negligibly worse in performance than other sceneries. I say this, but what is negligible to me with my system could be the difference between usable and non-usable to someone with a lower-end system. Essentially, the difference between East Midlands to another scenery in the same region is a loss of approximately 5fps. I can’t say exactly why this is, but anyone with a lower-end system should be aware that it will eat a few frames.
Like all other X-Plane sceneries by UK2000, this one is priced at a moderate £16.99, and just like this scenery’s counterparts, that asking price is very fair for what you get.
This scenery is one that has been handcrafted by a team who take an immense amount of pride in what they do, and the scenery isn’t something that they’ve just run through a conversion process, slapped X-Plane on the box and put up for sale. The scenery is everything you would expect from a scenery that had first been designed in X-Plane before being converted to other platforms. It makes use of X-Plane’s natural beauty in the night lighting, as well as the ability to use the realistic orthophoto ground textures. In doing this, it blends in so well with the surroundings that you may already have covered in your own generated ortho that it looks like it was meant to be there and wasn’t something added in later like some sceneries can look like.
It is disappointing that we miss out on some features that our friends on P3D and FSX can say theirs includes, but those features are hardly anything important to the X-Plane platform, and in some cases, they actually are included despite the product listing saying otherwise.
That said, there are areas where some improvement would have made a big difference, such as the landside lighting, and should the developers wish to address this in future I would expect the scenery to be a great deal better for it.