Why Consider Payware Airports

It’s sometimes funny how articles are born here on my blog site.  I began the framework to a “My Top 10 Payware Airport Scenery” article which more or less started off with a question as to why we purchase payware airport scenery and showing examples.  I realized this would become a seriously long article, so I decided to split them into two different writings.   So let’s get the why out of the way first, then in a few days I’ll release my top 10 list.

Why purchase payware airport scenery?

If you are new to the hobby of flight simulation or perhaps a complete stranger to it, you might wonder why we spend additional money on airport scenery.  After all, this is both a valid question and a very good question. 

Unlike other simulation based games in my library (FS19, ATS, ETS2) Flight Sim (and this includes FSX, FSX: Steam Edition, All versions of Prepar3D and even XPlane) does include the entire map of the world.  As is the case with American Truck Simulator where we either have to wait for SCS to release a new US state DLC or rely on a mod developer, Flight Sim includes an open world to explore.  This means that out-of-the-box, you can start up at just about any default airport in the world and fly to just about any other default airport in the world.  Most default airports will include all runways, taxiways and buildings which exist in real life.  Some of the buildings may even very closely resemble their real-life counterparts.  However, as is the case with FSX/P3D…these airports (including runways, taxiways and terminal buildings) are seriously outdated.  Let me give you an example of just how outdated some are.

Example – Chicago O Hare International Airport – KORD

As you can see from the chart below which is dated 2006 versus the second image which is more recent, a lot has changed.  By default, even in Prepar3D v4, KORD is outdated by over 10 years. 

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As you can see, Chicago O Hare looks much, much different with some runways removed and others added. 

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But by default, if you fly into KORD you’ll be landing on runways which may not exist today and this truly confuses things when you are flying online with other pilots and ATC.

To overcome these obstacles, many of us will purchase add-on airport scenery which will update the airport based on what it looked like at the time the add-on was developed.  Of course, even these add-on airports can become outdated rather quickly as KORD is once again due to make changes in 2020.  So as you can see, it’s almost a never ending struggle to stay 100% current. 

Unfortunately, as is the case with Chicago O Hare…the FSX/P3D community finds itself in a holding pattern awaiting an updated version of this awesome airport.  The best current add-on version available today for KORD is based on what the airport looked like in 2011 timeframe.

Maximum Immersion and Eye-Candy

While the main reason to update might be to ensure airport accuracy, another reason is what I refer to as maximum immersion and eye-candy.   Denver International Airport (KDEN) by default is modeled based on what the airport looked like around 2006.  It’s recognizable in FSX/P3D by its iconic tent looking main terminal.  But DIA has undergone some radical changes since it first opened in 1995, replacing the old Stapleton Airport.

Is the image below real or a screenshot from P3D?  Hard to tell the difference huh?  It’s a screenshot compliments of FlightBeam who developed the most recent version of my home airport.  This image is from the vantage point of just north of terminal A.  Overlooking the international arrival/departure gates used by Lufthansa and British Airways.  You can see the iconic tent roof structure over the main Jeppesen Terminal building and directly in front of that the newly opened Westin Denver International Airport Hotel.  Maximum immersion – CHECK!  Eye-Candy – CHECK!

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Photo Credit: FlightBeam KDEN

More than just the airport

Sometimes payware airports come with a little and some with a lot of additional features other than just a detailed airport.  As is the case with the brand new Las Vegas McCarran Airport (KLAS) which was recently released by FlyTampa.  In this example, not only do we get a highly detailed representation of the Las Vegas airport, but we also get bonus bling of the Vegas Strip.  I personally can’t wait to do a nighttime approach into KLAS with this beautiful scenery.  Can you say “Viva Las Vegas”?

Photo Credit: FlyTampa KLAS

Photo Credit: FlyTampa KLAS

Photo Credit: FlyTampa KLAS

In Summary

I recently read a Facebook comment from someone who said something along the lines of “This isn’t airport scenery simulator” when commenting on a post regarding payware scenery.  The great thing about this hobby is there’s literally something for everyone.  One can simply purchase the flight simulator platform of their choosing and have a ton of fun flying around in the vanilla or default state.  Or you can enhance the immersion and take it to a completely different level.  The flight sim world is big enough and welcoming enough for all types of individuals.  Enjoy the hobby on your terms.

Until next time…

Thank you….Thank you very much (read this in an Elvis accent).

Jerry

Real World Meets Sim World

I know I’m not the only one who enjoys simulating their real world flights either before or after any trip.  I’m actually a little superstitious about it to be honest.  In the past dozen years or so, there’s only been one real world trip which I didn’t fly in the sim before hand.  It was a few months ago when I received the word that my Mom had passed away.  I rushed out to KDEN and jumped on a Southwest Boeing 737-700 and flew to Austin.  When I got back home a week later and found myself in the mood to spend some time in Prepar3D, I setup that flight in memory of my mom.  I think she would have appreciated that.  After all, flight simulation has been a hobby I’ve been involved with since I was a teenager back in the early 1980’s.

Memorable Flights

I’ve had many.  When I first moved to Denver back in the late 90’s, I would fly to visit my family in Texas.  Before hand I would simulate an American Airlines flight from KDEN to KDFW in one of my favorite aircraft the MD80.  After landing at KDFW, I would jump in a Saab 340B and simulate the quick flight down to Killeen – Fort Hood Regional.  Then I would do the reverse. 

Of course, in my job I’ve traveled a lot.  Some domestic and many trips overseas.  After all it was a business trip back in 2001 which led to me meeting my now wife.  But regardless if I traveled domestically or international, I set aside the time to simulate the roundtrip flights before I head to the airport in real life.

London Calling

By the time you read this, my wife and I will be halfway through our European vacation.  Once again we’re headed cross the pond from Denver to London Heathrow via the Queen herself a beautiful Boeing 747-400.  A trip I’ve made about a dozen times.  Anyway, we’ll spend a few days in the English countryside before heading to Antwerp, Belgium (family visit) on the Eurostar for a week, then back to the English Countryside for another week and then back home to Denver. 

A few weeks ago I completed the first leg of the trip and flew my PMDG 747-400 from Denver to London Heathrow.  On Thursday, 4th of July I completed the return leg and captured the following screenshots of the trip.

Of course, no trip of this magnitude can be completed without snacks.  I’ve gotta say, the food British Airways serves in their business class is top-shelf and the drinks are nice as well.  Smile

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I would have snapped a picture of the bags being loaded, but GSX being GSX decided to use belt loaders which just looked really silly.  So here we are being pushed back from our stand at London’s Heathrow (UK2000) airport (one of my favorite airports in the world). 

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Pushback complete, time to taxi out to 27R

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Once you get this big girl rolling, she just wants to fly and fly she does.  I don’t fly the Queen near as much as I wish I could. 

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Well on our way across the Atlantic. Personally I find the return trip to be a lot easier than the eastbound trip.  I think it has to do with flying during all daylight hours. 

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If you happen to live or have visited the Denver area, then you know all about our late afternoon thunderstorms.  They can wreak havoc with on-time departures and can cause holds while these powerful, but quick moving storms move near Denver International.  In the below, we’re approaching KDEN for the ILS 16L approach with storms brewing just northwest of the field. 

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Touchdown imminent.  9 hours, 45 minutes after pushing back from Heathrow we safely touchdown on runway 16L at KDEN (Flightbeam). 

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And with that…I’m ready to board the Queen for what might be my last flight aboard a Boeing 747-400.  As most will know, United Airlines retired their last 744 in 2017 and with that it marked the end of any US carrier flying the Queen.  Other airlines including British Airways have also started the process of replacing their 747 fleet with 777’s, 787’s and others from that other aircraft manufacture.  Smile

As a point of reference, when I began flying British Airways between Denver and London (2001 timeframe), BA operated the 777-200 on this route.  They changed to the 747-400 in Spring of 2015.  While BA’s plan to reduce the number of 747-400’s by 50% in 2021, the Queen may still fly until 2024.  But who really knows what the future holds…

Until next time….God Save The Queen!

Jerry

GBS Beast v5–Update at 10 Days

It’s been 10 days since the covers were battened down on the new GBS Beast v5 (my new gaming PC) and I couldn’t be happier with how she’s been performing.  All the simulation based games I truly love and enjoy playing perform flawlessly.  Since v5 first booted up with a brand new install of Windows 10, I’ve been feverishly getting everything reinstalled, configured and operational.  I’ve managed to resume (and almost catch up) with getting videos recorded for the GrizzlyBearSims YouTube Channel.  For me, my simulation gaming is a huge stress reliever for me from the hectic days of real life and I feel that life and my sanity are back to normal, or as close to normal as can be expected in my life.  I’m very pleased.

Baby Steps

Much of the time I spent with v5 in the first few days could have been considered baby steps.  As previously noted, I spent some time playing FS17 and recording content for the YT channel.  I also began the daunting task of getting all my flight sim add-ons reinstalled and configured.  In addition, spending time getting Prepar3D v4 dialed in with the new system.  While P3D v4 is not new to me, the configuration settings with the new performance hardware is drastically different that how I had it setup with the previous gaming machine.  But thankfully, the new hardware in the Beast v5 is allowing me to really crank up the graphic settings and both the GPU and CPU are working well together to deliver a spectacular visual experience which I couldn’t be happier about.  But with almost 10 days of taking it easy on the new machine, I felt the need to really stress her and see just what she could do.

The True Test

As my long-time readers will know, I’ve been a flight simmer for a very long time.  Quite honestly, it’s because of my passion for virtual flight which served as the requirements for the new PC build.   I could have saved a lot of money if I were only building the new rig to play FS17, ETS2, ATS etc.  But to achieve the stunning levels of immersion and eye-candy I wanted from Prepar3D v4, I needed the CPU/GPU and other elements.  But how would this new system perform.  Would it, could it deliver the level of performance I really hoped it could.  I new of only one way to test this and it would involve pretty much an entire day of my time.  Of course, time spent gaming is never a waste of time.  Right???

Now, I must admit that I rarely have the time or real desire/interest to commit to a full international long-haul flight in the sim.  In my earlier years, spending a full day flying from the US to the UK was something I did quite frequently.  But as one begins to settle down and all that…then sacrifices must be made and for the most part my virtual flying generally consists of shorter haul flights in the 2-4 hour range.  Also, until the GBS v5 was born….I had difficulties getting the type of performance that would allow a full international long-haul flight without a system crash or really slow performance at the very end.  I had hoped this new rig would solve those issues and let me say once again, I couldn’t be happier.

On Saturday, I booted up GBS v5 and loaded up Prepar3d v4.2 with the PMDG 747-400 (Queen of the Skies II) and placed her at the gate at KDEN (Denver International Airport).  I set the sim time for just before 1900 hours and began to perform all my pre-flight setup work to ensure a prompt departure for 19:35.  I would be simulating British Airways flight 218 which operates daily between Denver and London’s Heathrow Airport.  This is the very flight my wife and I will take in a few months.  While in the past BA operated the Boeing 777-200 on this route, for the past few years they have operated the Boeing 747-400.  The Queen of the Skies won’t be around many more years and it’s truly a joy to have the opportunity fly on this wonderful aircraft.

The real life flight time for this route is approx. 8 hours, 35 minutes and I’ll be doing my best to simulate this down to the very minute.  After all, “As Real As It Gets” right?

Push-Back and Departure

Unfortunately, the first few screenshots which I captured while on the ground, pushback, taxi and take-off didn’t get saved.  But despite one family being a bit late arriving to the gate, Speedbird 218 Heavy pushed back at 19:36 and began the short taxi to runway 36R.

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Speedbird 218 Heavy climbing through the clouds just as the final minutes of sunlight was visible to the west.  The four Rolls-Royce RB211 engines provide all the thrust we need to reach our cruising altitude of 37,000.

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A near full moon is visible just off the starboard side of the aircraft.  Wing shots are some of my favorite to capture.

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The flight deck of the B747-400 (view from the jump seat)

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Here comes the sun.  The sun rising in the east, but we still have many hours to go.

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A port side wing view.  PMDG simulates wing flex very well with their aircraft.  It’s truly amazing just how much flex these large wings have.

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The Queen of the Skies is a thing of beauty.  Note the heavy cloud cover over the Atlantic ocean.  Not much to see.

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Land Ho….just approaching the cost of Northern Ireland.  Almost time to get to work getting this bird safely on the ground.

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One more body of water to cross before reaching the coast of England.  At this stage of the flight we’re beginning our descent from FL370 and experiencing a lot of turbulence.

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Somewhere, down there….you’ll find Thornton Farm, Coldborough Park Farm.  Love the details

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It’s pretty soupy in Old London Town today.

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Gear down and fully configured for landing.  Speedbird 218 Heavy is joining the ILS for runway 27R.  The Thames River is visible in the background.

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Cleared for landing on 27R and just seconds before this shot the end of the runway was in full sight.

Summary

The total flight time from push back at KDEN to engine shut down at EGLL, was just a little over 8 hours, 45 minutes.  So about 10 minutes late, but this was mainly due to heavy traffic as we entered the busy London airspace.  But the GBS Beast v5 performed just as expected during this entire time.

This long flight pushed the new machine hard.  Night time, heavy cloud cover and flying from and to heavy detailed airports were all tasks which would have been difficult with the old PC.  It handled it all with flying colors (pun intended).  I’m going to spend a few weeks flying some European routes before eventually heading back to Denver.

Until next time….

Jerry

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