My Top 10 Payware Airports for Prepar3D v4

I recently compiled a My Top 10 Payware Aircraft for Prepar3D v4 listing where I ranked my favorite ten (plus an honorable mention) payware aircraft and why.  This list will be similar in style, but will obviously focus on payware, add-on airports.  I would encourage you to read my latest article titled “Why Consider Payware Airports” as it answers some of the questions as to why we spend the extra $$$ to add extra scenery to our flight sim.

For the record, I have a fairly large amount of payware add-on airport scenery.  Sometime last year I compiled a Google map so I could (at a glance) see what I owned and where I might want to fly so I can enjoy this add-on scenery.  At the time of this writing, I own a total of 63 add-on, payware airports and over the course of this article, I’ll give you the rundown of my favorite ten or so.  Let’s get started!

#10 – UK2000 London Heathrow (EGLL)

Actually, Heathrow is one of my favorite places in the world.  I absolutely love to plane spot here.  Both my wife and I enjoy our time we spend in the English Countryside and arriving at Heathrow is truly an awesome experience.  Generally on our way back home we’ll arrive a bit early so I can stand in awe and watch Boeing 747’s, 777’s and Airbus A380’s land and take-off to/from destinations all over the world.  I’m always amazed at just how efficient this airport operates with the volume of traffic and only two runways. 

#9 – FSIMStudios Cancun International Airport (MMUN)

Cancun is one of the newer add-on airports to land in my collection.  While I’ve never had the opportunity to visit Cancun in real life, it’s certainly a place I wouldn’t mind going.  The team at FSIMStudios have done a fantastic job with the scenery and I’m looking forward to their future work. 

#8 – Imaginsim Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (KAUS)

Austin-Bergstrom is another newly acquired add-ons which I picked up a few weeks ago.  This is a great airport in real life and it’s nicely modeled in the sim.  I really like the work Imaginsim puts into their sceneries and also own Atlanta KATL.

#7 – Captain 7 & 29 Palms Nuremberg Airport (EDDN)

The second largest airport in Bavaria, Nuremberg is beautifully done and is a great airport to pair up with flights from London Heathrow or London City.  For the level of detail this add-on also performs really well with little to no impact on sim performance. 

#6 – Drzewiecki Design Seattle Airports X (KSEA, KPAE, KBFI and KRNT)

If you’re like me and often enjoy taking delivery of your favorite Boeing aircraft direct from the manufacture, then you’re going to want to add Seattle Airports X to your inventory.  Obviously Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) KSEA is the primary commercial airport servicing the greater Seattle area.  A major hub for Alaska and Delta airlines, you’re sure to find lots of flight opportunities into and out of KSEA. 

Paine Field, KPAE is the home of Boeing’s Everett Assembly Plant and home of the largest building in the world and where the largest planes in Boeing’s fleet are born including the 747, 767, 777 and the 787 Dreamliner. 

Boeing Field, KBFI is where Boeing conducts final preparations for deliver of the 737 aircraft. 

Renton Municipal Airport, KRNT is located adjacent to the Boeing Renton Factory that manufactures 737’s.  KRNT is the initial point of departure for airplanes produced in the Boeing Renton Facility. 

#5 – My Dangerous Airport Collection EGLC, LPMA, LXGB, LOWI and TNCM

I’m grouping these five airports together and calling it “My Dangerous Airport Collection”.  Each of these five airports have very unique landing criteria and in the real world some of them require special certification and frequent training. 

London City, EGLC Along with Heathrow, this is another airport my wife and I use every 18 months or so as we connect from London to Antwerp, Belgium.  Much like Heathrow, this is a great airport to plane spot.  London City Airport features a single 4,900 foot runway and only certain aircraft are certified to operate here.  This includes ATR 42, ATR 72, Bombardier Q400, BAe 146/Avro RJ, Embraer ERJ 135/170/190 and the Fokker 50.  The largest jet aircraft that can operate here is the Airbus A318 which British Airways operates from London City to New York, JFK (with a brief fuel stop in Shannon, Ireland).  The return flight operates non-stop from JFK to London City.  Aircrew must be certified to fly the 5.5° steep approach.  If you’ve never flown into London City and never in that steep of an approach, let me assure you that you can feel the difference.  London City, EGLC is developed by UK2000.

Madeira Airport, LPMA this airport is ranked 9th in the world of Most Extreme Airports due to its location and spectacular runway construction.  Much of the 9,124 runway is built on stilts.  The cross wind action at this airport will test your skills like almost none other.  Madeira Airport, LPMA is developed by Aerosoft.

Gibraltar International Airport, LXGB is another one of my favorites.  Gibraltar was ranked 5th in the Most Extreme Airports of the world.  Just like Madeira, you have the possibility of strong crosswinds, terrain all around you and to top it all off, Winston Churchill Avenue intersects the short 5,511 ft runway and consequently has to be closed every time a plane lands and departs.  Gibraltar, LXGB is developed by Aerosoft.

Innsbruck Airport, LOWI  The Innsbruck airport offers something for everyone.  The airport can handle aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 767 but you’ll most likely see smaller aircraft such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A319/320/321’s operating in and out.  The approach can be both difficult and also breathtaking.  Innsbruck, LOWI is developed by Orbx and they have done a fantastic job with both the airport scenery as well as the surrounding area.  Of course it blends in with the Orbx Global products. 

Princess Juliana International, St. Maarten, TNCM  You’ve probably watched videos of aircraft departing and arriving into this extreme airport.  Folks hang onto the fence just behind runway 10 and try to keep from being tossed backwards from the jet wash.  TNCM features a 7,546 ft runway and until just a few years ago handled Boeing 747’s operated by Air France and KLM on a regular basis.  Perhaps today the largest aircraft flying into TNCM is the Airbus A340.  St. Maarten, TNCM is developed by FlyTampa.

#4 General Aviation Favorites by Orbx 7S3, WA56 and WA79

Another, but the last grouping of favorites.  This one is some of my favorite general aviation favorites by Orbx.  I just love loading up my A2A Cessna 182 or Cherokee and exploring the countryside.  Each of these airports is within the Orbx FTX regional system so the everything just blends in so nicely.  Plus each have a little extra eye candy to enjoy.

Stark’s Twin Oaks, 7S3 is located in Oregon and is a privately owned, public use airpark.  I believe this was the first of these I purchased.  Developed by Bill Womack, it’s a classic. 

Israel’s Farm, WA56 is located in Washington State and you’ll certainly experience the thrill of skimming over the trees, avoid clipping the fence and stopping before you run out of grass. 

Walter Sutton’s Private Strip, WA79 I often fly between Israel’s Farm and Walter Sutton’s place and it’s only a short hop from Stark’s Twin Oaks.  Another grass strip airfield which will certainly test your skill and nerve.  

#3 FlyTampa Las Vegas McCarran International Airport KLAS

When I began identifying the payware airports I owned for this “Top 10” list, Las Vegas wasn’t included.  Keep in mind that it may take me a few days to write an article and I often find a creative burst and I’ll start the framework for many articles at one time and then work on them a bit here and a bit there.  In the meantime, a new version of KLAS was released by FlyTampa and OMG…it’s amazing.  If it weren’t for the reasons I’ll later mention for my #2 and my #1 entries…this airport scenery would be #1.  Without a doubt.  FlyTampa has completely raised the bar and in my opinion snatched KLAS away from FSDreamTeam.  I love FSDT scenery, but what FlyTampa has done with Vega is just simply amazing.  Buy it!  You’ll thank me later.

#2 FSDreamTeam Dallas/Ft.Worth International Airport KDFW

If I had any way to track the number of flights into or out of a particular airport, I would honestly believe KDFW would be at the very top in the ranking order.  In the real world and starting at the age of a young boy, I have very fond memories of going plane spotting at DFW.  I saw the Concorde back in the 70’s when it was being operated by Braniff Airways and I’ve watched the airport grow (and the surrounding area) into what it is today.  As I became older and began my IT career, DFW was a common sight for me on Sunday afternoons and late Friday evenings for many years. 

In the virtual world, FSDreamTeam’s KDFW was one of the first add-on airports I purchased and the first from FSDT.  In my mind, FSDT’s KDFW has stood the test of time and is still pretty accurate.  One of my favorite routes to fly in the sim is between #1 and KDFW. 

#1 FlightBeam Denver International Airport KDEN

For those who know me and/or those who are regular readers of my blog content, it should come as no surprise that I would list Denver International Airport (DIA) as my #1 payware airport.  After all, DIA is my home airport and I fly out of DIA both in the real and virtual world often.  In just a little over two months, my wife and I will board a British Airways 747-400 and travel to London and I frequently fly out of Denver on American and Southwest.  If I’m not careful, I may surpass the number of flights into/out of KDEN in the virtual world as I do enjoy simulating both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines flights.  As I previously stated, my favorite route is between Denver and Dallas/Ft. Worth flying the PMDG 737-800 for American Airlines. 

In Summary

Most likely (and just like “My Top 10 Payware Aircraft for P3Dv4” list), I could re-write this posting a year from now, two years from now…perhaps 5-10 years from now and items #10 – #3 would/could change.  But I wouldn’t anticipate either of these top 10 lists changing the #2 and #1 items. 

While it was easier to compile the aircraft list, it was truly difficult to pull this list together.  When I began the framework for the article, I had noted over thirty different airports and through process of elimination I began whacking that list down to what you see here.  It truly was a struggle as I own so many really top-notch airport sceneries.  

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

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