St. Croix: The Easternmost Point of the USA
An Island and an Airport
Welcome to Saint Croix brought to X-Plane by CDB Scenery Design and Maps2Xplane. You don’t have to be around X-Plane for very long before you come across something created by one of these two designers. If you have downloaded a free airport from the forums, you have likely needed to install the CDB Library, as it is one of the more popular for freeware scenery designers due to the high quality of the models provided.
Maps2Xplane established a foothold and reputation in the community with the development of the Antarctica4Xplane mesh that added areas to the X-Plane world not included in the default world of the simulator. Given the quality of work these two designers are known for, expectations for the St. Croix project are high.
An introduction to the island of St. Croix
Interestingly, St. Croix is the only territory in the new world to have the distinction of falling under the jurisprudence of seven different nations: Spain, the Netherlands, England, France, Malta, Denmark, and finally the USA. It is the largest of the three principal islands that, along with some fifty smaller islands, islets, and cays, comprise the US Virgin Islands. The two towns on the island are Frederiksted on the western end and Christiansted on the northeast end.
The island came to the attention of Western Europe when Christopher Columbus landed there on November 14, 1493. The ensuing years saw multiple changes in occupying countries as a result of various battles and wars between European nations. The current status of the island began with the purchase of St. Croix, along with St. Thomas and St. John, from the Dutch by the US in 1917 for US Twenty-five million dollars in gold. The US granted citizenship to the inhabitants of the island in 1927.
St. Croix was once the sugar producing king of the Caribbean. Today visitors will note dozens of sugar mill ruins scattered across the island; there are around 150. Visitors can learn about this important part of USVI history by visiting historic sites such as Whim Plantation, a restored and preserved sugar plantation.
“The Wall”, if you are a diver you have likely heard of it! St. Croix is well known for wonderful dive opportunities. If you aren’t a diver you can take introductory classes while on vacation. Additional water sports your vacation to St. Croix might include are snorkeling, kayaking, fishing and boating. On land you can plan a game of golf, take an island tour, explore scenic forests by jeep, enjoy jazz at outdoor concerts, shop, dine, catch a crab race at a local bar, or a horse race at the track.
Three National Parks: Salt River which protects a diverse ecosystem in addition to pre-historic ruins; Buck Island with stunning marine gardens; and five historic structures in Christiansted that give visitors a look into Danish colonial way of life. Additional parks and preserves include: Sandy Point notable for its beauty and for its protected sea turtles, and Jack and Isaac Bays.
You can fly directly to St. Croix, it has an airport. Taking a daytrip or better yet an overnight visit to St. Croix from St. Thomas is made possible by regular interisland air service and a ferry. For more details check out the 2022 Guide to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
About the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport
The following information is from the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport – STX Airport website.
Henry E. Rohlsen Airport is a community air terminal found six miles (10 km) southwest of Christiansted on the island of St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands. The airport codes are IATA: STX, ICAO: TISX, FAA LID: STX. The air terminal is named after Henry E. Rohlsen, a St. Croix local who was one of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. It is a little worldwide air terminal that has fundamentally between Caribbean flights.
The air terminal, which was a center point for Aero Virgin Islands during the 1970s and 1980s, can get streams up to the size of the Boeing 747s. Before 1996 the air terminal was known as Alexander Hamilton International Airport and was renamed that year Henry E. Rohlsen International Airport.
Airline Operations And Statistics
Various aircrafts worked booked traveler fly assistance into St. Croix before. These air transporters included Caribair with McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30s, Eastern Airlines with Boeing 727-100s, Air Florida with Douglas DC-9-10s, Continental Airlines with Boeing 727-200s, Midway Airlines with Boeing 737-200s, 727-200s and 757-200s, Pan Am with Boeing 727-200s just as wide-body Airbus A300B4s and Trans Caribbean Airways with Boeing 727-200s.
One air bearer that has served St. Croix for a long time is American Airlines. In 1974, American was serving the air terminal with Boeing 707 and Boeing 727-100 jetliners with direct flights to New York City. In 1994, American was working Airbus A300-600R wide-body planes into St. Croix with constant help to Miami. A Boeing 747 conveying alleviation supplies during the fallout of Hurricane Marilyn arrived at the air terminal in 1995. Satellite symbolism in Google Earth shows the nearness of C-17 and C-130 military vehicles in 2006 and 2015.
On Sunday, November 11, 2018, the second-biggest freight plane on the planet, the Antonov A 124 arrived on St. Croix to convey building supplies for houses as a major aspect of the storm recuperation.
Henry E. Rohlsen Airport Capacity
STX covers a zone of 1,455 sections of land (589 ha), which contains one black-top cleared runway (10/28) estimating 10,004 ft × 150 ft (3,049 m × 46 m). For the year time frame finishing September 30, 2013, the air terminal had 36,287 airplane tasks, a normal of 99 every day: 68 percent air taxi, 25 percent general flying, 6 percent planned business, and 1 percent military. In a similar period, there were likewise 36 airplanes based at this air terminal, including 11 single-motor, 15 multi-motor, five planes, four military aircraft, and one helicopter.
Now that we have a bit of a background about the scenery package let’s move on to installing and setting up the product.
Installation and Documentation
First, we’ll start with the necessary details, the system requirements from the Aerosoft store:
- X-Plane 11.52r2+
- Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 / 11 (64bit), MacOS (Mojave+) or Linux Ubuntu LTS
- Video card: 6 GB VRAM (8 GB+ recommended)
- CPU: Multi Core processor with 3.2 GHz or better
- Hard disk: 9 GB of free disk space
- RAM: minimum 8 GB RAM or more
- Scenery Animation Manager – SAM3 (optional)
Installation runs via Aerosoft One, this requires an internet connection and an Aerosoft user account!
Aerosoft One is an interface to all things Aerosoft and will show you the package in the library tab once you have purchased it. To begin the installation, click on the green “Install” button. A dialogue offering you a choice of installing to the X-Plane directory or installing to a library and placing a link in the X-Plane Custom Scenery folder is next. Follow the onscreen instructions to select your preference.
Once you have done that, select “Continue”. On the next screen, you will see a notice about running software that might interfere with the installation. When you are ready, click the install button. If you leave the switch to queue option checked, the routine will automatically switch to that screen. Here, you see the installation begin and a progress meter indicates the download progress and time remaining. You can also see the download speed.
Once the download and installation has completed, you will find four folders have been set up. One of those is called “Additions” and includes a folder called “Resources”. If you drag this to your main X-Plane folder, it will overwrite the default map tiles for the St. Croix scenery area. The new map provides more detail for the St. Croix coastline.
Henry E. Rohlsen Airport (TISX)
This exploration of the St. Croix Island begins with an approach to TISX from St. Thomas. TISX is on the southern, leeward, side of the island and the runways are 10 and 28. The dimensions of the runway provided by the Jeppesen chart are one-hundred-fifty feet in width and ten-thousand-four feet in length. The elevation of runway 10 is seventy-four feet and runway 28 has an elevation of twenty-three feet.
Runway 10 lighting systems include medium-intensity approach lighting system (MALSR), high intensity runway lights (HIRL), and precision approach path Indicators (PAPI). Runway 28 includes the HIRL and PAPI lighting and features the runway end identifier lights (REIL) instead of the MALSR. The runway PAPI systems are set for a three-degree angle. The airport chart also notes the runway surface is grooved asphalt. The airport has an ATIS / AWOS broadcast on 135.65 but this is apparently inactive in the simulation so you will have to look up the wind directions to know what runway to use.
The approach in use goes over Frederiksted to runway 10. This appears to be the preferred runway for the airport given the use of approach lights. This makes sense since the predominant wind direction for the island does seem to be onshore from easterly directions. Runway 10 has both ILS and RNAV approaches, and this approach will test the accuracy of the RNAV approach commencing at the AQHAN waypoint and using the Laminar X1000.
To set up this approach, I am going to depart from St. Thomas, another one of the US Virgin Islands, and take the direct to flight to AQHAN. Departing from the Cyril E. King airport which is available as a free download from CDB2Xplane.
Flying this short route, St. Croix quickly appears on the horizon. The first thing to notice is the lush green hills along the northern side of the island that stretch from the docks at Frederiksted to the harbor at Christiansted. The highest elevation on the island is Mt. Eagle at 1160 feet and lies almost due north from the midpoint of the runway at TISX. Continuing the course towards AQHAN, the western end of the island comes into view. An ocean liner is departing or arriving while another remains moored at the Frederiksted Pier. After reaching AQHAN and turning to a ninety-eight-degree heading, the west end peninsula; home to the Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, the Westend Saltpond, and the Sandy Point Beach is soon directly below.
The RNAV approach is very accurate and lines up to a perfect final. As the field comes into sight, the approach flies directly over the modelled town of Federiksted; one of two major towns on the island. Flying over Federiksted provides a splash of island color that leaves no doubt that St. Croix is a Caribbean destination. Full of island spirit and ready to start a tropical vacation, attention turns to the final approach and landing.
Markings on both Runways 10 and 28 are clear, detailed, and accurate. There is nothing missing here. (The nighttime approach is very well lit although good landing lights are still necessary to prevent the detailed lighting from impeding your vision.) Crossing the threshold brings an amazing photoreal runway surface into sight that has you waiting for the feel and sound of rubber hitting and rolling on a grooved asphalt surface. Unfortunately, that experience is beyond the simulation (for now).
The runway itself is a bit of a conundrum. From a short distance above, it looks amazingly lifelike, but that sense of reality does not hold up at touchdown altitude. On my test system, the runway texture develops a smooth sheen at a close focal point. This gets exaggerated when sunlight hits the surface at an angle and occurs at both ends of the runway.
I was fortunate to be able to ask the developers about this and they said their experience is it occurs on some systems with some configurations. They also stated that it is difficult to get the exact effect they are looking for because of the current status of the X-Plane lighting system. They have hopes of seeing this improve with the next version of the simulator and will be looking at update options as they become possible.
Touching down, on the way to the taxiway, several buildings can be seen to the right of the runway. The last of these is the accurate and detailed rendering of the airport control tower that illuminates at night with a distinctive Caribbean style. The other buildings include the Tradewinds Flight Center, the DHL Express Service Point, and Bohlke International Air.
Each of these buildings feature starting points for a new flight out of Rohlsen. In this area, you will see modelling to an exacting detail and accuracy that includes signage, equipment, old storage tanks and containers, and two old twin prop aircraft for repair or pilfered parts. From the looks of them, my guess would be the latter.
The taxi from the runway terminates with arrival on the apron and heading for the assigned gate at the terminal. The apron is a busy place and features some fantastic modelling to enjoy arriving at the terminal. In true CDB Scenery Design fashion, the little details abound right down to the “flower power” VW microbus and the portable WCs.
The real beauty of these models is apparent from a distance and in indirect lighting. Much of the detail created by shadow is lost in the high noon sun as it is in real life. The texture work is also lost at close range since textures cannot be overly detailed due to the frame rate cost of highly detailed textures. This is no different from any other scenery package I have thus far seen.
Taking a quick detour around the terminal to the other end of the apron reveals many more buildings all crafted with the same detail and enhanced by the judicious use of greenery to create the atmosphere. While this may not be the vacation resorts and beaches of St. Croix, seeing the palm trees and the tropical ocean beyond the view of the fuel tanks is an emphatic statement that this is the tropics.
The apron surfaces are varied, and each variation is expertly captured and rendered. I almost expected to feel the bumps as I taxied from one type of material to the next. A few places capture the dirt tracks left behind by passing air and ground vehicles and many display the dirt and stains ground into the tarmac by countless repetitive uses.
The area is busy with ground traffic so you will need to maintain your vigilance while approaching your assigned gateway. The terminal has eight gateways: four in the front and four off to the left side when looking at the terminal from the apron. Currently, there are no jetways. The Virgin Island Port Authority has recently begun extensive updates and renovations to the terminal and the plan includes adding jetways if they can get the funding for phases 2 – 4 of the project.
They have completed Phase 1 that comprises of an interior update. For now, armchair pilots arriving at TISX must be content with clear gateway markings and the presence of a plentiful and varied array of airport vehicles and personnel.
The developers consciously chose to avoid relying on third-party plugins with the one exception of the SAM plugin. The plugin, if you choose to use it, provides animated marshallers to guide you into your parking place. The marshallers will direct you into gates one through eight at the terminal. They are also present at gates nine through thirteen on the east apron. They are not present at GA tiedowns one through four on the right apron.
They appear at the gateway as you approach it. If you do not use that one, the marshaller will walk away, and another will appear at the next gate. They walk away (vanish) from you after you have stopped your engine(s).
The entertaining apron area has only a couple of small issues. The most obvious is the apron lights are always on. The developers told me they discussed this quite a bit before settling on the always on option as the best one to meet the needs of this package. Another known issue the developers thought they took care of is the pushback tugs do not function at this airport. You may request ground service, and something will show up. If you ask for pushback service, ground control tells you to try another airport.
Nothing seems to say Caribbean as much as bright blue and coral. The design and colors of the terminal are spot on and the results of some precision modelling. Details abound as you deboard your aircraft and set yourself the task of walking around the perimeter of this astounding bit of craftsmanship. Once again, don’t walk too close or you’ll lose the ability to truly appreciate the accomplishments.
Entryways, windows, columns, signs, vending machines, light fixtures, and even a boarded up old tower are here for those times when you just want to walk about; perhaps while waiting for the winds to die down or the low clouds to clear so you can take off.
You will want to walk around this building since there is no interior detail. Once you do get around to the front, there is a fantastic continuation of the same detail noticeable on the first side of the building. Make sure you get to the left side of the front of the terminal to admire the lattice work modeled here.
Also, take the time to change the time of day to appreciate the way the building changes from a washed out, seemingly not much to admire feature, to a dazzling sculpture with highlights and shadows bringing out the beauty hidden by the full light. This is not an unusual phenomenon in the exceedingly bright sun of the tropics and one that I had forgotten about when I first saw the terminal (as well as the rest of the package) at midday on a clear day. It was only after I had experienced this scenery multiple times that I really came to appreciate everything it has to offer. It seemed like every time I came back to it, I discovered another trick of the light or hidden gem.
As the sign says, Welcome to St. Croix. As mentioned, the island is the largest of the United States Virgin Islands. The island is 22.7 miles long and 8 miles wide at its widest point. The island features two main towns: Frederiksted and Christiansted. We’ll head over to Frederiksted first and then wander over to Christiansted for a view at the historic buildings found there.
We will visit a controversial oil refinery site, a horse racing track, the Captain Morgan’s distillery, the island’s seaplane dock, and a couple of fictitious helicopter pads the developers created to increase the fun factor of the island.
As I’ve done with previous scenery packages, I started flying around St. Croix and became curious about some of the things I was seeing. So, I started to research and felt my disappointment growing when I discovered the satellite imagery used for this package is very dated. There are newly constructed items, geographical features that have changed, and items destroyed by construction or hurricane (two of them two weeks apart) that differ from the photography utilized in the St. Croix XP scenery package. This is what started my conversation with the developers since this is a brand-new package and was certainly at a lack for accuracy in some noticeable ways.
I wish the developers would include their answer to me in the manual that comes with the scenery because it changes things in a very positive way. The primary reason for the dated ortho imagery is the high resolution. Any newer imagery with such a high resolution, and with uniformity of color, was not available for use. This led the developers to another decision.
They made the choice to follow along with the old scenery and model some of the old buildings while leaving out some of the newer to remain consistent with the imagery. They also shared an overall philosophy that guides them in the development of a project like this. When it comes down to having to choose, the developers will lean towards the overall experience of the package and provide an experience that is visually pleasing, invites exploration, and provides for some fun rather than remaining strictly accurate and realistic.
That information helped me move into the package in the spirit it was meant and I’ve been flying around this island for a few weeks with piston and turbine engine planes, float planes, and helicopters. I seem to be continuously finding new things.
So, let’s go off on a sight-seeing adventure and see what we can find for modelled sights of interest.
While St. Croix has two major towns, browsing around Google maps reveals that the street addresses use Frederiksted for the western end of the island just beyond the airport environs up and around a bit of the northwest coastline. We first pass through the western most parts of Christiansted in order to get to Frederiksted. Frederiksted is both the town and one of the two administrative districts of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. It is a grid-planned city, designed by surveyor Jens Beckfor, originally to 14×14 blocks but built 7×7 to enhance the island commerce in the 1700s.
Frederiksted has fewer than 1,000 people in the town proper, but nearly 10,000 in the greater western side of the island. Christiansted is about 30 years older but commerce was limited by its natural, shallow protective reef. Frederiksted was built in the leeward side of the island for calm seas and a naturally deep port. It is home to Fort Frederik, constructed to protect the town from pirate raids and attacks from rival imperialist nations and named after Frederick V of Denmark, who purchased the Danish West Indies in 1754.
Turning right as you leave the airport will take you along the road to Frederiksted. There are some very well-made structures immediately on display on the right side of the road. All of these comprise the external perimeter of the airport and feature such things as car rental locations. The quality of the models is without criticism. Moving down the road, we find the first of several featured church buildings on the island. The three crosses along the peak line of the roof emphasize the level of detail utilized for the models. Just behind the church lies the rendered model of the Cruzan Rum Distillery (check their schedule for available tours).
Leaving the environs of the airport, the road eventually takes us to the proper town of Frederiksted. The highlight of the town is the pier which is the only place that cruise ships dock on the island. This harbor is one of only two deep water harbors on the island. The other is at the refinery in Christiansted. Immediately off the pier is the historic district of the town and nearby you will find the Legislature of the Virgin Islands complex.
Frederiksted also includes one of the two fictitious but fun enhancing heliports. It is not easy to find if you do not start your flight there and I will leave it to your adventuring to discover its location. It is definitely more of a challenge if you start at the airport and fly over to find it.
Christiansted, U.S. Virgin Islands, is the largest town on Saint Croix, one of the main islands composing the United States Virgin Islands, a territory of the United States of America. It is a former capital of the Danish West Indies and home to the Christiansted National Historic Site. Christiansted as of 2004, had a population of about 3,000. The 2000 census population of the town was 2,637; that of the larger sub-district was 2,865.
Next to the airport, Christiansted holds the most interest for pilots. It is here that we find the seaplane base and another fictitious helicopter pad set up on Protestant Cay. These both present unique challenges that can occupy some time. Christiansted is on the windward side of the island. During the days I flew here for this review (and they were many), I flew using real weather conditions.
Very frequently the winds were coming out of the east to northeast at continuous moderate speeds with higher gusts. Attempting to land on the helicopter pad with a lightweight craft required landing into the wind which faces away from the resort. The easy approach is from the west side of the pad but that requires coming in low over the resort and the trees around it since the wind makes hovering over the pad very questionable.
Like the helicopter pad, the seaplane base is also on the windward side of the island. The moorings jut off the mainland coast just a little southwest of Protestant Cay. Winds are the challenge here as well. The headwind approach for landing in the harbor (if you don’t want a long water taxi back to the dock) involves coming in low over Christiansted behind the base and landing as soon as possible into the bay facing into the wind. Given X-Plane’s bad attitude to all things float based, you must really watch the turn to as you head for the docks, or you may find a gust getting under a wing and capsizing you. Be sure you know the wave height and direction. A last word of caution: stay alert for very active boats in the harbor.
On shore, modelled points of interest include a propane storage facility and the Christiansted National Historic Site that preserves historic buildings from the period of Dutch rule of St. Croix.
Other Points of Interest
Three very noticeable points of interest at the western end of Christiansted are on our tour as we return to the airport for our Island departure. Both have been a source of controversy for the island residents for different reasons. The first is the oil refinery site and the second is the horse racing track.
The refinery site has a very checkered history with shutdowns, negative environmental impacts, and even dusting the area houses and property with oil droplets following an explosion and fire. Conditions became poor enough that the United States Environmental Protection Agency ordered it shuttered.
In May, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered it shut down after a series of accidents that showered oil droplets on nearby homes and shrouded neighbors in noxious odors, sending residents to emergency rooms. It is mired in litigation, including class-action lawsuits. And last month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration filed a citation listing 19 “serious” violations and proposed that Limetree pay more than a quarter of a million dollars in penalties.
Despite that, it is a dominating feature of the island that provides employment for many where jobs are scarce. Regardless of the controversy, this incredible showcase of modelling talent is included to this extent because it is such a huge area and a major landmark. So, we get to share the experience of the local residents who feel that this is a blight on the island’s paradise image, but who also acknowledge the necessity of it for the economy and jobs. Admittedly, it is a good place to practice helicopter hoist missions.
Quality of work and artistic ability are very much on display in the intricate depiction of everything in this area. Here is also one of the places the developers exhibit their philosophy of keeping it coherent and interesting. Hurricane Maria destroyed the large reddish storage building at the western end of this area, but it is included in the scenery. I would think that the prominence of this building on the imagery would make it seem like they missed something if they did not model it. The absence of the building would also stand out all the more because of the work that has gone into the rest of this entire area.
Just to the north of the landfill site, adjacent to an outdoor sports area, are three tanks the developers included in the scenery. The rest of the property is discernible at altitude and becomes the recognizable Captain Morgan’s distillery.
Our last stop is the Randall “Doc” James Racetrack directly across the road from the east end of the airport apron. This track is currently undergoing some major reconstruction and expansion as it has remained unused for several years. The stand is gone, they are repairing the stables, extending the track to a full mile, and building a new and more modern stand.
This again is evidence of the developer’s desire to keep it interesting. Better to detail, with quality and precision as everywhere else, a track so close to the airport than to leave it as an open construction area. This is essential since the imagery would depict the stand and track still present and it is noticeable on every approach to, and departure from, the airport.
There are many other things to find on the island, but I’ll leave that up to your own exploration.
Things not Previously Covered
Having explored the details close to the ground, we now turn our attention to the overall impact of the scenery from a higher elevation where the island really comes to life.
St. Croix XP is a land of many details as we have seen. It is a virtual playground for anyone with a penchant for low and slow helicopters as well as some low flying aircraft. However, there are a couple of drawbacks to this level of flight around the island. The developers constrained the detailed, and full of life, greenery to certain very developed areas, while leaving remaining sections of the island sparsely covered. The result of this is the autogen buildings feel conspicuously out of place with few roads and landscaping around or between them to tie the scenery together.
The buildings can also come across as a little too colorful for St. Croix since, other than a few major buildings, the bright colors are pretty much reserved for the roofs. The other aspect of low flying is no different for this scenery than any other utilizing satellite imagery. At low levels, blurry items are difficult to recognize. It’s impact on the overall experience is minimal if not a detraction.
Now, let’s take our flight up to over 2000 feet. The island and everything else included in the scenery literally takes on a whole new dimension: the third. The developers told me they used dated scenery because of the quality of that scenery. Things on the ground took on an amazing sense of depth with altitude. Shadows seemed to be in just the right places for this imagery to really draw me in and have me feel like I was really there.
The logical reason for the sparse vegetation close up becomes very evident as buildings in the imagery fill in all the blanks. Had the developers included trees and landscaping, it would have overwritten the imagery the way default autogen does when used with ortho scenery. The buildings no longer feel disconnected and obtrusive but merge with the photo scenery to create an aesthetic whole.
The bright colors of the buildings now become a little muted. Just enough that they do add that Caribbean feel without overpowering the scene in a way that colored roofs alone would not do. Another example of forgoing the reality for a greater sense of realism.
Lastly, we must look at the major reason people come to the tropics: the beaches. If the developers’ only reason to use dated scenery was for the quality of the beaches and surrounding water (which it wasn’t), they would have been justified in doing so. I fly around many islands. Some are tropical, many are not.
The colors of the water, the visibility of the reefs beneath the water, and the capture of some vessels as well as waves really make the St. Croix package come alive. Take a helicopter, drop to a few hundred feet, and zip along the coast nape of the earth stye, and watch the water pass beneath your feet. This is what flying around a tropical island is all about and the experience here in St. Croix is one of the best in the X-Plane world.
If you enjoy tropical islands, custom modelling, crystal waters teeming with reefs and ocean life, and a feeling that you are there, then run, don’t walk, to the Aerosoft store and buy the St. Croix XP package. You could do much worse with your simulation budget money.
I started this summary that way because I did not want you to lose the point while I make the following observations. I spend many hours with any product I’m reviewing to move past the initial reaction, repeat experiences to see if results are consistent, give myself the opportunity to find anything I might have missed, and to allow the product to “soak in” over time.
I do this because I would like my reflections to be truly helpful in your decision making about the worth of a product. I know that is what I look for when I read other reviewers’ articles.
That said, I began this review stating that, given the folks involved in bringing this package to the XP universe, expectations ran high. There were some serious reputations at stake. My first reaction upon loading the package and plunking my aircraft at gate thirteen on the east apron was a feeling of extreme disappointment. Before my eyes was a blurry, washed out, hangar or storage building.
Following that, I discovered a runway that looked more like bead blasted metal than asphalt when the sun hit it at the right angle. Lastly, when I took my first step into researching items that I found of interest, I discovered that the satellite imagery in use is over ten years old. That is huge in a land regularly altered by the occurrence of major storms. Two of these hit St. Croix two weeks apart in September 2017.
The last of these, hurricane Maria, has been called the worst natural disaster in recorded history to strike St. Croix by hurricane Maria (Courtesy of Wikipedia). This altered the landscape of the island significantly.
Fortunately, I engaged in the process I described above to the extent of reaching out to the developers for help in understanding their creative process. I was also fortunate that they were willing to respond to my queries with responses that were both helpful and enlightening. Armed with this information, I reapproached St. Croix and discovered the magic within.
Yes, the photography is dated. Does that really matter when your approach is to create an experience over a perfectly realistic package? Probably not considering that we are talking about a simulated world to begin with, and the experience is worth more than the accuracy. Chances are, I may have never noticed if I were not digging into this project as a reviewer rather than an armchair pilot. The fun of this package, including the fictional helipads, negates any care about how real it is. If you are at all familiar with the Krabi Outback project, you will know exactly what I mean. See for more information this Krabi Outback Adventures Thailand link.
With concerns about fidelity to the actual world aside, I found that my first experience echoed that of the tropical world. I made the mistake of starting my first flight at midday. Having not been to an area like St. Croix in many years, I forgot how the noon day sun can be so bright that it totally washes out color. That’s one of the reasons such bright colors are seen throughout the tropics.
The building in front of gate thirteen is certainly not bright. The other unfortunate part of that is the gate is relatively close to the building so the limitations of texture created by frame rate concerns was in my eyes before I could even think about it. Maybe gate thirteen should be facing away from the building! Once I realized that, I returned at a different time of day and my experience was very different.
You may have noticed that the sixty some-odd screenshots in this review do not all look the same. That was deliberate. This package is very susceptible to lighting conditions which speaks volumes to the quality of the package. Lesser work would not be subject to the whims of the time of day or cloud cover. Textures go from flat and washed out to having depth and color. Buildings take on a new life as the shadows deepen to define the depth of features.
The unique, individually crafted, foliage present at many sites changes from seemingly wilted and dead to almost dancing in the winds. If you are spending hours immersed in the scenery, which is typically what island scenery is about, this is exactly what you are looking for. Just don’t do what I did and take your first flight in the high sun!
Oh, and the runway reflection? With a couple adjustments to my screen and a little tweaking with a plugin that adjusts the visuals in the X-Plane world, the “bead blasted” effect takes up less area and I can now see the rubber tire marks that previously were not visible.
To me, islands like St. Croix are not a stop-over. They are a destination to for savoring and enjoying. They exist in my simulated world to take me away from the ice and snow that plagues me outside my window. They are there for the helicopter pilot or the glider pilot that is looking to soak up an experience as well as fly an aircraft.
These are my expectations when heading to an island with my helicopter or my float plane. This is not a land for jets because it is gone in a twinkling and you never get beyond the airport. Soak in those tropical breezes, walk on the beach, step into that warm, turquoise water, and settle back with something containing the local rum. As for the refinery, I’ll choose to ignore it after admiring the craftsmanship utilized to place it on this island paradise.
So, were my high expectations met? In a word, yes.
That said, more information of Saint Croix for X-Plane, developed by CDB Scenery Design and Maps2Xplane, published by Aerosoft, can be found at the dedicated Aerosoft Store page.
Until next time, cheers and blue skies.
|Add-on:||Payware Aerosoft St. Croix|
|Publisher | Developer:||Aerosoft | CDB2XPlane | Maps2XPlane|
|Description:||Realistic rendition of Saint Croix|
|Software Source / Size:||Download / Approximately 9GB (unzipped)|
|Reviewed by:||Paul Beckwith|
|Published:||February 25th 2022|
|Hardware specifications:||- i7-10870H CPU @ 2.20GHz
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU
- 16 GB DDR4 3200MHz RAM
- CH Products Fighterstick
- Dual Saitek Throttle Quadrants
- CH Products Pedals
|Software specifications:||- Windows 11
- X-Plane 11.55 (64 Bit)