Gateway to Queensland: YBBN
Welcome to Queensland, Australia and the capital city, Brisbane courtesy of Orbx. According to Orbx, the Brisbane International Airport is the primary international airport in Queensland and supports over 30 airlines servicing 80 destinations. Qantas airlines alone has 700 scheduled flights in a week. Orbx informs us in their description that the use of local knowledge combined with years of development experience created their most detailed airport for X-Plane 11. The layout, scattered over 23 square miles, is updated for 2022 and includes the 01L/19R runway that began service in July 2020.
Installation and Documentation
As with all things Orbx, the installation of the scenery package is completed using Orbx Central that you can find here. Once you have purchased YBBN, it will appear in the “Airports” section of the list that is to the left on the “My Products” screen. When you click on the airport name, the right side of the screen will show you a picture of the airport and provide you with a blue “Install” button.
When you click on this to begin the installation, you are prompted to choose a location for the installation. When you choose the X-Plane 11 folder option, Orbx Central places the scenery in your “Custom Scenery” folder. The main library option creates a folder you specify if you do not already have a library folder and installs the package in that location. Orbx Central then creates a link to the scenery in your “Custom Scenery” folder. Once you have made your choice, the process downloads, extracts, and installs the necessary files. You can monitor the progress in the main screen or in the download queue pop up. The package requires the SAM plugin, and Orbx Central will automatically download the latest version and either add it to your copy of X-Plane or update your existing version of SAM if it is not the most current.
When the installation completes, Orbx Central presents you with a screen indicating it has finished and offering you the choice to migrate the package to the location where you chose not to install it. This can be useful if you initially installed it in your X-Plane folder and need to free up some room or if you installed it in the library location but are experiencing performance issues and wish to move it to your X-Plane folder to see if that helps.
You can also choose to uninstall the package. The documentation button will present you with an error screen informing you no documentation was found for the product, while the support button will open your web browser and take you to the Orbx support ticket system.
Lastly, you will find the “Orbx_A_YBBN_Brisbane” and “Orbx_B_YBBN_Brisbane_Mesh” folders either in your custom scenery folder or in the library folder you specified earlier. These folders occupy about 4.87 GB on disk. If the SAM installation is new to you, you will need an additional 1.87 GB on the disk where your X-Plane software is installed for the base plugin.
A Brief Overview of the Airport
Brisbane International Airport can trace its heritage back to the first Brisbane airport, Eagle Farm Airport that was built in 1925 and served the area until 1988 when Brisbane International opened. Eagle Farm has since mostly vanished under the Gateway Motorway. A small part of the infrastructure was incorporated into the new airport including the north-east end of runway 04/22 and the Eagle Farm International terminal. The final flight from Eagle Farm took place on the 20th of March 1988.
YBBN began operations with two runways, a new domestic terminal, maintenance facilities, a freight apron built at the existing terminal, and a 246-foot control tower. The Eagle Farm terminal would eventually become a dedicated freight terminal after the completion of the new international terminal in 1995. The inaugural flight from the airport by a Qantas 747 took place at 12:15 p.m. on the 30th of November 1987. The airport was officially opened on the 19th of March 1988 and privatized in 1997. The International Terminal expansion project completed in December 2008, the upgraded and expanded Central Area Satellite at the Domestic Terminal opened in April 2011.
Additional changes and expansions include the BNE Service Centre opening in July 2014, the International Terminal Redevelopment opening in October 2015, completion of a refurbishment of the General Aviation Building in December 2016, and the expansion of the northern International Terminal and Apron in April 2018. The most recent change occurred with the decommissioning of runway 14/32 on the 30th of March and the inaugural flight from the newest runway on July 12, 2020.
As of August 2011, the airport precinct is named Brisbane Airport Suburb of Queensland, Australia.
Brisbane Airport is a major hub for Virgin Australia and Qantas, and it is one of the nine Queensland bases for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. It is also a hub for Jetstar, Toll Aviation, and Alliance Airlines. The two terminals accommodate 34 airlines with 85 domestic and international destinations. Using passenger numbers for measurement, Brisbane is the third largest airport in Australis.
It is the largest Australian airport by land size and is home to over 425 businesses. The year 2019 saw 23.8 million passengers utilize the YBBN terminals and gates breaking down to 17.6 million domestic and 6.2 million international passengers. The top five domestic destinations are Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns, Townsville, and Perth. The top five international markets include New Zealand, USA, UK, China, and Taiwan. Brisbane supports an average 2,977 weekly domestic air movements and 729 international movements. (Courtesy from the official Brisbane Airport website)
I think we will have our hands full covering all the features Orbx has included to capture the activity of this airport and, considering they are calling it their most detailed model, I’m guessing they had their hands full creating this. Time to see how well they did. Please note that the following screenshots were captured using a default installation of X-Plane 11.55.
Arriving at Brisbane
Runways, Taxiways, and Aprons
YBBN lies on the eastern coast of Australia along the Brisbane River at an elevation of 15 feet above sea level. It has two parallel runways, 01L/19R and 01R/19L. The first is 10,827 feet (3300m) in length and the latter is 11,680 feet (3560m) long. Both runways are paved and clearly marked. Runway 14/32, though decommissioned, is still present and remains clearly marked with the addition of a few white “X” markings which may not stand out and allow for accidental use.
In the real world, it is used for airplane parking so would likely not be mistaken for an available landing strip. I must admit, it is handy to have it clear if you are flying conventional gear (taildragger) aircraft as the prevailing winds are often crossing the active runways. If you choose to use this “I can do it because it’s a sim” feature, be aware there is a huge elevation change when taxiing onto, and off of, the strip. Given that this is a custom mesh created by Orbx, I’m assuming that bump is actually there. The runway has no night lighting.
Okay, back to the actual functioning runways. Brisbane’s air traffic flow management specify runway 01L/19R for arrivals and departures for flights to and from the North and West. Runway 01R/19L is for flights to and from the South and East. These assignments may be overridden by ATC.
Runway 01L/19R is equipped with HIRL, CL, HIALS, and three-degree PAPI lights. Runway 01R features HIRL, CL, HIALS, REIL, and three-degree PAPI lights. Runway 19L features HIRL, CL, HIALS, TDZ, and three-degree PAPI lights. An examination of the airport at night confirms that Orbx has accurately portrayed the real-world lighting configurations. During the day, well executed, suitably dirty mixed textures, clear markings, and runway surfaces responsive to the ambient light of the day greet the approaching pilot.
Once we leave the runways, we are treated to well-marked taxiways. Signage is thorough and correct. Texture work on the taxiways is equal to that of the runways. If you know what you are looking for, it’s not too hard to find it by following the stripes and signs to your destination. What is difficult at Brisbane is if you decide to follow real world procedures.
There are no less than thirty specific instructions about taxiway use, availability, and restrictions. The lattice work taxiways to the right of runway 01L requires vigilance and a knowledge of eight different turning instructions to navigate. Here lies a grand opportunity to evaluate those ground handling skills especially for the taildragger pilots in the audience!
Another test of your airport acumen will occur if you use the taxiways at night. There are no edge lights, so you’d best be sure to keep to the lit center line. Coming in off 01L/19R or taxiing out to the logistics apron present the biggest challenges because you can be a significant distance from the main aprons where those lights do not reach. You will be relying heavily on your taxi lights and that center line illumination.
Brisbane has three aprons: the Domestic, the International, and the Logistics. There is also an airline maintenance area, a general aviation maintenance area, and a general aviation parking area. The largest of these is the Domestic followed by the International and then the Logistics.
So, we successfully navigate the taxiway network and arrive at the Domestic apron. What we see here is repeated throughout all the parking surfaces we will look at and that is a detailed and realistic appearance of the airport’s apron. Taxiways are clearly marked and numbered. The surface is accurately represented with subtle shifting in coloring amongst the same type of material.
I must admit to needing to adjust to the textures before I could fully appreciate what I was seeing. My first reaction was to notice the depth of the textures seemed a bit shallow compared to default textures. Then I realized that Orbx has done something I’ve not see previously used (I know I haven’t seen every package that is out there so maybe someone else has done this). Orthoimagery of the aprons themselves have been included in this rendition of Brisbane airport. While this approach seems to make the ground textures a little less crisp, what it does for enhancing the material shading is brilliant.
We’re going to take a drive over to the International Apron to look at other apron details applicable to both the International and the Domestic. Our focus here is the amount of apron “clutter” in use and the markings of the apron bays. Orange cones are present in good amount, but rather than being scattered willy-nilly, they are placed with deliberate purpose intentionally marking requisite areas. The equipment present in the area is appropriate to the aircraft that would be using the bays and it is parked or stored in the areas required by an airport safety team.
Moving over to the Logistics apron, we find a smoothly paved tarmac also featuring clear and crip markings for taxiing and ground traffic. This apron is not short on equipment one would expect to find in an area where freight is the primary concern. More orange cones dot the area in useful fashion.
The General Aviation maintenance area boasts a plethora of accurately colored textures. The variations range from clean concrete to old and from light asphalt to dark. Each segment is cleanly joined to the next without noticeable gaps. Ground markings are again comprehensive, and ramp equipment is present as required including a couple of waste receptacles. The one thing that might add to this would be the presence of a couple of planes in various states of repair.
Our last apron visit is the jetliner maintenance area where the few taxi markings are relegated to the asphalt taxiways and are devoid of the apron surfaces themselves. The central taxiway into the area shows a very convincing model of a very patched tarmac that looks like it would benefit from a resurfacing. The asphalt ends where the old and worn concrete surfaces seamlessly begin. This area has a handful of equipment present but, otherwise, feels a little like an American west ghost town.
Lastly, before we end our survey of apron surfaces, we arrive at the GA parking area. This area is a remarkable presentation of black asphalt tarmac with shadings of various patches of one sort or another. Once more we can see the effect of incorporating orthophotography into the airport ground surfaces. This parking area can also spoil a pilot with its excellent taxiing and parking demarcations which aren’t always so well presented or provided at larger airports.
Now, it is time to lift our eyes from the ground to look at the myriad of buildings and structures on and around those textured surfaces. We will start with the central most buildings and progress outward from there.
The Domestic Terminal
The domestic terminal at Brisbane is a sprawling concrete behemoth that was completed in 1988. Everything about this area is white, heavy, old, and aged with dirt and stains. Of course, we can’t hold the developers accountable for the way the airport appears in real life, only for the way it is modeled in the scenery. That modeling is pretty much spot on.
The heaviness of the concrete structures is captured so well that, in places, I started feeling like I was in a console video game waiting for the next creature to appear. Everything carries an aged appearance with textures depicting worn edges, uneven surfaces, and grunge.
This whole area is a structurally complex area with multiple surfaces of different types all coming together. There is a curved main building made up of concrete blocks, glass, and protruding segments from the lower levels leading to the jetways. Jetways from the second level are connected to glass segments. Three satellites are connected to the main building via glass and concrete walkways. The satellites themselves are a continuation of all the surfaces in a round structure. This could not have been an easy structure to model, and it has been done with remarkable precision.
Around to the street side of this edifice is a dizzying array of connectors, platforms, entryways, canopies, and roadways. Everything is concrete white and, when the sun washes it out to the same shade, sorting one structure from another can be a challenge so much so that it is easier to discern what each thing is at night with the lights on. That everything connects the way it should is a testament to the developer’s skill.
YBBN integrates the SAM plugin by Stairport for the animated jetways and the A-VDGS (advanced visual docking guidance systems) systems. The airport scenery will load without SAM, but you will have to clear the X-Plane error message before you can continue. The plane you are flying must be in the SAM database for the jetways to function.
The jetways are automatically or manually controlled depending on the setting you choose in the SAM control panel. The lights atop the jetway will flash while the jetway is in motion and adjusting to or away from your plane. The A-VDGS panels on the walls in front of your aircraft will show you the local time when not in use. When in use, the panel will display arrows to line you up to the tarmac markings and display the remaining distance before stop. When you reach the determined spot, the panel will show a red “stop” notation.
The International Terminal
Built in 1995 and expanded in 2008, the International Terminal at Brisbane carries an entirely different look than its Domestic sibling. The years between the construction of this terminal and the Domestic are evident in the architectural style. The International Terminal is the lighter, airier, less intimidating, and more welcoming building of the two with a predominance of glass panels used in the assembly of the main building. Glass also extends the length of the concourse from the terminal to the ends on levels where passengers are making the journey to or from their flights.
The modelling work on the international terminal is skillfully executed with the joining of structures and varying surface materials flowing smoothly and naturally. The four-level terminal building, the three-level concourse, two-level arrival and departure roads, and fourteen aerobridges are all captured in the rendition. The building appears to not carry as much dirt on the textures as the Domestic terminal which would be accurate given this terminal is not as old as the other. Here, as with the Domestic terminal, the SAM plugin is used for the animated jetways and guidance systems.
The one noticeable shortcoming in this model is the treatment of the glass texture. While the glass on the concourse has a good reflective level and coloration, this cannot be said of the glass panels of the main terminal building. These appear as a consistent flat gray texture with less reflection than the tarmac of the road next to it. This section of the building also stays dark at night. The result is a structure that reminds me of an old barn hangar on an early twentieth century dirt airstrip. This is a bit unfortunate given how large an edifice this is in the Brisbane landscape.
Around the Logistics Apron
A recent publication from Simple Flying states that Brisbane ranks as the third-largest Australian airport for freight as well as passengers. Airlines running scheduled freight runs include
DHL Aviation, Nauru Airlines, Qantas Freight, Toll Aviation, Toll Priority, and Virgin Australia Cargo.
After a long taxi southwest of the International Terminal, we arrive at the Logistics Apron where all this freight activity occurs. The DHL facility occupies almost all the southeastern side of the apron. The other two buildings right in that vicinity are the AVCAIR aircraft rental facilities and the Aviation Australia aviation training institute. The modeling detail is diligently executed and faithful to the real buildings. Including the details of the painted decoration on the end of the DHL building demonstrates the meticulous approach employed by the developer. Texture work on these buildings is well done and it is interesting to witness their transformation in changing light conditions.
Other cargo activity at Brisbane occurs on taxiway Papa where the Qantas cargo terminal is a major facilitator of cargo movement in and out of the airport. For the aviation history fans, taxiway Papa is the remnant of the northeast end of the original Eagle Farms airport runway. The Qantas cargo building is what used to be the International Terminal at Eagle Farms. The Domestic Terminal of Eagle Farms was destroyed.
While we are here at the Logistics end of the airport, we will take a short foray to the area around the airport where several meticulous and iconic buildings have been modelled for the buyer’s pleasure.
Taking a walk away from the airport reveals a plethora of 3D creations. Represented in fine detail and with skillful modelling are, among others, Qantas Engineering Services, Menzies, Australian based OZTrails in a very unique building, Haymans, Virgin Australia training center, and the red buildings of the Da Vinci Business Park.
Orbx touts this airport as one of their most detailed yet and there are certainly plenty of details for the fan of 3D sculpting and modelling to revel in. No one building is the same as the next, yet all the details appear to be captured. If something is missing, there is so much that is not that it would be difficult to notice an omission. Along with multiple shapes and structures, various textures abound. Each texture is managed expertly and the changes that occur as the day wans is as realistic as it can get in X-Plane 11 lighting. This will be exciting to see in the new lighting model of X-Plane 12.
GA Maintenance Facilities
Don’t let the name mislead you. The facilities here are in the business of maintenance, repair, and overhaul with engineering licenses covering the ATR family, Embraer Brasilia, ERJ, and E190 regional jets, Beechcraft King Air B200 family, Fokker 50, 70, and 100 planes, and aircraft from the Boeing 737 family.
Upon our return here for a closer look at the dozen or so buildings in the area, we are regaled by five particularly stunning examples of structure modeling. The intricacies of the real-world architecture have supplied the artists a ready platform for demonstrating modeling skills that differs from larger buildings because one would more easily notice missing pieces or misalignments.
The QantasLink hangar features folded open doors, a noticeable slant to the side walls, the joining of an exterior awning and remarkable color and texture work. The sign over the door is flawless.
The Airbus hangar and, included though not technically on the apron, the Airbus helicopter building, sport smoothly rendered curves in their architecture and many accurately modeled details. Again, color and shading work are clearly on display.
Just to the right of the Airbus facility lie the Toll Aviation and Alliance Airlines maintenance buildings. These relatively “small” structures share similar styles while each having their unique features. They represent a plethora of forms, textures, details, and subtle color shadings. Structurally, these two buildings are the gems of the GA maintenance apron and are modeled as such. The only thing absent is the signage on the buildings.
Jetliner Maintenance Facilities
This is another name for Qantas Engineering and Maintenance since they appear to own the three hangars in this area of Brisbane airport. The Brisbane location is the one place they can provide base maintenance dedicated support for A330 and B737 aircraft types.
Here the modeling details continue their presence in shapes, colors, textures, wear and tear effects, adherence to the support structures surrounding the main ones. Perhaps the one thing this area could benefit from is the presence of a couple of aircraft that are on the list for maintenance and / or repair. This area currently has the feeling of foretelling that Qantas does not emerge from their current difficulties and has shut down operations.
The Brisbane airport scenery package is nothing if not big. The entire thing covers almost 23 square miles inclusive of area occupied by the Brisbane Airport suburb, Eagle Farm, and the Port of Brisbane. There is more than enough to keep the low and slow VFR pilot busy for a couple of hours.
The areas at the arrival side of the terminals include parking structures, rail stations, hotels, and the control tower environ. The quality of the work continues throughout except for the texture on the Ibis / Pullman hotel structure. Here things seem to get a little less crisp than elsewhere in the scenery, and the dirt effect seems to be a little too heavy handed for hotels that one would figure should be the best since they are located within airport grounds. This may be down to artist prerogative and interpretation.
Elsewhere at the airport, in addition to the area behind the Logistics apron that we have visited, there is a cluster of support buildings that includes an operating radar tower. Emergency services are found here along with a fuel station and other warehouses.
Off on its own a bit from this cluster, is a rather interesting and detailed building that appears to be some sort of weather station based on what appears to be a doppler radar installation atop the structure. This small building is indicative of the level of attention the developers paid to the surrounding area.
Finally, we come to the vast area outside the airport grounds proper. The highlight of this area is the interaction between the modeled buildings, custom greenery, and the orthophotography. From an altitude where the orthophotography can realize its best effect (about 2500 feet or more), the interaction between the photography and the sculpted models is incredible. There are enough modeled buildings, and the photographs are crisp enough that there are places where it is hard to tell if a building is a model or a photograph.
The use of orthophotography throughout the scenery package is some of the best I have seen. Across the river, where the photography is not included, the modeled buildings do not blend in as well although the oil refinery sports some nice detail in its own right. The strategic use of custom vegetation to fill in some the areas makes a significant contribution to the overall quality feel of these areas.
The Port of Brisbane is a very detailed and well-done bit of construction that really adds value to the scenery especially for those over water approaches into the airport. Take the time to poke around these areas and you are bound to find a few unexpected surprises.
Once again, we are at the end of our tour and faced with the inevitable decision. Do I buy the scenery, or do I take a pass? Well, let us consider what we have seen.
Brisbane Airport, being a suburb of Queensland unto itself, is not a small area. While the airport itself has more than enough features to complete a scenery package, Brisbane seems like it would not be complete without considering the surrounding area. Orbx has wisely chosen to do this and has done so in a balanced manner.
As it stands, the package had a consistent 12 to 15 fps hit on my default test installation. Had Orbx attempted to cram any more into this package, it would likely be unusable on older systems especially after a few plugins or complex aircraft were added.
The number of custom modelled objects included are innumerable. There are so many, in so many different areas, I could not possibly manage to tell you what that count would be. Even so, every structure from the massive terminal buildings to the smallest weather station are treated with the same level of detail. The models, the textures, the colors, and the lighting effects are almost all spot on. As we have seen, the possible exceptions might be the International Terminal glass faces and the airport hotel building textures.
There is no shortage to the small things that add life to a project. The developers have treated every area of the airport with the appropriate apron equipment from the vehicles clustered around the gateways to the necessary accoutrements around the GA parking area. There are some vehicles in parking areas as well as animated vehicles driving through those areas. Other animated traffic is present throughout the airport environ. While there could be more given the activity of the area, I think the frame rate issue mentioned above limits this option. I can’t begin to guess at the fps cost of adding people to the scenery but, if it allowed for it, it is an addition that I think would benefit the package greatly.
Lastly, Orbx has utilized orthophotography in a novel approach by incorporating it into the airport aprons themselves. This is the first I’ve seen this done and I think the approach is brilliant. While there may be a few areas where things don’t exactly line up, I consider it a worthwhile tradeoff. Perhaps this will be addressed if the developers decide to release an update to the package. They have chosen to cover the area in detail with custom vegetation and this adds greatly to the scenery in several areas especially around the waterfront. The package is then completed by being built over their own custom mesh truly making this a “from the ground up” effort.
I opened this review with the statement that it was time to see how well Orbx did at rendering what they are calling their most detailed project yet for X-Plane. I don’t think they could have done much else to improve upon what they have done and at 28.96 AUD list, I sincerely think the Orbx implementation of YBBN deserves a place in any X-Plane installation, irrespective of pilot type (jetliner, GA, rotorcraft), unless you never, ever, fly down under.
Just as an aside, flying along the southeast cost of Australia from Orbx’s Essendon, to Sydney, to Orbx’s Brisbane makes for an enjoyable, medium length, flight.
Until next time, cheers and blue skies!
|Add-on:||Payware Orbx YBBN Brisbane International Airport|
|Publisher | Developer:||Orbx | Orbx|
|Description:||Realistic rendition of YBBN Brisbane International Airport|
|Software Source / Size:||Download / Approximately 4.87GB (unzipped)|
|Reviewed by:||Paul Beckwith|
|Published:||August 9th 2022|
|Hardware specifications:||- Ryzen 9 5950X CPU @ 3.40GHz
- 64 GB DDR4 3200MHz RAM
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 10 GB GDDR6X
- Honeycomb Alpha Yoke
- Honeycomb Bravo Quadrant
- CH Products Pedals
|Software specifications:||- Windows 11
- X-Plane 11.55 (64 Bit)