Orbx LKPR Václav Havel Airport Prague
A New Destination from ORBX
About the Airport
On 5 October 2012, the Prague-Ruzyně International Airport received its new moniker. This was the birthday of its namesake, Václav Havel, the former president of Czechoslovak and, later, Czech Republic. The renaming was the culmination of a proposal made by Fero Fenič shortly after the death of the statesman. The proposal was an effort to give the airport a name comparable to other world-class airports bearing the names of notable personages.
The airport, completed on 1 March 1937 began operations at 9:00 a.m. on 5 April 1937 with the landing of a Douglas DC-2. The first international flight landed an hour later. According to the airport’s website (https://www.prg.aero/en/history-vaclav-havel-airport-prague), it was considered one of the largest in Europe and its terminal became the model for many other airports in Europe. Prague airport, as it is still referred to as, is celebrating it’s 85th year in operation with special programs throughout the year.
From 1940 to 1945, the airport was taken over by the Nazis where they trained bomber pilots, took over the aircraft for army use, and utilized the hangars to repair aircraft. They also continued the construction of the runway system. After the war, additional development of the airport was approved in 1946. This approval was for the modernization of the airport with a system of taxiways, lengthened runways, installation of a light signal system, and the start of construction of a new Northeast to Southwest runway that is now used for taxiing and parking.
In the intervening years from 1946 to present, the airport has built three additional terminals and refurbished the original terminal that is now designated Terminal 4 and is used primarily for VIP flights and government visitors. Terminal 1 was opened in June 1968 simultaneously with a runway expansion project.
Rebuilt in 1997, it is used for flights outside the Schengen Area. Terminal 3 was opened in 1997 and is used for private and charter flights. Terminal 2, the newest, opened in 2006, is used for flights within the Schengen Area. This growth was spurred by the ever-increasing passenger volume processing through the airport. Terminal 1 was designed to accommodate up to 2.3 million passengers in a year. In 2005, more than 10 million passengers passed through the airport terminals and more than 17 million in 2019.
In addition to the 22 gates of terminal 1 and the 28 gates of terminal 2, LKPR has three cargo facilities located on the East Apron. Cargo Terminal 1 is operated by Menzies Aviation with Skyport operating out of Cargo Terminal 2. The third is operated by Enes Cargo. There are multiple hangars located around the south apron, six de-icing areas, two helicopter pads, one of which is for SARS use only, and the Bell service center. A VOR ground station is located to the right of runway 12.
The airport occupies 9,200,000 square meters at an elevation of 380 meters above sea level. It lies 10 km to the west of Prague. There are two operational runways. Runway 06/24 is 3715 meters long and 12/30 is 3250 meters long.
In addition to the airport itself, Orbx has included several points of interest around the airport and within Prague. There is plenty to see, so let’s get started.
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 LKPR, 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_LKPR_Prague” folder either in your custom scenery folder or in the library folder you specified earlier. This folder occupies about 3.19 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.
LKPR has seen many changes since its inception and the presence of four terminals is one of the results of this. Let’s check out the Orbx representation of these centrally important buildings. Our review commences at the South apron where the terminal structures are less complex.
To begin, we find ourselves at what is now known as Terminal 4. According to the airport website, this terminal is reserved for the exclusive use of VIP and government visitors. I found that statement to be rather at odds with the representation of the terminal in this scenery package.
I made an inquiry to Orbx regarding this and the age of the building and the lack of available references for it led the team to make the artistic decision to model it as an abandoned building. Later, while sorting through photographs included in Google maps, I was able to see the terminal as it exists today. For the moment, however, we’ll evaluate how well the team captured the abandoned building motif.
The view of Terminal 4 from the apron provides a view of an old classic building that is in much need of repair. The architecture of the terminal that became the model for many others remains intact and well represented including the detail of the complex tower structure and the arch over the central section of the building.
The end to the building closest to Terminal 3 is suitably overgrown with vegetation that reaches into and obstructs the smoothly modeled exterior stairwell. Finishing the sense of glory days gone by are the several boarded windows, the haphazard arrangement of window blinds, the decaying state of the exterior walls, and the filth that has been allowed to accumulate.
Perhaps a bit incongruously, the bright red lettering over the entrance appears new and intact, and every antenna on the tower presents as intact and undamaged. With those two exceptions, this building clearly conveys a convincing level of abandonment.
Finding information on the internet about this area of the airport is difficult. There is little mention of it other than the year of construction. If you have an interest in seeing what the actual historic building looks like today, I recommend the street view mode of Google maps where you can see the terminal from the view of the parking lot.
Moving on to an area more replete with life, we walk across the apron to Terminal 3. As mentioned, this building was completed in 1997 and is used for private and charter flights. It is also the home for the Euro Jet offices and lounge at the airport. We shall be visiting their hangar later. The north wing of the building is occupied by the Ramada airport hotel.
The model of this terminal captures the very significant difference in architecture from 1937 to 1997. What we unfortunately lose in this translation of the terminals is that the external white brick style is identical to the actual style utilized on Terminal 3 which results in a consistency of style for the apron area. That is where the similarity ends, however. The building before us features a sweeping canopy over the apron entrance, a “floating” tower structure and a stylized use of predominantly glass features on the roof and over the main entrance.
The roof is also peppered with skylights. All these details are captured including the intricacies of the suspension rigging for the canopy. Unfortunately, the wonderful work capturing the details of the terminal are diminished with the inaccurate use of a heavy dirt application. The real-world building is much more inviting with a brilliant white surface that glows in the sunlight. The front entrance also suffers from inaccuracies in how the glass area is represented and is missing the row of glass windows above the overhang.
Completed in 2006, Terminal 2 is the newest at the airport and services flights within the Schengen area. This area is a group of twenty-six European countries that do not require passports or other border control enforcements when travelling from one to the other. The terminal is a very modern structure that features an impressive use of glass panels throughout its construction and is home to gates C1 – C23 on two levels and D1 – D6 on one.
Construction of the model provided for us by Orbx is very detailed. There are multiple materials in use for this terminal and the developers have convincingly utilized textures to capture them. The one large exception to this is the glass panels. The entirety of the glass surfaces in Terminal 2 are represented with opaque surfaces with little to no reflection. Night lighting appears to be a matter of the surface color changing to a brighter shade rather than having light coming from inside the building.
Architecturally, the model appears to be very accurate, and many fine details are captured. Every feature from the stanchions at the entrance to the roof supporting framework to the intricate glass enclosed staircases on the SAM animated jetways are accounted for. Columns are placed properly and marked with caution paint. Ground traffic moves under the bridges and each gate has a satisfying amount of equipment scattered about. Signage is clear and accurate.
Home to gates A2 – A10 and B1 – B18 on two levels, this terminal services travel outside the Schengen area. Terminal 1 occupies about two-thirds of the Terminal 1 / Terminal 2 structure. As we would expect, the detail work from Terminal 2 continues to Terminal 1 with the application of skillfully done textures delineating different areas of the building and appropriately applied to various structures such as duct work and HVAC units on the roof. Interestingly, the roof includes a few vertical but flat structures. Some look like fencing and others look like walls. I’m wondering if snow drift control is their function.
Unlike Terminal 2, Terminal glass, while opaque apart from the panel beneath the airport name sign on the apron side of the building, benefits from an application of a reflective quality. The main entrance to Terminal 1 has a highly reflective surface that captures a view of objects across from it.
While considering the glass structures of the building, I must admit to being a little confused by the treatment of the topmost structure of terminal 1. The square block is an entirely glass structure, but the treatment here gives it the feel of an old building with a deteriorating exterior that should be part of terminal four rather than this much newer building.
The control tower is very well represented structurally and in detail. Surface treatment is again contrary to the actual building. This tower has a fully glass clad base structure but is represented here with solid facing on every other floor. What is glass cleverly includes baked in blind treatments and internal objects in the texture, which creates a convincing sense of transparency. The upper levels of the tower possess the level of detail in structure and surface that I have come to expect from an Orbx project. Use of shadow and highlight give textures and surfaces a very convincing feeling of reality.
There are so many details present that I cannot see anything the developers might have left out. Duct work, HVAC components, electrical conduits, ventilation grids, and an animated rotating radar are all here. Reality is well represented by this operational tower that seems like what you’d expect to see at an airport as busy as Prague.
South Apron and Environs
Returning to our starting point, we arrive at the south apron. Prior to touring here, we are taking a brief jaunt just behind the south apron where we find a maintenance hangar, and what would appear to be the search and rescue operations area. The maintenance hangar remains unidentified other than as hangar E on the airport chart, but Google satellite views indicate this hangar is for heavy aircraft maintenance and should thus have the aperture opening doors that we see elsewhere.
Hangar D is the neighboring building, and it is unclear exactly what its function is. It seems to be related to search and rescue in some way because the helicopter landing circles on the apron and in the taxiway are specifically for their use. That is another thing of note. There are eight helicopter landing sites in this scenery package and none of them are “live” for starting a flight.
Regardless of there actual purpose, we are presented with a convincing and well executed modelling of these hangar buildings that fulfills the ambience requirement for this part of the airport.
Before moving on to the south apron, let’s take a gander just beyond Hangar E to focus on one of the points of interest included in this package. Here we will find the Šestka building that is home to six enterprises with a car park area on the roof. The unique features of this structure are very well represented. Imagine what a few cars on the roof would do to bring life to this area.
Now let’s progress to the south apron that is used for general and business aviation parking. The apron itself is accurately modeled and the taxi lines are clear and legible. Material textures and reflections are nicely done, and surfaces interact with changing light conditions as one would expect. Google maps and Bing Maps have differing views of this area with Google showing it under construction. The version we have here is the one shown on Google which is what I would expect since Orbx states this airport is up to date with the most recent changes.
The developers’ choice to include animated vehicles travelling to this apron from the North apron adds both life and realism to the apron and necessitates care when taxiing here.
Around the hangar, in addition to the terminals we have already seen, are four hangar buildings. ABS Jets, Embraer, the Czech Aviation Training Centre, and Euro Jet all have a presence around the apron. Various cones and barriers help to add a sense of purpose to the apron, and while some might think a few bits of apron clutter are warranted, online photos of the area indicate the absence of such is accurate. The hangar buildings themselves are realistic representations enhanced by the selected use of texture and imagery.
Just to the northeast of the apron, to the left of Terminal 3, lies the Bell helicopter hangar and apron. This, like the others, is skillfully modeled with a good use of color, texture, detail, and clean joins between segments.
We now take a shuttle across the airport to the home of Prague airport’s three cargo operations. The Skyport, Menzies, and Enes locations are accounted for. Each individual building is modeled with skill and precision with regards to the structure and details of the edifice. For the most part, the use of color and texture are very complementary to the modeling and bring a sense of reality to each.
At issue, however, is the modeling of the glass features. This is more pronounced here because we see two buildings side by side that each feature their own iconic glass constructs. The problem is the glass on each building is treated differently. One seems to have the treatment we observed at Terminal 2, and one seems to be along the lines of what we saw on Terminal 1.
The clarity of the various signs found throughout the area, and the artful rendering of each building’s identification signage, balance the glass issue. The Skyport and Enes three-dimensional signs are eye-catching and the multitudinous signs populating the Menzies building are all clear and recognizable. Having moved around to the street side to view these signs, we now see another issue.
There is something disconcerting about the interaction between the modeled surfaces and the orthophoto details. Some areas do not seem to line up or complement the underlying orthophoto. There are also a couple of places where it looks like the modeled objects are not accurately placed.
The east apron, as with the south, is exemplary for the use of textures and markings. Shadows and highlights offset in a natural manner and surfaces properly respond to changing lighting conditions. There is an ample amount of cargo related service vehicles and other equipment populating the area. Adding to the complexity captured in this area are the fuel area and the de-icing station.
Now we arrive at what could arguably be the most important part of the scenery for the virtual pilot. What is called the north apron is the vast area surrounding all the gates of Terminals 1 and 2. This amounts to enough surface area to allow access to over twenty jetways on three piers and the end wall of Terminal 2.
Taking the long view of the apron area, the largest feature is the surface itself. This surface is comprised of differing materials and those areas are all joined seamlessly. Each material represents its own unique characteristics with texture and reflective qualities that are easily seen as the lighting conditions change throughout the day. Also easily noticeable are the myriad painted lines and markings covering the north apron.
The have all be laid down masterfully with smooth curves, clean joins, and proper location. Lettered and numbered signs are very legible and useful. Ancillary buildings are well done and located, and each gate features just enough equipment to give the gate a sense of being in use while also keeping the apron area as one would expect with an airport focused on safety and FOD (foreign object debris) reduction.
While we are here, let’s pull up to a pier and examine one of the SAM animated jetways more closely. The modeling of the jetways is completed with exactitude right to the glass enclosed stairways on the outside of the jetway. Here, there is no quibble about how the glass is rendered. The details are sculpted with finesse and, once again, texture, highlights, and shadow combine for a full effect.
The animation of the gateway is slow and purposeful, moving smoothly to the aircraft and adjusting for the location and height of the door providing your chosen aircraft is defined in SAM’s database. If you are at a SAM jetway, you will see the small square icon at the top left of your screen. If it is an “A”, then the jetways are automatically controlled, if an “M”, then you have changed the default to manually control the jetways.
For manual control, you select the jetway to be moved and a blue arrow will appear over it. This is useful at LKPR because some gates have dual jetways. Once selected, you click on the highlighted door area of the airplane schematic in the SAM window to activate the animation. A second click on the same area will cause the jetway to retract.
The jetway is retracted, the push back is complete, and the engines are started. It is time to inspect the taxiways and runways.
Taxiways and Runways
The taxiway network at LKPR is not the most complex, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is straightforward. Taxiways cross each other in multiple locations, utilize a closed runway, and have parking areas for aircraft and helicopters that may necessitate a round-about route to the runway or gate, depending on your direction of travel, and intersect ground traffic roadways. Fortunately, markings and signs are clear, comprehensive, and placed where one would expect to find them. Lighting for those pre-dawn or late-night flights is easily seen and identifiable. The area around the south apron can be a little dark but the blue lights are clear and, with the use of taxi lights, movement in this area is not difficult. Ground traffic does travel from the north apron to the south, so it is necessary to check for vehicles when approaching the intersections with the roadways. The texture and PBR work on the taxiway surfaces is superb and realistic.
LKPR operates off two runways, 06/24 and 12/30. The order of preference for the runway in use is 24, 06, 30, 12. Runway 06/24 is 12,188 feet in length while 12/30 is 10,663 feet. Runway 12/30 intersects 06/24 at the eastern end and is one of two hotspots at the airport. The other is where taxiways delta and foxtrot intersect 12/30.
Runway 24, not surprisingly, boasts a more complete set of approach lighting than the others. Here you will find HIRL, CL, ALSF-II, TDZ, REIL, and RVR lighting systems in use. On Runway 6, HIRL, CL, HIALS, PAPI-L and HSTIL-L are found. Runways 12 and 30 both utilize HIRL, HIALS, PAPI-L, with SFL in use exclusively on 30.
As you can see, the lighting has been accurately captured as has all other markings. Everything is clear and legible, and the surface textures are spot on. Lighting effects are appropriate to time of day and angle of light. The blend of tar to concrete is seamless.
Around the Airport
Orbx has supported the production of LKPR with additional features and buildings in the areas around the terminals and on into the city of Prague. The airport is also enhanced using orthophotography. Let’s have a look at a sampling of these supporting features.
First is the use of orthophotography. The use of this feature, along with custom meshes where needed, have become a staple of Orbx scenery packages. The techniques they use are geared to finding a balance between imagery that grinds a system to a halt and generic scenery compiled at a very low resolution with little detail that is incredibly frame rate friendly.
Here at LKPR, the resolution of the orthoimagery makes it truly effective at altitudes of about 4000 – 4500 feet MSL. Below that, clarity begins to fall off rather quickly and images of structures become indistinct. The imagery adds to the overall approach experience and, by the time it does start to blur, your focus is pretty much on the runway.
The highlight of the surrounding area is immediately in front of the entrance to Terminal 1 in the vicinity of the Control Tower. Here is the main parking area with elevated road structures, signs, markers, and an animated billboard sign. This area is well executed in terms of modeling and layout. Signs are mostly clear and legible, traffic courses up the elevated road and onto the surface level parking.
There is a large billboard advertising an automobile, and a carefully sculpted multi-tier parking facility that could use some PBR improvement with the glass surfaces. Opposite the elevated road from the terminal is the Courtyard by Marriot hotel. This building could be a real centerpiece for this area, but we again run into the curious treatment of the glass front of the building and an inaccurate modelling of the lower portions of the building along with the connection between the building and the otherwise skillfully executed pedestrian bridge.
The artful Czech Airlines building is gorgeously modeled but again suffers from the curious choice to striate a façade that is solid glass. The applied textures at the top level are also unnecessarily low resolution. The remaining buildings in the area are a repetitive mixture of astounding modeling and execution of architecture with a questionable eye for detail and texture treatments especially where glass surfaces are involved.
Heading into the city near the airport, you will find custom crafted buildings scattered amongst the autogen that add to the scenery package. They are a nice addition for the GA or helicopter pilot flying low over the scenery area as well as welcoming the airliner on approach. The modeling is very good and some of them are quite detailed. A short distance from the airport lies the hospital with a roof top helicopter pad. The pad is a solid and usable surface. Unfortunately, this, like the ones at the airport, is not marked as an active start point within the scenery.
A few items remain that have not been specifically touched upon before heading for a summary of our time spent in Prague.
A comparison of the published radio frequencies with the ones listed in X-Plane under both ATC and the sectional map show a mismatch on all published frequencies. If you use the radio frequencies, you will want to make note of them from the X-Plane sources.
While I have not specifically addressed this feature, I have tried to include screen shots that depict the scenery at various times of day. Some of these give a good indication of what the after dark experience at LKPR is like. The custom lighting is significantly different from the default lighting and makes the objects and area included in the scenery package stand out to the point that you can find many of the extra buildings in Prague by looking for them at night.
In my testing, both in a generic X-Plane installation and in my active X-Plane installation, I did not notice a significant change in frame rates when compared to the default scenery even with the animated signs, radar, and smoke.
Scenery Animation Manager (SAM)
Unlike some scenery packages, this one is entirely unusable without having SAM installed. An attempt to load it will result in the standard X-Plane error message about missing scenery and, when you clear the error, you will find your aircraft on an apron with no buildings around.
The attempt to load LKPR is enough to block the global airport version from displaying and no features of LKPR will be available.
The use of SAM in this scenery is for the purpose of animating the jetways at terminals 1 and 2. I was unable to find the marshallers in use at any gate or apron parking area.
It seems that SAM may be preventing scenery textures in some areas from completely loading if you are flying an aircraft with high resolution textures on a Windows PC when using the Vulkan driver. This anomaly was duplicated at other airports utilizing SAM and, at those airports, when SAM was not loaded, it did not occur.
LKPR could not be tested without SAM because, as mentioned, it cannot be loaded that way. This anomaly was not seen on a Mac using Metal and it was not seen on my machine when using OpenGL. I mention this so if you happen to see any blurry textures at LKPR, you will know it is not a problem with the scenery itself.
So here we are once again. It is time to head down the jetway and board our waiting aircraft to head off to other destinations so now we take the time to reflect on our adventures in Prague.
Let me begin this section by stating my final impression of the LKPR Václav Havel Airport Prague by Orbx. If you are a frequent flyer in the Prague vicinity, then this package is for you since it is, hands down, much better than anything that can be accomplished with the default building materials available in X-Plane.
The very layout of the airport, as it will be when construction is finished, is not available in X-Plane unless you choose to do it yourself. The structure and details of the building architecture are extremely well done. The surface textures for the aprons, taxiways, and runways are very much worthwhile.
The taxi way markings, apron markings, and the area orthophotography add a large dose of realism to your flight experience. The airline pilots in the group will greatly appreciate the animated jetways and the visuals from the cockpit at the gates is very immersive.
Unfortunately, this package does come with a “but” and it’s a rather large one for some virtual pilots in the X-Plane world. This package is not entirely accurate in its depiction of the airport. As we have seen, Terminal 4, by artistic license, has been depicted as an abandoned building which it is not. Some buildings have been treated with textures that are not supported by internet photography available to this reviewer, some features are left out, and some buildings are misaligned on the orthophoto imagery.
Lastly, the issues around the treatment of the glass buildings is problematic as previously discussed. This last issue is probably the most noticeable especially when the sun is low in the sky and some glass is highly reflective and other is not. When I wondered if this was an issue with the X-Plane universal lighting or PBR related, I went online and went through multiple images of this scenery package as it was produced for other sims.
This excursion showed me that this is the way this package was developed and is not specifically an X-Plane problem. This observation was then confirmed by the developers.
I can highly recommend this package to the airline pilots looking for a realistic representation of the airport as they pull up to the jetways and load or unload passengers and prepare for their next flight. I can recommend it for those pilots who are frequently flying in the Prague vicinity and want something that clearly states, “this is LKPR” but don’t get immersed in the details.
The cargo pilot frequenting the freight apron may find this package a little less immersive than the passenger contingency. My recommendation is less hearty for the pilot who enjoys spending time exploring scenery, flying low and slow, flying helicopters, or who demands a high degree of accuracy in a scenery package they are paying for.
Well, I have just heard the final boarding call for my flight, so I am leaving Prague and look forward to seeing you again on our next adventure. As usual, I appreciate any constructive feedback, notices of errata, or questions you may have. More information can be found at the dedicated Orbx Xp-Plane storepage. (https://orbxdirect.com/product/lkpr-xp11)
Note: The package was reviewed in a default installation of X-Plane 11 with no other plugins or modifications other than SAM.
Until we meet again, cheers and blue skies!
|Add-on:||Freeware / Payware Orbx LKPR Václav Havel Airport Prague|
|Publisher | Developer:||Orbx Direct | Orbx Direct|
|Description:||Realistic rendition of Václav Havel Airport Prague|
|Software Source / Size:||Download / Approximately 5GB (unzipped)|
|Reviewed by:||Paul Beckwith|
|Published:||July 21st 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)