Verticalsim KBOI – Boise Air Terminal XP
On May 15, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson, along with the Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, were present for the first inaugural air mail flight which took place between Washington D.C. and New York City. Air mail operations were initially flown by the Army and then subsequently transferred to the U.S Post Office Department a few months later. Fast forward two years and the first scheduled transcontinental air mail route between New York and San Francisco started on September 8, 1920.
All air mail was flown by the U.S. Government until February 1926 due to the passage of Air Mail Act of 1925, known as the Kelly Act. The purpose of the Act was to encourage commercial aviation and to authorize the Postmaster General to contract for Air Mail service. As a result, a total of 34 Contract Air Mail (CAM) routes were established between February 1926 until October 1930 and initially flown until 1934 when the CAM routes were cancelled and reestablished. But that is another story.
Walter T. Varney, who had served as a pilot in WWI and operated a flight school in San Mateo, CA, astutely guessed that no one would want the dangerous mountain and sagebrush route from Pasco WA to Boise ID to Elko NV. Walter bid, and was subsequently awarded Contract Air Mail (CAM) Route 5. Varney ordered six small Swallow aircraft and set up what be the headquarters of Varney Air Lines in Boise. Varney carried the first contract air mail on April 6, 1926, from Elko, Nevada, to Pasco, Washington. In case you did not know, Varney Air Lines was renamed United Airlines in 1933.
Booth Field, established in 1926, was the first municipal airport in Boise. Varney Air Line operations took place from this airport. However, with the development of the Douglas DC3, Booth Field was determined to be too small for the safe operation of the larger aircraft which led the City of Boise to purchase and lease about 960 acres of property about three miles south of downtown Boise. The new Boise Municipal Airport opened in 1938 and the original Booth Field closed. Booth Field is now the site of Boise State University.
The new Boise Municipal Airport boasted three runways with longest runway being 8,800 feet in length, which was the longest in the U.S. at that time. About a year after opening, the Airport was chosen as the site for the development of a major U.S. Army airbase. The airport was renamed to Boise Air Terminal in 1940 and after a negotiation period, the U.S. Army leased an area abutting the south edge of the airport which resulted in the development of Boise Air Terminal, Gowen Field; a joint-use facility. After the WWII, Gowen Field was deactivated and subsequently, the Idaho Air National Guard took over the lease of Gowen Field. The 1960’s saw the arrival of United Airlines Boeing 727 flight operations at Boise. Additionally, the Boise National Interagency Fire Center dedicated their first facility at the Boise Air Terminal during the same time frame.
Boise Air Terminal – Gowan Field (BOI) is located about 3 miles south of downtown Boise and adjacent to US Interstate 84 (I-84), which is the main highway corridor through the region. Boise is the state capital of Idaho and is the largest metropolitan area in the state. The regional area is known as Treasure Valley, which lies in a narrow part of the Lower Snake River Valley, approximately 40 miles wide. The valley is surrounded by the Boise Mountains to the north and the Owyhee Mountain Range to the southwest, with the highest peaks for each range at approximately 10,124 feet and 8,400 feet respectively.
Today, BOI not only supports commercial, military, and general aviation operations, but is also home to other agencies and businesses such as the Idaho Army National Guard, the U.S. Forest Service, the Idaho Department of Aeronautics, and two fixed-based operators. The airport is also the focus city for Alaska Airlines service operated by both Horizon Air and code sharing partner SkyWest Airlines. BOI covers five thousand acres and has three runways:
- 10L/28R: 10,000 x 150 feet
- 10R/28L: 9,763 x 150 feet
- 09/27: 5,000 x 90 feet
Runway 9/27 is an unimproved military landing strip which was constructed south of the airport in 2002 to the support air national guard training in short and unimproved runway operations.
The Verticalsim KBOI – Boise Air Terminal XP scenery is a faithful recreation of the real-life airport. The airport layout is based on current facilities at the time of development and boasts advanced features such as physical based rendering (PBR), animated vehicle traffic, 4K HD textures, HDR night lighting and a host of other features.
Verticalsim, which will turn four-years old in May 2022, primarily develops scenery for both X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Verticalsim will also be developing scenery for X-Plane 12 when it releases. Andrew, who is the owner of Verticalsim, originally got involved in scenery development because X-Plane was missing a good rendition of his hometown airport. Andrew figured he could make a better rendition which turned to be his first freeware product. He was then encouraged to develop payware scenery and went on to create Verticalsim and produced Providence – T.F. Green airport as his first scenery package.
Verticalsim has gone on to become a well-respected scenery developer in the flight simulation community. Eighteen airports currently exist for X-Plane and eight airports for MSFS. He is also the developer of VOrthos which is free orthoimagery scenery for X-Plane. You can learn more about what Verticalsim has to offer by going to his website.
When asked why BOI was selected for development, Andrew stated that BOI was originally chosen because it was a major need for PilotEdge users. However, seeing the special nature of the airport, with its integration of general aviation, military, and commercial service operations, presented a great development opportunity. Coupled with the airport’s location in mountainous areas, BOI provides a very unique perspective that is not seen often in the U.S.
Installation and Documentation
The installation of the BOI scenery is typical of a normal X-Plane scenery add-on installation. The scenery download was very quick with a compressed file size of approximately 1.7 GB (download speeds will vary based on your internet connection). Once downloaded, the scenery was extracted into a temporary folder and then copied to the X-Plane\Custom Scenery folder.
The minimal system requirements are as follows:
- X-Plane 11.50 or a later version of X-Plane 11
- Windows, Mac or Linux
- 5.79 GB HDD Space
- 4 GB VRAM Minimum – 8GB+ VRAM Recommended
- Scenery Animation Manager (SAM) Plugin (Required)
The following is a list of features for BOI:
- 2021 Airport layout
- PBR Ground Textures
- Sam Custom Highly detailed jetways
- Animated Vehicle traffic
- 4K HD Textures
- Highly Optimized
- Accurate 3D models of terminals, hangars
- Commercial Grade 0.5ft resolution Aerial Imagery
- HDR night Lighting
The documentation consists of eight (8) pages and contains six (6) main sections:
- Scenery Load OrderGeneral OverviewAbout
- Other Products
The sections in the manual are straight forward and highlight the initial scenery installation, scenery load order, a brief description of the airport, airport features, and other common information such as error messages and technical support.
Overall, the documentation gives the user all of the information needed to successfully install and use the scenery. As mentioned previously, the use of the Scenery Animation Manager (SAM) plugin is required. For those readers new to X-Plane, SAM is a global X-Plane plugin providing different animations for custom sceneries such as moving jetways, helpful position guidance systems, and animated hangars.
Scenery Review Overview
The review of the Boise Air Terminal scenery was completed by comparing the existing real-life airport areas with the scenery package. Thus, the areas reviewed are as follows:
- Default and Verticalsim Scenery Comparisons
- Terminal and North Cargo Aprons
- Northwest General Aviation Aprons
- Southwest Cargo and General Aviation Aprons
- Idaho Air National Guard Aprons and Associated Areas
- Northeast NIFC and U.S. Forest Service Aprons
The areas located outside of what is considered the airport property were also looked at, however, they were not scrutinized due to the inherent scenery anomalies that can occur within X-Plane. Those areas will be briefly mentioned as they pertain to a particular section.
Default and Verticalsim Scenery Comparisons
To initially start the review, I did a comparison of the vanilla Boise Air Terminal scenery and the Verticalsim version. I did this purposely in order to establish a scenery baseline for myself to be used as a point of reference when comparing various areas. Needless to say, when comparing the two, the Verticalsim scenery is a much needed and welcomed update to the existing default scenery. The following compiled screenshots provide various views comparing the Verticalsim with the default and scenery.
Just to clarify; on the left the Verticalsim look and feel, on the right side the default X-Plane.
Terminal and North Cargo Areas
The Terminal and North Cargo Apron is located north of Runway 10L/28R. The Terminal itself consists of the main terminal, Concourse B which connects to the main terminal, and Concourse C which is an integrated ground loading concourse for use with smaller regional aircraft such as Dash8 or CRJ. Even Gate C11 is shown with an active jetway which is true to real life. The pavement markings include nice additions such as dirt, tire markings and the occasional leak or spill spots. There are stands and luggage carts as well as other airport vehicles at both concourse areas. The level of detail, in comparison to real life photos of the airport is masterfully done.
Just to clarify; on the left the Verticalsim look and feel, on the right side the Google Maps/Earth image.
The main terminal building has been rendered very nicely and includes such elements as skylights, HVAC units, solar panels in the roof, and other real-world elements. Even the outdoor metal stair case located on the east side of the terminal near what appears to be an airport parking area is recreated. The night time view of the gate areas looks really good.
Moving from the back to the front of terminal, the terminal entrance and the parking garages are modeled very well and I particularly like how some of the scenery is integrated with orthophoto real scenery close to the terminal area. Even the lighting of the nearby Chevron gas station and the parking garage exit booths are immersive and add nice touches to the overall feel of the airport. The airport entrance sign looks great at both day and nighttime periods. The various flags around the terminal area do move with the breeze and just adds more of that “cool” factor to the scenery.
My only complaint regarding the immediate terminal area is that the parking garage itself is not lit at night. That is one area in real life that is important to be illuminated. Overall, though, I am really pleased with the immediate terminal area.
One note regarding the orthophoto imagery and X-Plane Openstreetmap (OSM) autogen roadway data off airport. When looking at the highways off airport, there will be some anomalies displayed, similar to the picture below. In speaking with Verticalsim, there is a creative tradeoff between what is shown and what is seen in the air. Trying to correct X-Plane OSM data would result in having to create a whole highway network and custom cars and ground traffic that could impact the overall scenery’s performance. So, while the highway interchanges may look strange (the default vanilla Boise area scenery looks the same), being able have the overall better graphic view from the air, both day and night was considered a better tradeoff.
I, for one, am appreciative of the explanation as it helps me to better understand the nuances that developers must take into consideration when developing scenery. Some simmers may not like the explanation and may have high expectations on how the scenery “should be”. However, each simmer looks at scenery based on how it appears to them, and to me, the tradeoff is worth it, especially at night.
The North Cargo area is also expertly created. I decided to do a quick test and park my FedEx MD-11 at the cargo parking stand in order to compare the markings and it was spot on. All of the support vehicles, fuel trucks that support operations, ULD containers, pallets (I could just go on and on) are in their proper locations and add to the overall feel of a busy cargo ramp area. Even the Roadway Inn and Best Western, located north of the cargo area, are correctly modeled.
Northwest General Aviation Aprons
From the main terminal I will now shift to the general aviation (GA) area located to the northwest. There are static general aviation aircraft, from jets to props, that are located in various apron spots on the GA ramps. The detail in this area is outstanding. Real world pilots who are familiar with BOI will appreciate the welcoming sites of the Jackson Jet Center and other aviation-related facilities such as maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) businesses and the offices of the Idaho Division of Aeronautics. On the ramps you will a set of Shade hangars just to the west of the rental car ready/return lot and other parking lot areas, as well as the old airport fire station. The ramp area next to the old fire station is also used for Idaho backwater aircraft parking.
Traveling a little more to the west you see the West Deicing pad, another helicopter facility, and the taxiways leading to Runway 10L. There is also green painted pavement at the end of Runway 10L. This pavement is referred to as a “no-taxi island” which is used to help in mitigating potential taxiway excursions or runway incursions.
Southwest Cargo and General Aviation Aprons
Continuing around the end of Runway 10R you can see the elevated approach lighting structure that passes over South Orchard Street. The only item that would have been cool to see would have been the remaining portion of the southern branch of the Boise River that transitions around the ends of Runways 10L and 10R. However, this is not modeled with the default scenery so I did not place much importance on this item. In case you are wondering, the northern branch of the Boise River that runs through the downtown area is represented in the vanilla X-Plane scenery. The southern branch, which is what I am referring to, is not present in the default X-Plane scenery.
Continuing south from Runway 10R you see more GA aprons and hangars including the West Cargo Apron, the Turbo Air and Simplot facilities, and the Western Aircraft Fixed Based Operator (FBO) Terminal. Also, when reviewing this area, you see a good mix of both on-airport and off-airport businesses that also provides more immersion in regards to the scenery.
The Western Aircraft FBO is very well modeled and represented both during the day and at night. There is also a helipad area to the north of the FBO that is also looks great at night.
Speaking of nighttime, the airport environment looks really good both in the air and on the ground. But don’t just take my word for it. Enjoy these screen shots with a night time perspective.
Idaho Air National Guard Aprons and Associated Areas
The area that starts east of Taxiway B3 and continues in a southeastern direction parallel to Taxiway B is the home of the Idaho Air National Guard (IDANG), the Idaho Army National Guard (IDARNG), and other military services. As mentioned earlier in the review, Gowen Field, consisting of over 577 acres of property, has been around since 1941 and has seen varied development over the years. While the runways and taxiways are considered “joint-use”, meaning for both military and civil use, many of the apron areas and associated facilities are exclusive to the military.
One of the most impressive items that I noticed in the scenery, amongst many of the other cool things, was the recreation of the park and display facility located next to the IDANG Recruiting Office. The amount of work to replicate the various aircraft representing the history of the Air National Guard is outstanding. But not just the aircraft, the buildings, their shapes, and even their colors are very well done.
Gowen Field is currently the home of the 124 Fighter Wing which flies the A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog”. The aircraft are represented in good detail as part of the scenery. In talking with Andrew of Verticalsim, he stated that he had a lot of fun creating the static models and matching the paint schemes of those models to the scheme used by the real A-10 squadron based at Gowen Field. It definitely shows! The IDARNG also has an aviation section that flies various helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. The helicopters as well as a couple of representative F-15 Eagles are also shown in the scenery.
To finish up the south area, there are a couple of lighted helipads, the air traffic control tower, and some non-aviation businesses that are nicely represented, both day and night. What I appreciate the most as that all of the little nuances show the amount of work and attention to detail that Verticalsim spent to recreate BOI and all of its facilities. The only item not presented is the Assault strip area located southeast of the IDANG areas. My understanding is that strip is no longer being used. Still, it would have been a nice easter egg to have the strip as part of the scenery from the historical perspective. However, its absence does not take away from overall enjoyment of the scenery.
As you continue down towards the ends of Runways 28L and 28R, you see another aircraft maintenance facility, the glideslope antenna for runway 28R, the localizer array for Runway 10L, and the Boise (BOI) VORTAC facility. Crossing 28R you see other airport buildings and the East Deice Pad, complete with a compass rose.
Northeast NIFC and U.S. Forest Service Aprons
Finally, traveling west along Taxiway A, past a beautiful set of what appears to be corporate hangars, we make it to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) and U.S. Forest Service aprons. NIFC serves as a national coordination center for fighting wildland fires across the nation and is home to various federal agencies to support and coordinate fire-fighting efforts.
The layout of the area mimics real-life, including the fire-retardant loading areas and the NIFC buildings themselves. Again, just an impressive amount of detail that is to be appreciated. Finally, as we approach the intersection of Taxiways A and D, we see the Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Facility, or ARFF. The facility represented is pre-2019 facility and it is true to life. Maybe in the future, the ARFF facility can be update to show the new renovated facility that exists now.
Verticalsim has a very strong reputation of being a top-notch scenery developer for X-Plane and it is evident with this scenery outing. The scenery is very much a real-life representation of the Boise Air Terminal/Gowen Field that has been painstakingly recreated to introduce the simmer to the unique nature of the airport. There are not many joint-use airport facilities in the U.S., so to be able to have a facility that would not only appeal to civil and military simmers, but also those bush and backwater sim pilots who can depart from their own designated area on the airport to those little small airports that provide challenges unique to those operations.
You can tell that the amount of time and effort that has been invested in the scenery had the simmer in mind, from the terminal facilities, to the general aviation areas, to the IDANG and IDARNG areas. Even seeing the representation of the Idaho Division of Aeronautics and the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) buildings was impressive. There are many other nuggets that I could share but, then, that would take away from the surprise.
I already mentioned a couple of items that I felt could be updated in the future, such as the lighting for the parking garage. But, those items, as well as the OSM anomalies associated with the off-airport highway interchanges did not diminish my positive view of this scenery package. All of the airport markings and lighting mimicked the real world. The claim of following real-world specifications is evident.
Regarding frame rates, I had no lagging issues and even when I turned on my ai-traffic add-ons, I saw no impact to framerates, including when using Vulcan. The night time textures are well done and you truly get the impression of expansiveness when flying into and out of BOI. Finally, I would like to thank Andrew at Verticalsim for being very responsive to my questions and taking the time to answer some additional comments that I had regarding the overall scenery.
I, being an avid sim pilot myself, recognize that simmers can be a very finicky bunch, especially when it comes to scenery. Those simmer who have a more personal connection with a scenery package may be a little more critical than others. Conversely, the expectations that simmers may set regarding scenery in general can be, for better or worse, even more critical. Again, it boils down to a personal choice regarding those expectations. For me, the Boise Air Terminal XP scenery package very well done and is worth the 23.99 USD that is being charged for the scenery.
The scenery has proven to be a great addition to my flight sim universe. I am also very appreciative of the hard work that Andrew and his team has put into the modeling of the airport which results in an outstanding recreation of the Boise Air Terminal and Gowen Field.
More information can be found at the Verticalsim website. The current developer’s price is 23.99 USD and the scenery does go on sale from time to time. Don’t forget to check the dedicated X-Plane.Org store page.
|Add-on:||Payware Verticalsim KBOI – Boise Air Terminal XP|
|Publisher | Developer:||X-Plane.Org | Verticalsim|
|Description:||Realistic rendition of Boise Air Terminal (KBOI)|
|Software Source / Size:||Download / Approximately 3.49GB (unzipped)|
|Reviewed by:||Todd C.|
|Published:||April 25th 2022|
|Hardware specifications:||- 3.6 GHz Intel Core i7-9700K
- NVIDIA RTX 2080 8 GB GDDR6
- 32 GB 3200 MHz DDR4 RAM
- Samsung SSD 860 EVO 2TB
- Saitek Pro Flight System X-52 Pro
- Razer Tartarus Chroma
|Software specifications:||- Windows 10
- X-Plane 11.5x (64 Bit), Private Use
- A variety of freeware and payware aircraft and plugins