Orbx London City Airport 2 – X-Plane 12
London City Airport is located about 6 miles east of the City of London and 2 miles east of Canary Wharf on the quay between the Royal Albert Dock and the King George V dock. Its single runway is 1,508 meters in length with a declared take-off run available length of 1,199 meters. Up until December of 2020, aircraft had to back-taxi between the apron and runway 27. December 2020 saw the opening of additional aircraft stands and a taxiway that runs the length of the runway and eliminates the back-taxi requirement.
Although the initial proposal for an airport in the Docklands made in 1981 was met with enthusiasm, the existence of such an airport was in doubt because of the limitations that would be placed on runway length. In a proof-of-concept trial, the rubble was cleared from a dock, a temporary landing surface of 1000 meters in length was created, and Captain Harry Gee landed a Dash 7 upon this surface on Heron Quays on June 27, 1982.
The success of this flight and a second in 1983 proved an airport was possible in Docklands and construction of London City Airport commenced with Prince Charles laying the terminal foundation stone on May 2, 1986. The first aircraft landed on May 31, 1987, the first commercial flight occurred on October 26, 1987, and Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the airport in November 1987.
Today, the airport has successfully connected business and leisure travelers with East London with a diverse selection of mainstream flag carrier airlines. The airport has also noted an increase in its use by residents of the local communities. In 2019, the airport handled over 5.1 million passengers and around 83,000 flights servicing 45 domestic and European destinations.
In 2021, EGLC became the first major airport to be fully controlled by a remote digital air traffic control tower. The tower is 50 meters tall and is built on a concrete structure that is over two floors and contains the electrical distribution equipment, the ATC equipment, and the compressed air equipment that is used to keep the cameras clean.
The digital tower operations room is at NATS’ Swanwick air traffic control center and consists of 14 high-definition screens displaying a moving panoramic image created by the data transferred via secure, super-fast fiber connections from the 16 high-definition cameras housed on the airport tower. Fourteen of the cameras are in fixed positions inside the top of the tower and two pan-tilt-zoom cameras are mounted on top of the fixed camera enclosure.
The fixed position cameras are the ones cleared by compressed air that keep away, among other things, the fine dust from the local sugar factory. The pan-tilt-zoom cameras have wipers to keep the lens clear.
Installation and Documentation
Prior to installing EGLC, it is advisable to download and install the Orbx Libraries for X-Plane 12 which is required for the scenery to display properly. If you load EGLC into X-Plane without it, you will receive an error notice about missing items and the airport will not load correctly. You obtain and install the library through Orbx Central.
Installation, as well as purchase, of London City Airport is accomplished through the Orbx Central interface. Once the purchase transaction is completed, the download option will transfer the file to your local drive and install the scenery. You have a choice of installing it directly to your Custom Scenery folder or to the Orbx library folder that you can create. In this latter case, the installation routine will create links in your Custom Scenery folder to the files installed in the library folder.
The result of the installation is the addition of two folders, or the shortcuts to them, into your Custom Scenery folder. One is named “Orbx_A_EGLC_LondonCity” and the other “Orbx_B_EGLC_LondonCity_Mesh”.
These folders should be listed in your scenery_packs.ini file in this order the first time you start X-Plane after the installation has finished. By default, X-Plane will enter these items at the top of the list in the file so you will need to manually move them if you want them elsewhere. If you alter the order, be sure that the mesh folder remains above any other meshes you may be using.
This will include Orbx’s own True Earth Great Britain South orthophotos layer since the new version of EGLC includes the new stands and taxiways that were not present when the True Earth package was created. Also note that EGLC is not compatible with True Earth Great Britain south since the generic textures used for the EGLC area will take precedent over the orthophoto imagery of the True Earth scenery.
If you load the scenery and notice the new stands and taxiway are under water, you will need to revisit your scenery_packs.ini file and correct the priority for the EGLC mesh folder. The scenery package does not have any documentation.
The London City Airport package covers the airport and the immediate vicinity along the Thames River with orthophoto scenery and custom buildings. This includes the Royal Albert Dock, the Royal Victoria Dock, the Tate and Lyle factory that has an impact on the new EGLC digital tower, the Thames Barrier Park, the Royal Victoria Gardens, the ExCeL London building, the University of East London, and Athena.
The Tate & Lyle factory complex is a sprawling affair that has been captured in an astounding amount of detail with all of its various parts, shapes, and textures. The detail includes smoke from the stacks and the sundry bits in the stockyards and parking lots. The dust from this complex coats the lenses of the cameras in the digital control tower enough that it gets a special mention from NATS when they discuss the cleaning and maintenance of those cameras.
The Thames Barrier park is a section of grass, plantings, and trees adjacent to the Thames River Barrier and in the midst of a large area of business and apartment structures. Orbx has located some of the trees in this park.
The Royal Victoria Gardens lies on the Thames and features green space, a splash pool, a playground, walking paths, and tennis courts. Unfortunately, Orbx chose not to enhance any of this and has it covered entirely with trees.
Another notable feature of the docklands area is the ExCeL (Exhibition Centre London) building. This is an international exhibition and convention center that occupies 100 acres alongside Royal Victoria Dock. ExCel is constructing a 270,000 sq. ft. expansion to the east of the existing structure and it is scheduled to open next year. This expansion has not been included in the current model which is otherwise an excellent example of skilled 3D construction work. Unfortunately, this is detracted from by its struggles with the elevation mesh where most of it is floating above ground while the west entrance is mired in the ground. see the screenshots below.
Two other very notable structures reside across the water from the airport at the Royal Albert Dock. The first of these, moving east from ExCel is the London Borough of Newham government building with the bright pink and white sign welcoming travelers to Newham. This is a predominantly glass structure that is well done with attributes that take every advantage of XP’s new lighting model.
East of the government building lies the campus of the University of East London with its collection of buildings representing different architectural styles that the developers have captured in this scenery presentation. Lining the water are the easily recognizable shapes of the residence halls.
The last of the featured items in the Docklands is the bronze sculpture of Athena by artist Nasser Azam. Standing 12 meters high, it is the tallest bronze sculpture in the United Kingdom. Perhaps, somewhat ironically, she almost seems to be directing air traffic into London City Airport when the airport was the only voice against the concept when it was proposed.
That concludes the survey of the quality modeled significant structures and areas of the airport vicinity that you will likely not see while focusing on that 5.5 ° angle of descent into EGLC. The remainder of the surrounding area is very well done with an ample amount of detail and customized models as one would expect from Orbx.
Runway 09/27 is a single, grooved, 1500 meter, hard surface runway. Pilots landing at London City Airport (LCY) face two main challenges: Canary Wharf with its tall buildings is located on the approach path thereby forcing a steep descent and the runway is not even half as long as the shortest runway at Heathrow. Pilots and aircraft must be certified to manage the 5.5° approach and short take-off and landing requirements.
This greatly limits the type of aircraft that can operate here and the current short list of active, regular operation, commercial flight aircraft includes the Airbus A220-100, the Embraer E190, the Embraer E190-E2, and the DHC Dash 8-400.
The other limitations faced by the airport due to its location are imposed by some fairly strict noise limitation regulations. These restrictions include limited operation hours and disallowing airport use by helicopters and other vertical take-off or landing aircraft, single-engine aircraft, airport use by aircraft from flying or leisure clubs, aircraft operated by a single pilot, and any aircraft that does not meet strict noise limitations. So, if you are a GA pilot, the sim is the only way you will experience the challenges of EGLC.
Assuming your aircraft meets the regulations and you are making that steep descent, you will land upon a tarmac that is accurately marked, well textured, and properly lit according to the published charts. Both runways feature HIALS, TDZ, and 5.5° PAPI lights. The very slight niggle here is the taxi lines on the runway are a tad off center. Of course, since this is a simulation, you don’t have to meet adhere to anything so you can land whatever you want!
Once clear of the runway, you’ll find yourself on very well marked aprons where the texture changes where the new taxiway and stands meet the originals. All the markings appear to be present and accurate throughout. Taxiway lighting is comprehensive and accurately colored and placed. It is properly effective at dusk as well as in the dark of night.
The airside structures include the tarmac side of the terminal with the old control tower and an attached garage, the small entry building at the western end of the airport, an unidentified structure that appears to be some type of facility maintenance building, and the fire station with it’s bays full of equipment.
The terminal is a very long and narrow structure for much of the length of the apron with several stands that each feature the detail of a recessed bay. The buildings are accurately reproduced with ample detail and gratifying texture work. If you care to venture into the old control tower, you will find chairs, blank terminal screens, and a counter that looks like it has seen better days. Of course, this area is no longer in use since the implementation of the digital tower.
The only complaint relevant to airside structures is the misinterpretation of the western entry area, where poles and fencing are blocking the entrance that should be modeled with gates and clear passage for vehicles.
Scattered about the apron are several sundry bits of airport equipment including vehicles, GPUs, cones, barriers of one sort or another, cargo containers, and a training “plane” for fire crews. These items all add to the realism of the airport scenery as do the number of moving fuel trucks, baggage trains, and crew cars. Of course, in typical X-Plane chaotic fashion, some of those vehicles are driving through buildings and walls. The other oddity that I’ve not been able to make sense of is the two tour buses impaled upon concrete barriers near the fire practice area.
The Private Jet Centre and its apron are classified as landside. The building is accurately rendered even though it sulks on the apron lost in its own ponderous appearance of solid concrete with heavy window frames. Adjacent to it, in stark contrast, a brightly colored blast deflector protects the passersby on the road outside.
In a very 1980’s urban manner, and in a style that makes London City Airport a monolithic presence, the Private Jet Centre begins a long walled boundary separating the airport from the streets outside. Following some actual walls and gates, the lengthy terminal gate concourses take over and become the walls that negate the need for fencing.
The terminal architecture lends itself well to this “building-as-wall” motif as it becomes clear that the design of the Jet Centre reflects that of the terminal. The massive concrete and heavily framed windows of the main terminal entrance are perfectly captured and covered with a texture bearing features that change with the lighting conditions.
Here, where the infrastructure meets the City that hosts it, London City Airport looks very much like it was fit in with a shoe horn. In addition to the effect of the walls, the visual fragmenting of the airport environs from the remainder of the city is completed by the skillfully constructed London City Airport Docklands Light Railway station and its accompanying tracks. The textures used for the tracks and the wooden fence are superb. Unfortunately, the railway does not include a modeled and operational train.
Within the boundary created by Hartmann Road and the elevated DLR track, and included in this landside category for the scenery package, are the fuel depot area, parking facilities, digital control tower, the KGV building, and the City Aviation House building. These last two buildings each have offices relative to the operations of the airport that allows them to be considered as landside facilities.
There is a canopied walkway that connects the parking areas with the terminal entrance. The blue siding material looks more like the plastic tarp material used for temporary construction sites rather than the solid wall material that Google Street View indicates is used on this walkway. The adverts inside the walkway are upside down and mirrored.
The modeling of each of these structures is superb with details and textures that are accurate and engaging. The fuel depot is a small area featuring many texture examples and the intricate modeling of railing segments and fences. Unfortunately, our gatekeepers have repeated their west apron imprisonment of vehicles in that those trucks have no way in or out. Perhaps they were airlifted in? It is refreshing to see flood lights illuminate an area without horribly overexposing it.
To the east from the terminal, the first building on Hartmann Road is the City Aviation House. This structure continues the formidable monolith theme begun with the Jet Centre.
Subsequent to that along the same road, lies the parking area for the airport. Apparently, our gatekeepers took a break on this side of the airport since the ticket gates at the entrance have been left out. The blue barrier structure around the car park suffers the same gaffe as the walkway in that the material is more permanent than the plastic canvas texture would indicate.
In the midst of the parking area is the new digital control tower that has gathered the attention of the aviation world. This structure apparently earned the attention of the developers as well since so many fine details of the tower have been incorporated into the model. The outside camera models are intricate enough to compel belief that they would move if watched long enough.
Beyond the tower lies the KGV House which is constructed with reflective metal, some quotidian gray barn-like structures, and a staff parking structure with a rather odd highly reflective property applied to the driving lanes. Outside the parking area, a few wayward barriers appear to have crept into the road. These areas are restricted to authorized persons.
Lighting and Seasons
With the release of X-Plane 12, much ado was made over the surface weather features and the lighting model. With this in mind, I am dedicating this short section to a visual review of some of the weather effects and the accuracy of the scenery’s night lighting.
The application of lighting properties to the area at night is quite satisfying and does seem to be realistic in terms of illuminating the airport yet conveying the typical airport darkness.
The application of weather conditions to the tarmac is very well done with appreciable differences noted between minimal wetness and maximum standing water. There are few differences between the intermediate settings of each though this seems to be typical throughout the X-Plane world.
London City Airport in the Docklands. Orbx calls this a unique flight experience which bringing in commercial airliners at a 5.5 degrees approach certainly is. The airport is also unique in that only certain aircraft are allowed. The aircraft and the pilot must be certified to use this facility. Aircraft certification includes both performance and noise criteria. General aviation and rotor craft need not apply.
So you want to test your mettle and fly jets utilizing short take-off and landing criteria and you are wondering if Orbx’s London City Airport is worth the money to have a place in which to do this. EGLC is certainly a well crafted custom rendition of the airport that lives up to Orbx standards with incredible textures, shading, and modeling accuracy.
It takes full advantage of all X-Plane 12 has to offer with the new lighting model and the weather effects on the tarmac. It applies a custom mesh without interfering with the season changing capabilities of the trees and uses their own version of ground textures that resume where the orthophoto ends. Orbx has done an admirable job of creating a smooth blend between the orthophoto texture and other ground texture.
However, there is a trade off at the boundary of the mesh where a definitive line is visible between their mesh and the default. This happens because Orbx texture and trees are not an exact duplicate of the default. It is worse when the seasons are changing as the Orbx trees seem to be on a different calendar than the default.
As we have seen, the scenery is not perfect. Then again, no scenery is ever going to be perfect. The drawbacks of this package are building elevation issues, the aforementioned mesh border effect, and a very few minor features that are incorrectly represented. The positive attributes of EGLC far outshine these few issues that have a negligible impact on the flight experience.
If you are a fan of all things Orbx, you will not be disappointed with their latest offering. If you are new to Orbx, this is a good place to start as you will experience everything that places Orbx scenery among the best available.
Until next time, cheers and blue skies!
|Add-on:||Payware Orbx London City Airport|
|Publisher | Developer:||Orbx | Orbx|
|Description:||Highly realistic representation of London City Airport|
|Software Source / Size:||Download / Approximately 4,88GB (download)|
|Reviewed by:||Paul Beckwith|
|Published:||October 24th 2023|
|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 12.x