Welcome to Grand Cayman Owen Roberts Airport
The Owen Roberts International Airport began operations in 1952. Located on Grand Cayman island, it is the main entry point for the Cayman Islands that feature an airport on each of the three Islands. Little Cayman is serviced by the Edwared Bodden Little Cayman Airfield at Blossom Point and Cayman Brac is home to the Captain Charles Kirkconnell International Airport in West End. The Robers and Kirkconnell airports are owned and operated by the Cayman Islands Airport Authority (CIAA) which is a statutory authority under the Ministry of Tourism and Transport.
Owen Roberts International plays a major role in supporting the needs of the island community which has a heavy dependency on imports. Figures from their website state the airport processes about 1.1 million passengers including residents of all three islands, business travelers, and tourists. The facility also handles approximately 1.5 million pounds of cargo and 300,000 pounds of mail.
The airport, which is began an expansion program in October, 2015 and the newly expanded facilities were officially opened with an unveiling ceremony featuring then Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall at the end of March, 2019. The terminal building had undergone extensive modifications and expansion while the runway was extended and a jet blast shield was put in to protect Crewe Road because the end of the runway was now too close to assure the safety of vehicles and pedestrians upon that road.
Now, Axonos, in their latest effort for X-Plane, has brought the Owen Roberts International Airport to the X-Plane 12 world and constructed it to take advantage of the new features of the simulator. According to Axonos, notable features of their package include:
- Fully modelled & textured 3D interior
- Custom ground textures & weather maps
- Hand placed dirt and stains to match real world conditions
- 3D trees & grass
- Custom night lighting
- High resolution PBR ground textures
- Animated & functional marshallers (SAM Plugin)
- Custom ground markings designed just for MWCR
Installation and Documentation
Axonos has partnered with Orbx for the publishing and distribution of their products as well as having them available on their own website. The distribution and installation of the product through Orbx is done with their add-on management software, Orbx Central. Orbx Central will install the airport into your custom scenery folder or an external library folder of your choice. The installation into an external folder includes Orbx Central creating shortcuts to the scenery in your Custom Scenery folder.
The ”Axonos-MWCR-Owen-Roberts-Airport” folder occupies about 1.63 GB on your storage medium.
The airport, as presented, appears to incorporate all of the redevelopment work that was done between 2015 and 2020 with the expanded and renovated terminal building, the 7867-foot runway, and the expanded aprons.
Owen Roberts International features two designated aprons: the Main Apron and the GAT Apron. Each apron features two short, direct to the runway, taxiways. The Main Apron provides access to the one long taxiway, G, from one of its short taxiways. Taxiway G connects to runway 26 while access to runway 08 is via backtaxi and a turnaround.
Axonos’ depiction of the tarmac is advertised as featuring custom ground markings and that appears to be an accurate statement when comparing what the developers have done with available satellite imagery. Lines are clear, accurate, and make it easy to follow designated taxi routes as you move from one place to another. Gates are clearly labeled and gates 1 through 8 utilize the SAM plugin to provide active marshallers to guide you in. However, on gates 1,3,7 and 8, those marshallers are found behind either push back trucks or luggage carts and are not visible from the cockpit.
The handling of the various textures is impressive especially when you see the tire tracks crisscrossing various parts of the aprons and, of course, the well scuffed touchdown area of the runway. The aprons feature a number of different textures that are skillfully combined so there is no gap where one type joins another.
The aprons are populated with enough “airport clutter” to create the feeling of a busy environment. The “storage area” is an accurate reflection of what you would see in a satellite image. Also, as you have probably noticed in the images, the aprons and runways handle the various runway wet settings very well.
Focusing for a moment on the runway and taxiways, we can see that night lighting is well done, accurate, and useful. Navigating the airport at night is done with ease thanks to this thoughtfully executed feature. The runway is also accurately placed and aligned perfectly with the flight plan approach I completed using the X-Plane G1000 GPS.
If you happen to question the missing PAPI lights for runway 26, the developer informs me that they were told by locals that they are, in fact, not present despite the indication of them on the chart. The developers have also indicated that the missing windsocks will be included in an update.
As with every scenery package developed, MWCR has a view items that can be improved. The tarmac issues are all related to interactivity features X-Plane provides. While there are pushback trucks on the tarmac, they do not move, and they do not respond to the ground operations menu. Oddly, my experience is the ground operations show the service will be completed in 600 s as opposed to telling me that service is not available at this airport. The only animated vehicles in the scene are a couple of cars that circle around each other in an enclosed area located between the main and GAT aprons.
The other issue involves other aircraft. Selecting the X-Plane option to draw parked aircraft does not populate the apron with aircraft. Selecting AI aircraft results in those aircraft flying around the area but never finding their way to the airport. It looks like that MWCR does not have traffic flow paths defined for X-Plane to recognize and use. Hopefully Axonos can update some of these small issues. I have informed them about my findings so action is on the way.
Buildings and Structures
When touring an airport, the terminal seems like the logical place to start so that is where we shall begin. Additionally, this building is the highlight structure of the scenery package created by Axonos. Let us start with the main entrance just off the car park.
Part of the modifications made by the airport included expanding the parking capacity and that expansion is captured here outside the entrance. The parking surfaces are textured, stained, and painted as one would expect. The number of vehicles helps to give the area a sense of activity.
At the front entrance of the iconic building, the activity is captured with the presence of pedestrians, cones, bollards, and the ticketing check in and arrivals sections with their clear, legible signage.The glass-faced central arch is well represented and the glass has an expected, acceptable amount of reflective quality to be convincing. The construction is well done with a nicely represented concrete texture where the glass is not present.The details here include a plaque that was made for the refurbished building although it is currently mirrored. The developer will likely address this if there is an update to the scenery.
The first item on Axonos’ list of features is a “fully modelled and textured 3D interior”. Moving through the front door (unfortunately, this does not open), we are greeted with a large, open area featuring modeled items, a few 3D people, a nicely textured floor, and wall hangings. To the left are overhead directional signs and a row of service counters. Note the two self-serve kiosks in front of the windows. Now move around to the left side of the brilliant blue pillar to observe the huge mural painted upon it. This is a marvelous area that obviously had some serious effort put into creating it with only two apparent minor issues: some of the desks are floating above the floor and the overhead light fixtures do not illuminate at night.
Moving further into the terminal allows us to get a closer view of the check in queue area. Here, the stanchions are spaced about with some of them sporting blue CIAA ribbon to direct the flow of travelers heading for the counters. Some pillars are wrapped with Cayman Airlines promotional banners, the overhead lights are functional, and overhead signage completes the sense of immersion into the environment. Again, it’s unfortunate that the desks are floating over the floor.
Going back a bit and heading around the corner takes us to the gate entry area where signs inform us that only ticketed passengers are allowed beyond this point. Again those signs are clearly presented and quite legible. We finally come to the gate area where signage directs us to the proper gate where we will stop at the desks, complete with computer terminals, to finalize our ability to board our flight. Unfortunately, we’ll need some high platform shoes to manage the floating desks.
Boarding pass in hand, we exit the terminal to find ourselves under covered walkways including overhead light fixtures along the main covered walkway. Columns are nicely done and the whole area, enhanced by the reflections in the glass, seems to have a tropical feel about it. Going beyond the stone wall and turning about, we see the sign that welcomes visitors to the airport upon their disembarkation and the detail of the railing overhead does not go unnoticed.
Lastly, one of the unique features of the terminal is not seen until we are in the air, either departing or arriving. This feature is the decorative roofing of the domed section of the terminal that the developers made the overall successful effort to capture in the model.
That completes our tour of the terminal in all its glory. We will now head towards Crewe Road at the end of runway 8 to look at the buildings populating the airport between the aprons and Roberts Drive.
The first structure we come upon is the Cayman Islands Fire Service. This building captures the essence of the fire station and features some nice detail including the complex rendering of the antennae. A few fire vehicles at the building would help to clarify the building’s purpose and a more finished interior would enhance the overall impact.
The next group of structures is the Beacon House and ATC / airport tower complex. Beacon House is a government building that also houses a CIAA office. These buildings are nicely modeled including the sign for Beacon House on the exterior. The developers chose to use more opaque glass for these buildings which gives them a good sense of completeness. The interior of the tower is detailed and offers a nice view of the airport. Unfortunately, selecting “tower view” from the X-Plane menu does not transport you to this location.
Our next stop is the Island Air FBO hangar and office building. This structure features a faithful reproduction of the signage on the building and a satisfying use of texture and shape that provides a sense of “realness” to the facades. The interior of the hangar looks like the wind-blown surface of a lake rather than the paneled steel and beam interior of the 12,000-foot airplane storage and maintenance facility.
Adjacent to the FBO lies the CIAA General Aviation Terminal. This structure accurately represents the more unusual features of the building while leaving a clear view from the exterior into the unfinished interior. The GAT does not feature any ramp starts so is useful only if taxing there from the main terminal or upon arrival to Owens Roberts. Perhaps this is a taste of reality at Owen Roberts for private pilots since recent private pilot mandates seem to encourage private pilots to fly elsewhere.
The two structures in the next block are the Cayman Airways Maintenance and Engineering Hangar and the Cayman Islands Customs and Border Control building. Than hangar is a simple representation devoid of any markings or identification. The external texture provides an interesting effect in the changing light of the X-Plane 12 environment.
On the other hand, the Customs building is accurate and includes multiple components rendered together with the overhang portion of the building being supported by several individually rendered columns. Joined to this building is the cargo terminal that houses several air cargo operations including the predominant Cayman Airlines Cargo. A large portion of this building at the back has been replaced by multiple cargo containers in an open lot.
The final custom modeled building in the scenery package is the Cayman Islands Post Office / Airport Post Office facility. This model captures the unique construction of this building featuring the multiple inset segments along the streetside of the structure.
Lighting, Orthoimagery, and Performance
The Owen Roberts International Airport is not a large enough facility to address each of these final issues under separate headings, so I am grouping my observations together here.
We have already seen the well-executed functional lighting of the airport, so these observations are constrained to the area lighting. At MWCR, that lighting is predominantly well done with each custom building having its own lighting effects with the odd exception of the Customs / Cargo block.
The terminal area lighting appears to be appropriate for an airport in that it is not overly lit and extra bright. The interior of the terminal is nicely lit and the exterior is illuminated with flood light style lighting. My wish for the terminal is to have the overhead lights at the entry working.
There are a few parking lot light towers that might be too bright for some people in that they tend to wash out and over-expose the vicinity. Also, there is a standout area around runway 8 that features many very bright streetlights on the orthophoto roadway.
Speaking of ortho imagery, Axonos has chosen to utilize a low resolution orthophoto that is restricted to the airport environs. The imagery, as with most ortho imagery, is very effective from high altitudes but quickly deteriorates at lower altitudes. The boundary, in places, could benefit from some smoothing. I highly recommend the use of SimHeaven’s X-WORLD America and ortho imagery for the entire island if you plan on frequenting MWCR.
One other small issue to bring up is performance. I have contacted the developer about this, and they said they would see if they could reproduce the issue. My testing configuration for this review is a default configuration with only the SAM plugin and the Axonos scenery being the exceptions. I have been able to restore my performance by either sliding the world objects density to none and then back to maximum where I keep it, or by using the developer menu to reload the scenery. When everything is operating as is should, I am achieving a frame rate of about 60 fps with X-World and ortho images loaded.
Axonos’ rendition of Owen Roberts International Airport brings another island airport to X-Plane’s Caribbean world and is a welcome addition to other Caribbean Island airports available for the sim for pilots that enjoy tropical island hopping. The package does an admirable job of presenting the essence of this gateway to the Cayman Islands with its customized terminal and outlying buildings, use of ortho imagery, and admirable tarmac textures and details.
The use of the SAM plugin to provide interactive marshallers is a nice touch for an airport that does not have jetways. There is much to like about this airport, from the ease of navigating to the gates both during the day and at night thanks to the detailed markings and accurate lighting to the extras provided for those who enjoy exploring the interior of terminals.
Developers have been known, on occasion, to release updated versions of scenery packages although this is not a common occurrence. One can hope that Axonos will revisit Owen Roberts International to address the minor issues that are part of this product. Owen Roberts International Airport (MWCR) is a jewel of an airport that could use a little polish to create a real gem of a scenery package. MWCR is available through Orbx Central for $27.99 AUD, €17,56 or USD19.25.
As always, comments and corrections are always welcome. You can leave them below or contact me through X-Plained.com.
Until next time, Cheers and Blue Skies
|Add-on:||Payware Axonos / Orbx MWCR Owen Roberts International for X-Plane 12|
|Publisher | Developer:||Orbx X-Plane 12 Axonos | Orbx|
|Description:||MWCR Owen Roberts International Airport X-Plane 12|
|Software Source / Size:||Download / Approximately 540MB (download)|
|Reviewed by:||Paul Beckwith|
|Published:||June 25th 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 12.05