Commercial Scenery Review
KSLC by ShortFinal Design
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OK, so if you’ve used X-Plane for any length of time, you’ll be sure to have come across MisterX6 sceneries. Now, for the first time, he’s entering the payware scenery market, and the best of luck to him under the brand Short Final Design.
MisterX is the byword in quality for freeware in X-Plane, you only have to look at his KBOS offering to see the work that he has put in, so I’m glad to see that he’s now providing payware. This can only be good for X-Plane users as the bar has now been well and truly raised for good.
From the X-Plane.org site, the following features are listed in the KSLC airport.
Accurate rendition of KSLC
– Highly accurate scenery for KSLC – Salt Lake City International Airport and parts of Salt Lake City
– Accurate models for all terminals, hangars, and other buildings
– Most terminals with 3D interiors
– Dynamic reflections on buildings (X-Plane 11 only)
– Baked Ambient Occlusion
– Custom high resolution ground textures
– HDR night lighting
– High resolution photo scenery (15cm/px)
Animated and populated Airport
– Animated airport vehicles (Ground Traffic)
– Animated jetways and custom Docking Guidance System (DGS) unique to KSLC (using the AutoGate plugin)
– Randomly placed static aircraft, can be easily toggled off in the X-Plane settings
KSLC or Salt Lake City International Airport, to give it it’s proper title is about 4 miles west of Salt Lake City in Utah state. The city is surrounded by the Great Salt Lake to the northwest and the steep Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges on the eastern and southwestern borders. The airport elevation is over 4000 ft or 1200 m. It’s both a civil and military airport and includes 4 main runways and three helipads.
It’s a major hub for Delta airlines , in fact it’s the fourth largest Delta hub with over 70 percent of their flights (including Skywest), and Southwest is next with 11% followed by American 5 percent and finally Alaska Airlines at approximately 2 percent. Over 23 Million passengers used KSLC in 2016, and it’s the 21st busiest airport in the US. It’s has a reputation for being one of the more punctual airports in the US – The airport ranked first for on time departures and arrivals and second for percentage of cancellations as of December 2016.
After being established as a landing field from 1911, In the 1920’s the Postal Service began using the airfield for Air mail delivery service, and in the 30’s the first terminal building was erected. Shortly after this, the United States Army Air Force started using the base up to and after World War II. In the 1960’s a 2nd terminal was added, which heralded the jet-age. It was awarded the “International” status when Western Airlines was given a route from Calgary Alberta to Salt Lake City International.
Unusually for an American Airport, only one foreign passenger airline – KLM, and one cargo airline – DHL operate from KSLC. Boeing has a plant nearby, which manufactures 737 and 787 components, just to the east of RWY 17. This is faithfully reproduced in the scenery.
Currently, there are three terminals which has 83 gates altogether.
– Terminal 1 which consists of Concourse A (gates A1-A9) and Concourse B (gates B1-B22).
– Terminal 2 which comprises of Concourse C (gates C1-C13).
– International Terminal – Concourse D (gates D1-D13), and Concourse E (gates E60-E85)
There are also military aircraft operating on the east side of the airport with the Utah Air National Guard which is home to the 151st Air refueling wing which is currently equipped with the KC135 – the military variant of the Boeing 707.
There are three roughly parallel runways, and one shorter runway at about 30 degrees off the three main runways consisting of the following attributes. There are future plans to align Runway 17/35 more closely to 16/34, and even a fourth runway, but that is even more long-term.
|Runway number||Length (Feet)||Length (Meters)||Surface|
Airport elevation is 4,227 ft or 1,288 m
Installation and Documentation
Before you purchase, you should note the minimum requirements below:
– X-Plane 11 or X-Plane 10.50
– Windows, Mac or Linux
– 2Gb VRAM Minimum. 3 Gb+ VRAM Recommended
– Download size: 720Mb. 1.2Gb Extracted
MisterX Library can be installed to get a larger selection of static aircraft. AutoGate can be installed to use the included docking guidance system and moving jetways.
With the release of X-Plane 11, graphic card requirements are now such that integrated cards are now barely recommend anymore.
This software package is quite easy to install, but just in case you’re new to X-Plane, given that X-Plane 11 has attracted quite a bit of attention, I’ll assume you are new to this application and have not installed a scenery package before. In more than half the scenery addons, you have to manually install, by extracting the files and manually placing them in the “Custom Scenery” folder. In fact, as far as I know, only the Aerosoft sceneries come with an installer where you have to point to the root X-Plane folder.
In this case, installing KSLC is quite simple.
– Extract the download files into a convenient location
– Paste the contents into the “Custom Scenery” folder in your X-Plane\Custom Scenery location
Once restarted, this adds an entry into the text file scenery_packs.ini, which always adds the most recent entry on top. If you have other custom photo scenery objects, you need to manually reorder the scenery so that photoscenery is at the bottom of the list. To compare this with FSX, it’s not unlike the scenery.cfg file where you would have Orbx Scenery below the corresponding airport scenery package.
There are also two other optional operations you can carry out if you wish to add more realism to this airport
– Install the MisterX libraries. Most users will have this already installed, but some newer users may not.
– Install the Autogate plugin.
By default, plugins are installed in “X-Plane X\Resources\plugins” folder while the program is not running, and they should activate on the next startup of X-Plane. The autogate plugin in this case, allows the jetway to automatically move to the aircraft door without using any keystrokes – very handy if you’re used to using CTRL -J in FSX. Regarding plugins, it’s always a good idea to keep these up to date, as bugs are fixed and new functionality added.
For this, I created a flight from KSAN (using MisterX6 version of course!) to KSLC with the modified X-Plane 11 737-800 in the Alaskan Airlines livery.
This gives you a rough idea of how nice the terrain is around these parts of the U.S, and how the airport is situated in the general area of Salt Lake City. To be honest, before this scenery was released, I had little or no interest in this particular area of the U.S, I focused mainly on the east and west coast and that was pretty much it, but this scenery has really got my interest.
There is a really lovely approach from the Salt Lake, which almost looks like a sea, and it’s picturesque mountain views. In X-Plane 11 in particular, it’s quite atmospheric.
The passenger terminals are clumped together in one unit, and there’s plenty of activity going on with baggage-cart vehicles and catering vans all milling around as you would see in reality. There are passenger cars driving around the airport entrances, and even the TRAX light-rail system is depicted here. Should you get confused when returning your rental car, just follow the signs!
Or feel free to take the train instead if you wish. The entrances to Terminal one, two , and the international terminal, are very nicely done and include well rendered signs, 3D cars, passenger shelters and custom vegetation. You can almost smell the Jet A fuel from here.
In case you think some of these pictures look strangely familiar, fans of Jim Carrey might notice that this was the airport used in the Dumb and Dumber movie.
Probably the most prominent part of this airport to the North of the terminal building is the large blue and red 105,000 sq ft Delta Maintenance hangar, which cost a cool $20M back in 1988, with the very prominent Stars and Stripes flag on the left-hand side. Even the prominent white “Delta” logo is rendered in 3D, and the night shot of the same position shows how well this is lit up as night falls. Truly remarkable.
The rear of the building has been given the same amount of detail, although this might be a small glitch from the source files being used. Adjacent to this, is the Skywest hanager which services Alaska, Delta,United, and USAirways, and of course Skywest, among others.
Although I expected that this Skywest sign would be illuminated at night too, this wasn’t the case.
A Closer look
Let’s start at Terminal 1.
Here you have the Train departure/arrival adjacent to the freight entrances and gates, with animated baggage carts. Just look at the detail with light warnings and speed restrictions. Health and safety is important at airports!
The text resolution here is amazing, and no detail is left out. It really does add to the feeling of being there. Something I hope to see with other producers. Even the additional aircraft at the airport are of high quality and of good resolution, and the baggage-truck vehicles are weathered to give that more realistic look about them.
Here too, in the terminal buildings they have at last some transparent windows, which I feel is a long-time coming in X-Plane. Short Final have taken it a step further, as you can actually see the interior from outside, and here again, there are no skimping on details. Even the timetable and boarding gates are clearly visible! Make sure you don’t miss your connection!
The roof area shows weathering from the fine Utah elements and even the maintenance and telecommunications aerials are depicted here. Something an airport should not be without.
The fans shown in the above picture actually rotate, although of course, it’s not visible as a screenshot, that’s very impressive indeed. The taxiway markings are also top-notch and show slight weathering as if they’ve been used many times.
This formula is repeated in terminal 2, as you can see from the “Thanks for Choosing Delta” ,
announcement board, and the vast number of tugs and baggage carts and tractors.
As to the runway surface, I love the way they have rendered the centerline, with its cracks and weathering due to the elements. Even the green runway centerline lights are 3D. The ILS and Grid array are also done with attention to detail. Even the catering trucks have rust and weathering on them – no shortage of detail there. Just look at the conveyer truck too, the wheels are almost perfectly round here. All too often, this level of zoom tends to show polygonal wheels instead of circles, but this really is impressive.
The jetways are showing signs of wear and tear and the stop markings for each model of aircraft show no signs of aliasing and are clear and sharp.
Between terminal 1 and 2, there is a walkway complete with brickwork and animated air conditioning units, and again the rendering is clear and sharp with no blurries. The old control tower which is part of terminal two is very nicely done with communications and satellite dishes present and a fairly good representation of a disused tower.
Coming next to the International terminal, I thought I’d show you the vegetation that Short Final design has put in. This alone is truly a step up from the norm and adds immersion to the airport. I can almost smell the warm air! The window reflections actually show the moving vehicles, what realism! All this with still good framerates. (Note that this is with X-Plane 11 only)
The detail here too is excellent, As you may have gathered, the last part of the international terminal doesn’t actually cover international flights at all, but just local flights, as you can see from the fleet of CRJs.
Coming alongside RWY 17, we have the Boeing plant I mentioned earlier. The logo has been reproduced here to an excellent standard and the roof detail is more than the standard expected from X-Plane users. The custom ground work is a good idea and adds more plausibility when on approach.
I mentioned before that KSLC is also home to the Utah Air National Guard and just look at the detail of these KC-10 aircraft. The brickwork again nicely and cleanly done, and the road and vehicles add immersion to the sim.
The SAR (Search and Rescue) also has a unit here and is conveniently placed alongside the Firefighting training facilities.
The airport also boasts a substantial General Aviation facility and as you can see here, this is depicted with no expense spared. The taxiway and runway markings are a special trademark of MisterX6, and offering is no different. The wear and tear here is up to the usual standard, they first made an appearance at Misterx6 KBOS and they are here too for all to see.
It all blends in nicely with the airport area to give a consistent and realistic feel. Oh, I almost left out the Cargo area, we can’t leave out the freight dogs!.
All too often, the cargo area is neglected simply because most of us fliers are either GA or Commercial passenger airliner pilots. In this case, the cargo area has received the treatment it deserves. Just look at the weathering effects on the DHL building. A showcase if there ever was.
Even the FedEx and UPS vehicles have readable labels. And the aircraft themselves (In X-Plane 11) have reflective sides too. Just wait until the A.T.S MD-11 is released in a few years, this will be a go-to airport when this arrives. In the meantime, you can always use the 727F to do your cargo runs. Moving to the west, we have the Fire Training facility complete with generic DC-10
The aircraft shows all the wear and tear you would expect, and the fire-fighting vehicles are very detailed, showing the department logo and number. You can forgive them for using the same fire engine three times. At least I can in any case!
Lastly but certainly not least, we have the Control tower and FAA administration buildings. The tower is , as much as I can go by actual pictures, is rendered excellently and I have no reason to believe otherwise with Short Final. To keep it company, we have the Tank farm, and maintenance vehicles all ready to roar into action at a moment’s notice.
I’ve used mostly X-Plane 11 for this review, and with my newly acquired GTX 1070, I’m able to crank up the settings and still get about 30 fps in the IXEG 737. With the default 737-800 it’s about the same such is the optimization of the IXEG product.
Funnily enough, the performance in X-Plane 10 is giving me about 28-30 fps with my preferred settings, so you can see now that X-Plane 11 is becoming optimized, even with the newer features. This is also with the IXEG aircraft. With this, I’m very happy indeed with the performance of this scenery.
As I’m sure newcomers to X-Plane would agree, I believe that X-Plane 10 and 11 blows the “other sims” out of the water when it comes to night-time shots “ out of the box” as it were.
The addon scenery is no less spectacular when it comes to this either.
It’s very impressive the way that the “Delta” glows at night and it almost seems alive. The control tower too has it’s night textures that add that extra realism that’s all too often missing in X-Plane sceneries.
Back in medieval times, an apprentice had to show his work to a master craftsman in order to qualify as a master craftsman himself. I think in this case, MisterX6 has done this beautifully. This is an excellent piece of work and shows the way for future generations of designer the high standards to aspire to.
There are a few small niggling things such as the ground objects near the Fire training area that have artefacts that are not present – should be a simple job to clean it up, and the area near the Control tower which has some of the ground from the aerial photograph still present.
These are only minor things and overall this is an excellent piece of work. When you consider the sheer amount of detail here and the ground-breaking work put in here, and the fact that even with all that detail, the scenery is no-less heavy on frames, this is no mean feat indeed.
I can only wholeheartedly recommend this product and feel that you will have no regrets with this purchase and enjoy it for many years to come. There are plenty of real-life flights you can do using this scenery and you won’t get tired of this area at all. I promise!
The airport can be found at the dedicated X-Plane.Org store page. The current price as per April 2017 is 24.95 USD.