Society Islands XP Bora Bora / Iles Sous le Vent
Welcome to the South Pacific, the home of Bora Bora, Raiatea, and the seven other islands that comprise the “islands under the wind” portion of the Society Islands. What images these islands conjure at the mere mention of their names: lush forests, intriguing rock formations, coral reefs, and, of course, lagoons of sapphiric blue. Now, Maps2Xplane in collaboration with Albert Ràfols have introduced a scenic package that attempts to bring these images to life in the X-Plane world.
The central and south Pacific is a vast area, most of which is occupied by the over one-thousand islands grouped under the designation of Polynesia. The island States and Territories of Polynesia include American Samoa, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Niue, Pitcairn, Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu.
French Polynesia’s one-hundred-eighteen islands cover an area of the southeastern Pacific that is about the size of Europe and the combined land surface covers an area that is one-third the size of the US State of Connecticut. The Society Islands is one of the five archipelagos making up the French overseas collectivity. The western Society Islands are also called the “islands under the wind” (Leeward Islands), while the eastern are called the “wind islands” (Windward Islands).
The French protectorate was established in 1842 and the islands became a French territory in 1946. The French overseas collectivity which provides for some autonomous governing was defined in 2003. The capital city of French Polynesia is the Tahitian city of Papeete. (Information obtained from One World Nations Online.)
It is probably worth noting that the use of “Leeward” and “Windward” island names can be somewhat ambiguous since these are more commonly used as reference to the island groups located in the Caribbean Ocean.
During our tour of this scenery installment in the X-Plane universe, we’ll be visiting quite a few air-operation sites. These include the airports of Bora Bora (NTTB), Raiatea (NTTR),
Huahine – Fare (NTTH), Maupiti (NTTP), and Tupai (NTTU). Rotorcraft pilots will be interested in our stops at theTahiti Nui Helicopters Pago dropzone (XHNTTZ), Four Seasons Helipad (XHNTTF), Saint Regis Helipad (XHNTTS), Le Meridien Helipad (XHNTTM), InterContinental Helipad (XHNTTI), and Le Taha‘a Helipad (XHNTTT).
There is much to see and do in such a small area, so we’d best get started. As always, we start with installing the scenery.
Installation and Documentation
The system requirements for this package published by Aerosoft are as follows:
- X-Plane 11.52r1 or a later version of X-Plane 11
- Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 (64bit), MacOS (Mojave+) or Linux Ubuntu LTS
- Scenery Animation Manager (SAM) version 2 (optionally)
- Video card / VRAM: 6 GB required, 8 GB+ recommended
- CPU: Multi Core processor with 3,2G Hz or better
- Hard disk: 10 GB of free disk space
- RAM: minimum 8 GB RAM or more
Installation of the Society Islands XP package can be accomplished in one of two ways. You can download the compressed file (AS_SOCIETY_ISLANDS_XP11_V1000.zip, 5.34 GB on disk) from a link sent to you in an email or that you access through your order history. Save that file to your system, extract the four folders contained therein, and copy them to the Custom Scenery folder in your X-Plane installation folder.
Once that is done, you will need to enter the folders in the proper order in the scenery_packs.ini file. You can do this manually or you can start X-Plane which will scan the Custom Scenery folder and add the new scenery to the file for you. Whether you enter the items in the scenery_packs.ini file or are verifying that X-Plane did it properly, you will need the manual that is found in the documentation folder inside the Additions folder. The proper location and order for the entries in the scenery_packs.ini folder is found there.
The second method of installation is through Aerosoft One which requires internet access and an Aerosoft account. Aerosoft One is an interface to all things Aerosoft and will show you the package in the library tab once you have purchased it. To begin the installation, click on the green “Install” button. A dialogue offering you a choice of installing to the X-Plane directory or installing to a library and placing a link in the X-Plane Custom Scenery folder is next.
Follow the onscreen instructions to select your preference. Once you have done that, select “Continue”. On the next screen, you will see a notice about running software that might interfere with the installation. When you are ready, click the install button. If you leave the switch to queue option checked, the routine will automatically switch to that screen. Here, you see the installation begin and a progress meter indicates the download progress and time remaining. You can also see the download speed.
Regardless of how you install it, once it is completed, you will have four folders in the Customs Scenery folder. In the Additions folder is a folder called Resources. If you drag this to your main X-Plane folder, it will overwrite the default map tiles for the scenery area. The new map provides more detail for the Leeward Islands.
Maupiti lies 25 miles west of Bora Bora and 195 miles northwest of Tahiti. This small atoll has a surface area of four square miles that is situated within a lagoon that is encircled by five motus. A motu is a broken coral and sand islet that surrounds an atoll. The main village of the island is Vaiea. Maupiti is connected to the rest of the world by boat and by air. Boat travel requires the navigation of a single, deep, and narrow pass. This pass is unable to be used if winds are too high or currents are too strong.
Maupiti airport is located on Motu Tuanai. Air Tahiti provides very limited domestic service between Maupiti and three other islands. The runway is a short 3133 feet (955m) in length. According to the Jeppesen chart, the airport is reserved for radio equipped aircraft. It has one published NDB approach for runway 08 and two RNP approaches, one for runway 08 and one for runway 26. Landing on this runway is a small challenge given the short length and the water at both ends. Additionally, there is no lighting.
Maupiti has two apron starts, two helicopter starts, and one seaplane dock start. The airport is small with three buildings and a couple of sheds. The buildings are the main building for ticket transactions, a baggage pick up area, and sanitary facilities. In addition to the two sheds in the apron area, there is a NDB tower. Behind the main building is a path to the seaplane dock where benches provide an area for people awaiting their boat rides that are the only connection from the airport to anywhere else.
Texture work throughout the airport is some of the best that I have seen. Building textures hold up at very close range and accurately respond to changing lighting conditions. They are very detailed, even on the sheds. Ground textures, whether grass, stone, or asphalt, are detailed and sharp. I can practically hear the breeze blowing through the very detailed greenery and half expect to see the branches move as I walk through the main building and down the path to the dock.
At the dock, I see sand that looks like it would shift beneath my feet caressed by the swells of the lagoon’s lapis water. The skill of the craftsman carries through this area to the details of the dock and the rocks piled near it. The floatplane start is at the very end of the quay where three nicely modeled boats moor. Should you depart from this point, you will need to pay attention to the moving boat traffic in the lagoon.
Turning to the right provides a view of the runway and the stone embankment used to shore up the fill upon which the runway is constructed. The presentation of the runway surface is true to the image seen in photographs with large, clear, white markings including European style runway numbers. The asphalt is lighter at the sides in contrast to the dark strip running down the middle. Reflections from the surface with angled light are excellent.
Complaints in this area must be limited to the absence of anything that would make the airport feel less static. I would imagine there would not be a large amount of apron clutter given the size of the aerodrome, but an addition of people would be very welcome, especially outside the main building where people tend to cluster when flights are arriving or departing.
As we saw earlier, Maupiti is a small island with only one main village area. The island is a retreat from modern life with few modern amenities. Visitors must bring enough cash with them since there are no ATM’s on the island, and overnighters stay in homes that rent rooms to them. The island voted down an initiative to build a hotel to increase the tourist industry on the island.
From our view of the island, we can see verdant vegetation, the motus around the atoll, the quay at Vinea and the summit. Given that Maps2Xplane is involved in this project, we need to look at the terrain as well as the mesh that defines the shape and elevations of the island. That shape, as modelled, appears to compare well with photographs available on line. The elevation of the mountain matches closely with a photographic view of it from the airport motu. The lagoon waters and patterns of coloration are incredible and amazingly close to the actual imagery. This is water that is perhaps, in some ways, better than orthophotography. The coral reefs are visible and extend beneath the water.
We finish up with a quick look at the village and the autogen buildings. The Port of Maupiti is modelled with a large expanse of concrete and a few buildings in the middle. The first impression is that it feels a little large for the island. A mixture of ground textures would reduce that impression and allow for a more natural blend with the rest of the island. An addition of greenery and connecting paths between buildings would also assist in breaking up this flat expanse.
The autogen along the roads provides for an island atmosphere and the road is appropriately narrow and winding. The tropical plants growing in the midst rounds out an atmospheric coastline along the lagoon that conveys the impression of the real world.
Let us now move on to the tiny atoll that lies to the east and just a bit north of Bora Bora.
“Tupai is a coral island of 11 km2, located just 16 km north of Bora Bora. It is a special atoll, first because of its almost perfect heart shape that one discovers when flying above, then because of its double lagoon and incredible shades of blue, but also because of its preserved nature. Here the birds nest on the ground without fear, sea turtles lay their eggs in pristine white sand beaches and fauna and flora have slowly forgotten man. It is a place where time is suspended, a virgin island as only few remain on our oceans.
The a href=”https://www.investintahiti.pf/les-projets-dinvestissements/tupai/?lang=en” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”atoll was once a coconut plantation, owned by Mr. Lejeune, a notary in Papeete. Then it was bought by the Government of French Polynesia, and the atoll became government owned property in order not only to preserve its heritage but also to protect its exceptional nature. There was a time when the atoll was also used to welcome high-ranking visiting dignitaries.”
The Airport and Surrounding Area
The Tupai airstrip was built by Mr. Lejeune and updated by the French Government in 2003, simultaneous with the widening of a channel for boat traffic into the lagoon. The current strip measures 2,952 feet in length and 78 feet in width. It appears to be an inactive airstrip. Tahiti Nui helicopters flies charters to the island but does not make use of the airstrip.
We are presented with an airstrip that is pretty much what is observed from any satellite imagery. The only very noticeable difference is the absence of the rather large, red-roofed building to the left of Runway 29. The runway’s edge looks unfinished, and the surface is a combination of dark and light asphalt. Painted demarcations are in various phases of fading from view. There are no lights, no windsocks, and only a few abandoned cottages and piers to vary the landscape of continuous trees. The modelling of this airstrip is without fault for texture and detail. In addition to the airstrip, there is a seaplane start at one of the docks in the lagoon.
The heart shape of the island is maintained in the rendering and the water shading of the lagoon continues to amaze while it conveys a very real sense of the tropics. Reefs are once more accurately represented, and the shadows and underwater segments add to the realism. The wonderful beaches run the lengths of the almost continuous motus that make up this atoll.
The few buildings near the airstrip, along with the piers, are present although they probably look a little too new for what they are, and the presence of automobiles disrupts the immersion of an abandoned and completely deserted island. The only other niggling complaint here is the well-made dirt road carries vehicles not found on a deserted island. Lastly, it would be an improvement if the docks were modelled rather than employing Laminar’s stock façade.
Since there is not much else to see here, we now head south to the most well known of the Society Islands.
Bora Bora (NTTB)
Bora Bora, along with Tahiti, is probably the best known island of the Society Island archipelago despite it’s being one of the smallest. Wikipedia offers this comment: “Bora Bora has a total land area of 30.55 km2 (12 sq mi). The main island, located about 230 km (143 mi) northwest of Papeete, is surrounded by a lagoon and a barrier reef. In the center of the island are the remnants of an extinct volcano, rising to two peaks, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu; the highest point is at 727 m (2,385 ft). Bora Bora is part of the Commune of Bora-Bora, which also includes the atoll of Tupai.”
Bora Bora Airport (also known as Motu Mute Airport). The airport on Bora Bora began its life as a US military base constructed on Motu Mute in 1943 during the second World War. Commercial service commenced in 1958 following reconstruction of the runway. Scheduled passenger service is provided by Air Tahiti whose largest aircraft is the ATR-72 two engine turboprop. It is a fifty-minute flight from Tahiti when travelling by Air Tahiti.
Data from the airport chart indicates the runway is 4938 feet in length and 72 feet in width. The elevation is 10 feet at the Runway 11 threshold and 11 feet at the Runway 29 threshold. The runway lighting includes RL, REIL, and PAPI-L at an angle of 3°. Additional information includes notations alerting the approaching pilot of helicopter, parachuting, and tall water vessel activity in the area. Wildlife strike hazard is also noted. The chart also makes the note that the aerodrome is reserved for radio equipped aircraft.
The Bora Bora airport is not a large aerodrome. The arrivals and departures are in open air. The connection between the airport and the island is via water shuttle as it is on Maupiti. Arriving at the airport, (I used the RNP Z RWY 11 approach which is spot on) we are greeted with an accurately lit runway that features a dark asphalt finish with a marvelous texture and clear markings. The remainder of the tarmac varies in color and texture in accordance with the airport as seen in photographs. Once on the apron you will find seven clearly marked gate starts and two GA starts also well marked. This airport features active Air Marshalls if you install the SAM plugin.
On the lagoon side of the terminal building, floatplane pilots will be happy to find a seaplane start generously provided by the developers. In what is very likely true to form, care must be taken for water operations in the lagoon due the large number of water vessels that do move around. Takeoffs and landings must be plotted carefully after wind directions are accounted for. Some of these boats move quickly and some of them come three in a row.
The airport itself features ten or eleven structures, depending on how you count the sheds, including the terminal. All the buildings have the incredible texture work we first noticed back on Maupiti even though there are at least seven different ones, from red roof shingles to cement walls, involved. They are all completed in an expert fashion, and it is interesting to see how they change with lighting conditions. The roofing styles are truly reminiscent of island atmosphere between the bright red and the weathered wood. The absence of a parking lot at a busy airport seems a little unreal until we remember that there is no land access to the airport so the docks at the terminal are the equivalent of a parking area at other airports.
The entrance to the terminal from the apron has South Pacific written all over it with the fine examples of greenery sculpting and plentiful blossoms providing for a warm feeling of “welcome”. Walking around the terminal, everything in the area is very detailed right down to the rust on the chain link fence. Take a leisurely walk along the jetty to admire the depth of textures and modelling that the developers have utilized in this project.
Here, as at Maupiti, I have to limit my criticism to the lack of items and people that could really bring life to this otherwise gorgeous aerodrome.
Upon departing the airport, we are ready to tour the island that bears the nicknames “Pearl of the Pacific” and “the Romantic Island”. Here, we need to look at the results of the developer’s work on the mesh, textures, any special features, and any thing else that impacts the overall atmosphere of this well-known island.
Helicopter pilots will be pleased to find five different operations sites at Bora Bora. Four of them are located at resort sites on Motu Piti A’Au and the fifth is on the island at the Tahiti Nui Helicopters Pago dropzone. Flying around to locate the helipads gives us a good view of everything the island has to offer. Considering what we’ve seen so far, and what we see on Bora Bora, it begins to appear that the developers’ intent is to provide a scenery package that creates a flight experience rather than one modelling minute details. Their creation seems to focus on featuring an accurate atmosphere that provides for some fun, rather than getting hung up on modelling specific items that vanish with altitude and airspeed.
Departing the airport and heading to the southeast will take us to the first helipad located at the Four Seasons Resort. Arriving here at sunset, we can clearly see the work that went into creating the textures for the island. Shadows deepen to reveal the intricacies of the rocky area around the pad and create a deepening darkness within the forest. The water maintains its turquoise hue and area roads display varying textures.
The next stop is the helipad at the St. Regis. This one is also on the beach where sand meets coral and stone, and boundaries are brilliantly uneven. In one small area we can see a transition from water to coral to sand to brush, to road, to a retaining wall and then the grass the resort sits upon. Color shading makes this area come alive. This is also a great area to look back towards the airport and see the renowned lagoon cottages strung out into the water. When the sun slides beneath the horizon, the individual cottage lights create a string of halos along the surface of the water.
Moving on to the Le Meridien, we can see the sun heading low in the west causing the trees to cast long shadows over the beach and onto the water. The light interacts with the roofs of the resort’s main buildings displaying the developers’ consistent use of quality texture work down to the smallest objects. Lagoon cottages and an accurately modelled dock complete the area.
The last helipad on the Motu is located at the InterContinental. Here too, the pad is located on the beach. On display here is more fine examples of the work put into the coatlines along the ocean as well as along small inlets.
Moving to the main island, we stop at the Pango dropzone where Mt. Pahia and Mt. Otemanu present their iconic silhouettes and dwarfing everything around them. The Pango dropzone, like the four areas we have already seen, features detailed development since activity at the pad will place the pilot close to the scenery. Here you can see the items used around the houses throughout the islands that add to the atmosphere: fences and walls, storage units, carports, and what appears to be covered fruit stands. The details are not overlooked in the Bora Bora neighborhoods.
So, we have seen that the texture work, the sand, stone, and greenery are all detailed, exquisite, and true to the South Pacific. Gaining some altitude above the lagoon allows us to see the incredible work done with the water coloration and shading that rivals the best orthophotos I have seen. Okay, what about the mesh? If you go back through the sites we visited, you will see countless examples of how detailed the mesh structure is. You can see the small changes in elevation, the inlets and coastlines rendered in detail, and the formidable rocky and creviced faces of the volcanic mountains brought to life. The motus are so accurate that I was able to match my location to satellite imagery. Airport elevations, as reported by my altimeter, match the published numbers.
Information culled from the official Islands of Tahiti web site tells a story of a small island that is accessible by boat, helicopter, or seaplane. There is no airport here, only a helipad located at the Le Taha’a Island resort. This resort, along with Vahine Island Resort are labelled on the web site as two of the finest in French Polynesia. Each is located on its own motu so there is still no land connection to the main island.
Vahine does not feature a helipad. What sets Taha’a apart from other islands is the vanilla plantations. Taha’a produces more than 70% of the total vanilla produced in the French Polynesian islands. Since there is no airport here, we can spend a little more time examining the surrounding area so I thought this would be a good time to get in close to the modelling work that we’ve seen from a distance and find out why it makes such an impression from the air.
Taha’a is a very good representative of the remaining islands with respect to the mesh construction. The undulating coastlines with their many inlets and harbors are all captured. The lush forest rolls with the ups and downs of the side of mount Ohiri. Around the island, the smallest motu is accounted for.
French Polynesia is a land celebrated for its surrounding waters as much as for anything land bound. Sandy beaches, warm sun, and aquamarine water are so iconic that any representation of these islands that did not include these would be found wanting. They have all been mentioned previously. Here is a close-up of them. I continue to be amazed by the presence of foamy water on, and coral reefs beneath, the accurately shaded water. I personally find this version of coastal water more atmospheric than orthophotos.
By now, you are probably tired of hearing me describe the texture work that abounds throughout this project. Have a look at these screenshots and you can see why it has so captured my attention.
Everything here both takes and casts shadow if you have the objects cast shadows option selected on the X-Plane graphics settings screen. Nothing is baked in so it all changes with the lighting conditions from being practically washed out in the bright noonday sun to creating a landscape with incredible depth in indirect lighting.
Our next stop is considered the Homeland of ancient Polynesia and recognized as “the most sacred island in the region.”
From here, the ancient Polynesians traveled throughout the Pacific landing in current day Hawaii and New Zealand, among others.
Raiatea is the largest of the islands we are looking at and the second largest of the Society Islands surpassed only by Tahiti. The principal township of Uturoa is the administrative centre of the Iles Sous le Vent.
Raiatea is a single runway aerodrome. The runway numbers 07 and 25 and is 4593 feet in length with a width of 98 feet. According to the current chart, lighting is limited to RL and PAPI-L 3° lights. Curiously, Google Earth shows a runway and apron that appear dark and newly paved as is modelled for us here, while the chart notation warns pilots of a heavily degraded pavement with loose gravel. We will not need to worry about that as is obvious from the excellent condition of the runway and apron we have before us. Markings are clear and accurate. Here, as in Bora Bora, if you have the SAM plugin, you will be greeted by Air Marshalls as you taxi into your assigned spot. There are three apron starts, two helicopter starts and two starts in front of the Aeroclub hangar. While the runway is shorter than NTTB, the number of buildings that comprise the airport is greater.
There is the main terminal with two attached buildings, one of which is a café. If you think the bunting says Coca-Cola, look again. Details again abound right down to the cracks in the exterior wall of the terminal. The front section of the terminal and the two attached buildings feature a modelled interior. These are the first buildings we have seen where this has been done and it has been done well. Where this airport is located on the main island, it does have a parking lot with vehicles that seem appropriate to the island.
Additional buildings on the terminal side of the runway include a hangar with mobile office type buildings next to it. Further away is the open and closed hangar buildings occupied by the aeroclub. The hangar is available for your use since there is nothing in it. The two flight starting points are directly in front of it.
Across the runway is the tower and its surrounding buildings. Here, like every other airport we have seen so far, the buildings are unique to the aerodrome in terms of building style. Once again, we are treated to an artful treatment of ground textures and texture transitions. That grass almost looks like it has lawnmower tracks in it.
As much as the same accolades get repeated time and again for each modelled area we look at, the same criticism needs to be repeated. The addition of apron objects, a light aircraft near the aeroclub, and people engaging in different activities around the area would remove the stagnant feel that pervades as soon as the Air Marshall vanishes. Being a floatplane pilot, I would appreciate a seaplane start located at the dock in the canal with passengers waiting to board. It is an interesting spot to test your water landing skills as long as the blue light on the sign is not flashing.
Raiatea is home to Taputapuatea, a marae complex on the UNESCO world heritage sites list. The ceremonial site of Tainuu is located on the northwest coast where imposing coral rock slabs and petroglyphs are preserved. These, or any other landmark on Raiatea, are not represented in this package. The focus clearly remains on creating an atmosphere and environment that is true to the characteristics of the area rather than losing focus on the overall effect by concentrating on too many individual things.
So, when I fly over Raiatea, I find myself lost staring into verdant jungles that provide more interest as they mingle with the rock faces and crevices of the mountains. Raiatea is certainly the most mountainous of the islands we’ve visited with the tallest peak of Toomaru reaching to 3,340 feet. It is not surprising that an aviator’s interest in an area known for archaeological, religious, and political significance is the major geographical features beneath him or her. Raiatea certainly has that with its valleys and gorges, separated by narrow and rocky ridges, sloping steeply out to the sea.
Given that, our interest for the purposes of evaluating this scenery is going to focus heavily on the mesh construction of this island along with the textures and greenery that create those lush jungles and define those valleys and gorges. Since these features are best seen from the air, we will depart from the airport using runway 07, and take a clockwise trip around the perimeter.
Once in the air, we pass by Uturoa which is represented by a cluster of buildings nestled along the coast. The marina juts out into the lagoon just to the south. This is the only location where I have found the coastline to be a little bit off since the marina has an inner section that is missing here and is replaced by the grass section with the road on it. You will not find specific buildings within the administrative center, but you really can’t see them that closely since it is right at the end of the runway where you are busy departing or arriving and the thematic buildings in use continue to create the Polynesian atmosphere.
Continuing in a southerly direction, we fly past amazing, nearly shear, rocky buttresses with tenacious forests growing where they can which is in more places than not. The peaks and valleys are an extremely close match to various photographs of the range. This island is a testimony to the skills of the mesh and texture creator. A very unified and seamless presentation of the jungles is created with the use of the underlying textures that serve as the perfect layer of undergrowth.
The continued trip around the island continues to reveal more of the same work where motus, valleys, inlets, harbors, and peaks are all meticulously captured and represented. The Fa’aroa river heads inland from Fa’aroa Bay on the eastern side of the island. If you are a float plane or helicopter pilot and want a challenge you likely would not do in the real world, see if you can navigate this twisty concourse of water that is the only navigable river in French Polynesia. Archaeologists believe the ancient Polynesians came down this waterway to begin their exploration and expansion throughout the area.
There is, unfortunately, one disappointment here that really stands out and that is the choice the developers made to use the native X-Plane structures for creating the marinas and docks. The textures are poor in comparison to the details and clarity of their own textures, and they fail to contribute to the Polynesian environment and even detract from it. The structures are facades which, even though skillfully employed, are one of the least controllable constructs in the X-Plane building arsenal resulting in the misshapen and clunky structures we see here.
I noted this on Maupiti but here, on Raiatea, it seems to stand out more noticeably particularly since there is one at either end of the runway that are unavoidable on departure or approach. If the developers ever choose to revisit this scenery, I hope they replace these with their own creations. We have certainly seen the quality of what could be used here when we got close to the boardwalks connecting the resort huts.
So, that is Raitea. We now head to the last of the islands introduced to the X-Plane universe by this scenery package.
The Garden Island
“The island equivalent to the Garden of Eden, Huahine is an immense tropical jungle thriving with coconut plantations, vanilla orchids, banana groves, breadfruit trees and watermelon fields. Beyond its lush landscapes and bright blooms, Huahine is also a culturally preserved sanctuary with sacred temples hidden throughout dense vegetation.”
Huahine-Fare airport features a single runway labelled 07/25. It, like all the other airports we have visited, lies on a coastal location with an official elevation of fourteen feet. The airport chart warns of heavy turbulence or windshear on final.
The runway measures 4954 feet in length making it the longest of the five in this scenery package, and 98 feet in width. Runway 07 features RL, REIL, and PAPI-L 3° lighting. Runway 25 features the same lighting. The airport infrastructure consists of a terminal building and a tower building. VOR and NDB signals are co-located within the perimeter. Just outside the gate is a storage shed and a single home a short distance off runway 07. The runway and apron are of the same dark asphalt that we have become accustomed to on the other islands. Again, markings are consistently clear and accurate.
Since this is the last airport and everything that can be said about the quality of work has already been said, I thought I’d take a look at this airport after dark. The screenshots below will show you the way the incredible texture work seen throughout this package reacts to low light conditions. Light from the fixtures around the airport travels accurately according to directional aim and reacts with surfaces as one would expect.
The areas effected by the lighting appear to be the proper size for the light in question. The control tower is exemplary of the accurate interaction of materials with lights. This, as with everything else, is consistent throughout all the highly detailed modelled areas.
Huahine is two islands joined over a sandbar by a bridge that the developers did model for this package. The lagoon and reef features around the islands is fairly complex and that is accurately presented if you compare the work here with the view of the island shown on Google maps. Once again, the coastlines and motu details present with a high degree of accuracy.
This comment is made on the Tahiti.com website: “The name Huahine, a variation of the Tahitian word vahine (woman), presumably refers to a mountain ridge resembling the outline of a pregnant woman—a symbol of the island’s irrefutable fertility.” If you look carefully at this screenshot, you can see that ridge which reflects the continued precision of the mesh work that is the foundation of these islands.
Another feature that I have not previously focused on is the variation of foliage employed throughout the package. I cannot attest to the accuracy of the foliage placement, but I can say the use of trees to reflect the presence of groves provides the needed ambiance of an area dependent upon various indigenous produce.
With that, we bid farewell to Huahine and the “Islands Under the Wind” and now attempt to bring it all together.
Society Islands XP, Bora Bora and the Iles Sous le Vent (Leeward Islands) may only have the land area equivalent to approximately 4,158 square miles but presents as a complex scenery package. This is a result of the many and varied mountainous islands and atolls with their many coastlines, motus, reefs, and lagoons. The presence of five different aerodromes, multiple helicopter pads, and a few seaplane docks all add to the complexity and variety of this package.
The five airports may be within the same geographical region, yet they present with a variety of architectural styles. Each airport is rendered in exquisite detail that results in an enjoyable mosaic of locations for the island-hopping pilot. We have seen these destinations rendered with accurate modelling and the application of skillfully created textures. The texture work extends to the geography and provides coverage fitting of the quality work invested in the rendering of the terrain mesh. The landscaping done with that mesh has created accurate coastlines, valleys, hills, and mountains. It is also responsible for the appearance of small motus that do not appear in the default scenery.
After spending many hours in these islands, I have found only the two things, previously mentioned, that could be considered for further work if the developers revisit this project. The first is adding in a few accoutrements that could help create an enhanced immersion level at the airports by making them feel a bit less static. The second item that would be nice to see changed are the docks and marinas where default X-Plane façade constructs are used. These façades, while a pleasant addition for the use in gateway airports, lack the intricacy and ability to enhance the environment as does every other structure created by the developers.
The final question
So, does this scenery package deserve a place in your X-Plane universe? That question is not as easily answered for the Society Islands as it may be for other scenery efforts. My rationale for that statement is not based on the quality of work presented for your use in your flying adventures. Rather, it rises from the overall concept of the Society Islands package.
The developers have used an approach that is not often seen in the current offerings for scenery packages. They have quite deliberately eschewed the pervasiveness of orthoimagery in favor of original ground textures for these islands. Make no mistake, these textures are very detailed, true to the environment, and have the advantage over orthoimagery of the absence of baked in shadows. Unlike orthoimagery, these textures reveal more the closer you get rather than becoming indistinguishable blurs. There is nothing wanting here unless you are the type of pilot that highly favors the more “real world” presentation of imagery that ends when you fly below three-thousand feet.
Along those same lines, there are no modelled landmarks, notable buildings within the towns, or other unique structures save for the amazing work done on the lagoon resort huts. The focus, instead, seems to be on creating a complete environment that enhances the experience and fun of an island-hopping pilot flying at lower altitudes at the slower speed of island life or the seaplane pilot thirsting for new and exciting places to practice their skills.
These islands also lend themselves quite well to bouncing around hills and dales in a spirited helicopter. Hop in a light helicopter with a clear view of the ground like a Robinson or MD500 style craft and buzz the beaches at low levels while the surf flows beneath your feet. I can tell you there are not many coastlines in the X-Plane world that will make you feel this “up close and personal”. You will be too busy flying to notice the absence of any one object.
So, the answer to the final question is yes, these islands deserve a place in your scenery collection if you are about the island lifestyle, atmosphere, coastlines, and sparkling waters. They belong in your world if you are a fan of high quality, world enhancing textures. They belong if you enjoy watching the world in which you fly take on a new ambiance with every change of the light. Ultimately, Society Islands, Bora Bora and the Leeward Islands is a brilliantly executed artistic vision of a unique area on the globe that is a “don’t miss” if you do not object to the stylistic decision to omit orthoimagery.
Until next time, cheers and blue skies.
|Add-on:||Payware Aerosoft Society Islands Bora Bora / Iles Sous le Vent|
|Publisher | Developer:||Aerosoft / X-Plane.Org | Maps2XPlane|
|Description:||Realistic rendition of the Society Islands|
|Software Source / Size:||Download / Approximately 8.36GB (unzipped)|
|Reviewed by:||Paul Beckwith|
|Published:||March 26th 2022|
|Hardware specifications:||- Ryzen 9 5950X CPU @ 3.40GHz
- 64 GB DDR4 3200MHz RAM
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 10 GB GDDR6X
- CH Products Fighterstick
- Dual Saitek Throttle Quadrants
- CH Products Pedals
|Software specifications:||- Windows 11
- X-Plane 11.55 (64 Bit)