Spanish Orbx Adventure -Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of islands in Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The four largest islands are Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera. Many minor islands and islets are close to the larger islands, including Cabrera, Dragonera, and S’Espalmador. The islands have a Mediterranean climate, and the four major islands are all popular tourist destinations. Ibiza, in particular, is known as an international party destination, attracting many of the world’s most popular DJs to its nightclubs.
The islands culture and cuisine are similar to those of the rest of Spain, but have their own distinctive features. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain, with Palma de Mallorca as the capital. The 2007 Statute of Autonomy declares the Balearic Islands as one nationality of Spain. The co-official languages in the Balearic Islands are Catalan and Spanish. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Check out this …. all background information about the modeled Balearic Islands. As you can read for yourself, it’s not only ortho textures that makes this package unique. It’s a bit more. According to Orbx:
- Crisp and highly detailed 60cm/px aerial imagery
- Hand-edited texturing with colour corrections
- Over 150 POIs covering major hotels, attractions, historical buildings across all the Islands
- Accurate Spanish themed autogen
- Highly detailed mesh created from 5M LiDAR data
- Beautiful accurate vegetation matching colour, type and height
- Additional helipads on all islands
- A fantastic destination for all types of pilots
What to Expect?
Orbx TrueEarth and Third Party Airports
Although it’s a short introduction, now that we know this, what can we expect from the islands and it’s airports. I could copy and paste the official sales text from Orbx, but that’s too easy, so let me use my own words. When you decide to buy TrueEarth EU Balearic Islands you get a bit more then expected. That is a bunch of Spanish islands ortho textures, hand-edited modified and colour corrected to fit perfectly on top of the individual X-Plane islands. The overall package – installed roughly 25 GB – are textures that are crispy and highly detailed 60cm/pixel aerial imagery.
As with other Orbx TrueEarth packages, there is no modeled airport included. So what or which airports can be found at these islands? The following international airports are Palma de Mallorca airport, Menorca Airport, and finally Ibiza Airport. Payware airports for Mallorca is modeled by JustSim while PilotPlus modeled Ibiza Airport. For the airport on the island Menorca I found a payware at SimMarket (https://secure.simmarket.com/menorcaxp-menorca-airport-lemh-lesl-x-plane-11.phtml) and a freeware modeled airport by X-Plane.Org user Chris.1008.
There’s however a problem when it comes to ortho textures that are included in the JustSim and PilotPlus airport packages versus the ortho tiles and mesh from TrueEarth EU Balearic Islands. I don’t want to go too deep into this, but you can check it out at the dedicated Orbx forum.
I decided to contact Tony Wroblewski from Orbx how and what it is with add-on airports in combination with TrueEarth EU Balearic Islands. According to Tony “There are no airports included with the Balearics apart from some default ones I fixed to align better. Most of the payware airports like the one from JustSim and Pilot Plus include their own orthos and meshes covering the island which needs to be completely disabled/removed for them to work. Some developers are working on patches/fixes and others sadly don’t care. Since they include their own meshes, users need to remove these before it’ll work (something like xOrganiser makes this easier). I’ve had more luck getting developers fixing/patching their airports for the Canaries as I have with the Balearics.”
Installation and Documentation
The installation is easy, and it won’t cost you this time a lot of time nor disc space compared to other TrueEarth products like the EU Britain series, or the packages in the US. To start downloading and configuring Orbx products, you need Orbx Central (https://orbxdirect.com/central). For those who are new to Orbx products, Orbx Central is the portal to all your Orbx products. It’s not only a portal that allows you to buy and install your Orbx products, it also tracks any updates and if so, it installs them.
Although you can configure where you want to install your downloaded products, in most cases you would stored them under a folder named “libraries”. Ok, at first I was a bit confused since “libraries” means in X-Plane something different. In the beginning when I started using Orbx products for reviews, I had a lot of problems understanding this different logic, but now I’m used to it and it’s only a library folder for my stored Orbx products, so it had nothing to do with how and where it is copied and pasted in the X-Plane 11 “Custom Scenery” folder.
Important for all TrueEarth packages is that you’re able to point the installation to a different location and extract the contents to another disk then your X-Plane SSD or HDD. With the installed product at another location then your X-Plane 11 drive, it saves you a lot of space on your actual X-plane drive (folder). The only thing that it added in the Custom Scenery folder is a shortcut, alias or symbolic to the actual installed drive.
Back to the TrueEarth EU Balearic Islands package. Compared to other TrueEarth packages not including the Canary Islands, it is relatively small. The download zipped size is only 7GB while extracted it is approximately 24.5GB. After the installation process and being extracted, a short cut, alias or symbolic is placed in the X-Plane 11 Custom Scenery folder as well as in the scenery_pack.ini file which is consequently updated / modified and the old original scenery_pack.ini file copy is stored under a different name.
Curious as I am, I wanted to know if the Balearic package is HD or SD quality. According to Tony Wroblewski from Orbx “The Balearic Islands are actually UHD, at 60cm/pixels. HD TrueEarth regions are roughly 1m/pixel and SD TrueEarth regions are roughly 2m/pixel.”
The documentation. There’s a user manual, but it doesn’t offer a lot of important information like suggestions for the X-Plane 11 Rendering Settings except then how to deal with add-on airports and the island group involved. When you’re new to Orbx TrueEarth products you should read the following since it deals with the used or implemented road textures. From within your Orbx Central app you click “Configure” and within the new window you can set the way you want to see the roads. Default road textures is selected, but I found out that transparent road textures are much nicer then the default X-Plane roads although this is also a personal feeling.
Then you also have an option “Verify Files”. Normally there’s no need to use this, but when you have the idea that there’s something wrong with the installed files or with the reference in the scenery_pack.ini, you click the “Verify Files” and all files are checked. Depending on your PC or Mac, it can be quickly done or it takes a bit longer.
When the verification is done, the “Verify Files” is ticked green and although you don’t see that, the scenery_pack.ini file has been updated and as previously said, the original ini file has been renamed to scenery_packs.ini.backup-orbx. This is all what is needed to configure this TrueEarth package. Further on, no other package or X-Plane libraries is needed. In case you’re a bit familiar with X-Plane library packages, no OpenSceneryX is needed, no tree package is needed, also no X-Europe from SimHeaven is needed since all objects are repositioned according to the OpenStreet information and a lot of unique and dedicated objects – POIs (Points Of Interests) – are created by Orbx. And just in case you think “do I need mesh scenery packages? No, that’s also included.
TrueEarth Balearic Islands UHD Quality 60 cm/pixel
It’s just a sentence, but the impact of having 60 cm/pixel for all the Balearic islands is impressive, but what does it actually mean that UHD or 60 cm/pixel? For that I contacted Tony to explain that to me and to you.
According to Tony :
All the orthos are stored on texture sheets (tiles) that are 4096×4096 pixels resolution, so you can think of it like this:
- For 60cm/pixel (Balearic Islands), each texture sheet would be an area of approx 2.45km2. That’s quite high resolution. You can make out some small details like cars on the roads, etc. It uses quite a lot of space though.
- For 30cm/pixel, which you often get with payware airports, the area is approx 1.22km2. Some airports will even include 15cm/px where you’d see people on the orthos walking around.
- The TrueEarth HD regions are 1.2m/pixel, so an area of approximately 4.90km2. Still quite nice, and a good balance for giving detail.
- The TrueEarth SD regions are 2.4m/pixel, so an area of approximately 9.80km2. This is ok when flying above 2000ft or so, but quite blurry lower down. This gives a good balance in performance.
There is little point going higher than 60cm/pixel for a TrueEarth region, it would kill disk storage quickly and would add very little to the actual experience. Note that the above values aren’t quite exact and change slightly based on latitude.
Additional useful information can also found at the dedicated simHeaven web page.
And last but not least;
- ZL16 (Zoom Level) is 2.4m/pixel (TrueEarth SD),
- ZL17 is 1.2m/pixel (TrueEarth HD),
- ZL18 is 60cm/pixel (TrueEarth EU Balearic Islands).
What’s the Plan?
It’s not my first Orbx TrueEarth review so I should be able to find a way to cover these Balearic Islands, right?
That said, you and I can use this Spanish package for either VFR and IFR flights. Island hopping can be done as follows; I rent one of my favourite GA aircraft and fly from one place to the other or I only circle around Ibiza, Mallorca or Menorca. Flying with for example a Cessna 172 or 182 from one island to the other is in my humble opinion a bit too much and not such a good idea. At least a twin engine GA aircraft is needed when I want to fly from island to island or isn’t that a good idea?
Lets have a closer look to their distances from the Spanish mainland. From Valencia I could fly to the south along the coast and end up at Xabia which lies above Benidorm. From Xabia is I think it’s roughly 50 NM to the westpoint of Ibiza, so not that far to be honest. Then from the capital Ibiza to the Palma it’s also not more then 60-70 NM and finally, to reach Menorca it’s not more then 20 NM from Cala Ratjada (Mallorca) to Cala en Bosc (Menorca). Theoretically I could do it with a Cessna 172 or C182, but personally I prefer a twin engine, just in case I loose one engine then I still have another engine.
With that knowledge, I need to figure out which aircraft I will rent. Surprisingly I found at Palma de Mallorca a company the rent lots of different aircraft. I looked up for the small prop aircraft and guess what, I can rent a Beechcraft King Air, Diamond Twin Star, A Cessna 206, even a Cessna 182, the Tecnam P2006T, the Duchess 76 or even a Brittan Norman Islander and the list of rented prop aircraft is much longer, but I’ve made up my mind. I go for the Duchess 76 from Just Flight/Thranda Design. The aircraft has been updated as of this writing – February 2021 – to version 1.8.1. This also means that my TrueEarth EU Balearic Islands impressions starts at the airport of Palma de Mallorca.
I’m ready, you too?
Scenic Flight Mallorca
As said before, our first scenic flight begins from the airport Palma de Mallorca (LEPA). I could install additionally the JustSim package, but that comes with its own ortho textures and some object modeling around the airport. When you have both TrueEarth EU Balearic Islands and JustSim LEPA installed it looks like the screenshot below. The second screenshot shows you only Orbx TrueEarth Balearic.
I’m aware the above screenshots are taken from a high altitude, but you can clearly see the different JustSim ortho textures colouring in the vicinity of the airport versus the ones from Orbx. And yes, it’s always something since the modeled JustSim LEPA airport looks very nice, but I’m not happy with the ortho textures. And because of that, I’ve decided to leave the JustSim LEPA airport out of this scenic flight.
So what will I do, how will I fly, what landmarks will I take and see on my flight, and at what altitude will I fly? I’ve got so many questions, but I’ve got the answer for you and me. I’ve decided to fly at roughly 3000-4000 feet, depending if mountains are on my route. Using and finding landmarks isn’t really a problem. We’re dealing with high quality ortho textures and that means it’s easy to follow roads, to pinpoint villages, harbours, landmarks and so on.
That said, from Palma de Mallorca I fly in an Eastern direction towards the city Llucmajor by following the Ma-19. Then I hope I can find me way in the air to Campos, Felanitx to Manacor. Then following the Ma-15 to the far end. When I’m heading towards Alcudia bay to the city of Alcudia and perhaps we’ll have a quick look at Port de Pollenca. Finally, I return to LEPA by following the Ma-13 to Palma. With this scenic trip I should have a good idea how Mallorca looks like.
The Actual Mallorca Flight
To make it myself a bit easier, I’ve decided to create with Little Navmap a flight plan. You won’t find many NDB or VOR beacons nor that you’ll find waypoints except those near LEPA, but I can create my own waypoints in a way that I cover almost what I want to see of Mallorca. As I did before with other TrueEarth reviews, I flew the following stretch – see Little Navmap screenshot – and filmed it.
With the footage material I compiled a movie that should give you a very good impression of what I’ve seen and actually, how beautiful modeled Mallorca is. That Mallorca is beautiful is something I knew already, but what I didn’t know was how well the ortho textures are and the many many POIs (Point Of Interest) are included. Most of the cities I’ve seen from the sky are very well and nicely modeled. I’m sure that not every house as you see from 3400 feet is a perfect replica, but it gives the overall a gorgeous look and feel.
So, what makes this Mallorca scenery then so special, right?
The coastline is very nice and realistic including the shallow waters. The small villages along the East coast are so nice and although I’ve seen those from the sky, they look so realistic. By the way, I’m talking for example about the small villages of Capdepera, or Cala Lliteres. And yes, there are of course many cosy villages that can be found around the coast, and because of that, I made a movie that shows you all the ins and outs.
I know that Orbx TrueEarth packages are either available in SD or HD quality. That’s what I explained before and with the help of Tony. What I didn’t know is that the Balearic Islands are all at UHD quality and I must admit, you can see that. Even from my cruising height of 3400 feet, and looking down to Mother Earth, all ortho textures are all razor sharp and that’s such a pleasure to see. But it’s not only the razor sharp textures that makes me very happy, it’s also all the objects that are included and what I mentioned before, all POIs objects like churches, cathedrals, shopping malls, harbours, museums and many more. Too much to be honest to mention them all.
As I started with, it’s gives you the ultimate VFR experience when you prefer to fly VFR, but it’s also great when approaching LEPA or LEIB (Ibiza Airport) and see how detailed and realistic everything looks.
And, did you like it? And did I cover everything during this flight and did I see all the POIs? For sure I missed several POIs on this flight, in particular the POIs modelled for the capital Palma. On the other hand, this flight impression of Mallorca should give you a good idea how this Balearic Island is covered with ortho textures and how much effort it put into it to make it as real as possible.
And believe me, and even if you don’t believe me then you’ve seen it with your own eyes in the video, it’s gorgeous, not only because the ortho textures are of a 60cm/pixel UHD quality. As many times mentioned by Tony “a lot of work goes into the colour correction of the different tiles” and not to forget adding the countless POIs.
Overall, an awesome flight experience. Up to the second and last flight impression that covers the islands Ibiza, passing the west coast of Mallorca and finally, Menorca.
Scenic Flight Ibiza and Menorca
The planned flight is roughly 200 NM, and I’ll fly during this trip at an altitude of approximately 3300 feet. The departure will be from Ibiza Airport, and again I use for this scenic flight the Just flight / Thranda Design Duchess 76 and although Ibiza and Menorca are much smaller then Mallorca, there’s still a lot to see. Anyway, on the following screenshots you get an idea how the planned flight will be. I created a flight plan using own waypoints in a way that I cover most important parts of the islands.
You can also see that after I’ve seen Ibiza, I fly via the west coast of Mallorca to Menorca. That I did it this way is because I didn’t really cover this area during my Mallorca flight impressions. While passing the west coastline of Mallorca, I fly straight to Menorca, the smallest island of the Balearic Islands. At the end of this, I land at LEMH Menorca Airport. And while checking this out, I missed one island ….. Formentera. It’s very small and I lies south of Ibiza. How could I ever forget that?
The Actual Flight
I can tell you already that I’m happy I included the west coast of Mallorca during this trip. I knew is was beautiful, I knew it was well modeled and re-coloured if needed, but it was more then just beautiful, but more about that later. I’ll offer you again as I did with other TrueEarth reviews, my compiled flight impressions movie.
Although each of the above maps offer you the planned flight plan or route to follow, at the end I didn’t use the route as initially planned. That said, I took of from Ibiza Airport (Aeroport d’Eivissa) runway 06 heading for the beach, but I quickly make a right-hand run over the southern peninsula, and then in a more or less straight line to Isla de es Vedrà, then north to Sant Antoni de Portmany. With some heading changes included to see more interesting parts of the island, I follow the coast line and then, by following a boring stretch, the Balearic Sea between Ibiza and Mallorca.
But what did I see and how did it look like versus for example real photos? Google Maps or Google Earth photos aren’t always the best source for brilliant and realistic images. Perhaps Bing Maps from Microsoft. Checking my actual flight position and thus the scenery I see that Bing gives me a better comparison and tells me that the modeled Orbx TrueEarth Balearic Islands is just awesome. Does that surprise you? It didn’t surprise me at all!
As with other TrueEarth products, it’s not only the ortho textures (for the Balearic Islands an even impressive 60cm/pixel quality) that are well prepared for X-Plane, or that are corrected for colour mismatches, or the included overlays and what more is needed, but it’s also the mesh (scenery) that is included an when that’s not enough, all the objects and POIs that are part of the package.
I didn’t mention this before, but I’m surprised with all the autogen objects that I see like the many houses, offices, industrial areas, remote villages, lots of trees which are most likely specially modeled for these islands, that the frame rates are acceptable. Find below my rendering settings of macOS Big Sur X-Plane 11.51r1, set to a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 (and thus not native to 2560 x 1440).
What makes it then so special to me?
Not all those objects although it completes it all. No, to me it’s for example how the coastlines are. Is that clear for you? No, that’s not! Oops, an additional explanation is needed. All these islands have high or low cliffs and due to the sandy beaches, or shallow waters, the typical light blue green colour. Ok, I agree with you that this is mainly because of the ortho textures, but they mostly need to be corrected to blend perfectly with the X-Plane water. That said, with the Balearic Islands you find many many coastlines and therefore, many of those beautiful beaches and cliffs. This is typical for the north coast of Ibiza, but also for the west coast of Mallorca and not to forget the northern coastline of Menorca.
So, this is it?
No, this is not the end, right? You’re correct and I need to correct myself too namely, the promised Youtube movie.
Ok, I may have forgotten to fly over Formentera, but what I’ve seen from the other two islands as well as the west coast of Mallorca, compensates the missing Formentera impression. Keep in mind, the package doesn’t cost much. Right, for me it roughly 20.00 Euro and yes, you would say, but no airport is included except the default X-Plane airports, but still, what is 20.00 Euro? In my humble opinion not much since the islands are covered with all what you would like to see/have, perhaps for your VFR and IFR flights, and a perfect location to fly to other EU destinations. Perhaps another interesting destination is flying from Ibiza or Palma de Mallorca to the Canary Islands, is that an idea?
What else can I add in this summary section?
That I included in this review two movies says enough, right? I didn’t know what to expect although I knew the overall quality of TrueEarth products, but when Tony informed me that the Balearic Islands are not SD nor HD quality, but UHD quality (60 cm/pixel), I was even more interested in finding it out. When I first started exploring Mallorca I was blown away. What I mentioned before, it’s not only the quality of the ortho textures. Don’t get me wrong, a 60 cm/pixel ground texture quality is high, very high to be honest and then when it covers a large area. We do see much higher texture qualities as was already explained by Tony, but that’s mostly at an airport or parts of an airport, but not large areas like we see with the Balearic Islands.
And did I find “weird” things?
Although I took enough time to review the Balearics, I did find at least one issue and that was an issue with the road signs near the city of Palma. The highway signs had German cities on it which I think is not correct ince it should be Spanish cities. I informed Tony about this so hopefully this and perhaps other issues I haven’t seen, are solved with a future update.
Add to this the price – as of this writing roughly 27.00 USD or 20.00 Euro – which is in my humble opinion representing the perfect price/quality offer. Ok, it doesn’t come with any airports however, Tony Wroblewski did mention that the default X-Plane airports are corrected to fit within the Orbx TrueEarth Balearic world.
More Orbx TrueEarth EU Balearic Islands information can be found at the dedicated Orbx store page. I think it makes sense, but just in case; this scenery product is for X-Plane 11 only. What I only hope is that scenery developers Pilot Plus (Aeroport d’Eivissa or Ibiza Airport) and JustSim (Aeroport de Mallorca) modify their airports for use with the Balearic Islands. As Tony mentioned earlier in this review that both airports aren’t compatible with this Orbx TrueEarth package because they include both their own ortho textures and own mesh scenery which should be both disabled to have it well working together with Orbx TrueEarth EU Balearic Islands. If this happens, who knows.
A big thank you for both Tony for his inputs and of course Orbx for this awesome product. And last but not least, I hope you like the review, especially the included scenic flights I made for this review while exploring the Balearic Islands.
Angelique van Campen
|Add-on:||Payware Orbx TrueEarth EU Balearic Islands|
|Publisher | Developer:||Orbx | Orbx|
|Description:||Realistic rendition of the Balearic Islands|
|Software Source / Size:||Download / Approximately 25GB (unzipped)|
|Reviewed by:||Angelique van Campen|
|Published:||February 10th 2021|
|Hardware specifications:||- iMac Pro|
|- Intel 3GHz Intel Xeon W / 4.5Ghz|
|- Radeon Pro Vega 64 16368 MB|
|- 64 GB 2666 MHz DDR4|
|- 1 internal shared 1TB SSD (Big Sur 11.x)|
|- 1 internal shared 1TB SSD (Bootcamp Windows 10)|
|- 1 external 2TB LaCie Rugged Pro SSD (Big Sur 11.x)|
|- Saitek Pro Flight System X-52 Pro and X-56 Rhino|
|- Honeycomb Alpha Flight Controls and Bravo Throttle Quadrant|
|Software specifications:||- Big Sur (10.15.x)|
|- X-Plane 11.5x|