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Orbx Sunshine State

Introduction

For those who aren’t familiar with the Sunshine State, we’re dealing with the US state Florida. And that’s where this review is all about ….. Orbx TrueEarth US Florida.

And as I also wrote during my TrueEarth Great Britain South review, you could check out or you could do the trick with free ortho packages that are either available via Zones Photo or via X-Plane.Org however, I check a couple of those packages versus what Orbx US Florida offers, and can tell you that none of these freeware packages can compete with the Orbx TrueEarth US Florida. It’s only a matter if you want to pay for the Orbx package?

In this review I will try to explain again – I did this also in my TrueEarth Britain North review – why the Orbx TrueEarth US Florida is a better choice when you love to fly in the Sunshine State since it’s not just the quality of the ortho tiles, it’s a bit more that is else missing like for instance the awesome modeled Disney Resort and parks. Anyway,. more about that later.

As in did in the TrueEarth Britain North review showing you a comparison screenshot between the default X-Plane 11 landscape versus that of the Orbx, I won’t do that in this review since the difference is huge and then in particular the coastlines, the Everglades National Park, the Florida Keys and the many beautiful objects like before mentioned Disney World near Kissimmee.

Ok, lets first have a look what Orbx has to say about their US Florida product.Hold on, let me show you what Orbx says about this product.

According to Orbx “The sun beats down on the state of Florida all year giving it its common name of the Sunshine State. Over 170,304 Sq. Km (65,754 Sq. Miles) of stunning, highly detailed orthoimagery has been included. Stretching from the very north of Florida, right down to the ‘Keys. From Spring Break party paradise Panama City to thrill-ride central, Orlando. The innovative technology within TrueEarth means that millions of accurately placed trees and vegetation all fit with the tropical ecosystem of Florida’s climate.”

“Some highlights from this hot destination include the coastal city of Tampa. Perhaps you want to embark on some island hopping fun, then the Florida Keys offer the perfect tropical getaway. Detail and attention have gone into providing detailed watermasking effects to blend in the high-quality aerial imagery with X-Plane 11’s water. With the power of the Orbx TrueEarth technology, this is Florida like you’ve never seen it before!”

“TrueEarth Florida is our most advanced TE region yet, and we are introducing new TrueColour technology to perfectly match the colours of every house roof in the entire state, and all vegetation. This provides for a much more realistic and cohesive experience like never before with everything having a much more “bedded in” look and the vegetation blending in far more naturally.”

I think it’s time to move on and see how easy it is to install and to use it, right? No, not yet right. First I would like to highlight the requirements. First of all, the Orbx TrueEarth US Florida is compatible with X-Plane 11.35+, and works with Windows 7+, macOS and Linux. To run this package on your Mac or PC, you need the following minimum hardware:

– 16 GB of RAM
– GTX 1070 GPU or equivalent
– X-Plane 11 v11.35+
– 225GB of free space
– i7 CPU or higher

Orbx TrueEarth US Florida HD, yes, I’ve chosen for the HD package, is tested on my iMac Pro and must say that I’m happily surprised with the frame rates. As of this writing, we still need to do some tricks with Catalina and X-Plane 11 when it comes to mac.xpl or other related files. Before starting with the installation section, first some words about what or which package you should buy.

The US Florida comes in two flavours; a HD (High Definition) and SD (Standard Definition) package. The HD package cost roughly 45.00 USD or 39,99 Euros while the SD is only 38.00 USD or 29,50 Euro. It’s not really the price difference that makes it complicated to choose from, it’s more the disk space that’s required. The HD package needs roughly 133GB of disk space (download size approximately 43GB) and 200GB free space before install while the SD doesn’t need so much. Actually the SD needs roughly 42GB of disk space (download size approximately 29GB) and 70GB free space before install. So yes, the HD needs much more space to download and to unpack.

You could ask yourself if such an Orbx US Florida package is expensive or not, in particular when you compare it with e.g. “a” Great Britain package. That’s always a discussion and perhaps even useless. Yes, it’a a lto of money but what you get is awesome, at least, that’s how I feel it and see it when flying over the Sunshine State. Florida is big, perhaps not the largest US state there is, but I can tell you is compared to Britain small and yes, the Netherlands where I live is even smaller.

Anyway, TrueEarth Great Britain is divided into 3 sections – North, Central and South – while Florida is only one section so one package, and worth to highlight that all US States (as of this writing March 2020 – US Northern California, Oregon and Washington) are coming in SD and HD quality. I think Florida is fairly prices versus the Great Britain packages.

Installation, and then, for sure Fun!

The installation is easy, it will cost you a lot of time, and a lot of SSD/HDD space, whatever is applicable to you. Just to give you an idea about my configuration. As previously said, I own an iMac Pro with a 1TB internal flash drive. Connected to this I have a brand new LaCie Thunderbolt 3 Pro 2TB flash drive which is perfect when it comes to my different X-Plane packages. Yes, I run one X-Plane configuration from my internal drive and others from my external Thunderbolt 3. Then I have an LaCie 6Big of 36TB configured as RAID 5 so left 30TB.

Anyway, all what’s coming next is based on macOS Catalina (10.15.4), using X-Plane 11.41r1 and Orbx Central version 4.1.1 and last but not least, TrueEarth US Florida version 1.0.1.

Being able to download and configure Orbx products, you need Orbx Central (https://orbxdirect.com/central). It’s a kind of portal to all your Orbx products. It’s not only a portal that allows you to buy and install your Orbx products. No, it also tracks any updates and if so, it installs the updates provided you’ve ticked/activated this option. Further on, Orbx Central allows you to control where to install your Orbx products.

By the way, all products are stored under a folder named “libraries”. Still I say a bit odd and different then we’re used to. Libraries are dedicated folders with non airports or sceneries installed while in the case with Orbx librairies, this contains everything that has to do with Orbx X-Plane products, whatever that is. In other words, the Orbx library folder is the place where you store your downloaded airports, sceneries, but also the Orbx libraries and SAM.

I hope you can still follow me?

Back to the US Florida package. Important for the TrueEarth package, you’re able to point the installation and extraction to another disk then your X-Plane SSD or HDD or your Fusion drive. With the US Florida package at another place then your X-Plane 11 drive, it saves you a lot of space and before you know, it’s full! Mostly an internal drive isn’t really big … 1TB or a bit more, but not 10TB for example. So when you install the downloaded and unpacked US Florida package on an external drive, you or in this case the Orbx installer adds in the Custom Scenery folder a shortcut or alias to the drive where the US Florida package is installed.

Back to TrueEarth US Florida HD package.
It is downloaded just over 43GB while extracted it is approximately 133GB. After the download process and being extracted which is automatically done for you, a short cut or alias is placed in the X-Plane 11 Custom Scenery folder as well as that the scenery_pack.ini file is updated or modified. Last but not least, the original scenery_pack.ini is renamed and stored.

What ‘s Next?
As far as I know, there’s no separate Orbx Central manual available. On the other hand, it’s also more or less straightforward. The same is applicable for the configuration after you’ve downloaded and extracted TrueEarth US Florida HD (or SD). Assume you’ve also decided to install the package at an external disk or at least another drive then your X-Plane drive, Orbx installs an alias/shortcut and modifies the scenery_pack.ini file. Further on, you can read the Orbx TrueEarth US Florida user guide.

When you click the link, your default browser opens the Acrobat document, but when you want, you can also download the manual.It gives in my humble opinion not so much information like the preferred rendering settings. This would be useful I think. Yes I know, it all depends on your iMac or PC thus the hardware specifications. I could imagine that Orbx would add in the future when the manual will be updated, to add minimum and recommended rendering settings.

There’s however one thing I would like to highlight; road textures.
This is explained at page 7. You can’t do this on the fly. This means, you should stop X-Plane, change to “Default road textures” or choose “Transparent road textures”, then click the Save Changes button and restart X-Plane. The following screenshots taken at the same latitude/longitude position, shows you “Default road textures” active and on the lower screenshot “Transparent road textures”. It’s a matter of taste, but my preference is going for the transparent road textures.

 

Although the screenshots should speak for themselves, the second one shows you the default X-Plane road textures while in the case with the last screenshot, all smaller road thus not all roads like highways, are now transparent road textures. It’s all a personal taste, but personally I prefer the transparent road texture option. It looks in my humble opinion more realistic.

What Orbx TrueEarth US Florida isn’t doing is modifying water textures or actually the waves and the clouds and/or shadows on the ground from objects. To solve this you add either lua scripts controlled via the FlyWithLua plugin or you need to install cloud and/or water textures products. It depends a bit if you’re a Windows simmers or a Mac simmer. Unfortunately, not all Windows environmental products are available for Mac, but there’s still enough to give your Mac or Linux X-Plane a great and realistic look.

While finishing the previous sections, I contacted Tony Wroblewski who’s the project manager of this product, to help me with a couple of questions. Let me highlight my questions and Tony’s answers.

Angelique's Question Tony's Answer
What is the actual difference between the US Florida HD and SD since I only downloaded the HD package so I can’t compare? Just the resolution where HD is 1.2m/pixel while SD is 2.4m/pixel and further on the SD package loads quicker and uses less disk-space but is blurrier at lower altitudes.
Is there a difference in FPS or overall performance when using/installed the HD or SD? Yes there is. The SD will generally be faster because of lower resolution textures but generally only on machines with less than 8GB of Video RAM and powerful systems won't see much of a performance difference.
Since there’s nothing written in the manual what is the best or preferred rendering settings in XP? Objects on max and textures on high and the highest AA setting your system is happy with where the biggest influence on quality of the scenery is the objects setting.
Same question as with Britain North. Are there any other libs or whatever needed or is this package all included? It's a standalone package.
Does it make/does it give a performance difference/hit if you have the US Florida package installed on a separate drive or installed in the XP package? Only in the case that X-Plane is installed on a mechanical drive and Florida is installed on an SSD. I highly recommend using an SSD for loading speeds.

Exploring the Sunshine State

But first ……
Although the following section is basically of the same contents as I highlighted in my previous TrueEarth Britain North review, I still think there’s a need to bring this to your attention, in particular for those who haven’t read my TrueEarth Britain North review.

Remarks … Summer … Altitude … haze (fog) or nothing
First, the provided ortho textures are only representing Summer textures which is also mentioned in the feature list, so nothing new, right? There are a couple of programs of which SimTiles is for me the best know that can modify Summer textures to Winter textures, but that’s it. For the other seasons I’m not aware that Summer textures can be modified.

Next item to discuss is the best view or altitude to fly above the Florida ortho ground. You need to fly at a certain altitude where the slightly blurry look of ortho textures in general diminish. That said, when you fly at 1000 feet, ortho textures aren’t sharp, but from somewhere between 2000 and 3000 feet and higher, it’s a pleasure to look down.

The last item I would like to highlight is the default X-Plane atmospheric look and feel. This could be the clouds, but also the haze. When you don’t like the cloud textures, many others can be found at the Internet, mainly at X-Plane.Org. Sometimes these replacement cloud bitmaps can with a lua file. If so, you also need FlyWithLua which you can get at e.g. X-Planed.Com. When you don’t like the haze or fog you can do the same and that’s seeking for other options.

One is the FlyWithLua based package from FlyAGI Tweak Utility which is also available and free to download from X-Plained.Com. I should also bring to your attention the X-Visibility lua script. It works as a standalone lua script, but it;s also perfectly integrated with FlyAGI Tweak Utility. And recently added to X-Plained, the lua script that allows you to change literally everything in X-plane is the lua script from X-Plane.Org user XPE573 called All In One.

But perhaps you’re using SkyMAXX Pro or any other Windows related environmental package. In most cases these programs also control the visibility and/or haze. In those cases check what’s possible or what’s not.

Screenshots or videos
Yes, when you’ve read our TrueEarth Britain North review, then this title should be familiar. It may be a different review, my thoughts are not changed. Actually, that review had several videos which where based on screenshots and this Florida review will be based on actual filmed impressions of the awesome Floridian landscape. Ready to go?

Exploring the Orbx Sunshine State

Where Scotland was and still is in my real life one of my favorite destinations Florida was my home for at least a month when I tried to get my FAA PPL which you know from several reviews that I succeeded in this. So Florida is amongst many attractions and National Parks as well as the Keys, a great place to be. That said, I decided to start this Florida adventure in Venice Municipal Airport (KVNC).

With the videos I have in mind I would like to highlight several interesting areas of Florida. No, this doesn’t mean I will see and show you every square meter/feet of Florida. But I can tell you that once you’ve seen and read this review, you will fell in love with TrueEarth Florida. I think it’s time to go, right? It’s time to explore Florida.

Florida Trip I | KVNC – KISM

For this first Floridian IFR trip I’ve decided to make a short flight plan – only 120 NM – with SkyVector. Once I’ve saved the flight plan in “fpl” format, I use X-Planetools.com to convert it to the well-known “fms” format.

 

A close-up view of the SkyVector IFR flight from Venice Municipal to Kissimmee Gateway. Since IFR charts are not easy to read or at least it’s difficulty to see where you are in respect to the ground, I added also the VFR equivalent.

As you can see in the section title, the plan is to depart from KVNC Venice Municipal Airport, climbing out to somewhere between 4000 and 5000 feet while following the flight plan with the build-in Garmin GNS equipment. On purpose I don’t fly too low and not too high. Too low would mean that the Orbx ortho ground textures could look to blurry and when flying too high, all the typical details are missing and making close-up shots of interesting objects won’t be seen. I use for this the “HD” package from Orbx to get the best of the best, but it could be that you have to switch back to SD quality in case your PC or Mac can’t handle it.

This and all other Floridian flights are made with the same idea as I did during my TrueEarth Britain North exploration. That is recording/making a video of each individual trip, but this time the video will be a combination of a couple of screenshots and footage material. This will give the movie a new and refreshing and overall Florida presentation of what I’ve seen, it will also include close-up details of special attractions or typical objects.

Just to highlight that a bit more; the TrueEarth US Florida package is not just ortho textures of the US state Florida. Although the ground ortho textures are very important to get the right feeling on how to explore Florida, it also all the additional objects to give it that “wow” factor. This or these objects can be seen and found for example in the first video .. Walt Disney World Resort. I think you’ll like it!

Anyway, flying to Kissimmee at or around 4500 feet means that the blurry look of ortho ground textures won’t be visible, but still from this altitude, you’ll have a great look of the Floridian landscape. I decide to takeoff from runway 24 heading for the Golf of Mexico, and then making a right-hand turn, climbing out to my cruising altitude and then connecting the Auto Pilot and following the flight plan with the build in Garmin unit. But I need to add something and still no idea why this is. The add-on airport I used for Venice Municipal airport is from NAPS team which is also available at X-Plained.Com (only for registered users). Besides that, when you select from X-Plane 11.41 KVNC you see runway 23. Oops, runway 23 while the SkyVector and AirNav maps shows me runway 24. The question is then … what’s correct?

Anyway, I didn’t use real weather conditions. I know, it would be much more realistic when I had chosen for real weather, but it could be that it’s cloudy, perhaps even precipitation and so on and that’s not what I want. I want to enjoy and see the awesome Orbx Florida landscape!

The video will show you without any colour corrections or other features the recorded landscape. I’m really impressed and yes, I do know Florida and I also know that the landscape I see below isn’t spectacular. There are no mountains, there are no beautiful lakes and so on. Instead, I see a beautiful beach, I see too many objects (Venice downtown), and I see gorgeous ground textures. From the cruising altitude it looks so great, that I never had the idea that Florida was so nice.

While following the flight plan, I see on the left first Sarasota which will definitively give a frame rate impact. Again, it’s not the ground textures that will cause a frame rate drop, no, it are all the objects that can be seen, of course, partly depending on your rendering settings. Before reaching Tampa Bay, I turn in a NNE direction, but before, I make some nice shots of the bridge that connects Sarasota to St. Petersburg. I can tell you, although it has been a long time ago, it’s awesome to see how this is modeled. Well done and it fits perfectly with the default X-Plane road. Yes, that brings me to something else.

In this first flight trip KVNC-KISM video I’ve decided to leave the default X-Plane road textures active. If you like these default X-Plane road textures is something you can judge yourself. Personally I prefer the transparent road textures, but I found it a good idea to record one video with these default X-Plane road textures active.

While the Grand Caravan EX is flying further, it gives me the time to check a bit in more detail the Northern bay of Tampa. Perhaps not all objects are from the Orbx package, some are and some are not. Those objects that are special like a power plant neat KTPF can be seen as added objects of great quality. In jump virtually back in my Grand Caravan while I’m heading for Disney.

I know, Disney World Florida is a prohibited area till and including 3000 feet. I think I’ve flow over the resort at or around 1000 feet. Yes, I know, it’s not allowed, but it gave me great look on how Disney World, Magic Kingdom and other parts are modeled. It has been a while ago I’ve been here so I’m not 100 percent sure if everything is exactly as in real but it looks great. Ok, one thing I’ve seen that is I think not 100 percent reality are the “countries” around World Showcase. I’ve seen building around the lake, but they aren’t the ones in real. Disappointed? Not at all! That would cost too much frame rates due to lal the tiny details and thus too many polygons for somebody who doesn’t fly that low over Disney.

Was it fun?
Yes, I had a lot of fun and I sincerely hope you like the following video too which is a great collection of static screenshots, but also a lot of footage during the flight and well balanced music.

Ready for the next East coast and Cape Canaveral stretch?

Florida Trip II | KISM – KTNT

Lets first start with – I know, it’s not a part of the Orbx TrueEarth Florida package – Kissimmee Gateway Airport which isn’t really modeled, so the default out-of-the-box KISM isn’t impressive, but I did found at the X-Plane.Com Scenery Gateway something that looks a bit better. It’s not exceptional, it doesn’t reflect the real KISM, but it’s a bit better then the out-of-the-box KISM. And, at X-Plane.Org, I also found a modeled KISM, but that one goes back to release date 2015, so I guess that was in tended to work with X-Plane 10. Unfortunately, Freddy De Pues from NAPS hasn’t modeled yet Kissimmee so we have to accept this “so so” Kissimmee.

I use for this trip again a flight plan that is made with SkyVector. When the flight plan is saved then the fpl file format has to be changed to a fms file which can be done with the help of XPlaneTools. In case you don’t understand why; I need to change the flight plan file to a default X-Plane fms file format because the aircraft I’m going to use uses fms file formats. And yes, as you know from my other reviews, I could also use Little NavMap to create a flight plan which can then be easily saved to the required X-Plane 11 fms format. The overall distance of this IFR trip including the “prohibited” fly-over over J.F. Kennedy Space Center or Cape Canaveral, will be roughly 265 to 270 NM.

That I included J.F. Kennedy Space Center is because almost everything is modeled which is not the case with the default X-Plane scenery. In the good old days, before 911, I learned from my flight instructor while busy with my PPL lessons that a “touch and go” was allowed at the main runway at the KSC Shuttle Landing Facility. What said, this was allowed when there where no space shuttle activity else the whole Merritt Island was prohibited according to a released NOTAM. These days, J.F. Kennedy Space Center is prohibited for all aviation traffic.

You’re ready to join me on this second IFR trip?

I constantly write down the beautiful look of Florida due to the high quality ortho textures, but there’s much more. The Orbx package also comes with a lot of objects like dedicated trees, buildings, bridges, special models and so on. When I say buildings I mean not just buildings. All are dedicated created for that specific purpose or village, town or big city. Keep in mind, all those dedicated and autogen objects, whatever applicable and wherever you fly, will cost frame rates.

Lets highlight that a bit in more detail.
On my flight, departing from Kissimmee, I make a nice turn in the direction to pick up my flight plan, but before that happens, I look to Orlando and of course Kissimmee, not to forget the highways and a bit further away, Disney and the outskirts of Orlando. This gives already an impact on your FPS (Frames Per Second). When you think about it, it’s something you can expect when you have the sliders in the Rendering Settings at HIGH or even further. Either you go for an FlyWithLua script that tries to maintain a certain amount of FPS and thus reducing the amount of objets or you accept that the FPS drop it bit too much for that moment.

Anyway, I’m climbing out to approximately 4500 – 4700 feet and pick up the flight plan and connect the Auto Pilot. Then I fly in a Eastern direction to Merritt Island. I mentioned it already before, J.F. Kennedy Space Center or Cape Canaveral isn’t modeled at all and yes, I know for sure you can seek for J.F. Kennedy Space Center or Cape Canaveral and X-Plane 11 and you find something that’s free, but the way Cape Canaveral is modeled including the ortho textures makes it complete. And be honest to yourself, all together, then such an Orbx Florida package isn’t expensive at all!

The moment I pass the village of Titusville, you can see that the frame rates are slightly dropping. That’s because of the many objects that are popping up. Is this a problem, is this something that worries me, is this something that tells me that I can’t run Orbx Florida HD on my iMac?

No, that’s absolutely not the case. Either I have my sliders too high, either it’s the HD and I should load the SD Florida package, right? No, wrong! The difference between the HD and SD package, Tony explained this before, has only to do with the quality or pixels/meter of the ortho ground textures and thus the loading time. It has nothing to do with the dedicated Orbx objects and autogen objects.

Anyway, before passing Indian River, I spot KTIX or also known as Space Coast Regional Airport that lies in-between Titusville and Port St. John. I’ll pass over and reach Merritt Island and thus Cape Canaveral or actually I should say Kennedy Space Center of which the Shuttle Landing Facility is a part of it. Yes yes, I know, it’s a prohibited area, but lucky I’m flying offline and within X-Plane 11 so no regulations to follow.

It’s difficult to describe what I see and how it feels. It’s the combination that makes is so beautiful. The ortho ground textures are awesome, even from this altitude and I’ve dropped to around 3500 feet. On my left I spot the largest runway on the island and as far as I can believe the information found on a dedicated website, it’s one of the longest runways in the world. Imagine, it’s width is almost 100 meters, dedicated for space shuttles although military fighters use it too. The modeled runway is in my humble opinion not completely real as it gets. The sides of the runway look not as being a part of the runway itself. Anyway, a minor detail.

You can’t miss the unmistakable Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) situated in the middle on the island. It’s well modeled and although we no longer see any Saturn V rockets nor Space Shuttles, the “roads” to the different launching complexes or pads are clearly visible. I’m pleased when I see this. The video at the end of this flight section will give you a great view of what I’ve seen during my flight.

Passing over the island, I’m heading for waypoint COMET, following a Southern direction to Melbourne. Once coming closer to Melbourne, more and more objects are popping up to create Melbourne, but hold on, there’s a bit more then only Melbourne. South of Melbourne the following cities are modeled and perhaps some auto gen is activated besides dedicated flats for each city. I see Vero Beach, Port St Lucie, West Palm Beach, Ft Lauderdale and a bit further Miami. Then we’ve turn into a Western direction, heading for our final destination KTNT Dade-Collier.

Flying at an altitude of around 4500 feet has a higher impact on the objects then when I had chosen for a flight level of FL100 or even FL150. It’s up to your PC or Mac and your settings which impact is acceptable. Flying at lower altitudes, lets say till 5000 feet, gives you the beauty of the ortho textures and tiny details are clearly visible, but bigger cities with lots of autogen objects or dedicated Orbx objects reduce the frame rates, perhaps they are reduced dramatically. On the other hand, flying at higher altitudes like FL100 or above, gives you less details of the ortho textures, but the FPS impact due to those complex cities and thus their objects, is less. You and I need to find a balance in this.

I fly a bit over land, and then a bit over the beach. It depends, it all depends on the flight plan and the chosen waypoints. Some are positioned on the mean land, others away from the coast. It doesn’t matter to me. What counts is the way these cities are modeled and yes, I also like the dedicated objects like the “Pier 19” building in Ft Lauderdale, but there’s much more to explore. Check out to get an idea of the area from Melbourne till and including Ft Lauderdale.

After seen all of this, I’m curious how the famous Everglades look like from roughly 4500 feet. I know that the Florida Everglades have had hard time due to problems with water management, ecological disasters that happens and more. I found that there’s a need to include the following screenshot. Of course, to understand the whole picture and all what happened, you need to read and seek for the many official websites that explains howe the Everglades functioned in the past, what the current situation is in the Everglades and what the plan is to restore as far as posible the Everglades. Although I talk about Everglades, actually it’s a bit more then just the famous Everglades.

Check out this not too long story if your interested in the Everglades and it’s water management. According to the USGS “The Everglades ecosystem includes Lake Okeechobee and its tributary areas, as well as the roughly 40- to 50-mile-wide, 130-mile-long wetland mosaic that once extended continu- ously from Lake Okeechobee to the southern tip of the Florida pen- insula at Florida Bay.”

“Since 1900 much of the Everglades has been drained for agriculture and urban development, so that today only 50 percent of the origi- nal wetlands remain. Water levels and patterns of water flow are largely controlled by an extensive system of levees and canals. The control system was constructed to achieve multiple objectives of flood control, land drainage, and water supply. More recently, watermanagement policies have also begun to address issues related to ecosystem restoration. Extensive land subsidence that has been caused by drainage and oxidation of peat soils will greatly complicate ecosystem restoration and also threatens the future of agriculture in the Everglades.”

 

When you want to read the whole article then check it out at this dedicated USGS.gov web page.

Ok, that was the theoretical part. Now it’s time to explore the Orbx Florida ortho textures and yes, it’s reflecting as it is now. I didn’t expect something else since Orbx uses real current ortho material which the same when you look for example to Bing Maps. Dried out completely unless you go a bit further to the Southwest coast, but the inland whereas me destination is – remember, KTNT-, is dry and although all the colours look nice, it’s a shame to see what happend with the Everglades.

On the other hand, the Orbx ground textures are reflecting the reality and as we’ve seen before, it looks awesome. Sharp, no, razor sharp from this altitude. Blurry when making a landing, but that’s typical for every ground texture. Overall, I’m again blown-away what I’ve seen during this second IFR trip flying at 4500-4700 feet and I enjoyed every minute.

I sincerely hope you like the next video compilation which is a collection of screenshots, but the majority you see is recorded footage material on this IFR flight.

One more interesting trip ahead for you and me …. the Everglades and the Keys which of course includes a look at Key West.

No idea where I’m talking about? Check out this “The Florida Keys are a coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida, forming the southernmost part of the continental United States. They begin at the southeastern coast of the Florida peninsula, about 15 miles (24km) south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry Tortugas. The islands lie along the Florida Straits, dividing the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest, and defining one edge of Florida Bay.”
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Florida Trip III | KTNT – KNQX

On this last IFR trip I bring you to Key West, the most Western remote located part of the Keys. It’s roughly 214 NM from KTNT in the way I’ve created the flight plan although I must admit that the flight plan with all the included waypoints, which offers a fly-around Key West, so flying more direct will be for sure shorter.

Here’s some detailed information; I depart from Dade-Collier Airport and fly to NAS (Naval Air Station) Key West Boca Chica Field. As you know, for Dade-Collier there’s no add-on package available, but for KNQX there is. It’s the package from NAPS (North Atlantic and Pacific Sceneries) led by Freddy De Pues. When you have an account with X-Plained.Com, you’re free to download this ready-to-go Orbx compatible airport. Compatible because it works flawless with Orbx TrueEarth US Florida SD/HD scenery.

What I noticed during this last trip is the split in different ground textures. More exactly; the difference how the Everglades look like and the Keys with the shallow waters. While the Everglades seems to me completely dried out, but having beautiful colours, the Keys and water textures and not to forget the blending, is awesome. Orbx member Tony Wroblewski did a great job together with his team, no doubt about that. Although I wrote that the Everglades textures are beautiful, it is sad, very sad that hardly anything of the swamps from the past has gone. As we all know, the textures are from “a date” so I’m not sure if the current situation of the Everglades is still so bad.

Anyway, the following screenshots gives a nice impression although the real impression is the included video at the end of this section. I think I didn’t mention it before, but for this last IFR trip I changed the default road textures via the Orbx control panel back to semi transparant. That doesn’t mean you won’t see any non transparant roads. You will see non transparant roads, but that’s only related to bridges as far as I’ve seen.

It’s difficult to orientate myself during the flight – yes yes, I know, I’m using a flight plan – in respect to the ground. Theoretically, I only should/could see the 41 and the 9336. That’s it. Further on there’s nothing down below except then dried out swaps.

From Dade-Collier (KTNT) I first pass waypoint FOGSO and then I’m heading for waypoint MNATE. There’s not ringing a bell when I read MNATE, but actually, this is near the beginning of the Keys. More precise, waypoint MNATE is near Tavernier along the Instate 1. But before reaching Tavernier, we first fly over the beautiful inner lake area, first passing Madeira and Little Madeira Bays. I know, you will see this in the IFR part 3 video when we reach this area. Without doubt these awesome ground/water textures which are according to Google Maps known as the Florida Keys can’t be found anywhere else. I’ve seen other “Keys” packages with these shallow waters textures, but non can’t compete with this from Orbx. The blending, oh oh, that’s really nice. No, I have no Orbx shares, and no, I don’t get specially paid to write this down. It’s really gorgeous!

From Tavernier it’s easy to fly to Key West and actually, when you follow the Interstate 1 you don’t need a flight plan anymore. By the way, the Interstate 1 or US-1 is actually a road that runs and starts from Key West up till and including Fort Kent, Maine.

According to Wikipedia “U.S. Route 1 or U.S. Highway 1 (US 1) is a major north–south United States Numbered Highway that serves the East Coast of the United States. It runs 2,369 miles (3,813km), from Key West, Florida north to Fort Kent, Maine, at the Canadian border, making it the longest north–south road in the United States. US 1 is generally paralleled by Interstate 95 (I-95), though the former is significantly farther west (inland) between Jacksonville, Florida, and Petersburg, Virginia. The highway connects most of the major cities of the East Coast—including Miami, Jacksonville, Richmond, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia,New York City, and Boston passing from the Southeastern United States to New England.”

Back to Tavernier.
I just follow Interstate 1 from approximately 4700 feet altitude and from many years ago I can remember that it feels that driving up to Key West is a never ending road. There’s only the US-1, nothing else and by car you hop from island to island, passing many small villages. It literarily takes hours to reach Key West. Ok, this time I’m not sitting in my car, but flying which goes a bit faster an while flying at 4700 feet, I have a much better view what’s ahead of me. Curious how that looks like? Check out this small collection of screenshots I made for this purpose.

What makes this so special?
I wrote already the very nice blending of the shallow waters with the default X-Plane sea, but also the TrueColour or colour corrected water textures. I’ve got not many words for this, but that’s not really needed. For that you need to check out the video. While flying along the Interstate 1 I see all the villages and some of them have dedicated Orbx 3D objects while most of these small villages are based on the autogen production.

After Marathon and the situated Florida Keys/Marathon International Airport (KMTH) – no, not a marathon to run, but the village – and Turtle Hospital, I see down below the Seven Mile Bridge with north of it situated the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail. I thought that what I saw was a mistake, but now I figured out that this is a separate path, but hold on, there’s an opening for boats. Ok, not sure what this means or is.

After the Seven Mile Bridge I’m still not there. It’s by car still a long drive up to Key West, but also with the Grand Caravan. At a certain moment I see already from a distance KNQX which is situated just before the last island also known as Key West with its own public airport, Key West International Airport (KEYW). Our intended airport KNQX is not a public airport, but a Naval Base Station airport known as Boca Chica Field.

While leaving KNQX behind me and heading for Key West, I’m impressed by the well modeled and realistic look of of this area. Oh yes, many many houses, and perhaps some of them are autogen, but the last island also comes with lots of dedicated 3D objects like the flats east of the international airport, or the Sheraton Suites Key West, or the Kokomo Keys, or Turtle Palms Condo and so I can continue with dedicated 3D objects. Don’t believe me, check out this screenshot collection.

But before making my landing at KNQX, I fly over Key West, see how it looks like and make a full turn back to Key West while flying over the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. From Key West it’s no more then a couple of minutes before approaching KNQX runway 08.

On purpose I decided to fly within the Keys area. It’s perhaps the most beautiful place when it comes to ground and water textures. I can’t find a place in Florida that is so brilliant, that has such gorgeous water textures and not to forget the blending with the default X-Plane water textures. Neither less, the other IFR trips I did, including the cross country trip from KEVB to KDCK, also has their sharm. To complete this section of my IFR part 3 trip, I hope you also enjoy my third video that covers the trip from KTNT to KNQ.

Addition … Florida Trip IV | KEVB – KCDK

I’ve got a surprise for you in case you haven’t seen this review that covers a cross country flight from New Smyrna Beach (KEVB) to Cedar Key or actually the airfield is called George T Lewis Airport (KCDK). I did this cross country flight in conjunction with the vFlyteAir Cessna C1250 Commuter, but besides the C150 Commuter review, there’s still a lot to see of the Floridian landscape down below. Actually, the landscape below are the Orbx TrueEarth US Florida ortho HD textures.

On this cross country flight with the C150 Commuter my cruising level was a bit lower then the previous three IFR flights with the Carenado C208B Grand Caravan EX G1000 and the C207, but this cross-country flight was still high enough to prevent seeing blurry ground textures. All together I found it worth to add this video also in this review, just in case you haven’t seen or read our vFlyteAir C150 Commuter reviews.

Here we go …. it’s a beautiful and sunny day in February. Time to do this cross country flight in Florida, USA. Todays flight departs from New Smyrna Beach (KEVB) via DeLand, Leesburg and Ocala to Cedar Key (KCDK). The flight is performed with the vFlyteAir C150 Commuter with below me the gorgeous ortho scenery from Orbx TrueEarth US Florida HD.

Want to read our comprehensive review with a lot of additional information, please visit our in-depth Floridian Challenge flight review at X-Plained.Com.

It is fun, it’s a lot of fun flying this 2+ hour stretch in real, but lucky, this flight impression takes maximum 16+ minutes. So I invite you to take a coffee, a tea or what else you prefer. Relax, sit back and enjoy!

I hope you liked the additional cross-country video. It’s a nice addition to the other three videos. Yes, I also know that I haven’t covered all the parts of Florida, but I’m quite sure that this review has given you a good impression of what to expect from this Orbx TrueEarth product.

Summary

This is my second review related to Orbx TrueEarth scenery products. In case you missed it, my first review was about TrueEarth Great Britain North thus Scotland. You can find this review via this X-Plained.Com link.

Ok, back to the TrueEarth US Florida SD/HD. I tried as always to keep the contents of this review as objective as possible. Not always easy with reviews, but for such quality ortho products that isn’t difficult. I also know that the quality of the end product as we see it, depends mainly on the quality of the ortho material textures. Without doubt that’s perfect!

As mentioned before, the review is based on the HD package. The difference between the HD and SD is easy; SD will generally be loading faster because of lower resolution textures, but as a guideline only on machines with less than 8GB of Video RAM. Powerful systems won’t see much of a performance difference.

Is there a need for me to write a long summary or offers the review already enough information? Although this review included several videos, it was worth every minute of testing, flying, editing, and creating this review. Adding videos in the review was already something that I did with the TrueEarth Great Britain North review. In that review the videos where all based on screenshots while these Florida videos are a combination of some screenshots, but the majority of the video is recorded material within X-Plane during the flights.

At the end I was very happy to see how and what this ortho package could change for me and for you. The package is not just a ortho texture pack, but I think you’re already aware of it. It’s much more then that. I highlighted already that the package comes with a lot of dedicated objects, trees and forests and what else I’ve forgotten.

More information about this Orbx TrueEarth US Florida HD can be found at this dedicated Orbx store page. As of this writing, April 2020, the sales price of this HD package is roughly 27 Euro or 30 USD. What I understood from Tony is that when you have decided to buy the HD package, you have also free access to the SD package, this in case you feel that your PC or Mac can’t handle the HD quality. Just for those who want to check out the SD package; you can check the SD package via this Orbx link.

Since the overall US Florida HD package is huge, it’s perhaps an idea and also ask during the installation, to store the unpacked package on an other drive then where you have installed your X-Plane unless you run, like I do on an iMac Pro, an X-Plane from an external SSD connected with Thunderbolt 3. On the other and, my external Thunderbolt 3 SSD is 2TB and with a couple of these TrueEarth package installed on the drive, that drive is also full before I know. But, the loading time will be much faster then as I do, using shortcuts or alias pointing to my external RAID 5 drive. Once it’s all loaded and X-Plane is up and running, you’ve got no problems.

Did I see everything of Florida?
No, and for sure I’ve forgotten places to visit, but what I’ve seen during these IFR trips and the included New Smyrna Beach to Cedar Key cross country flights tells me more then enough. Verdict; this package is worth every penny!

Feel free to contact me if you’ve got additional questions related to this impression. You can reach me via email Angelique.van.Campen@gmail.com or to Angelique@X-Plained.com.

With Greetings,
Angelique van Campen

 

 

Add-on: Payware Orbx Simulation Systems
Publisher | Developer: Orbx | Orbx Simulation Systems
Description: Realistic rendition of US Florida
Software Source / Size: Download / Approximately 168GB (unzipped)
Reviewed by: Angelique van Campen
Published: April 17th 2020
Hardware specifications: - iMac Pro
- Intel 3GHz Intel Xeon W / 4.5Ghz
- Radeon Pro Vega 64 16368 MB
- 64 GB 2666 MHz DDR4
- 1 internal 1TB SSD (Catalina 10.15.x)
- Saitek Pro Flight System X-52 Pro and X-56 Rhino
Software specifications: - Catalina (10.15.x)
- X-Plane 11.41r1

4 Comments

  1. Robert Jones

    Excellent, detailed and comprehensive review. You are indeed my favorite source for objective review. Thanks for putting so much information in your articles!

    • Angelique van Campen

      Thank you Robert for your reply and the time to write it. It is/was a lot of work but also a lot of fun and even I learned things like the current status and goal for the Everglades. I always try to write from a readers prospective. Irrespective of the type of review, I I hope the readers enjoys the story.

  2. Philippe Le Masson

    Nice article !!!

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