X-Codr Grand Canyon West Impression
Who doesn’t know the Grand Canyon area in Arizona, USA?
Either you’ve been there, or perhaps you life close-by or you’ve heard a lot about the Grand Canyon National Park and surrounding parks or reserves with the famous Colorado river. And perhaps you’re aware that the Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders.
Default X-Plane 11 does come with the Grand Canyon, but as you can see on the following screenshot, it’s far from real. The used ground textures don’t reflect the reality as well as the scenery mesh that is wrong or incorrect. That said, in time many enthusiastic flight simmers have either created their own local airfields situated near or within the Grand Canyon National Park or they created ortho packages from several US states.
Connor, lead developer from X-Codr modeled already several US airports like Sedona UHD, Mammoth Yosemite Airport (KMMH), Yellowstone Airport and National Park (KWYS), or the impressive Denver International Airport (KDEN) and a couple more. This time he modeled the Grand Canyon West area including 1G4, Guano Point, the old tramway, the famous Grand Canyon Skywalk Eagle Point, cabins and the historical western town. And last but not least, the overall package comes with a 30m Ortho4XP mesh with ZL16 NAIP imagery that has had most major shadows removed from the imagery which also covers roughly 40 percent of the Grand Canyon.
And now it’s up to your personal reporter Angelique van Campen to explore this area. You’ve seen how the default area looks like. Not really impressive, right? When you look to the following screenshot which I took under the same circumstances, time, place, lighting and at approximately the same altitude, it looks totally different.
I need to correct myself. Actually, the modeled X-Codr Grand Canyon West add-on lies in the Hualapai Indian Reservation. At the right-hand northern side it has its border with the Havasupai Indian Reservation while this lies in turn along the Grand Canyon National Park.
Airport and touristic places
Via the E. Diamond Bar Rd or also known as the 7, I drive in the direction of the Grand Canyon West Airport or also known as 1G4. I’ll pass a T junction with on my right-hand side the modeled X-Codr cabins, the ranch and an old town, but I leave that visit for later. First heading for the airport or should I call it an airfield?
Although it is well modeled, don’t expect a complex airport for medium to large commercial jets or whatsoever. In that respect it’s a small airport for commuters and lots of helicopters. Logically, almost all are there for the sightseeing tours above the Grand Canyon, but some commuters take care for regular local flights to e.g. Flagstaff, Las Vegas etc. The overall public area has lots of parking lots for you and me, but also lots of places for touring cars. When I arrive with my car, I’m happy to say that I’m not the only one. It is early in the morning, but I spot lots of cars, buses, and not only at the front are of the airport, but also at the back of the airport.
The airport itself has only one runway which is paved. Then of course some taxiways, large dedicated aprons for regular aircraft and helicopters, but on the left-hand side of the E. Diamond Bar Rd there’s a large area for helicopters too.
The buildings at the airport are all authentic which means I could find them at real photos too. The blown up tent that’s connected to several buildings is well modeled I must say. Yes, it looks weird, but when I check it with real photos, it’s as it is. And it’s not only this “white blown up tent” that gives it the good look. It’s more then that. All those other objects like the containers, movable houses, everywhere you find something. Together with that, I’m pleased to see the accuracy of the used ground textures. All the ground textures are of course a bit sandy and that’s correct as far as I can see on the different photos.
As it looks on real photo’s, aprons, taxiways and the tarmac runway are more or less black besides the sand that can be found everywhere. All the paved areas – aprons, taxiways and a bit less applicable to the runway – are slightly cracked and of course repaired. This is something you see in the modeled X-Codr 1G4, but this is also something you see on real photos. All the linings, the signs that can be found everywhere at the airport, are, as far as I can check, correct. Since 1G4 doesn’t come with a large terminal or jetways, passengers are, I think, walking to the aircraft or to the helicopters. One way or the other, the public area is divided by a fence that runs from one side to the other side of the airport.
The helicopter parking spots and clearly marked helicopter takeoff spots are as real as possible. And not only that the spots look as real as it should be, all the striping is too, and the numbering is well marked. Although it’s a small and basic airport, it does have its own fire brigade. The hangar or parking area for this is very small, but it’s OK.
What said before, when approaching the airport, you have at the front the large parking lots, while at the other end of the blown up tent I assume you will find the arrival place for buses or coaches. The ground texture for this is well done. It looks impressive, but you see it better when you’re in the air. The surrounding area is as I mentioned before, a bit sandy and the used ground textures are reflecting the correct colours.
It’s time to move on. Time to jump in my car and drive to the Grand Canyon Skywalk Eagle Point. Oops, I’m too fast. I need to leave my car right here. I’m not allowed to drive any further. For that I need to take a coach. The coach brings me to the Skywalk Skywalk Eagle Point area. When you do that trip too, be aware to take a seat on the right-hand side of the coach. Once you’ve crossed Buck and Doe Rd, you’ve got an awesome view into the canyon.
SkyWalk at Eagle Point
This area is a mix of lots of objects, ranging from ordinary containers to small buildings, a large tent, Indian tents, picnic areas, and the pink colored building with the Skywalk building. Although I’ve been several times in this area, this Skywalk bridge is also for me new and therefore the first time I see it. In real it’s awesome, just like walking in the air, but even the modeled X-Codr SkyWalk is well done and gives you within the limitations of X-Plane, and awesome feeling of what’s down below.
The Skywalk building with the grey building in front of it, feels a bit weird, but as it is in real. What that grey building is, I’ve got no idea since walking around it, gives you entrance to “The Skywalk at Eagle Point” building and from there with many giftshops, to the skywalk itself. The interior of the building is in one way or the other modeled, but I doubt if all what I see is correct. Hold on, perhaps there’s a good reason for since the interior looks awesome from the outside. Time to contact Connor. According to Connor “the interior for the Skywalk isn’t accurate as you mentioned, or actually it’s intended to be, it’s really just something so the windows don’t look flat.”
Right now, I’m interested in the Skywalk bridge. By the way, you have two options to check the outside world, so to look to the Grand Canyon. You either take the stairs to the roof which is well modeled and still gives you an awesome look, or you walk to the SkyWalk bridge. For those who have no idea where I’m talking about, the skywalk is literally something of glass where you walk in the Sky.
It’s a kind of “U” construction where you walk far over the rim of the Canyon, with glass below you, so you literally look down into the canyon. In X-Plane with this X-Codr add-on, it looks awesome, but I can imagine that in real it’s even more impressive. One way or the other. It’s well modeled with eye for many details.
I’m not sure if we can walk to the last interesting point of what is modeled by X-Codr or that we need to arrange some transport. It’s a walk of roughly 3 kilometers or 2 miles so with the weather conditions, I’m able to do this.
Hold on, there’s a bit more to see at this spot then only the SkyWalk building. I mentioned already the grey building in front of it with a terrace. Further on there are several tents or places that offer shadow. Even these tarps or tents are modeled with eye for many details. The large tent/tarp is gorgeous as well as the seating. And this area isn’t complete with lots of cactus and typical Indian tents. Well done Connor!
Right on, I’m heading for Guano Point. Come on, join me.
Guano Point is the end of road 7. Further is not possible. Hold on, yes, you can walk over the Guano Point trail to a construction. Although that metal construction with wooden building is nicely modeled, I’ve got no clue what it is. Time to check out what that is at the end of the trail.
According to the Grand Canyon West.com “In the 1930s, a passing boater discovered a guano cave, and for 20 years after, unsuccessful attempts were made to mine the nitrogen-rich guano for fertilizer. After hearing there was more than 100,000 tons of guano in the cave, the U.S. Guano Corporation bought the property and constructed a 3.5 million USD tramway system to extract it. The aerial tramway was built from the mine to what is now known as Guano Point, with the cable head-house built on land leased by the Hualapai Tribe. The cableway crossed the river, with a main span of 7,500 feet and a vertical lift of 2,500 feet.”
“In 1959, all the cave’s resources were exhausted because the predicted 100,000 tons was actually closer to 1,000 tons. Shortly after this, a U.S. Air Force fighter jet crashed into the overhead cable system and permanently disabled it. The remaining structures were left intact as a monument to man’s attempt to mine the canyon.”
OK, so goes the story, and yes, what’s left of it and what is modeled, looks extremely realistic. The path or trail isn’t really visible in X-Plane, but the construction or what’s left of it, is modeled and once there., you’ve got a gorgeous look into the canyon and Colorado river. But what said, when you approach Guano Point, although all a bit smaller in size, it does offer nice places to sit, to relax under a tent and when you’re hungry, take something to drink or eat at the restaurant. Both the restaurant and I assume the gift shop too, the tent with tables and seats are all modeled with eye for many tiny details. And for those who wonder what those panels do on the restaurants roof, yes, solar panels. Even these panels look gorgeous.
And what’s next before we move into the air, the cabins at Grand Canyon West and the Hualapai ranch. Actually, the cabins are linked to a 2-star hotel. Anyway, that’s for later. We first need to go back to the airport, pick up our car and drive along the E. Diamond Bar Rd to the junction with the Quartermaster Point Rd. We turn left and park our virtual car at the parking lot after I passed too many trees and cactus on the middle of the road. Don’t worry. I’ve informed Connor from X-Codr already so with the next updated the trees are rearranged.
In real it’s not much, just a couple of buildings representing the old town, 12 cabins with I may assume a view to the canyon and a place to eat. That’s it. Lets see how this is modeled by X-Codr. Either I did something wrong, but all the places I visited have no movable people, not even static people. I contacted Connor to ask him if I did something wrong or that he didn’t include all these additional objects. Personally I would love to see much more movements around of cars, buses, people etc., I’m also aware that too many of these objects influence your frame rates. According to Connor “At this time there are no 3D people. When I want to add them, they should be looking good, else IO lave them out, but the goal is of course to get them in which will be available at a later moment with an update.”
The old Hualapai town is modeled, the ranch is included but without horses and, you can’t miss them, all the cabins with picnic tables nearby. The view from these cabins is perhaps nice in real, but believe me, you don’t see the canyon from this location. And yes, you could say “it are just cabins, nothing more” but the overall look and feel of these cabins is very well done. Lets be honest. Due to the complexity of the mesh, all the cabin are actually placed on a hill and therefore not easy to align. The picnic tables, stones and ground textures makes it all complete although you and I will say “the SkyWalk at Eagle Point” was awesome as well as the Guano Point are. And yes, that’s thru, but Connor hasn’t forgotten this area.
A Flight Tour
I had to make a flight to see how it looks from the sky, and of course, how the west side of the Grand Canyon looks like. I’m aware what I will write right now, ZL16 ortho textures for this area. Normally, ZL16 (Zoom Level) is used for ortho textures when flying IFR and ZL17 or even ZL18 for VFR. That said, the included ortho textures are ZL16 and although I personally would see at least ZL17 or even ZL18 for the canyon area, I do understand why X-Codr has chosen for ZL16. Simple, overall size!
As it is now, the overall package including his own library and the ZL16 ortho textures is 6GB. Imagine when it was ZL17 or even higher, ZL18. From that point of view, ZL16 is/was a logical step and honestly, the Grand Canyon is, even with ZL17 or ZL18 very difficult to project as it is in real.
That said, I took off from runway 17, made a nice left-hand turn after first climbing out to FL010. Passing the airport on my left-hand side, I’m heading for Skywalk area and further to Guano Point. Then overflying the canyon back to runway 35 for my landing. The following screenshots will give you a nice impression what I saw.
And yes, I have to be honest, I also did more or less the same flight with Alpilot version 4.0 HD and the UHD packages installed and the Forkboy2 Arizona and the Grand Canyon which was by the way ZL18. Was it nice, was it different, of course, it was, but even with the ZL16 from X-Codr it looks very nice.
And lets be honest, the package only cost 14,99 USD. I’m only wondering if it is perhaps possible, in particular for those simmers who have the compiled package from Forkboy2 of the Grand Canyon and Arizona, to combine X-Codr Grand Canyon West with the Forkboy2 ortho texture pack. Time to ask Connor about this thought. According to Connor “As for Forkboy’s ortho, unfortunately you’ll need to stick with the included ortho mesh as that is what the airport models are designed to fit in with. In addition, my Orthoimagery has almost all the shadows edited out, so while lower resolution, the canyon should look better.”
Installation and Documentation
This will be easy.
Download the three packages from Org, unzip them and paste then according to the instructions, clearly indicated in the manual, in your Custom Scenery folder. Load X-Plane, shutdown X-Plane and check the contents of the scenery_pack.ini file. If the order is as it is explained in the manual, then you’re done and free to restart X-Plane and enjoy the add-on X-Codr Grand Canyon West scenery. If the sequence in the scenery_pack.ini file is not as explained in the manual, then correct the order as instructed with a text editor. What else? Nothing! No serial number is needed to activate the scenery.
X-Codr or lead developer Connor did a nice job. When you like to fly the Grand Canyon and then in particular the Western area, or that you want to explore on the ground the SkyWalk or Guano Point because you’ve been there in real, then this is more then worth the 14.99 USD. I can only say that I liked exploring the Grand Canyon West.
Knowing that the Grand Canyon area is an extremely difficult place to have, I’m pleased with the time and effort Connor has put into it. One remark from Connor regarding the mesh at a couple of places. It is a bit lacking around Guano Point, and there are some imperfections at the airport. This is due to the current mesh situation in X-Plane, I do plan on revisiting the mesh when more precise editing tools are available.
Angelique van Campen
|Add-on:||Payware X-Codr Grand Canyon West Area|
|Publisher | Developer:||X-Plane.Org | X-Codr Designs|
|Description:||Realistic rendition of Grand Canyon West 1G4, Skywalk, Guano Point and cabins|
|Software Source / Size:||Download / Approximately 6.09GB (zipped)|
|Reviewed by:||Angelique van Campen|
|Published:||January 26, 2022|
|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 (Monterey)
- 1 external 2TB LaCie Rugged Pro SSD (Windows 10 bootcamp)
- Saitek Pro Flight System X-52 Pro and X-56 Rhino
- Thrustmaster TCA Captain Pack Airbus
- Honeycomb Alpha Flight Controls
- Honeycomb Bravo Throttle Quadrant
|Software specifications:||- macOS Monterey (12.1)
- X-Plane 11.5x