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Review: FlyTampa – Grenadines for FSX

FTgrenadines-reviewlogoRick Desjardins flew where the sun is always shining and reports: “Anybody who has been around the MS Flightsimulator franchise is certainly familiar with the sceneries from FlyTampa.  If you read their forums the next release is always highly anticipated; that is because they never disappoint.  This new one “The Grenadines” is no exception.

The Grenadines are a chain of islands located in the Eastern Caribbean nestled between St Vincent in the north and Grenada in the south.  They are mountainous and surrounded by coral reefs and turquoise lagoons.  It is often referred to as a tropical paradise with lots of opportunities for scuba diving, yachting and relaxing on secluded beaches. With a population of approximately 80,000 spread out over these islands most of the area is covered in forests and vegetation with small pockets of civilization.

There are five airports modelled in this package. From north to south they are; J.F. Mitchel (TVSB) on Bequia Is., Mustique (TVSM) on Mustique Is., Canouan (TVSC) on Canouan Is., Union Is (TVSU) on Union Is., and finally Lauriston (TGPZ) on Carriacou Is.

Installation and Configuration

The file is approximately 375Mb in size and should not be a problem for most people with high speed connections.

Installation is uncomplicated, you are presented with a page where you can choose which AI enhancements you wish to have installed.  You are given the option of installing; AI traffic, Animated AI ships, Static ships, Waterclass and finally to “Add Scenery to Database (scenery.cfg)”.  Saying yes to some of these choices may put additional strain on your system but they do add to the overall beauty of the package. The next time you start up FSX you will be ready to enjoy this tropical paradise.

Documentation

The manual included with the scenery is a 10 page PDF document.  It can be found in the “\addon scenery\flytampa\grenadines\doc” directory.

It begins with a map of the area giving an overview of the islands and their airports. Following this there is a page dedicated to each airport. It has a map showing how the airport is situated on the island, runway numbers, dimensions, surface type, headings and tower and ground frequencies as applicable.

Continuing on, the next section is called Questions and Answers. Here they deal with problems you may encounter while using the scenery. An example of this is missing autogen, they tell you how the Autogen slider should be set on the Scenery Display Settings page, list pertinent files and their locations in order that you may check to confirm if they had been installed and finally what program to run if they are not present.  This type of helpful information is repeated for a number of other known possible problem areas.  This is nice as it could save time in not having to search the forums or wait for an email response to what is an already documented idiosyncrasy of the scenery.

They have also included a page dedicated to Recommended Display Settings. Once again, helpful info and something you might want to look at as all the AI that comes as part of this scenery may tax your system resources.  To make it as simple as possible they include a screenshot of the Display Scenery Settings Tab clearly showing their recommended slider settings.

On the final page are several useful links to the FlyTampa website where you can check for updates and get support. The last link takes you to the website managed by the Tourism Authority for St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Flying the Scenery

This scenery abounds in visual delights so flying low and slow is the best way to enjoy and appreciate this part of the world. I see three distinct components here, the airports proper, the islands and lastly the surrounding waters.

There are five airports modelled, all different and distinct and you can see that they have been meticulous in creating each one.  As you begin your flight at any one of the airports you will notice that you are not alone as they have included AI aircraft.  These are all small domestic airports so the traffic consists of single and twin engine aircraft; there is a good variety here and all top quality models. Looking closer at the buildings you begin to see subtleties that bring the scenery to life.  National flags flap in the warm tropical breezes, anemometers and weather vanes move to these same winds and on some of the buildings are hanging strings of decorative plastic flags that gently sway.  These are just a few of the animations they’ve incorporated in the scenery.

These guys are also known for details and there are plenty of them.  They seem to have covered everything. Some examples are; wheel chocks strewn about, wooden boarding steps, plastic lawn chairs, fuel barrels, plastic pylons, garbage bins, runway lights, fire and emergency vehicles. There are many many more. Part of the appeal I found was discovering new objects with each visit. I did notice one glaring omission in this scenery package, there are no people at the airports or on the beaches.

One distinctive airport, TVSM is on the Island of Mustique. Here you will see that the runway has a very pronounced slope, a feature that is very evident from any vantage point. This element I feel is the most unique of all airport runways modelled.  I wouldn’t say that these are tricky airports to get in and out of but because they are all on relatively small islands and you are never far away from water your piloting skills will be tested. You don’t want to be short on your approaches and end up in the water or too long either and not leave yourself enough room to stop. Some practice may be in order here to get it just right.

Once you are up in the air you will appreciate the beauty of these islands and see why people call it a tropical paradise.  Comparing the coastlines and terrain with real pictures you can see that they have been accurately recreated and have captured the geography and topography quite well.  The green forests, tropical vegetation and fruit bearing shrubbery cover much of the terrain. There are no big cities here, no high rises or major roadways, mainly single story buildings, huts and tourist villas. You can still however find structures such as hydro poles and microwave transmission towers dotting the landscape.

A major part of the scenery is the water and it is gorgeous and a real gem within the package! Through their wonderful use of colour you get a perception of depth; from light blues for the shallow lagoons and coral reefs to the darkest of blues farther out at sea they have done an amazing job here.

As was the case with the airports they have filled the waters surrounding the islands with plenty of animated activity, everywhere you look or go you see small pleasure craft, sailboats of different sizes, catamarans, power yachts, even large cruise ships. You really get the sense that this is a water playground. There is a good mix of both static and AI sea traffic.  They have even gone so far as to include container ship traffic, some docked and others steaming around the islands.

Final Thoughts

FlyTampa have captured the essence of this tropical paradise that is both peaceful and unhurried.  If you like island hopping and exploring the beautiful Caribbean region than this is a great package for you.  Equally, if you have never been to this region of the world than this is a great way to discover it.

Beyond the visuals I also believe this scenery can appeal to the pilot who is looking for a challenge as well. The introduction of bad weather could make landing or taking off from any of these airports quite difficult for even a seasoned pilot.

Great work once again FlyTampa!

My Ratings

  • Installer: Very good. Simple to use.
  • Documentation: Excellent.  Includes airport information and troubleshooting information.
  • Modelling: Very good. Graphics optimized.
  • Extras: Lots of extra animations. AI aircraft and boats included add to the overall ambiance.


Test System:

Intel i7 920 @ 2.66Ghz, 6 Gb RAM, 8800 GT 512Mb video card, Win XP x64 SP2, FSX SP2, TrackIR4



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