Posted in: FS2004, FSX, Reviews Tags: , , ,

Review: TropicalSim’s Congonhas X (SBSPx)


This review is on a product that’s been out since early 2008 and now that we are getting our PC’s to a point where it can handle FSX it’s worth looking at again. First, it comes with good versions for FS9 and FSX. Second, this is an impressive airport to fly in and out of in real life, and in Flight Simulator 9/X.

A little History Lesson

Sao Paolo is the largest city in South America by population. Having over 17 million people, according to the World Atlas of Travel (http://www.worldatlas.com/citypops.htm), Sao Paolo is rich in tradition and culture. It was first settled in 1554 and became an official city in 1711. Early settlers were called Bandeirantes… and now you know where I was going with the little history lesson. For those too young to know, the Bandeirante was a name given to the first line of prop aircraft Embraer manufactured. Sao Paolo became the center of trade and commerce in Brazil and, in 1969, Embraer was formed just outside of Sao Paolo in Sao Jose dos Campos. As with many large cities, there’s more than one airport serving Sao Paolo. Guarulhos handles the international widebody traffic, Viracopos mainly cargo with some passenger traffic, and Congonhas which handles allot of regional traffic.

Airport Data

Congonhas (SBSP) has two runways measuring 4,708ft and 6,365ft which are parallel with the headings of 17/35 (L and R). The airport sits at an altitude of 2,631ft in the middle of the city on a little plateau. The airport is equipped with a VOR (116.90) and ILS’s on 17R (109.30) and 35L (110.10), the longest runway. It’s a busy little airport that handled over 10 million passengers in 2008. Given this information you can determine that it’s a bit of a challenging airport due to the runway size, altitude, and traffic. Remember that high altitude airports require more take-off distance. The high buildings surrounding the airport are intimidating and the little plateau it sits on makes it a bad airport to land short on or overrun. In fact, there was a well known accident in 2007 when a TAM A320 overran the runway in rain killing all 181 passengers and 12 people on the ground. Not an airport for the timid. Major airlines at Congonhas are the aforementioned TAM, Oceanair, and the biggest, GOL, who purchased the Brazilian national airline, Varig, recently.

Installation

The installation is a little disappointing as you have to install the scenery to the library in FS by yourself. I expect an automatic scenery updater at this point in FS add-ons, even in 2008. The file for FS9 is 18mb and for FSX is 20mb. The most important thing is to ensure is that your mesh settings are adjusted according to the instructions in the readme.htm file. Failure to do so will result in a flat airport with approach lights in your glidescope path. It’s also necessary so that you can see the little plateau it sits on. It’s really cool in FSX when you have road traffic  going by at the bottom of the hill while you are turning to takeoff at the end of the taxiway… more on that later.

Incidentally, if you have an older version of TropicalSim’s SBSP airport disable it in FS’s database to prevent abnormalities in the scenery.

What do you get?

In both versions you will get moving jetways for the A319, A320, and B737 aircraft which are activated by setting your navigation radios to a set frequency. The moving gateways start a few seconds after you’ve selected the proper frequency of 113.70 for B737’s and 112.00 for A319/320’s on the Nav1 radio.

You are provided with direct links to Avsim’s library to obtain airport charts. Unfortunately, these are broken due to the problem Avsim had last year. This product was put on the market before that happened so TropicalSim cannot be blamed here, although it wouldn’t be hard to modify the readme to remove this link and update the vendors to save you from the frustration. The same goes for the link indicating that the FS9 version works with Mega Sao Paolo (freeware) on Avsim. Only three of the required eight files are available, but if you have Mega Sao Paolo installed already then this scenery will work with it.

The FS9 version does not come with an AFCAD file so you may have to edit your current file if you don’t use the default one. FSX comes with an AFCAD file. I got brave and took the AFX_SBSP2.bgl file from FSX and copied it to FS9 and it’s working well so far. Try at your own risk and don’t yell at me if your sim locks up.

The one thing I like is when the scenery creator names the files with some logic. TropicalSim has done just that. If you want to remove something you don’t like or that may be taking up some cpu resources, you can figure out which bgl file it is and remove or rename it. Again, this is at your own risk. You didn’t know reading this review was going to be risky did you?

The Taxi

No, this is not coverage of the trip to the airport. It isn’t that kind of sim <snicker>. I’ll take you on a little trip around the airport as if you were taxying for take-off. Before you start flying in and out of SBSP you must have SID’s and STAR’s handy. The close proximity to Guarulhos makes it easy to fly into aircraft departing from or arriving to SBGR.

Starting at the south west end of the airport we taxi by the TAM Flight Safety building and note the Cessna logo on the front. Next, we pass some admin buildings and then hangers for Raytheon, Lider, and CAE. The fuel depot is next followed by Target and TransBrasil buildings. Poked in behind these is the TAM hanger and what looks like their admin buildings. There are some parking stands in front of the Varig hangers and then the terminal which is loaded with GOL aircraft with a few TAM and Varig aircraft. Behind the terminal you will see the VASP hangers. At the north west end of the airport there are no buildings as the elevation drops sharply which leads to the end of runway 17R. Don’t get trapped looking over the end at the traffic going by on the freeway in FSX, or you’ll be cruising down that freeway in your B737 before you know it. Pay attention to the taxi lines. The east side of the airport is not as busy having hangers for TAM and a few small contractors. You’ll notice that GOL, the largest airline, doesn’t have buildings at the airport. They do their maintenance in the Varig hangers and their admin offices are not at the airport. The airline has their offices away from the airport to save costs.

I’ll note that the framerates are very reasonable for the amount of buildings and objects you see and all the hangers are accessible.

When I compare TS’s work with that of a satellite image of Google Earth, everything looks to be in it’s correct place and pretty close to the real thing. The only difference I see is that parking areas 20-25 are a little closer to the Varig hanger in real life than in Congonhas X. I suspect the reason for this is that TS doesn’t modify the default parking areas so they don’t need to create a custom AFCAD file, plus their scenery will work with the myriad of add-on AI traffic systems. See the picture below to compare. Keep in mind that the roof’s are not the same colour in Congonhas X as in real life so look carefully when comparing.

Departure/Arrival

The departure is a little hairy because that runway seems shorter when there’s no visible ground at the other end. This is well depicted in TropicalSim’s SBSPx.

The arrival is really neat no matter what runway you use as the sharp incline at the end of the plateau rises very quickly even though it is not high. This is well depicted in TS SBSPx and you really get the feeling in your stomach as you get closer and closer that you better not be short on this approach.

Nightime

The ramps, taxiways, and gates are lit up at night as you would expect. Some of the hangers are lit and the terminal is too.

TropicalSim

TropicalSim has a website and forum. The forum is not for support, but to handle requests, ideas, and to let us know what’s coming next. Support is done via email. I have contacted their support in the past and the response was quick. Their forum is not very busy but they do put pictures of upcoming releases on there.

Conclusion

The installation and the readme.htm file links are disappointing, but once you get past those you’ll be happy with the add-on. The price is right as you do get FS9 and FSX versions. The framerates are not an issue and the scenery is a 100% improvement over the flat default scenery which does not represent the airport at all. There are freeware sceneries available but none of them as well done as TS’s SBSPx especially when showing the plateau.

I have only included a few screenshots here. For more screenshots visit the Simmarket site (link below) or TropicalSim’s site (link below).


Filesize: 18mb for FS9, 20mb for FSX

Compatibility: FS9 and FSX

Purchase from Simmarket

Publisher/Developer: TropicalSim

3 comments to Review: TropicalSim’s Congonhas X (SBSPx)

  • Hi Andrew,

    Thank you for your review. We would like to point out that we do have AFCAD for each and every one of our airports. If you did not find the one for Congonhas in FS9, it’s either:
    1: You where searching for the AF2_SBSP.bgl file when the afcad file is named sbspx2.bgl
    or
    2: You have some AI package with it’s own AFCAD file that may be causing duplicates/conflicts.

    Have a great weekend.

  • abarter

    Thanks for pointing that out TropicalSim. I was looking for a file with a name containing AF2 or AFX to determine it was an AFCAD file. That seems to be the normal naming convention. Thanks for updating us and readers please note this and disregard in my review. This is the kind of support we like to see from the developer.

    Take care and keep the Brazil scenery coming.

  • [...] few weeks ago I reviewed Congonhas (SBSP) from TropicalSim. During my writing they released Guaruhlos (SBGR). So, I will take you on a [...]