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Review: LatinVFR – Latin Hub – Santiago Chile SCEL


LatinVFR have been around doing scenery for awhile now and their products have been of superior quality. Their latest is Santiago, Chile, SCEL. Will they keep up their reputation? Read on to find out.

Santiago, Chile, is a city with a population of 4.6 million and is located in amidst the Andes mountains in central Chile. The airport elevation is 1,554 ft which does add some challenge for take-offs but not enough that you need drastically more powerful engines.

The city is served mainly by SCEL, Arturo Merion Benitez International Airport. Construction started in 1961 and it was officially opened February 9, 1967. In 2009 the airport served just over 9 million passengers with approximately 4.4 million on domestic flights. The airport is served domestically by LAN (home base), Sky Airline, and Principal Airlines (PAL). Internationally, SCEL is served by many airlines indicating Chile’s popularity as a tourist destination. American Airlines, Air Canada, Iberia, and GOL/Varig are a few of the major global airlines serving SCEL.

For more details visit the airport’s web site at http://www.aeropuertosantiago.cl/english/.

Installation

The installation is through executable files. One for each version. It’s odd that the installation found my location if FS9, which is not in the default location, but didn’t find my FSX location which isn’t in the default location either. For FSX I had to indicate the location of the folder. You will have to add the scenery to your scenery manager in both FS versions so you can put the scenery wherever you like or use the default Addon scenery folder. They have released an update that corrects some errors that I do think should not have made it through the beta testing stage. It makes me a little nervous to see that they had to fix wrong taxiway signs, approach lights, and ILS alignments. These should have been caught in my opinion. However, they did release a prompt fix.

The manuals are small. They provide some information on the airport, it’s history, and installation procedures. They have some tips at the end that may help with framerates and realism plus a short FAQ section. There are two charts included which are the parking and taxiway charts. You can get procedure charts from here.

Airport Details

First, we’ll look at the airport details to see if LatinVFR has accurately recreated the runways, taxiways, lighting systems, and navigational aids. I’m using the aerodrome information provided by http://www.aipchile.cl , the government owned transportation web site, and Google Earth.

SCEL has four runways for landing on and they are 17L, 17R, 35L, and 34R. The 17L/35R pair has dimensions of 3,750m x 55m or 12,303ft x 180ft. 17R/35L is 3,800m x 45m or 12,467ft x 147ft. Using AFX  I dissected the airport data. 17L/35R are correct but 17R/35L is off by 820ft with LatinVFR’s being longer. The runway elevation of LatinVFR is 1,554ft which is the average elevation of the various points on the airfield. FS does not allow for sloping runways so LatinVFR had to take the average elevation. The heading of the runways are 177 / 357 degrees with a magnetic heading of 174 / 354 degrees. Again, due to the limits of FS, LatinVFR had to choose one or the other and went with the geo heading of 177. Technically this is more accurate as the magnetic heading changes over time as magnetic north changes.

I compared the taxiways LatinVFR placed to Google Earth. I was expecting a difference because we don’t know how old the Google Earth satellite image is or what charts LatinVFR used to place the taxiways. To my surprise the taxiways LatinVFR placed are perfect! Thumbs up! Pilots note: if you are instructed to land on 35L ask for 35R. 35L has no exits beyond the 3,500 ft (approx.) mark and you will have to turn around or taxi until the end of the runway to exit. The airport authority really should build a taxiway at the 6,000ft mark or so. By the way, there’s allot of good airside pictures for SCEL on Google Earth.

FS’s startup position on the active runway puts you on the taxiway leading to the runway. At first I thought it was a mistake but then I realized that’s where you should be. Placing you on the runway with active AI traffic around you is dangerous. Thumbs up to LatinVFR for their safety measures.

I’m happy to report that the lighting systems for runway approaches are correct. 35L has basically no lighting except flashing strobes on each side at the end of the runway. This runway is visual only as it is not equipped with ILS either. 35R has SSALS. This system is 5 flashing strobes in sequence to guide you onto the runway centerline. 17L is equipped with ALSF-2 lights which guides you to the centerline by providing solid white center lights and red lights on the outside to indicate the area of the runway to land on safely. Landing outside of the red zone is dangerous especially on wide bodied aircraft. 17R is equipped with ASLF-1 which is similar to ALSF-2 but missing the red lights. All runways have PAPI lights to help with the descent rate and they are set at 3 degrees. The taxiway lights are properly placed and the taxi signs are lit up at night. The terminal area and various hangers and cargo buildings are lit. You’ll have no problem taxiing around at night. LatinVFR has done an excellent job with the lighting system at SCEL. Thumbs up, again.

Only 17L and 17R are equipped with ILS but, of course, the back course option is available using 35L and R if you ignore the GS readings. 17L has a frequency of 110.30 and 17R uses 111.10. Both are set at 177 degrees. 17L is CAT III while 17R is CAT I. There are two VOR’s on the airport to assist in landing on the north bound runways. PDH with a frequency of 117.20 is in line with runway 35L and 1nm from the threshold. AMB with a frequency of 116.10 is 1nm from 35R. So, you have navaids at every runway to help with your landing. Again, a thumbs up to LatinVFR for correct data here.

Visual Appeal

Now that the boring technical stuff is done with let’s look at this airport for it visual qualities. You will not be disappointed because LatinVFR has not only given us the buildings but they’ve included some photo scenery of the immediate area of the airport and mesh. It looks better in FSX than FS9 but don’t cry FS9 users because it looks just fine in FS9 (notice my poetic skills there). With the Andes in the background, this airport is a real beautiful place to base yourself.

LatinVFR have been very generous with their buildings. If there’s one missing I can’t spot it and they have AI aircraft parking at all areas to add to the realism. The trees are placed nicely to make the landscape look pleasant. For an International airport it looks designed to be less “stressful”  than other International airports and it feels that way while taxiing around.

The AI traffic pattern needs a little tweaking though. In FSX the aircraft are not aligned with the centerline during takeoff as can be seen here on runway 35R. They taxi and park centered however. The parking areas at the north end of the airport are different in FS9 and FSX. The FS9 version has them more spread out.

When you are taxiing around you’ll probably see the area highlighted in the picture below and think that LatinVFR missed something. I did. So, I looked at Google Earth again. Guess what? It’s not missing because it shows the same way on Google Earth. It looks like this is an area they are planning on landscaping but haven’t gotten to it yet. Thumbs up on the polygon placements.

There’s a road on the side of 17R/35L which is fun to take off from as you are racing the vehicle traffic in FSX! It would be really neat if someone would create a camera view as seen from a vehicle on the side road as an aircraft catches up to you and takes off. Sorry, just the plane spotter in me dreaming. Back to the review…

There’s active ground traffic in both versions and they’ve included vehicle highway traffic in FS9. Luggage carts travel around the terminal area although they seem to go through the cement pillars as you can see in the picture below. There are birds advertised but I haven’t seen them yet. The area surrounding the airport is modified to be more accurate than the default scenery. If I didn’t read the manual I would not have noticed it.

How about the framerate hit? There is a hit in FSX which is more noticeable than the hit in FS9. In FSX I had to drop my autogen down one notch in order to keep the framerates acceptable. I didn’t change anything in FS9.

Final Analysis

The scenery isn’t perfect. It’s pretty close to perfect though. I’d give it 4.5 stars out of 5. LatinVFR takes pride in their work and you can tell by the quality they put out and support they provide. They are well deserving of the praise of this review and if you read this LatinVFR, don’t stop producing quality scenery. Latin VFR’s Santiago, Chile, add-on will be an excellent addition to your sim.


Filesize: 58 mb for FS9 and 79mb for FSX. The installer works with all versions of Windows (except 95 and 98… in case there are wise guys out there waiting to leave a comment).

Developer: LatinVFR

Price: 22.61 Euros or approximately $28 Canada/USA.

Where can you get this wonderful scenery??? At Simmarket of course!


Andrew Barter’s test system

Intel Core 2 Duo at 3.3ghz, 4 gb 800 mhz RAM, Windows 7 64-Bit Home Premium, EVGA 512mb 9800GT video card.

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