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Review: Polish Airports Vol 1

What better way to broaden your horizons than to fly to new destinations. Polish Airports Vol 1 gives you just that type of opportunity if you’re one of those pilots that like to stick to familiar territory.  With this offering from Drzewiecki Design you get three airports; Katowice Pyrowice (EPKT), Rzeszów Jasionka (EPRZ) and GdaÅ„sk Rebiechowo (EPGD).

Rzeszów Jasionka, EPRZ, is an international airport located 7.8 km north of Rzeszów which is in southeast Poland. The airport’s main runway 09/27 is 10,499ft in length making it the second longest in Poland. Adjacent to the main runway on the south side is an emergency grass strip that is approx 7,700 ft long. As well, on the eastern edge of the airport just to the south of runway 27 is EPRJ which has a 2,440 ft grass strip used by the Aeroklub. The airport can trace it’s history back to the days of the German occupation in 1940 when it’s first runway was constructed. The runway was destroyed in 1944 when the Germans left.  In 1949 it was decided to reconstruct and reopen the airport under the direction of the Civil Aviation Dept of the Polish National Committee of Liberation. Throughout the decades since it has been modernized and is now the seventh busiest airport in Poland seeing an estimated 275,000 passengers pass through it’s facilities in 2007.

Katowice Pyrowice, EPKT, is also an international airport located 30 km northwest of Katowice in south central Poland and is the third busiest airport in Poland. It has two passenger terminals, a freight terminal and a single runway 09/27. It is also a hub for LOT Airlines. With it’s runway at slightly over 9,000 ft long it is capable of handling aircraft as large as the Boeing 747 and 777. The original airfield was built by the German Luftwaffe in 1940, after the war it was taken over by the Soviets and eventually handed to the Polish Army in the early 50s. In 1966 it was made available for passenger use with an inaugural flight of a Polish LOT airliner destined for Warsaw. Since then it has seen the construction of both passenger terminals and the cargo terminal. There are currently plans under way for the construction of an additional passenger terminal and for the expansion of the existing runway and to add a new one. Over 2,400,000 passengers passed through it’s gates in 2009.

Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport, EPGD, was named in 2004 after the former president of Poland and like the other two is also an international airport. The airport is located approximately 12 kms west northwest of the city of Gdańsk which is on the northern coast of Poland on the Gdańsk Basin which is part of the Baltic Sea.  This airport also has a single runway 11/29 at just over 9,000 ft in length. This airport was opened up in 1974 and is the first airport in Poland to have been built from scratch. In 1997 a new passenger terminal was put into operation. As the third largest airport in Poland it serves the national, international and global transportation network and also plays a role as auxiliary airport for Warsaw. In 2006 it served 1,249,780 passengers, an increase of 84% over the previous year.

Installation and Configuration

The file size is quite large at 1 Gb but not too uncommon nowadays considering the level of complexity found in sceneries. The size can be attributed to both the level of detailing in the three airports and the inclusion of photo scenery with autogen surrounding each airport.

If you are running any freeware or demo versions of these airports you are instructed to remove them prior to installing this package.

Installation is simple and follows the norm which seems to be adding one’s registration info and then letting the installer take care of the rest. The manual states that the scenery should be added by the installer but in my case it did not. That may be a result of my running Win 7?

There is no program group created with this installer but you can see that a new directory has been created within the Addon Scenery folder in FSX with several subfolders where you will find the manual and charts as well as separate directories, one for each airport.

Addon Scenery\Polish Airports vol.1\Documents
\EPGD_X
\EPKT_X
\EPRZ_X

This product is available in a version for FS2004 but is a mere 145Mb in size.

Documentation

The package comes with a brief five page manual. It begins with a short paragraph on installation giving the folder structure and file locations. If you decide that you want to add the scenery manually rather than letting the auto installer do it for you they provide instructions for this.  In the next two pages they describe for you the history of each airport.   They then go on to describe scenery features, compatibility, availability of demo versions of the scenery, product support and finally credits. The last page is all of the legal information.

Just a word about compatibility, they state that their product is compatible with all existing payware add-ons for the area including UTX, however they state that the same claim cannot be made for freeware add-ons.

They have included an airport diagram and an ILS/DME approach chart for each airport.  A link is given for the Polish AIP website if you want to download the full set of charts.

Flying the Scenery

The three airports in this package are located in different parts of Poland. All of them are highly detailed, all of them include a large area of surrounding photo scenery and all of them include seasonal and night textures.

I began by looking at them from ground level. I wanted to see what they did with the major airport structures like the terminal buildings, hangers and tower and then some of the other more common items you look for such as the apron and runway lighting, jetways, PAPI lighting, VOR/DME, approach lights, perimeter fencing, airport service vehicles, etc.

Some of the criteria I had in mind were detailing, the illusion of transparency with windowed areas, realistic colouring and weathering effects.  The buildings and structures needed to be modeled on all sides and I also wanted to have a look at how the ground textures appeared up close.

My impression as I made my way around each airport was that the scenery developers put a lot of time and effort into this project. They have recreated these airports with a high level of detail. Although these are three different and distinct airports they share many similarities both in the level of detail incorporated into the individual airports as well the type of details found in each one.

To start I placed myself in front of the main terminal building at each airport and then made my way around the airport grounds. As expected each airport’s buildings had their own unique look and that was captured nicely with what I observed.

As an example, on the wall of the Gdansk Lech Walesa airport terminal building passengers are greeted with the airport logo which is a large stylized W taken from the signature of the late Lech Walesa. The buildings are modelled on all sides and this attention to detail carries over to the other structures such as the hangers, freight terminals and fire stations to name just a few of the major different building types. The glassed in areas gave you the illusion that the surfaces were actually transparent. Some of the buildings had external light fixtures that added to the 3d appearance.

From the air I had a look at the rooftops. They were detailed and looked pretty good but I felt that they could have given them a more weathered look, these airports are subject to four seasons and exposed to some nasty weather so they should show that.

The meteo/radars found at these airports have a different appearance than those normally found at North American airports and I thought they were done quite well.  You will also find the usual PAPI lights, approach lights, runway and taxiway markers and lighting. All of these are detailed and realistic looking.

The airport at Rzeszów is slightly different from the other two in that it also has a small grass strip aerodrome just off of runway 27. This small complex has a number of old style hangers and a few static biplanes and Cessna aircraft placed outside to add to the feeling of activity in and around the airport.

There was an interesting object at the entrance to EPKT, driving up to the airport you are met by an old MIG jet fighter on display, the jet is quite colourfully covered in graffiti. Another detail of note; the perimeter fencing you see that surrounds most of the airports is topped with coiled razor wire.  The light standards used at each airport are unique in their appearance, each has different style poles and light housings as well as the configuration of the lights them selves.  It is these small touches that add character to the airports.

They have included quite an array of vehicles in and around these airports; you will see fuel trucks, mobile stairs, freight trucks, buses, snow clearing equipment and cars. I even came across a security truck parked at an isolated gated entrance to one of the airports. Making your way to the passenger terminal you will see that the parking lots are full of cars; throughout the airport sceneries they have included both static and dynamic vehicles. The perimeter roadways surrounding the airports also include lots of traffic. This is in addition to AI traffic found on the photo scenery. A small note about this AI road traffic, I was disappointed to see that in the area of photo scenery for the city of Rzeszów the traffic did not seem to follow some of the roads and could be seen travelling over land and through structures. Perhaps they were still following the FSX default scenery?

Ground textures at Katowice Pyrowice, EPKT and Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport, EPGD airports I thought were quite good and through the use of high res photo textures the appearance was very realistic even at low altitudes.  Aprons, taxiways and runways had dirt and soiled areas in high traffic zones and parking areas and rubber marks in touchdown zones of the runways. However, when it came to the car park areas and adjoining roads I found everything looked too clean.  At Rzeszów Jasionka, EPRZ, I found the hard surface textures uncharacteristically clean for an airport that has been around for as long as this one has.

Around each airport is an area of photo real scenery. The area is large enough that you get a sense that each airport is an integral part of the scenery and you don’t get that look as you approach that there is this airport that has been dropped into the existing landscape and doesn’t quite fit in. To further enhance the photo scenery they added some local landmarks with the major concentration of these being in the Rzeszów area. Some that you might like to check out as you fly in that area are the sports dome, Rzeszow castle and the large power plant.  This is by no means all of them; you will discover many more as you approach or depart any of these three airports.

For those that enjoy flying instrument approaches I was able to successfully complete ILS approaches at all of the airports.

Seasonal and Night Textures

There are textures for all four seasons.  Overall I thought they were good but I did note a few problems for the winter season. As you can see in some of the screenshots the runways, taxiways and apron areas look as though they are covered in a light coating of snow which looks very good.  However, there are some roadways and parking lots that show no signs of snow what so ever and they really stick out. I also noticed that in a few spots some of the vegetation remains bright green even while they are surrounded with a blanket of snow. Even with these small problem areas I am still happy with the portrayal of winter in and around these airports.

Night time flying was also a lot of fun and when it came to airport lighting you can see their continued dedication to producing a top notch product. The building interiors were lit up and it looked as though there was activity inside. Exterior building lights cast a bright light against the building surfaces as you would see in real life. The light poles used to illuminate the apron areas also gave off a realistic glow, again not too bright and on the ground you could clearly see that the areas immediately around any of these light standards were bright and as you got further away the intensity diminished.  The runway, taxiway and approach lighting was subdued and not overdone.

Final Thoughts

Despite a few problems which I consider to be minor in nature I thought that the airports were very well done and have no problem recommending this product. I like that they have included a large area of photo scenery around each airport, it certainly adds to the appeal of the product. If you have never flown in Poland adding this scenery to your library of airports will open up a whole new frontier in Eastern Europe and some different destinations you may not have considered before in your flight plans.

Note to FSX users

If you fly the FSX version of this package as I did you should be aware that the NAV radio triggered animations described in the airport charts function only in the FS2004 version of the scenery.


My Ratings

  • Installer: Very good.
  • Documentation: Good.  Manual and basic airport charts included.
  • Modelling: Very good. Hi res ground textures with autogen.
  • Extras: Seasonal and night textures included. Area of photo scenery surrounding each airport with local landmarks near Rzeszów.



Test System: Intel i7 920 OC @ 3.8 Ghz, Coolit Systems ECO Advanced Liquid Cooling CPU cooler, 6 Gb RAM, EVGA 285 GTX w/1Gb video, Win 7 Ultimate 64, FSX w/acceleration, UTX Europe, Ultimate traffic 2, REX, AES 2.06

Richard Desjardins

About Miguel Blaufuks

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