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Review: FlyTampa’s Buffalo Niagara Falls Intl KBUF

Buffalo Niagara Falls International airport, KBUF, is actually located in the town of Cheektowaga, Erie County, New York Sate, USA and is named after the Buffalo Niagara Falls Metropolitan area. It is the third busiest airport in New York State and serves the Buffalo area as well as the region of Southern Ontario, Canada. It was built in 1926 making it one of the oldest airports in the United States.  Over the decades it has been expanded numerous times and this scenery depicts the results of the final expansion and completion of the newest terminal with it’s 26 gates. In 2006 both runways were lengthened making runway 5/23 8827 feet long and 14/32 7161 feet long. In 2006 more then 5 million passengers passed through it’s gates, a number not expected to be reached by 2020.

Installation and Configuration

When you purchase this product you get two versions; one for FS2004 and one for FSX. This review is of the FSX version. Download size was 414Mb which is relatively large for a mid sized airport.

Installation in typical FlyTampa fashion is straight forward. After launching the installer you will be asked to enter your purchase information and confirm that the FSX path is correct. The next screen will show you a list of components and here you have the option of selecting or deselecting depending on your preferences.

After making your selections the installer continues.  Upon completion the scenery will have been installed and added to the FSX scenery library.

Documentation

The package includes a 16 page PDF document that is a worthwhile read. It starts out with some general information on the airport and a map of the Northeast United States and Great Lakes region so you have an idea where the airport is located geographically. They then go on with airport statistics, runway specs and navigation frequencies. This is followed by an airport diagram and a gate chart showing gate numbers, locations and their designated airline.

Next are a few short paragraphs on the installer and how to add the scenery manually if required.  There are screenshots for FS2004 and FSX and a link to a video tutorial on adding the scenery if you are a Windows 7 user. After this is a list of Fly Buffalo features and a map showing the photo scenery coverage area.

The next chapter is devoted to performance within FSX; there are screenshots of each different display settings tab showing their recommended settings. They also mention AI aircraft; the product has been tested with both Ultimate Traffic 2 and World of AI packages. They suggest setting traffic to 50% and show a screenshot of how to do this. The final two pages contain “questions and answers” and “recommendations”.  There are a few things different with KBUF Buffalo and if you didn’t read the manual you’d likely be asking yourself some of these same questions and wondering what was wrong.  Here are what I believe would be the two most common. The jetways are static. This is because they anticipate AES support very soon. The other has to do with a lack of FSX service vehicles at the main terminal. They have been excluded because there was no way to ensure they didn’t appear inside of buildings, the cargo gates still have service vehicles. The final pages have recommendations for both the Aerosoft US Cities X — Niagara Falls/Buffalo scenery (FSX only) which by the way is fully compatible with KBUF and EMBSerie HDR Bloom Plugin and finally links to product support.

As far as charts go they include an airport diagram and a link where you can go to download any other available charts you might need.

Scenery

Flight sim enthusiasts are always chomping at the bit for the next scenery release from FlyTampa and for good reason.  This is definitely another winner and I have to say one of the best airports for FSX that I have had the pleasure of reviewing.

There are several factors that make an airport special in my view. Whether I am parked at the terminal or flying overhead I want to feel as if I am looking out at the real thing.  Second, there needs to be activity, especially if in real life it is a busy airport. Last but not least my personal preference is to fly small commercial jets so I want to be able to utilize real world charts for all phases of flight when I am using the airport.

The amount of detail put into KBUF is amazing, everything down to the smallest least insignificant item. How often have you seen metal drum garbage bins or vending machines in airport scenery? I don’t think they left anything out.  There’s everything you’d typically look for in an airport this size.  Lighting, radar, ILS, PAPI and approach lighting, lamp posts, fuel tanks, blast fences, utility trailers, vehicles of all types, pylons, people. You name it they have it.  I could go on and list many other objects but I think you get the idea.  It’s not only the fact that they have all of these objects but they are also accurate right down to the smallest of details.

The buildings certainly make a huge impact and it is easy to tell that they paid a great deal of attention to how they look and where they are placed. They are all meticulously reproduced from the ground up. Whether I talk about the main terminal, control tower, firehall, GA hangers, freight hanger or a utility shed any and all of them look amazing. Doorways, light fixtures, ramps, signs, windows, external drainage piping, rooftop HVAC units chimneys and on and on.  Again my point here is that they put a lot of effort into making them as true to reality as possible and it paid off.

Colouring is important and here the colours are muted and weathered.  Looking at the roof tops for example, Buffalo has four seasons so it is exposed to every type of weather and also a wide variation in temperatures. That can and does take it’s toll on paint and metal and in this scenery you see the effects of that. Weathering is also evident in other parts of the buildings.

The perimeter fencing around Buffalo airport stood out.  Why? For one thing it wasn’t the chain link graphic I’ve seen over and over at so many other airports. It was more realistic in appearance. There are sections of the fence that include gates, some gates were closed others were open. There was also signage where appropriate. There are several sections of the fence where it changes from link to vertical slat fencing. Again there are no gaps.  The fence also fits with the scenery; you can really see what I am talking about in and around the freight and warehousing areas. It encompasses the parking areas and butts up against the walls where you have buildings. Details that differentiate this scenery from others.

The ground textures are also incredibly detailed. The rubber residue caused when heavy aircraft turn in tight quarters can be seen in the aircraft aprons and parking areas.  This is in addition to normal dirt residue found in high traffic areas from both aircraft and airport vehicles. The runways and taxiways also show the toll of wear and tear; there are sections where it appears that the asphalt has cracked and it was repaired by filling these with black tar.

They’ve also added what they refer to as volumetric grass which gives you a much more realistic appearance at ground level, just as the name implies the grass looks full rather than just a flat green surface.

AI traffic and animations are other factors that help to bring life to the scenery. There are two Buffalo Niagara International Airport signs, one at each entrance. When you get close you will see the spray from the fountains and the flags moving in the breeze.  You can also catch the odd flock of birds in the area to.

I use Ultimate Traffic 2 and I found that there were usually a few aircraft parked at the gates and in the freight and GA parking areas. On many occasions I was able to see aircraft landing or taking off. This is not a large airport but make no mistake it is active. The amount of traffic you see will obviously depend on the AI program you use.

The area immediately around the airport has been modeled with a high resolution photo scenery base, custom objects and autogen. Exploring this part of the scenery was just as interesting as the airport itself. I loaded up “Bob” my first person explorer and away I went. It was almost as if I was driving along the actual streets of Buffalo. The major roadways are alive with traffic, as you drive you’ll come across road signs and traffic lights. I even found myself faced with going through several toll booths. There are many recognizable commercial landmarks visible in the area; names such as McDonalds, Holiday Inn Express and Tim Horton’s. Those are just a few of them; there are many more and they look convincingly real. It must have been a huge amount of work to have recreated these adjacent neighbourhoods but it has paid off because the end result is amazing. I half expected to see people walking around.

I had an instance where I began a flight at Gate 14; this gave me a good view of Genesee St which is the major roadway on the south side of the airport.  Looking over I could see that the parking lot was full of cars and then beyond that the traffic in the background whizzing by. This is not a large airport but it is surrounded by so much activity. There is always something going on and to me that is big plus.  They’ve not only succeeded in simulating the airport but also the streets and neighbourhoods that border KBUF.

All four seasons and the night time are all diligently reproduced here so it doesn’t matter when you choose to experience KBUF they are all beautifully rendered and again very realistic. Winter provides the sharpest seasonal contrast. There is snow covering the ground and along the edges of the more travelled runways, taxiways and aprons.  The areas that have less traffic appear to be snow covered. It all blends in very well with the adjacent FSX scenery regardless of the season.

Night time was just as interesting to observe, the lights and lighting are all very well done and realistic. Once again the look is totally believable.

Final Thoughts

The airports created by FlyTampa are remarkable and anyone familiar with their work should not be surprised by my statement. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring both the airport and it’s surroundings.  Everything about this airport is amazing and a treat to discover.  Once you experience this airport I’m sure you will make it a regular destination.

This airport gets my highest recommendation!

My Ratings

  • Installer: Excellent. Very simple to use, options allow for easy configuration.
  • Documentation: Excellent.  Full of useful information.
  • Modelling: Excellent.  Easy on the frame rates.
  • Extras: Numerous animations and lots of road traffic.

Download Size: 414 Mb FSX, 89 Mb FS2004′
Price: EUR 20.00
Developer Homepage: www.flytampa.com
Purchase Link: http://secure.simmarket.com/flytampa-buffalo-kbuf.phtml

Test System: Intel i7 920 OC @ 3.9 Ghz, 6 Gb RAM, EVGA 285 GTX w/1Gb video, Win 7 Ultimate 64, FSX w/acceleration, Ultimate traffic 2, REX, UTX Europe, AES 2.07

Richard Desjardins

About Miguel Blaufuks

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