Cushman Meadows is the latest addition to Orbx’s series of great scenery products. But this time, they took a different direction than what we’re used to. Instead of picking a real life airport, and modeling it into the craziest details and gorgeous features, this time, Bill Womack let his imagination run wild, and designed his personal dream-airstrip. So, after Aerosoft’s Andras Field last year, Orbx now brings us the second high-end, fictional scenery add-on for FSX.
But truth be told, besides both being fictional airfields, that’s where the similarities between Aerosoft’s Andras Field and Orbx’s Cushman Meadows end. Cushman Meadows is a small GA airfield located on the shores of Lake Cushman on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington.Â Now, if there’s any place in the world to place a fictional airfield, it will be there. The scenery around is gorgeous, certainly if you have Orbx’s Pacific Northwest Region as well, with everything you can wish for close by. You have mountains and forests to the north and west, green flatlands to the south, and the waters of Puget Sound to the east. It’s also very close to Seattle and Tacoma, for the city folks, and a nice extra is that it’s only about 30nm away from Orbx’s (Free) Vashon Island add-on. And an extra you get for free with Cushman Meadows is Bear Gulch, as small airstrip with just a hangar and a house, that’s close enough to Cushman Meadows to be there whenever you want, but also remote enough to be completely alone when it suits you.
Note about screenshots: there are 2 kinds of screenshots in this review. Those with the Orbx FTX footer are taken directly from the KCMW product page at the Orbx website. The others, signed with my name, are taken by yours truly, at the actual settings I fly. I didn’t turn extra stuff on, or cranked settings up, for screenshots used in this review. Just so you know…
Installing Cushman Meadows is just the same as with every other Orbx add-on: a tried and tested system, that works beautifully. For this review, I used the download version. The first step after buying, is downloading the installer which is packed in a .zip file. This compressed file is no less than 977MB large, so you will need a good internet connection and some time to get it in. For people with unreliable or slow internet connections, or if you just prefer a DVD: there’s also a boxed edition available. Anyway, once you’ve downloaded that big compressed file, all there’s left to do is run the installer. This will open the FSS (Flight Sim Store) wrapper, which will check your credentials. All you have to do here is enter your order number, date of purchase and a serial. All are included in the email you got confirming your purchase. The FSS Wrapper checks the credentials you gave it via the internet (although there’s also an offline option available, I haven’t tested this) and once it gets confirmation that everything is good (which takes only a second or 2, normally) it will open the actual orbx installer. All that’s left for you to do is confirm the installation path, and wait for the scenery to be installed. Easy, and trouble free. I never had any problems with Orbx software installations, although it all might take a while because of the sheer size of everything installed.
Cushman Meadows consists of a small concrete runway, with a parallel taxiway along a part of its length. There’s a couple of hangars, covered parking spaces, a makeshift control tower, a flying school building with 2 parking spaces, and a helipad. There’s also a water runway for floatplanes, and some docks to anchor your flying boat or seaplane. It’s a small airfield. In real life, it would be nothing to fancy. But in FSX, it is, just because of the sheer amount of detail in everything you find. From the detail in the textures, down to the 3D grass that borders the runway, it all makes me like it so much…
First of all, the modeling. KCMW being a small airfield, it gave the developers some room to work with in terms of frame-rate friendliness. And this is something you can clearly see here. All Orbx airports feature extreme levels of detail and fidelity, while keeping framerates relatively high. But Cushman Meadows really takes this detail yet a step further. The modeling all around the airfield is absolutely fine. Lots of details, lots of small features, nothing to add. Second, there’s the textures. Again, not something anyone can teach Orbx a lesson in, but still, this is amazing. From the rust and dirt on the containers making up the makeshift control tower, to the wood of the buildings. This is probably the best scenery texturing I’ve seen until now.
This is the first time I really can’t say there’s some distinct feature I like best about an add-on. But I just love how it all comes together. If I still have to name anything, I’ll probably say the amazing 3D grass bordering the runway. Instead of just covering the entire airfield with random 3D grass, Orbx only did the runway and taxiway edges this time, but in much higher quality, and different lengths. It makes for great screenshots from worm’s-eye-view, and saves on frame rates, because they didn’t waste resources on 3D grass on more remote locations around the field.
Just a couple of minutes away from Cushman Meadows (and that’s minutes in a Piper Cub, not something fancy and fast) you will find Bear Gulch. If you read the introduction by Bill Womack in the pdf manual, you’ll read that while Cushman Meadows is something like his dream airfield, Bear Gulch is something like his personal little airstrip. Bear Gulch just features a house, a little hangar, some horse stables, and a runway.
But although the other things are certainly nice, it’s the runway that does it here. It’s very, very narrow, but that’s not it. The thing is, that about halfway down the runway, the runway is replaced by a bridge to cross over a small creek. Combine this with a very narrow (and short) runway, and you know you’re in for some challenging landings, because if you’re not dead-center on the runway (if you can even call a dirt strip a runway), you’ll get your aircraft broken and your feet wet. About the looks of it all, well, the quality is comparable to Cushman Meadows: the very best.
That about the airfields specific. But as we’re used to with Orbx, there’s more than just the airfields. First of all, the entire Lake Cushman area is covered in photoreal ground textures at a great 60 cm per pixel. The immediate surroundings of both Cushman Meadows and Bear Gulch are even covered in high definition photoreal textures at 25cm per pixel. Apart from that, the autogen annotation of the area is customized to make it look better, and the watermasks for the lakes and rivers are refined. So if you’re seeing water, FSX will handle it as water.
There’s only one problem, and that’s the fact that you have to turn crash detection off in the FSX settings. This is something that’s only said in the installer (and easily missed or forgotten) and not in the manual, but it also stated they’re looking into a fix for that problem. I was told that the patch for this is only about a week away as I write this, so chances are it’s already available when you read this.
The most important special feature here? No question there: Orbx’s revolutionary People Flow technology. Or, in other words, realistically moving people populating the airfield (or both airfields, in this case). I was very skeptical when Orbx first announced People Flow, because of the simple fact I still had to see good looking (read: natural looking) moving human figures in FSX. They were there only in a few high-end aircraft add-ons, and suddenly those scenery guys said they were covering entire airports in them, with hardly any FPS impact. Well, that was then… Now that I’ve seen it with my own eyes, I’m absolutely loving it. Both Cushman Meadows and Bear Gulch feature people, or groups of people, that are not only modeled accurately in 3D, but also move naturally. Screenshots really don’t cover it, so I’d suggest looking at some video’s either on youtube or the Orbx website, but I’ll try to catch in on a static shot here nonetheless. Just look for the differences in the sections of the screenshot below. One guys is drinking, another is reading the newspaper, on other parts of the airfield there are people walking about…
Apart from the Bear Gulch airstrip, there are the usual Orbx extra’s: the FTX Central tool, and the FTX Aero tool and a KCMW Control Panel. FTX Central let’s turn on and off Orbx regions, provides links to all manuals for Orbx products you’ve got installed, and their respective Control Panels. FTX Aero is a tool that lets you set some airport specific (but FSX-wide) texture settings. The Control Panel is a very nice extra if you’re system isn’t up for running the scenery at a comfortable frame-rate in your desired settings. It is a small program that lets you turn off (or back on) certain features of the scenery add-on. Things that you can turn of go from the moving People Flow characters, to the horses in their corral at Bear Gulch, and lots of things in between. But even with this high amount of details, I can run Cushman Meadows or Bear Gulch at my preferred settings with every feature enabled, even on my modest mid-range laptop running Windows 7 64 bit. But of course, you can also turn of features because you don’t like them. Maybe you dislike 3D grass? No problem, turn it off. Maybe you don’t want cars in the airfields car park? Again, just turn them off… no problem. In that case, the added performance is just an extra bonus. But I for one like each and every feature of this add-on.
Ever since I first started up FSX and flew from Cushman Meadows, I was in love with it. It is exactly what I personally like in a GA airfield, in exactly the kind of region I like, and it just looks awesome. If this add-on represents Bill Womack’s taste in airports for FSX, I have to say that I like his taste a lot. As for a more objective conclusion, this add-on lifts high detail general aviation airstrips yet to another high. It’s small, but it’s not light on details and features. Just don’t try to fly in a large aircraft, as the runway is both narrow and short, and parking space is limited. This is, in my personal opinion, the perfect airport to combine with the newly released Aerosoft DA-20 Katana 4X, or the slightly older, but still awesome, A2A Piper J3 Cub. But of course, there are numerous other GA aircraft add-ons that will fit in nicely. I just named my 2 personal favorites here.
- Amazing amount of details
- Awesome location, with lots of different kinds of scenery nearby
- An idyllic add-on for GA fans
- Forced to turn off crash detection
- Apart from the above, which is about to be fixed, there’s nothing I really don’t like about Cushman Meadows
Rating: 4 out of 4
Cushman Meadows Product page (with more screenshots and videos)