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Review: OrientalSim’s Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International

intropic

Have you ever felt like going someplace else? I did. Several months ago, I decided to take a gapyear from university, do some work and traveling, and start my master of science track later. From one came the other, and I had a trip planned to Kenya, where I’d do volunteer work. Airplane nut that I am, I of course started looking how expensive it would bet o go to Kenya and via what routes and with what airplanes/airlines I could fly. If there is one thing that I like to do, it is flying with an airline that is based in the country that I’m going to. So, for Kenya, that’d be Kenya Airways. I’m in luck here, since Kenya Airways is one of the best airlines of Africa, for sure up there with any worldwide known commercial airline, such as KLM, American Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

Now that I knew what airline I would like to fly, it was time to see if the Avsim library could offer me any sceneries and repaints form y aircraft. Repaints I found, but I had less luck with sceneries. I found decent scenery for Mombasa Moi International, but not for Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta airport. And then came the day that I unsuspectingly looked at Simmarket and there it was: a payware rendition of Jomo Kenyatta International. What can I say? I jumped at the occasion of reviewing it.

The scenery is done by OrientalSim, a developer, which hasn’t got many sceneries on its name, the only other one being Baghdad International. They don’t even seem to have a website, and their support address is a simple Hotmail account (to which they are very responsive, judging by my own experience). Also, judging from the shots of their Baghdad intl. scenery, I wasn’t at all sure what to expect from Nairobi. In the end, I had a ncie surprise, as you will soon see.

 

Installation and documentation

The download you receive from Simmarket contains a simple installer. No registration code is provided and none is asked. You proceed by simply installing the scenery like you would install every other scenery or program. Choose the directory you wish to install the scenery to, and it does the rest for you. You will have to manually activate the scenery in FSX’s scenery library, however. Also, depending on where you install the scenery, you will have to manually copy some effects files to FSX’s “Effects” folder. This is all clearly explained in the Readme file that accompanies the scenery.

The documentation of the scenery consists of a chart displaying all SIDs and a pdf with general airport information. The included SIDs seem to be from August 1992, however, so you can’t really rely on them being accurate if you wish to actually use them in conjunction with the newest navdata cycles of Navigraph. For that I recommend Navigraph’s charts, which cost 2 of Navigraph’s credits per airport chart set. There is also a Readme file in pdf format, which contains some general information on the scenery.

manual

Cover of the Readme.pdf.

 

Approaching Jomo Kenyatta intl.

And now on to the most important part: the scenery itself. Jomo Kenyatta isn’t a big airport. There is one runway only, one relatively big, circular terminal (reminds me of Berlin Tegel in a way), and a somewhat large cargo apron with adjoining industrial park. At the other side of the airport, we find maintenance buildings and Kenya Airways’ hangars. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. When flying into Jomo Kenyatta, the first thing we will hear (that’s right, hear), is ATC:

control-tower

control-tower2

Jomo Kenyatta’s control tower.

 

Judging from photographs, OrientalSim’s rendition looks very good. The modeling isn’t as accurate as could possibly be, but thanks to clever texturing, the modeling doesn’t even have to be correct in every account. The result is less polygons and thus higher FPS. Concernign the texturing, I’m quite pleased with the overall look, although the base of the tower looks a bit strange. It’s absolutely clear that one texture was used to cover the entire base. However, it really isn’t something you will easily see from your airplane since the tower’s base is surrounded by another structure. All in all, it looks pretty convincing.

approach

Approaching runway 6.

 

As we approach runway 6, we get a good look of the entire airport. The photoscenery doesn’t extend very far beyond the perimeter fence, resulting in grey/dark green field in the middle of a desert sea, which, ultimately, looks a little strange. This is partly a FSX problem, however. After making these screenshots, I acquired Scenerytech’s Africa landclass and installed it. This region was transformed and suddenly I found green fields surrounding the airport, with desert being far further away of Nairobi than in default FSX. I recommend getting the landclass if you intend to fly around Africa, even if you’ll fly there only several times (I actually recommend getting all of Scenerytech’s landclass, it does a great job of transforming FSX to something far more realistic).

ground-detail-runway

Ground detail of the runway textures.

 

Now that we almost touch down, we can clearly see the runway’s quality. To me it looks really good at first sight, but if you look closer, you see some strange things. The white markings, for example, look like straight puddles of milk that found their way to the runway in some unknown fashion. The tarmac of the runway seems to contain purple and green pixels, which is also a little strange. All that said, I still really like the look of the runway, because it works. For some odd reason, you see these things only on second sight, and when you approach the runway, you really don’t notice it. You’re anyway to busy getting your plane safely on the ground. I think that by all means, these runway textures look pretty great, until the moment comes hat you look at it closely.

We now touch down, but something weird happens: some way down the runway, suddenly everything becomes white, but textures are quickly reloaded and everything is textured once again. A bug? Not according to the developer, who says this is the drawback of a conscious decision. It’s a pity that it exists, but apparently he can do nothing about it.

ground-detail-markings

Ground detail of the taxiways.

 

We taxi off the runway and get onto the taxiway. The asphalt textures seem to be at a higher resolution and as a result they look very detailed and very nice. The yellow markings, however, look a little simple, and their placement seems a little inaccurate, like the hold markings which don’t extend from side to side. I do commend OrientalSim for the fluid curves, which, frankly, is something that I don’t always see in even the most expensive payware sceneries.

 

The passenger terminal

misc-airport-hotel

Airport hotel.

 

We taxi to the terminal, being handed off by tower control to ground control. On our left we see the airport hotel (at least, I think it’s an airport hotel…). The modeling is quite good and the texturing looks nice. The textures themselves seem a little dark, like sixties dining room. The windows could have been a bit brighter in my opinion, but all in all, it looks pretty good.

terminal-overview

terminal-backside

terminal-entry-road

Jomo Kenyatta’s terminal building.

 

Finally, we reach the terminal and dock our plane. To be blatantly honest, when I first saw the terminal, I was really surprised. I had seen screenshots of OrientalSim’s Baghdad intl. scenery and frankly wasn’t expecting too much of Jomo Kenyatta because of that, but I’m excited to say that Jomo Kenyatta’s terminal has left Baghdad intl far behind. The detail is really good, in my opinion even rivaling some of the better developing houses. Congratulations on that, Orientalsim!

The building itself is modeled well. It has got all the details that are necessary without going overboard on that front, adding so much detail that FSX grinds to a halt (like with some recently released sceneries). The texturing is also rather good, although in my opinion it is a bit blurry, it could have been a bit better. On the left side of the roof, it looks a bit like a single texture file was copy/pasted into place several times without really taking into account that one side of the texture might be darker than the other side. It doesn’t look very good, but I’m wiling to pass up on that simply because it’s the roof — you’re not really going to see it anyway, unless you like flying low and slow over the airport.

terminal-gate-area

terminal-gate-area2

At the gates.

 

The apron is somewhat filled with the jetways and service vehicles, all of which look pretty nice. The modeling is good and the texturing is good. I like the fact that the jetways have been placed in various positions. What I tend to dislike is this uniform look of jetways that not only look the same, but also all have the exact same position relative to the terminal building. In this scenery, they are placed differently, but always in a way that your aircraft’s door will connect to the jetways correctly, provided you stop at the right place.

Where you have to stop is clearly displayed on the apron: a huge, yellow STOP sign is drawn where (I suppose) the nosewheel has to be. You can imagine that if you actually stop there, the aircraft door might not always be correctly aligned with the jetway. You’ll have to see for yourself at what place you actually have top stop in order to get that right. Of course, what would be best, is AES…

terminal-jetway

A jetway, also notice the huge “Stop” marking on the ground.

terminal-service-vehciles

An example of the great modeling of the service vehicles.

 

I would like to draw special attention to the modeling of the jetways and the service vehicles. Especially the service vehicles have been extremely well modeled and look absolutely fantastic. A pleasure to behold!

terminal-backside-details

terminal-backside-details2

More detailed views of the pax side of the terminal.

 

Turning our attention to the back side of the terminal, the detail here really is great. Lots of parked cars, trees, nicely modeled and textured sidewalks… The eye has lots to behold! Also notice the signs you see here and there, same for the flags you see hanging from lamp posts. The texturing on these is really good! Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised by the quality and attention to detail seen here. The only thing which looks a bit strange, is the photoscenery you see “shining through” the asphalt. We see trees, cars, pedestrian crossings and whatnot. On the one hand this doesn’t look good, and it might have been better if these would have been fully removed. On the other hand, the photoscenery also includes details of the road, like damages, which do make everything look more lifelike. It therefor would have been a good option, maybe, if stuff like cars and such would have been edited out of the photoscenery, but road damages and repairs would have been left intact. As it is, I’m impressed. OrientalSim has done a good job.

If we turn our attention to the entryway of the terminal, we see one major drawback in this scenery: the photoscenery is very blurry. It would have been better if higher resolution images had been used, but, perhaps it was too expensive or it wasn’t available.

One interesting detail. Look at the screenshot showing the front of the passenger terminal. You’ll notice way at the back, on the apron, a sandy patch looking like a traffic sign of which the pole is very thick. This is the place where the extension of Jomo Kenyatta intl. is being built. The plans were announced in 2005 by the port authority to build a new wing to be able to handle the increasing flood of passengers that at that year topped 4 million, making Jomo Kenyatta intl. the 6th busiest airport of Africa, and the busiest airport of Central/Eastern Africa. At the moment, however, Jomo Kenyatta has dropped to 7th place in the rankings of the whole of Africa, but in 2010 it handled an overwhelming 5,5 million passengers. The busiest airport of Africa remains OR Tambo intl., in Johannesburg, South Africa.

fire-department

The fire department.

 

Last shot before we go to the cargo facilities, is the fire department. Texturing is slightly blurry, but okay. The modeling is quite good, and I especially like that we see 3D fire trucks standing in their garages, not simple 2D textures as you see in so many other sceneries.

There is actually thing I miss a bit at this passenger terminal. I guess I’m simply horribly spoiled by all the other sceneries, but it would be great if there were some custom, dynamic scenery. For example, Kenya Airways tugs and carts would be nice and would make the apron look more lively. Thanks to the amount of very well modeled service vehicles we already have a lively apron, but moving vehicles would make it even better.

 

Cargo facilities

Leaving the passenger terminal behind us, we move on to the cargo facilities. Below is an overview:

cargo-facilities

Overview of the cargo facilities at Jomo Kenyatta intl.

 

The buildings look good at first sight. Modeled well and nicely textured, like the passenger terminal. The pink building looks a bit weird. Sadly, I have no good way of verifying these colors, since the images on Google maps seem to be discolored. What can be seen on Google maps is that the pink building should have windows in its roof, and it also looks like the overhanging roof should be a bit smaller. The other buildings look faithful to their real world counterparts.

cargo-facilities2

cargo-facilities3

Zoomed in on the cargo area.

 

When we look a bit closer, we can notice several things. First of all, here, too, there is some of that nice ground equipment. I really have to hand it to OrientalSim that the ground equipment is exceptionally well textured. They are truly good looking! The other thing, is the ground textures of the far-away half of the cargo apron (with the white part). Looking at the (slightly discolored) Google maps images, it seems like the tiles should have been some sort of white hue, and the white asphalt should have been some sort of light grey. This seems like something that could be easily fixed. From email contact I had with the developer, it was apparent that an update for this is coming. Work at Nairobi intl. is progressing fast, and updated will come when necessary.

Adjacent to the cargo area, we find a large industrial park. Below is a series of screenshots:

industrial-park

industrial-park2

industrial-park3

industrial-park4

We can note several things. First of all, the photoscenery is rather blurry, as was noted before. When flying high, this is no problem, but from the level that we are looking at it, it doesn’t look very good. Since it’s blurry, it’s sometimes hard to see what is what, which leads to the feeling that some buildings are “floating” on pixels, which simply doesn’t look very nice. If there is a possibility to get high-resolution ground textures, this problem can be quickly fixed.

Secondly, buildings that are modeled look rather good. They are not always as detailed as the buildings that stand adjacent to the ramps, but nonetheless they offer a nice view. They are overall nicely modeled and nicely textured, and since they anyway are located at some distance from the ramps, the tiny details that could have been modeled would be lost to most users of the scenery.

The third thing is that not all buildings were modeled. This is no problem, in principal, except that it may look a little clumsy perhaps, to see some 3D buildings scattered around a partly empty field with roofs drawn on it. Seeing, however, that these buildings are by no means special or vital for our enjoyment of this scenery, it really isn’t such a problem.

 

Maintenance apron

We now go to the other side of the airport, where we find the maintenance apron. Several large hangars and some smaller buildings can be found here.

maintenance

The “Old Embakasi Airport”

 

Here is something peculiar about Jomo Kenyatta: Next to the maintenance hangars, we find these old buildings (screenshot above). We see a small control tower, and some structures (like that roof on two poles) which really look like some sort of old terminal building. That’s what it looks like, and that’s what it is: an old terminal building. Before Jomo Kenyatta became jomo Kenyatta, it was called Nairobi Embakasi Airport, named after the suburb of Embakasi at which it lies (much like, for example, Helsinki-Vantaa, which is located at the town of Vantaa, Finland, but mainly serving Helsinki. Thus it is known as Helsinki-Vantaa). At that time, this building you see in the screenshot, was the terminal building. This was when it was opened, in 1958. In the seventies the current terminal building was constructed and the airport was then renamed Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Now, the Kenyan air force mainly uses the old terminal building, which is why we find this next to it:

misc-military-aircraft

misc-us-military-truck

Military objects next to the air force building.

 

We see two military aircraft, and what probably is a fuel truck, but I’m not sure why it seems so American. At least, for all I know, the old American WW2 vehicles carried this white star. What is it doing in Kenya? I’m not sure… Back to the air force building, the modeling is well done although maybe a tad simplistic (the main terminal building seems more detailed), and the texturing is okay. All in all, it looks authentic.

maintenance-hangars

Maintenance hangars.

 

Leaving the air force building behind us, we arrive at Kenya Airways’ maintenance hangars. These are quite large, and sometimes you’ll see a Kenya Airways Boeing 767-300 parked here. The modeling and texturing here is good. I especially like the quality of the Kenya Airways sign on the right hangar.

misc-photoscenery

Photoscenery example.

 

In the vicinity of the maintenance hangars there is some more industry it seems, in this scenery signified with this photoscenery. It’s again quite blurry. I would have personally liked to have some 3D buildings here, just to fill it up a bit.

 

The airport at night

We have seen the airport at daytime, now I’ll present you with some shots of the scenery at nighttime. Overall the night lighting is quite nice, although I did miss lighting at some rather important buildings. For example, it looks like there isn’t any night lighting at some of the cargo terminals and warehouses. The passenger terminal is nicely lit however, and I really like the sort of orange lighting on the tarmac. Note that the runway at Jomo Kenyatta intl. does not have centerline lighting, not in real life and thus not in the sim. Same is also true for the taxiways: no green centerline lights. Here are some shots so you can see for yourself:

night-approach

Approach lighting.

night-taxiway

Taxiway lighting.

night-cargo-apron

The cargo apron.

night-control-tower

The control tower.

night-industrial-park

The industrial park.

night-terminal

The passenger terminal.

 

Performance

Now that you have seen the entire scenery, how does the scenery perform? To my slight disappointment, not so good as I had hoped. Since it doesn’t seem to be a scenery which is as overly detailed as, for example, FSDreamteam sceneries, I was hoping for a slightly higher FPS rate than I had. In hindsight, this airport is rather detailed though, but I guess I was hoping to see less of a FPS hit, since the airport isn’t very busy and the surrounding terrain isn’t anywhere near as dense as, for example, New York City or Chicago.

Aircraft Day Night
Trike Ultralight 30 30
LDS767 21-25 21-23
PMDG 747-8i 18 — 23 18-21

These rates aren’t disastrous. FSX runs pretty well, even with a FPS of 18. Higher is better of course, but I’m not too bothered by it. As long as I can operate in and out of the airport without too many hiccups, I’m pleased. In this case, I have a reason to be pleased.

 

Final thoughts

We have landed at the airport, we taxied to the gate, docked our aircraft and continued with a little stroll around the airport. I showed you the passenger terminal, the cargo terminal, the maintenance area with the air force building and finally the night lighting. Overall, I find this airport scenery to be very nice. It’s a bit rough around the edges here and there, but it’s nothing big. I can definitely recommend this airport to people who fancy flying around Africa. Being one of the very few quality airports for central and eastern Africa, OrientalSim has immediately set a standard for African airports. I secretly hope that the next airport Orientalsim develops will be as huge a leap forward as Jomo Kenyatta was compared to Baghdad. Not because Jomo Kenyatta looks bad (quite the contrary! As I just said, I really, really like this airport scenery!), but if this trend continues, the next scenery will be no doubt on par with FlyTampa, Aerosoft’s German Airports team and FSDreamteam.

My final thought on the matter: as it is, this airport scenery is really good. AES compatibility, higher resolution photoscenery and more consistent night lighting (the cargo area comes to mind) could improve it. But overall, a very good scenery by OrientalSim, and I’m looking forward to their next airport scenery.

A little final tidbit: The developer is doing a freeware city scenery of Nairobi. This should enhance the airport scenery a lot and I’m greatly looking forward to it. He also said he would do more African sceneries. it’s good to see we have a dedicated African airports developer!

 

Scenery details

Reviewed by: Benjamin van Soldt

Developer: OrientalSim

Platform: FSX only

Medium: Download

Price (including VAT): €19,04

Where to get: http://secure.simmarket.com/orientalsim-nairobi-intl.phtml

 

Test system

Windows 7 64 bit

FSX + Acceleration

Intel i5 Quad @2,79 gHz

ATI HD5750

4GB RAM DDR3

Addons: REX, MyTrafficX

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