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Review of LatinVFR KMIA Miami International Airport v1.1 for FSX

Miami International airport, ICAO: KMIA, is located 13 miles northwest of the city of Miami and is the primary airport serving south Florida. The airport originally opened in 1928 and was known as Pan American Field. In 1945 the City of Miami purchased  the airfield and it was renamed to 36th Street Airport and later to Miami International Airport. Over the course of decades it has seen a rise in passenger and freight traffic volumes as well as importance. In the U.S. it is ranked 1st by percentage of international flights and 2nd by percentage of international passengers after New York’s JFK.  Over 35 million passengers passed through the airport in 2010 making it the 28th busiest airport in the world. The airport has four runways; 8L/26R @ 8,600ft, 8R/26L @ 10,506ft, 9/27 @ 13,000ft and 12/20 @ 9,354ft.

Installation and Configuration

Installation is straight forward but requires an internet connection to confirm your purchase details. You will be asked to enter the email address and registration code associated with your purchase. The installer will verify this and once done the scenery will be installed. This same procedure is also used for updates and patches. The final step adds the scenery to the FSX scenery library.

There are no configuration options for this scenery package.

Documentation

To get to the manual you will need to do a bit of digging as the installer doesn’t create any program group or desktop icons for this scenery. The manual can be found in the FSX addon scenery folder in the directory called “LatinVFR\Miami_KMIA\Docs”. It would have been a bit more user friendly had they at least given us a desktop icon as novice users may have difficulty knowing where to look in order to find it.

Once you find the manual and open it up you will see that it is a  17 page PDF document. Much of what is included is typical of most product manuals. The main topics covered are:

History

Airport info

Link to charts

Airlines and destinations

Static aircraft files and locations

General flying tips

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

LatinVFR Airport Routes from KMIA

Where they out do many others is by including a list of airlines and destinations plus they provide flight plans between KMIA and other LatinVFR airports. I really thought this extra bit of information was a nice feature for the virtual pilot providing ready to use routes.

An aerodrome chart is the only chart included.

Scenery

Here are the scenery highlights as provided by the developer.

Within this scenery package you will have.

KMIA (MIA) airport completely modeled with significant attention to detail.

Surroundings extremely detailed.

More than 44 sq miles (100+km) of photo scenery with thousands of hand placed autogen.

High resolution ground textures / Custom runway-taxiways textures.

Custom made shadows for airport buildings.

Revised land classes for surrounding photo scenery.

Fully AI traffic compatible. With their respective parking airline codes (according to real world data)

Animated Terminal Skytrains

Excellent night effects.

Optimized for great performance in both FS2004 and FSX.

Landable helipad in building center of the airport (FSX)

Static aircraft in the maintenance areas. B737’s, B757 and B767’s.

Inclusion of manual in PDF format.

Volumetric grass in holding point areas.

Installer automatically adding to FS library.

Birds (FSX)

Native vehicle animations (FSX)

Reflection effects on terminal (FSX)

This is an airport that lots of people have been asking for in the flightsim community and so I was anxious to give it a try to see how it looked and how it performed.

Ground Textures

The ground textures get mixed marks; hard surface textures appeared to be hi resolution with realistic colouring, good detailing and signs of wear and tear and heavy traffic use.

The ground textures used for all other areas of the airport appeared blurry especially at low altitudes or at ground level. I am referring to the grassy areas, parking lots and roads within the airport boundaries. For the most part I felt that they were inferior to those found in their other FSX products.

 

The painted markings used on the hard surfaces get mixed marks as well. The ground markings for the apron and parking areas I thought were well done and deserved to be acknowledged.

Those used for the taxiways however were a disappointment for me. I will say that the system of ground markings like the network of taxiways is complex so it must have been a difficult task to try and get them right. I found that in many instances they looked disjointed, they often didn’t line up and sometimes it looked as though they used the wrong type or just plain didn’t belong. These deficiencies were very obvious when taxiing to or from any of the runways. I don’t know how they missed some of these obvious problems.

Buildings

There are quite a few buildings at Miami; a number of them along the north side of runway 8L/26R, the main terminal that is centrally located between runways 8R/26L and 12/30 and then several cargo hangars north of runway 9/27. The overall impression I came away with was that for the most part the buildings could have been better. When I look at airport buildings in a scenery addon I like to see lots of added 3d detailing such as light fixtures, recessed windows and doors, roof top objects, roof overhangs, external supports, etc. They should also use hi resolution images and colour them accordingly. These attributes were lacking in much of what I saw and so I felt they looked bland and uninteresting for the most part. In some instances they even looked like they weren’t placed quite right on the base images and I believe that this was due partly to their use of low resolution ground imaging. Here are some screenshots that illustrate what I mean.

Of course there were exceptions; several of the cargo hangars in the West Cargo Base and the main terminal building were examples of what I feel the buildings should look like.

The main terminal is a complex “C” shaped building with concourses that extend out from the main central area and then from these are all of the jet ways. I think it was the complexity of the building that was its saving grace as there are no large flat areas so it is a naturally interesting building to look at and they captured it wonderfully.  Each of the concourses is unique in their design and they did capture that in the scenery. J concourse is the newest opening in 2007, having a curved roof line and plenty of glass it is very pleasing to the eye.

 

 

The least favorite of all the buildings had to be the he Miami Central Station located to the east of the airport. It looks like they forgot to finish modelling it.

This simplistic approach can be a disappointing factor in one way but on the other hand it may actually be somewhat of a blessing in disguise depending on what you are looking for in an airport addon. The airport is a very busy place and if you are running an AI addon such as Ultimate traffic like I am plus your settings are set for a high percentage of traffic you will have an airport filled with aircraft. The fact that the buildings are simplistic in this case helped keep the simming experience fluid with frame rates at a sufficient level that I was never looking at a slide show even when flying complex aircraft such as the PMDG 737 NGX.

Objects

They have populated the airport with an abundance of objects and vehicles. As you can see throughout many of the review screenshots they are strategically placed so that these objects and vehicles contribute to making this place look busy and advance the perception of the hustle and bustle of daily activity. There was lots of variety especially in the apron and freight areas. Like other parts of the scenery there were inconsistencies in the quality. Some were quite good while others were not.

In addition, KMIA also has static aircraft situated in various locations around the airport. In my installation I left them in place and found that they did add something to the scenery with no negative repercussions as far as performance was concerned. If you decide you don’t like what you see you can remove them by renaming certain files.  The specifics are given on page 8 of the manual.

People Mover

Miami International airport like many other large airports has some form of rail link in place to help passengers get to and from its main terminal quickly. At Miami it is an automated system and is referred to as the MIA Mover. This rail link is an above ground system and it connects the passenger terminal to the nearby Miami Central station. The system is modeled in this scenery and it includes animated rail cars moving along the track between the various buildings. It however suffers from visual glitches. Like many other aspects of this scenery I have to say that from a distance it looked quite good but as I checked it out close up some problems came to light. The movements of these rail cars was quite jerky and they didn’t always follow the tracks, something that is not noticeable from a distance. The other aspect that I felt could have used more work were the tracks themselves. Many of the track sections did not line up and so you had gaps between them. Again this is something you would not notice flying in and out of Miami but it became very noticeable as I took a closer look at the product.

Surrounding area

As the developers state in their highlights, the area surrounding Miami International airport has been recreated and enhanced with photo scenery and hand placed custom autogen. Looking closely there are some interesting buildings south of KMIA near Lake Joanne.

There were a few problems here though; I found that at low levels the ground textures appeared blurry. Also at the end of runway 27 at the Melreese Golf course the water traps were creeping up the sides of the hills. At higher altitudes this may not have been an issue but coming in on final this type of problem is very visible.

There were also problems where some of the roadway overpasses did not match up with the ground images.

Despite having problems the enhancements to the surrounding area did make the final approaches seem much more interesting and realistic.

Approaches

During my testing of the scenery I flew instrument approaches in accordance with published charts and found them to be as expected. When it came to flying in and out of Miami I was very impressed with how the navaids were implemented.

 

Night

Night time at Miami is also a busy time. The lighting was well done for the most part. Building lighting along with apron lighting was good and gave the airport a realistic feel. Where I had a problem was with the ground lighting for the runways and taxiways. On the approaches everything looked fine, good intensity colours but once on the ground and taxiing to the terminal the lighting looked more like solid blobs of colour rather than the glow of lights, this was especially true for the green center line lights. As I was taxiing I also noticed that sometimes the green colour would disappear as I taxied along and then they would suddenly reappear.

Final Thoughts

This airport left me with mixed feelings; visuals are always a big part of a scenery addon and because of that I have to say that this scenery could have been better. Up close there were just too many places it fell short of what I expect in a quality FSX airport. On the other hand if you are looking for an airport to fly in and out of and aren’t focused on the visuals you may very well like this one.

My Ratings

Installer:  Excellent. Little effort required, adds entry to FSX scenery library.

Documentation:  Good manual, I liked the fact they include flight plans and airline info.

Modelling:  Some good visuals but also many short comings especially when looking at it close up. No active docking systems modeled.

Extras:  Surrounding area modeled.

Download Size: FSX 143MB, FS9 83MB

Price: EUR 20.99

Developer Homepage: http://www.latinvfr.com

Link: http://secure.simmarket.com/latinvfr-miami-international-airport-kmia.phtml

Test System:

Intel i7 960 OC @ 4.2 Ghz, 6 Gb RAM, ASUS 480GTX w/1.5Gb video, Win 7 Ultimate 64, FSX w/acceleration, Ultimate traffic 2, REX Overdrive, UTX, GEXn, AES 2.20d

Richard Desjardins

2 comments to Review of LatinVFR KMIA Miami International Airport v1.1 for FSX

  • Keith Guillory

    I am very glad I read this review. I was almost ready to buy the KMIA scenery but now I am having second thoughts.

  • MIA is not 13 miles NW of the City of Miami. The City of Miami’s city limits are right across the street from the airport on LeJeune Road where the city’s golf course is located on the east side of LeJeune? And the City of Miami is on the other side of the State Road 836 “Dolphin Expressway” on the south side of the airport. Perhaps the writer was thinking of downtown Miami but that 13 miles sounds excessive for that. Maybe they meant City Hall at Dinner Key in Coconut Grove?