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Review of DRZEWIECKI DESIGN – KRAKOW BALICE EPKK 2012 for FSX v1.1

John Paul II International Airport Kraków-Balice, ICAO: EPKK, is an international airport located in the south of Poland in the village of Balice which is near the city of Krakow. Originally known as Kraków-Balice Airport it was renamed in 1995 to honour Pope Paul II who had spent many years of his life in Krakow. EPKK was opened to civilian traffic in 1964 and has seen a steady growth in traffic, in 2011 more than 3 million passengers passed through its facilities. The airport is the second busiest airport in Poland after Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airport.  It has a single runway 07/25 @ 8,366ft.

Installation

The file size for this airport is a large one at 1.3Gbs.  The installation procedure is very simple and requires minimal input, at the end of the process the newly installed scenery is ready to use.

Configuration

There are no configuration options for this scenery.

Documentation

The addon comes with two PDF documents; a four page product manual and a three page charts manual.

The manual is brief with the content interesting and to the point. On the three pages they cover a wide variety of topics beginning with airport history and ending with the required legal stuff. In between they explain the installation and scenery features, talk about compatibility, support, static aircraft and the limitations of FSX and scenery textures and how they get around that with their Scenery switcher program. I found it informative and worthwhile reading.

For the charts manual they’ve simply taken three real world charts dated 22 Dec 2011 and bundled them together; the aerodrome chart, ILS or LOC 25 runway chart and the visual operation chart. A full set of charts can be found very easily on the internet.

The Scenery

The scenery faithfully recreates the John Paul II International Airport and the nearby city of Krakow, Poland.

Ground textures

The ground textures for this addon consist of hi resolution photo textures giving the entire coverage area a very detailed and realistic base. This has its pros and cons however. The pro side is that we see very detailed ground features which show all sorts of small details not normally found otherwise. Unfortunately on the flip side it often means that we see objects in the photo textures that haven’t been reproduced in the scenery and this can look odd at lower altitudes. They have done a great job at minimizing this negative effect however it is never possible to fully eliminate it.

Overall the positives far outweigh the negatives here and the results are some very detailed ground features.

The airport’s hard surfaces such as runways and aprons looked realistic with visible wear and tear from years of aircraft traffic. There were also some variations in colour that could have been the result of different materials.

Buildings

This group has mastered the technique of creating buildings in such a way that makes them look very realistic and this for me is one of the outstanding features of the scenery. Using a combination of hi resolution photo textures and added details they are able to do some pretty amazing stuff.

The airport has a number of large structures; the domestic terminal with its three conjoined buildings and curved roof top, the international terminal with its large glass walls and the multi-level car park with exposed roof top parking. Additionally there is a separate military apron area where you will find the airfields control tower and fire hall. All of these are impressively recreated as well as being accurately located on the base textures.

Just west of the international terminal there is a large hangar that appears to have been abandoned and because they use hi resolution images you can see a number of very fine details such as individual wires on the walls. Dirt and the effects of aging and deterioration on the bricks and building materials is also evident and adds so much to the look that sets these buildings apart from most other developers.

The control tower is a great example of how they incorporate details into their buildings. They include the open metal staircase that ascends from ground level up to the controller’s pod and also the metal railing the surrounds the perimeter deck at that level.

Roof tops were another area where the quality of their work stood out. They use the same techniques of combining hi resolution photo textures and details giving roof tops the attention they deserve. This is something that is often neglected by many other developers but not here.

Objects and Vehicles

They include a wide variety of objects and vehicles throughout the entire scenery. All of the essentials are included and I didn’t notice anything missing. The quality was very good and the placement of the items was both accurate and relevant.

Just an example of what I mean about placement; the approach lights for runway 25 cross a multi-lane highway which is just off the end of the runway. They were able to accurately place them so that none were on the roadway.

Besides adding the essentials they have also successfully added objects and vehicles that enhance the feeling that there is lots going on. They add people in different locations to make them appear as if they were engaged in various activities.

Static aircraft are also included as part of the airport scenery. The models are pretty good and include a number of transport aircraft in the military aprons, some light aircraft just off the main apron and then several commercial jet liners on the main apron in front of the terminal. They include service vehicles with the commercial jet liners that portray the aircraft in the midst of servicing. The scenarios they’ve set out are well done and fit in very well with the overall airport scenery. I liked how they set this up instead of just having a few aircraft parked on the apron, the result is much more realistic.

Animations

We see airport vehicles moving about the apron and service roads, buses and cars travelling to and from the terminal buildings and finally a variety of vehicles from small automobiles to large transport trucks on the nearby multi-lane roadways. All are excellently done and definitely enhance the visual experience.

Surrounding Area

I have reviewed several airport packages from this group and with each one there is usually an area of photo scenery and with Krakow they do the same thing. They’ve included a large area mostly east of John Paul II International Airport which takes in the nearby city of Krakow. Using the combination of photo ground textures, custom mesh and lots of standard autogen plus some custom autogen they’ve given us lots to look at with an impressive city scape and interesting local landmarks.

Seasons

Through the use of their Season switcher utility the airport and surrounding area are transformed. Summer textures are bright with luscious greens for the trees and ground conveying the warmth of those hot summer days. Winter brings a blanket of white snow on the ground and building roof tops with the trees stark and bare. In the fall the trees are brightly coloured and the ground textures are transformed to more subdued browns and greys.  Each season is very convincingly portrayed.

This Season switcher utility in my opinion should be included as part of the scenery download because you will be using it at some point.

Night

Night time at this airport was no less impressive and despite a small problem they give the night time pilot lots to enjoy. Overall it was well done with most aspects portrayed realistically.

There was one area where I thought they could have done better and that was with the intensity of the apron lighting, the areas appeared to be oversaturated with light. I think that it would have looked much more realistic if it had been toned down a few notches.

Performance

At no time did I feel that my PC was struggling to maintain good frame rates. The experience was fluid throughout regardless of the season or the time of day.

Final Thoughts

One of the major highlights for me is this group’s talent for making some of the most realistic looking buildings in any airport scenery available for FSX and they deserve to be recognized for that. I did find a few minor issues but overall this is a very good addon which I thoroughly enjoyed and have no problem recommending it.

My Ratings

Installer: Very Good. Simple as always.

Documentation: Good. Brief but informative. Also include some charts.

Modelling: Very Good.

Extras: Lots of vehicle traffic and a large area of surrounding scenery modelled.

 

Download Size: FSX 1.3Gb

Price: EUR  16.81 without VAT

Developer Homepage: http://www.drzewiecki-design.net/

Link: http://secure.simmarket.com/drzewiecki-design-krakow-balice-epkk-2012-fsx.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, GEXn, UTX, AES, GSX.

Richard Desjardins

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