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Review of AEROSOFT – FAIRBANKS X

Fairbanks International Airport, ICAO: PAFA, is a state owned public use airport located a few kilometers southwest of the city of Fairbanks in the state of Alaska in the United States. The airport serves both cargo lines and a limited number of passenger carriers. Up until several years ago it was a popular refueling stop for cargo carriers flying trans-polar routes. Fairbanks holds the distinction of being the smallest city in the U.S. with non-stop air service to Europe. In 2009 the new passenger terminal was opened to serve the public and most recently in December 2011 it was named as one of the world’s “9 beautiful new airport terminals” by The Atlantic Cities magazine.

The airport has four runways: 2L/20R @ 11,800ft asphalt, 2R/20L @ 6,500ft asphalt, ski/gravel strip 2/20 @ 2,900ft gravel and 2W/20W @ 5,400ft water.

Installation

The file size for Fairbanks is a hefty 1.23Gbs which is rather large considering the scenery coverage area doesn’t go much beyond the airport’s perimeter. However, once you install it you will get to appreciate why it is so large when you see the quality of this product.

Aerosoft products are very simple to install and activate. To install you simply add your registration info and confirm the path to FSX and let the process continue. As soon as the installer has done its thing it will attempt to connect to the Aerosoft servers to complete the final step of this two-step process by activating the addon. If it is successful you will be set to use the new addon, if not you will then have the choice of activating it via the Aerosoft Launcher program or by going to the FSX Menu/Add-ons/Aerosoft/Aerosoft Add-ons menu item. Regardless of the method they are all straightforward.

Configuration

The product comes with AESLite so they provide the “AESLite PAFA X Traffic Configuration” tool. It is here that you have the option of controlling where you want the animated traffic to be either enabled or disabled.

Documentation

With the package you get two documents; a German/English product manual plus a charts manual.

The bulk of the 12 page product manual deals with the activation of the product. It provides lots of good information on the various scenarios you may encounter in the process of activating your product. The remainder of the manual has information pertaining to system requirements, installation, settings, performance and airport information. I found that it was all good and worthwhile reading.

A charts manual is also included; the charts are colourful and informative but unfortunately there are some omissions. As an example they include an ILS chart for  runway 02L but not for 20R. Fortunately charts are easily found from a number of sources on the internet to augment what is provided.

The Scenery

Fairbanks X is the type of airport scenery that has something to offer to every type of simpilot. IFR or VFR, commercial or GA aircraft, land or water based, all of these can be accommodated at Fairbanks. Plus there are the additional challenges due to the surrounding mountainous landscapes and the volatility of the weather.

Ground textures

With high resolution photo scenery as the base the airport along with the scenery coverage area offer some impressive visuals.

There is some blurriness when viewed at ground level but this has been mitigated by enhancing the details such as the painted markings in the parking lots and roadways. This isn`t the case with the rail lines that run parallel to the airfield. They were lost in the ground textures.

The hard surface areas were very well done, there are visible but subtle differences in the colouring between the paved and gravel surfaces plus we see the effects the harsh weather has had on the asphalt surfaces with the cracks and discolouration. Parking areas also showed some dirt stains.

Buildings

When looking at an airport one of the predominant features is of course its structures and they’ve done an outstanding job at recreating them here at Fairbanks. As you look around and explore close up you can sense the airport’s small town feel. It has charm and we see that reflected in the product. A major reason why I think this comes across is because of the quality of the scenery developer’s work. They use high resolution graphic images, lots of details and the buildings fit flawlessly onto the base ground textures. To give them a realistic look they make good use of colours and shading techniques. This lets them show signs of discolouration from aging and exposure to the elements. Functionality and simplicity are the two words that come to mind when you look around. Irrespective of how small or big a building may be they all look as realistic as possible.

The layout of Fairbanks International airport is such that runway 2L/20R seems to be a dividing line.

The northern half of this airport which is geared towards commercial operations is where you will find the fire station, maintenance facilities, cargo facilities, several large hangars and a number of small storage and administrative buildings.

The centre piece of this airport is its passenger terminal. It is the largest and most complex of all of the buildings at Fairbanks. The developers have recreated it in detail capturing its simple charm. The techniques I described in the previous paragraph are clearly visible here.

The southern half is used for GA operations and is almost like a second airport as it is so different. This is also where the water and gravel strips are located.

The majority of these buildings are one or two storey structures and are for the most part located along the Airport Perimeter Road. None of them are fancy but they are all meticulously recreated to further enhance the small town feel you get when looking at this part of the airport. The buildings are perfect examples of how size doesn’t matter; all of the elements that went into the much larger and complex terminal can also be seen in these simple structures.

The airport’s control tower is located in this part of the airport. The tower like the other buildings has clean simple lines; no fancy geometric shapes here. Functionality seemed to be the main objective with their design and that’s been nicely reproduced.

Objects and Vehicles

Another important aspect of any airport scenery are the vehicles and objects that we see throughout the scenery. Not surprising, both the quality and variety were excellent. This airport caters to a host of different aircraft, from large commercial jets to small single engine amphibious types and you can see that reflected in the diversity of the objects seen throughout the airport.

They have included all of the various types of ground lighting such as approach and PAPI, which are quite detailed by the way, and then throughout the airport are other objects such as freight containers, fuel barrels, mobile stairs, portable power units, pylons, blast fences, etc.

An interesting part of the airport was the maintenance hangars and in this area are aircraft in varying degrees of dis-assembly along with spare parts. This is one of the facets of Fairbanks that helps give it its charm  and makes it fun to explore.

When it came to vehicles I found that the variety exceeded what is found in most other sceneries. Besides the usual array of small cars, vans and service vehicles they added many other vehicle types such as ambulances, police cruisers, airport maintenance vehicles with many of these sporting Fairbanks insignia. This airport has the added requirement to have both snow clearing and de-icing capabilities so there were additional vehicle types such as de-icing trucks, snow plows and heavy earth moving equipment.

Animations

There are vehicles traveling within the airport grounds and on the adjacent roadways which in itself is not unusual given the scenery comes with AESLite. The difference here is that the vehicles seen traveling on these roads varies with the seasons. In the winter months when the cold weather and winter snows are visible the de-icing trucks and snow plows that were parked at the airfield can now be seen making the rounds driving along the airport’s service roads.

The roads surrounding the airport are also populated with vehicle traffic. Once again I was impressed with the variety of vehicle types; everything from small cars to large tractor trailers. All of this traffic certainly helps breathe life into the scenery.

As part of AESLite they have also included some rail traffic. Alaska Railroads has a rail line that runs along the southern boundary of the airport and the train can be seen moving along here and then uncoupling flat cars near the maintenance facility.

Surrounding Area

The scenery coverage area is mainly confined to the airport with only a minimal amount of land beyond the airport’s perimeter.

Seasons

Fairbanks has the distinction of being the seventh coldest city in the world so I was very interested to see how winter was going to be portrayed. I thought that overall they did a very good job with only a few minor problems. Looking at the ground textures I would say that they were extremely well done which was no surprise. The ground textures, less traveled roadways and apron areas were snow covered and there was also some hint of residual snow on the runways and other high traffic areas. All of this was very convincing and you could almost feel the cold. Where they fell short was with the rooftop textures, many of the buildings including the passenger terminal still showed dark rooftops which really looked out of place when everything else was white.

Night

The night time environment was lots of fun to experience. All of the different types of night time lighting were first-rate. As seen in the screenshots, when you combine the darkness, winter landscapes and inclement weather, you have all the ingredients to make this an eerily realistic and challenging environment. These are some of the best night time graphics of any airport I’ve reviewed.

Performance

When flying complex aircraft such as the PMDG 737 NGX I found my PC struggled on occasion to maintain good frame rates. If you find yourself in this situation you may want to look at adjusting your scenery settings. There is a paragraph in the manual devoted to this subject and they include some suggestions on how to handle the situation.

Final Thoughts

I was extremely impressed with the overall quality of this airport. I thought it had character and that the developers had captured the look and feel of this multi-use airport. Fairbanks X gives the simpilot a wonderful location from which to explore this beautiful and picturesque part of the world.

My Ratings

Installer: Very good, simple to use.

Documentation: Good. Includes both a product manual and charts.

Modelling: Excellent quality with lots of details that make it interesting.

Extras: Animated vehicle traffic at the airport and surrounding roadways.

Download Size: FSX 1.23Gbs

Price: EUR 18.45 without VAT

Developer Homepage: http://www.aerosoft.de/

Link: http://secure.simmarket.com/aerosoft-online-fairbanks-x-(download).phtml

Test System:

Intel i7 960 OC @ 4.2 Ghz, 6 Gb RAM, EVGA GTX560 Ti w/1.2 Gb video, Win 7 Ultimate 64, FSX w/acceleration, Ultimate traffic 2, REX Overdrive, GEXn, UTX, AES, GSX.

Richard Desjardins

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