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Review of AEROSOFT ONLINE – HERAKLION X

Heraklion International Airport, “Nikos Kazantzakis”, ICAO: LGIR, is the primary airport on the island of Crete, Greece. It is a shared civilian/military and is also the country’s second busiest airport after Athens International Airport.

First opened in 1939 it was little more than a flat piece of agricultural land. With the hostilities of the Second World War it ceased operations but was reopened in 1946. In 1947 the first terminal building was built to accommodate commercial flights which would begin in 1948; that year some 4,000 passengers used the airport’s very limited facilities. From 1968 to 1971 the airport went through a major transformation with the extension of the runway and the completion of a new terminal building. These upgrades essentially made it like a brand new airport. In 2010 almost 5 million passengers used the airport’s facilities. The airport has two runways; 09/27 @ 8,793ft and 13/31 @ 5,164ft.

Installation

The installation routine is very straightforward. After running the executable you must enter your registration information. During the installation you will be informed that the files are personalized for your PC. No other activation is required.

After the scenery has been installed you will be prompted to run the Aerosoft Launcher program. With the Launcher program installed you have the ability to access the product’s manual and also to see if there are any updates available for the addon.

When the installation is done you will see three new entries in the FSX scenery library; Heraklion X LC, Heraklion X scenery and Heraklion X.

Configuration

The developers should get extra credit for all the configuration options they’ve made available to the end user. There are three panels through which a host of a changes can be made; all self-explanatory and very easy to use.

The AESLite2 LGIR Heraklion X Configuration utility is the one that will look familiar if you have ever installed an Aerosoft product that has AESLite integrated into the product. This lets you control where you want the animated vehicle traffic.

The Heraklion X City configuration screen shows the city divided into 6 distinct areas. With the exception of the airport you have the choice of enabling or disabling the autogen objects within these areas.

I’ve included a few examples just to show you what some parts of the scenery will look like should you decide to uncheck them.

The last configuration panel is titled Heraklion X; it is here you have control over a number of visual enhancement elements at the airfield.

Documentation

A 10 page PDF manual is included with the product. It is well written and contains the usual information found in most manuals such as basic airport info, system requirements and installation and removal to name a few. There are also several pages devoted to the configuration tools and simulator settings. If you are going to read any part of the manual I highly recommend that you read these pages. An example, if you don’t set your mesh as per their recommendations you will experience some strange effects.

Charts are not included but can be found with little effort by doing a search on the internet.

The Scenery

This scenery was developed by the Flightsim Development Group which is the same company that just recently released a wonderful scenery for Sharm El-Sheikh. The scenery is comprised of a very detailed recreation of the airport plus the nearby city of Heraklion.

Ground textures

The scenery ground textures are comprised of photo textures which gives the ground a realistic look when viewed from several hundred feet or higher. Viewing these textures from rooftop level or lower there are areas which have a blurry appearance. This problem is quite common and is seen in most scenery addons. They’ve added volumetric grass so when you’re at ground level it breaks up the blurriness adding a sense of depth and realism.

The hard surface textures were quite realistic also consisting of high resolution textures.  Overall these were very good; weathering and signs of wear and tear could easily be seen.

Buildings

To begin, there are several factors that make their buildings look so realistic. In most cases they use very good quality bitmap images that show very fine details. They also make great use of colours. They do it in such a way that the weathering and dirt and aging that you see in real life are all present.

One thing I immediately noticed was how few buildings there are when compared to other similar sized airports. The most prominent structure is the main terminal building with its attached control tower. The building is a large multi-storey rectangular structure with simple lines. The walls have recessed windows with vertical concrete ribs. There are no jetways but instead there are three covered stairways and a covered ramp for passengers to get to and from their aircraft. These have been recreated with lots of details including overhead support trusses, individual stair treads and railings.

Staying with the terminal building but on the opposite side where we have the large parking lot and arrival/departure area I found that there was also plenty to look at. Although this area is not on the “business side of the airfield” it has been given a great deal of attention by the scenery developers. Looking at the screenshots it is possible to see lots of the little details that add up to make areas such as this very interesting to explore. This is the perfect type of area to utilize a first person mode “aircraft” such as Bob from Orbx. All these visual enhancements shouldn’t go unnoticed. See if you can pick some of them out; items such as flower pots and various types of signage.

The quality of the images used in the creation of the airport’s structures as I stated earlier are outstanding. I saw a great example of this as I was taking a closer look at the tower, I noticed that one of the windows was broken, in the screenshot you can see the cracks in the pane of glass.

Size wise the next largest structure is the fire station and like the terminal it is very well done. Again, they use all the same visual elements as I described earlier to give this building character and make it interesting and realistic. Of note is the fact that the open garage area is 3 dimensional rather than just a flat image so it has depth and includes fire trucks parked inside.

The remainder of the airport’s buildings are all much smaller than the main terminal but they have been given just as much attention. Size definitely does not matter here. It is nice to see that even the smallest buildings were given the same degree of attention as the largest.

The airport is a shared military/civilian facility so there are some military structures; hardened aircraft shelters, communications buildings, and a host of other small buildings near runway 27. They look very real sporting camouflage and low visibility colours. This military element at Heraklion should put it on the radar for those sim pilots who enjoy military aircraft. It gives them a detailed airport that they can realistically use as a base for their flights.

The airport is not without its flaws, just east of stand 15 there was a slight problem with the mesh. There were some buildings partially submerged into the ground. Oddly enough the vehicles located right next to these same buildings were fine.

Objects and Vehicles

Strategically placed throughout the airport are a wide variety of very high quality realistic looking objects and vehicles. They seem to have mastered the technique of injecting the right type of object in the right place to make us feel like things are happening. I saw all of the requisite objects such as lighting, navigational aids, fencing, etc. plus all manner of vehicle types. Looking closer I became aware of some vehicles I hadn’t seen before in other sceneries such as mopeds parked in amongst the other vehicles and some large highway cruiser style passenger buses. I especially liked how they positioned buses along the edges of the apron as if they were waiting to get passengers on the next arriving flights. Another instance of how they’ve one upped other scenery developers can be seen next to what looks like a repair and maintenance facility, here we see piles of old tires strewn about. Most airports have the “normal” stuff it’s these extras that set a scenery like this one apart from the others. Here is another example; on the base of the large light poles you can see bolt heads between the strengthening ribs.  These types of detail enhancements can be seen throughout the airport scenery.

The military element has also been well represented with the addition of a variety of military pattern vehicles placed in those areas to compliment the military structures.

Accuracy is something that I am sure developers strive for when they are creating their sceneries, especially high end addons such as this one. Nothing really looked out place except for several of the blast fences. There is a blast fence blocking a few of the fire station’s large vehicle bay doors plus there is one other adjacent to stand 15 that lacks the angled piece that is fitted to those other ones nearby. The next screenshot shows this problem.

Animations

AESLite is included so there is an abundance of vehicle traffic both within the airport and on adjacent roadways.

They have also included some other scenery animations that add to the ambiance; flags seeming to move with the winds and a rotating light on the control tower.

Surrounding Area

I would consider this scenery to be exceptional if it was only the airport but it is so much more than that. They’ve given the nearby city of Heraklion a complete makeover.  Using a combination of high resolution photo scenery base textures, custom mesh and custom and standard autogen the area is completely transformed making it much more realistic and visually interesting. This is a very beautiful part of the world that is rich in history and this addon lets you experience a small slice of that. The harbour area with the ships, the mix of historic and modern buildings that populate the city of Heraklion and its shoreline. All are well done and can be enjoyed at any altitude.

Night

I am finding that night time operations are becoming much more immersive due to the very realistic night time rendering techniques that developers are using. All types of lighting are getting better and better. I found that their work was top notch in every respect. Especially impressive is the way they illuminate the ground next to taxiway signage and lights.

Performance

Performance with this product could certainly prove to be a concern. You have a possible combination of the massive amount of autogen and high quality objects that are modelled and then add to that a complex aircraft which you may be flying. I didn’t experience any problems but if you find that you are they provide the tools to help you out. This is where the three scenery configuration option screens can be put to good use.

Final Thoughts

Outstanding sums it up. The Mediterranean area has no shortage of top quality airports from which to choose and now Heraklion X can be added to that category. Despite a few small issues this is definitely one to get. Without doubt this is a great value for the price.

My Ratings

Installer: Very good, simple to use.

Documentation: Good but charts are not included.

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

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

Download Size: FSX 298 Mb

Price: EUR  16.76 without VAT

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

Link: http://secure.simmarket.com/aerosoft-online-heraklion-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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