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Review of IMAGINE SIM – ATLANTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – KATL FSX

Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, ICAO: KATL, aka Atlanta Airport, Hartsfield Airport or Hartsfield–Jackson is located just outside of Atlanta, Georgia in the United States. It has had the distinction of being the world’s busiest airport by passenger traffic since 1998 and by the number of take-offs and landings since 2005. The airport continued to hold its number one ranking for both passengers and number of flights in 2011, by accommodating 92 million passengers and 923,991 flights. Atlanta Airport also serves as the hub for Delta Airlines.

The airport can trace its roots back to 1925 when it began with a five-year, rent-free lease on 287 acres of land on the site of an abandoned auto racetrack known as The Atlanta Speedway. This was a busy airport even back then, in 1930 it placed third behind New York City and Chicago for regular daily flights. It has always operated as a civilian airport except for a time during the Second World War when it was under the control of the United States Army Air Force. It has seen many expansion projects over the course of its history, but the most recent is also the most ambitious, with plans costing approximately $9 billion dollars that will allow it to accommodate a staggering 121 million passengers by 2015.

The airport has 5 runways; 8L/26R @ 9,000ft, 8R/26L @ 10,000ft, 9L/27R @ 12,390ft, 9R/27L @ 9,001ft and 10/28 @ 9,000ft.

Installation

Installation is a simple procedure. After launching the scenery executable you will be required to enter the registration code that was provided at the time of purchase for the program to complete the process. The installer also adds the airport to your FSX scenery library. If you have the demo version installed you will need to uninstall it prior to installing the full version. File size is a modest 105Mb.

Configuration

There is no configuration utility.

Documentation

One thing they do that I really like is that they include a small readme file. In here they give the purchaser some basic info about the product including “software installation” which is great if you are a novice and might be unsure of the steps you need to take.

Also supplied with the scenery is a 14 page product manual. I thought that it was well written and contained lots of worthwhile information. Here are just a few of the topics they cover: explanation of how to park your aircraft at the gates using the “Delta Park” visual docking systems, FSX display settings and a very good FAQ section. They include only one chart, the aerodrome chart. A quick search on line will lead you to all the charts you could hope to need.

Scenery

The scenery is a detailed recreation of the airport and only a minimal area around its perimeter. Although in FSX they tried to do KATL justice there is no way it comes close to the real thing especially when you compare it with what Imagine Simulation have done. You will also notice that in the FSX version runway 10/28 which was completed in 2006, the same year that FSX was released, is non-existent.

Ground textures

Photo textures were used as the base for this scenery. In areas where the ground cover is mostly grass everything looks fine it is where we see roadways and parking lots that the problem of  blurry ground textures becomes apparent. Flying in and out of Atlanta I was not really aware of the problem as I was focused on the runways. It’s when I took the time to explore the scenery much more closely did this come to light. With all of the parking lots and roadways that surround the airport the scenery would have definitely benefitted from higher resolution photo ground textures.

Hard surface textures were quite good showing lots of detailing. My only comment here is that overall I think they looked too clean for the exceptionally high level of aircraft traffic.  The aircraft parking stands mainly, if you compare the scenery to aerial photos I believe there should have been more signs of dirt and spills in these areas.

Buildings

The quality of the buildings that have been recreated in the scenery is consistent throughout. For most of these buildings you can see that they’ve used a combination good quality bitmap images with some discrete detailing to give them a realistic look which overall gives good results.

When viewed up close you can see that they’ve tended to keep things simple. Luckily the design of the buildings at Atlanta is pretty ordinary with not much in the way of cutting edge architecture but rather they are solid looking structures built with an eye for functionality. This decision to not use high definition imagery or incorporate too many extra details such as exterior light fixtures, recessed doorways and windows is probably a contributing factor in the excellent performance this airport gives.

I was pleased to see that some attention was paid to adding details to the rooftops of many of the buildings. Although the quality is not the best I have seen, I must say that I was still very happy with how everything looked.

From a pilot’s perspective the level of detailing is good, it is when you begin to explore the airport’s nooks and crannies that the lack of detailing and their use of the lower quality imagery really becomes apparent. An example where this can be seen is the arrivals area of the International Terminal building.

The airport is laid out with the majority of its structures centrally located between runways 8R/26L and 9L/27R. It is here that we see the control tower, the two passenger terminals and seven concourses all of which have a combined area of 6.8 million sq. ft. This area also has several large Delta Airlines buildings and a U.S. Post Office depot.

North of runway 8L/26R is the North cargo ramp which includes several fuel farms the City hangar, AirTran hangar and Delta North apron.

The area with the fewest number of buildings is the area between runways 9R/27L and 10/28; here we have the South cargo ramp and the NWA hangar.

Objects

This part of the scenery for me was one of the major highlights. If you set your scenery complexity slider to extremely dense as per the developer’s recommendations you will have an airport that is filled with all sorts of objects and vehicles. If you don’t you will unfortunately be missing out on one of the best parts of this scenery.

The aprons at Atlanta are extremely busy and cluttered. I don’t have the chance to do much real world flying however I have flown in and out of KATL several times over the past year and was amazed at how well this scenery portrays the hectic pace for this part of the airport. In amongst the parked aircraft are baggage carts and tugs, pushback tugs, catering trucks, refueling vehicles and a host of other vehicles mixed in.

Taking into account quality, quantity, placement and variety they did their homework and we can appreciate the fruits of their efforts. Combine all of the items I just mentioned with the animated apron vehicle traffic and a good 3rd party AI aircraft program and you have all the ingredients for a great experience.

With all of the passenger traffic at Atlanta it stands to reason that a big percentage of these people will be driving and parking their vehicles at the airport. The airport has several very large parking lots plus some multi-level parking garages. Once again with the scenery sliders set as per their recommendation just about all of them are filled with vehicles. As for the multi-level garages it wasn’t just the rooftop levels that were filled with vehicles the intermediate levels as well had cars and trucks.

Besides what I have just described there is so much more to see everywhere else in this very large airport. All of the major buildings and important areas include ancillary objects that match their purpose. As an example, the Delta North apron near the AirTran and City hangars that I am showing in the following screenshot has a whole host of different objects and vehicles including freight containers that range from small baggage trailers to large sea containers. The name of the game is realism and I think that in this respect they did a very good job. This same type of thing can be seen throughout the entire airport.

They’ve included all different types of other objects which are integral to the operation of any airport. Without getting into a long list let me say that if you take the time to look around you’ll see that they haven’t forgotten any.

Animations

With all of the aircraft traffic at Atlanta it would stand to reason that you would have lots of vehicles moving about the apron areas to service these aircraft. They have managed to inject all manner of service vehicles, and they can be seen moving around the different ramps seeming to service all of the AI traffic so together everything appears to be coordinated.

In addition to all of the custom apron traffic the nearby roadways are also filled with default FSX vehicular road traffic. I saw a few instances where this traffic crossed over taxiways or went through buildings. With changes to KATL, which are reflected in the Imagine Sim version, some of the roads and taxiways were moved but the default FSX traffic does not appear to be aware of these changes.

As per the manual, airport gates are fitted with the “Delta Park” visual guidance system. The system is modeled and works quite well. This is another feature that adds to the overall realism and appeal of this product.

Night

Like most airports addons the night time rendition was good with only a few things that caught my eye as really needing improvement.

Apron lighting was such that when viewed while flying overhead the look was good and you could see variations in intensity at different parts of the airport. The problem happened when I was on the ground and parked at a gate or on an apron. The effect that you had was that the ground textures were the source of the light and it didn’t seem to be coming from overhead lighting fixtures. There was little in the way of contrast between dark or light.

The center lights on the taxiways I noticed had a weird effect when viewed from certain angles, there was a grey box that hovered over top the light. This would appear and disappear on the lights as I went down the taxiway.

Approaches

This airport is definitely going to appeal to the sim pilot who enjoys flying jet liners. With only a very few exceptions my flights at Atlanta were done in the PMDG737NGX. The airport is equipped to handle Instrument Approach Procedures and I was able to successfully execute landings on each runway utilizing the published procedures.

Performance

This being such a large and busy airport I was expecting to see my PC struggle but I am very happy to report, that never happened. With all my sliders maxed I was very pleasantly surprised to find that my experience flying in and out of Atlanta were always fluid with good frame rates. Kudos to the developer for being able to pull that off.  This could have been a slideshow but it wasn’t.

Final Thoughts

The developers deserve high praise for this product. Graphically there are definitely areas where I can see room for improvement, however they were able to find a good balance between interesting visuals and maintaining excellent performance even while flying very complex jet liners.

My Ratings

Installer:  Excellent. Simple to use.

Documentation:  Readme file available before install. Good manual, very informative.  No charts.

Modelling: Quite good overall.

Extras: Lots of static and animated vehicle traffic at the airport.

Download Size: FSX 105MB

Price: EUR 21.00 without VAT

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

Link: http://secure.simmarket.com/imagine-sim-atlanta-international-katl-fsx.phtml

Test System:

Intel i7 960 OC @ 4.2 Ghz, 12 Gb RAM, EVGA GTX560 Ti w/1.2 Gb video, Win 7 Ultimate 64, FSX w/acceleration, UT2, REX Overdrive, GEXn, UTX, AES, GSX.

Richard Desjardins

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