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Review: Carenado CT210M, A2A Piper Cub and various OrbX airports

intro

This is the second review that I have written to be in a much more personal, “first person” style. The aim of this style is to show you guys, the readers and simmers that you are, how easy it basically is to make your flights interesting and somewhat different. I often hear of people that simply fly from place to place, and then they end up being bored with simming because it’s always the same. Of course this is not the case for everybody, but for those that recognize this situation, this review is for you. What I will do, is delve into a persona. I will make myself that persona, and I will enact a story.

The previous “story” was about this farmer called Walter Sutton. He has a farmstrip just to the northeast of Portland. Together with his mate Walter Musa, he embarked on a leisurely flight over to Goheen, where he was invited to a BBQ of a friend of his. When they wanted to head back, the plane wouldn’t start, and soon it was discovered that a part had to be bought – all the way at Stark’s Twin Oaks. And so they went, using Walter Sutton’s plane. By the time they came home, it was night. In this way, we had an interesting flight enveloped in a nice story, and I managed to review several OrbX airports in both day and night conditions, and give a look at SibWings’s Bird Dog aircraft. Well, in this review, I will do sort of the same thing, but the story will be different, the locations will be different and the aircraft will be different. From here on out, a few bits of the review notwithstanding, I am not Benjamin van Soldt. I am Jacob Israel, owner of Israel’s Farm, who will fly with some friends to watch a car race and enjoy a BBQ over at Monroe’s First Air Field.

Note: All parts in italics are from Jacob’s point of view. You will encounter pieces of text that are not in italics here and there; this is because I, as a reviewer, will want to comment now and then on specific things, also to give “review summaries” now and then. Important to understand is that everything that is in italics is related to what I see and hear in the scenery. I will try to convey the atmosphere. But I will not lie to you! If I say I “hear the birds chirping”, then it means I am in fact hearing birds chirping!

Disclaimer: The events and persons portrayed in this review are not based on existing persons. Any reference to a living or passed-away person is based on pure coincidence.

My name is Jacob Israel, but you may call me Jacob. I live in a farm in Washington State, between Skagit and Concrete. Some time ago I converted one of my fields into a grass landing strip, and ever since I have had great fun flying to my friends for dinners, interesting nights and just, well, fun in general. Today I will be meeting several of my friends in this region. Together we will fly to Monroe using a somewhat bigger plane that I will rent over at Darrington. My Piper Cub just isn’t big enough for so many people…

The plan is as follows:

1)    Using my Cub I will fly to Darrington to get the rented plane, but on my way I will stop to pick up a cousin of mine. She’s called Heidi and seems interested in planes, cars and grilled meat!

2)    Over at Darrington the first of my friends lives: Peter. Here we will also convert to the rented plane: a beautiful, new Cessna CT210M Centurion.

3)    From there the three of us will fly to Skagit to get Fred.

4)    From Skagit it’s a short flight to Anacortes, where Paul will be waiting for us.

5)    Finally, at Harvey Field Simon will be ready to go.

6)    We will then continue to Monroe First Air Field, in which vicinity the car race will be held. After this we will enjoy a BBQ with some friends that will be coming from the south to watch the race.

Hope you’ll enjoy it!

 

Israel’s Field

My farm is a relatively simple place. I live in an old but beautiful living house in the middle of a clearing. Close to this house is a garage where I store my plane, which is a Piper Cub. I take it out fairly often, although my age has been a bit more prohibitive of me flying around for fun, so now I take the plane out less often than before. I usually travel with my wife, but this time it’s just me and the boys. And, well… Heidi, my cousin from Concrete. I will just get the plane out of the hangar now…

 Piper Cub at Israel's Farm

 

So that’s my Cub, beautiful yellow beast that she is. I have had her now for about 10 years, bought her originally from a friend of mine who wanted to move to a Cessna. In these pictures you can also view the farm I live in besides the plane. I should definitely cut the grass and move those logs though. Also those farming machinery is just lying around there. I don’t actively use the farm the way it was meant too anyway. Haven’t done that for the past five years. I sold most of the land, leaving a field close to the house, and the field I use as a runway, and that’s basically it. It’s enough for me and my wife though. It’s lovely to sit on the veranda of the house on a warm summer night, listening to the birds chirping, the barking of a dog and people working in the distance. It’s a peaceful sort of feeling that I just don’t really feel on other airports, not even the smaller ones such as Darrington. It’s a kind of quietness that I only feel here, at my own house. That’s why I always really like coming back to this place. Besides the feeling of “home sweet home”, it’s also that moment when I park the plane behind the garage, turn off the engine, and then I just sit and listen to the birds. It’s a peaceful moment unlike anything else I experience. Now, some more photographs will follow.

 Piper Cub at israel's farm 2

Piper Cub at israel's farm 2 Piper Cub at Israel's Farm 3

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The first stops of many: Heidi at Concrete

Weather conditions are pretty nice today, so I don’t expect any trouble. With the Cub fueled and its windshield cleaned of bugs, it’s time to go. Now, the Cub is a very simple plane actually. It has hardly any gauges, buttons and switches. There are no flaps, no spoilers, no lights. The only plane more basic than this is a paper plane folded by a two-year-old. So when I get in, you’ll see that indeed there’s hardly anything in this cockpit. There are two more peculiarities that you might not be immediately aware of. One I will get to later, the other is that the pilot tends to sit in the aft seat, not the front. This could have to do with weight and balance of the plane. See below for some shots of the cockpit.

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Reviewer’s note: I must say I really like the modeling on this plane. It’s very detailed inside and out and the texturing gives it a lovely finishing touch. The intricate detail of the gauges, which are all 3D, is beautiful to behold. You could almost touch the glass covers behind which the needles move erratically. Also look at the detail of the rudder pedals, the control stick… basically everything. I think I can be pretty honest when I say that even if this cockpit doesn’t quite qualify as the most graphically impressive VC I have seen, it surely is one of the most atmospheric ones!

This atmospheric-ness doesn’t stop with the modeling mind you. It extends to every nook and cranny of this virtual machine. The sounds, the vibrations, even the 2D panels, which you can see below.

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The pop-up panels, including the checklist in the FSX kneepad.

 

As you can see there is a variety of panels to open up. We have various screens related to aircraft configurations. One of which is dedicated to engine maintenance, and another to load-out and start conditions. There’s also a moving map and we have a walkty-talky – since there is no real radio in this thing. I find it absolutely great that A2A has thought of this!

Now on with the story!

That second thing I mentioned? Well here it is: somebody has to get outside and turn the prop in order to get this beauty started. Fortunately my wife can help here. From inside the cockpit I turn on the magnetos, turn on the fuel supply, prima the engine, then I ask good ‘ol Martha to give the prop a swing, and she starts! The moment she does, the engine starts to vibrate nicely, you can see it with your own eyes.

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Switch on the magnetos…

 

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…Turn on the fuel supply…

 

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…Prime the engine…

 

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…Get somebody to the prop…

 

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..Spin her good and she rolls!

 

Reviewer’s note: You really have to give A2A credit here. Turning on the engine in this plane is really fun because of it ssimplicity. You “grab” the prop with your mouse by clicking on it and holding that click, then spin it clockwise to turn the prop. If you yanked the prop hard enough, the engine will start. It will sputter, then you’ll hear combustion starting, the engine will begin to visibliy (!) vibrate, and she’ll start producing a wonderful, genuine engine sound.

Now that we are ready to roll, let’s roll! I tend to just drive around the back of the garage and then onto the runway, which is in a long grass field surrounded with trees. You’ll see for yourself soon enough.

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Turning the plane around the garage.

 

As I open the throttle, the plane starts to roll softly forward, going up and down gently over the rough grass surface. We bop up and down as I carefully maneuver the plane around the garage, making sure the wings don’t hit any of the buildings here. I wave goodbye to Martha who stands behind the kitchen window, and soon I find myself turned around facing the “exit”, ready to taxi down to the runway. I open the throttle a bit more to pick up some speed, and as the plane rolls towards the grass field behind the row of trees in which grove my farmhouse stands, we can see the runway:

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The runway, in all its grassy glory.

 

So there we are, the runway. As you can see, it’s basically a patch of mowed grass, but it works pretty well for light aircraft such as this one. I turn on the walky-talky and announce my takeoff on it to whoever needs to hear. Then, throttle full forward, the plane starts its short but sweet takeoff roll. Soon we are in the air after a gentle movement of the stick.

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Taking off.

 

After takeoff I start a slow turn to the left. I ease on the stick as the Cub  comes out of its climb. I’ll stay at a rather low altitude, maintaining a speed between 70 and 80 MPH. That way I can do some sightseeing on the way. Look at the cars driving lazily over the roads as we soar over them… That’s always been one of my favorite things while flying, even though it might seem a little daft. I can’t say exactly why I like looking at the cars, but it ash to do with the fact that it reminds me that this is a living world: people are minding their business over there, down below, of which I am no part right now. Meanwhile I ease on the throttle. Nervously the RPM needle inches back. It’s nice to see the needles move rather erratically. It shows that the speed of the prop isn’t constant. So many planes where the RPM of the prop seems to be solidly fixed on one level – not on this baby! Same about speed by the way. The only needle that moves somewhat fluidly is the altimeter, which gradually rotates in a clockwise motion, showing we are slowly climbing. I trim the plane a bit to negate that development, and soon the altimeter shows that we stopped ascending.

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Turning the plane, climbing, and cruise.

 

This flight isn’t very long, and soon we can already see Concrete in the distance. It’s quite easy to see whereabouts the town starts by looking at the river. At some point it almost makes a loop that is very distinct. It’s here where we can expect to see the first houses. Then to our right we see a mountain, and soon after crossing the river again, Concrete Muni will be right in front of us. I made a host of photographs so you can see what I mean…

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The river makes a loop; soon after we’ll be flying over Concrete.

 

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Doing some sight seeing as the plane inches forward to Concrete Muni.

 

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Then to the right we have a mountain…

 

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Watching the fields, road, houses and trees.

 

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Crossing the river…

 

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…and we find Concrete Muni right in front of us.

 

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Landing and taxiing to a parking spot.

 

The landing was a bit hard, but it went okay. I park the plane in a free spot, and I get out to stretch my legs a bit while waiting for Heidi. I’m quite early so I go for a short walk, just looking at the airport and the surroundings buildings. It really is quite a nice place. People are up and about, a phone is ringing in a house somewhere, a lazy old man is reading he newspaper outside, and another one is drinking a beer. In front of a hangar some people are fixing an apparently broken aircraft.

 

Picking up Peter and the CT210M at Darrington

When it’s time I return, and Heidi is already waiting for us at the Cub. We greet each other and hug quickly, then get in to fly to Darrington where Peter will be waiting for us, together with the CT210M. We hop in, and Heidi makes herself comfortable.

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Heidi makes herself comfortable while I go through the start-up checklist.

 

Soon we are all set to go. I hop out of the plane again and walk over to the prop and spin it so that the engine kicks in. That lovely Cub’s engine sound gets louder until it has settled and we are ready to move.

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Starting the engine

 

I crank the throttle up until the plane starts to move slowly. Heidi mentions that it’s quite warm in the cockpit. I agree with her and slide the left window open a bit. As we roll down the taxiway I have a quick look to make sure nobody is taking off or landing, after which I roll onto the runway. Opening up the throttle a bit more will get us more quickly to the runway end, where I turn around, get into position and fully open the throttle. As we start the takeoff roll, the Cub bumps up and down on the not-so-flat-as-it-looks-like tarmac, and soon we are airborne again. Time to go to Darrington!

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Taxiing and takeoff: off to Darrington!

 

The flight to Darrington isn’t that eventful. Since the Cub isn’t very fast, the flight takes quite long, but time passes by rather fast due to the beautiful scenery. I fly quite low so that we can look at all life below us closely. The cars that drive around, the little houses and trees. I can see Heidi is enjoying herself, although she honestly doesn’t say much. Sometimes she murmurs something that I only hear partly because I’m too busy staring down. Plus, I must say I never quite liked carrying passengers in this plane because the passenger tends to sit in the front seat. It makes it kind of hard to see the instruments this way, so one has to lean to the left or right in order to see the instruments.

Reviewer’s note: At this point I was very happy to own TrackIR. Without it, I’m not sure I would have been able to see the instruments at all from the back seat…

As we follow the rivers and roads, we do note that there aren’t that many cars about. I remember the roads being busier. Perhaps something important is happening somewhere else? Anyway, we keep flying down the winding river, until we can see the mountain at which foot we can finally distinguish Darrington.

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Flying to Darrington, watching the scenery.

 

Soon we are over Darrington and I start slowing the Cub down. As we look down, we can see all the landmarks that make Darrington what is its: the big wood cutting factory, with all its piles of cut and uncut logs. The pump station can also be seen, while on the right we see the airport of Darrington. Darrington has always been one of my favorite locations to fly to, partly because of the approach, partly because of the surrounding terrain, and partly because of the layout of the town. They all combine to make Darrington something quite special that results in an atmosphere that I just don’t always get at other places – or, at least, the atmosphere at the other airports isn’t quite the atmosphere I like.

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Flying over Darrington, watching the town and the scenery.

 

The approach to runway 28 is one of my favorite approach. The way I do is as follows: I fly over the town as you can see in the above photographs. I then turn to the left and follow the river as I slow down the plane and descend. Then right in front of the mounrain, I turn to the left and light up with the runway. As the plane descends and slows down, I take my time to enjoy the scenery around me. The cars, the pump station, the river, the houses – basically, life at Darrington. Heidi wasn’t too keen on the approach though. At one point she actually grabbed one of Cub’s wing-supporting beams in slight terror. As the plane settled in its descent, she let loose and apparenrly felt comfortable again. The rest of the landing was okay, even though touch-down was quite hard, as referenced by Heidi’s  “Oof!”.

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Flying the approach into Darrington runway 28. Notice the various “special” buildings, such as the pump station, the various shops and the sport fields.

 

Not long after, Heidi and I got out and tied the plane down. Soon we were holding the keys to the Cessna CT210M, and as I and a guy of the rental company were pushing the plane out of a smallish garage, Peter came walking towards us, smiling. Together we rolled the Cessna out and the Cub inside (apparently that’s part of the rental company’s service. They store your own plane, if you have one, until you bring the rented plane back). Not long after, we sat in an apparently brand new CT210M. I already knew at that point I was going to miss my Cub.

 

Getting Fred at Skagit

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Inspecting the exterior of the CT210M.

 

No doubt that the CT210M is a beautiful aircraft. The paintjob that the rental company gave it is also really beautiful – I love the dark blue! The aircraft is quite big, has retractable gear and flaps, just like any normal airplane I guess.

Reviewer’s note: I absolutely love the modeling and texturing on this plane. The detail is exquisite. Every little details seems to be there. Most of it modeled too, although the rivets are textures. What really seems to make this model look so good however, is the livery. The shining and reflecting makes the plane look truly beautiful. I can’t say anything more besides that this is one of the best-looking GA planes I have. The crisp textures, the great modeling and outstanding texturing on the outside combine to make a beautiful model.

As we complete our little inspection round, we climb inside. The seat are comfortable, not like the seats in the Cub! I look around and I’m struck by how roomy the plane is. Looking at the various gauges I am a bit in awe. It’s some time ago since I’ve seen such an array of different switches, gauges and controls. Everything is well kept and looks great. Heidi and Peter climb in and soon we are all set to start the engine.

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The CT210M’s interior.

 

Reviewer’s note: No doubt that this plane is also a beauty on the inside. The texturing is lovely and the modeling is very detailed. Basically, it’s a great plane to look at inside out. I couldn’t find any problems in the modeling or texturing either. It really does look evry good from all angles. See the shot below showing a close-up on the gauges:

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As you can see they are all 3D, which also adds a level of depth (quite literally) to these gauges that make them look really good on the whole. That doesn’t mean there are no problems though. For example, without even flying the plane, I already noticed when I sat in the VC for the first time, that I could turn on the lights without turning on the battery or the engine running. See below:

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Turning on the lights without power.

 

This kind of thing breaks the realism, but it can be easily worked around by simply not fiddling with the light controls when you don’t have power. Still, it’s a great pity that this problem should appear.

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The last thing I want to show you before I get back into my role, is the various 2D panels. There is no full 2D cockpit, and I personally don’t miss it. I have been for a very long time now a VC flyer and would not want to get back to the 2D cockpit. However, there are gauges that are simply easier to operate with a 2D panel. The GPS is one of them due to the many small buttons crammed into a small space. For the rest it’s just miscellaneous panels however. There is a checklist, which is very handy, and panels to control various modeling and texturing options. Now back to my role as Jacob…

With the plane checked and configured as we want it (and after making a rather hefty payment), it’s time to go. Starting the engine on this plane is quite a bit simpler than in my Cub, though. For one, you don’t need to get out of the plane after setting the required switches. You just turn the key, like in a car.

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To start the engine, turn on the master switches, the fuel pump, and the then turn the key.

 

With the engine on I turn on the avionics. There’s a small white switch for this just to the left of the master switches. After turning it on the entire cockpit comes to life. Dial align and I can turn on the various GPS units in the plane.

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With the avionics turned on, you can turn on the GPS units.

 

With a spinning engine we give another look at all the people rummaging around the public areas of the airport. We wave them off and start taxiing. Slowly and steadily the plane rolls forward. I can already feel that this is a very different plane than my Cub. For example, I can actually see something while taxiing without having to hang out of the side window. The engine is also very powerful, so I have to watch out with my throttle setting and keep that plane nicely on the tarmac instead of the grass. With all the things that there are to see at this nice little airport, it’s quite difficult keeping my eye son the road sometimes, though… Fortunately there is Heidi that starts to get all panicky when the plane is starting to move towards the grass.

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Waving the people off as the plane turns towards the active.

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Still no wind.

 

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Looking at life at the airport while we are taxiing.

 

Soon we are at the runway, where two guys are standing and looking at all the traffic passing by. They wave to us, smiling, so we do the same back at them. I can see them mouth “have a nice flight!”, and I mouth back “Thank you!”. Some pretty nice people at this town, I must say! A minute later we announce our takeoff, get onto the runway, and move all engine levers forward, including the throttle. It seems to take the engine some time to really spool up. About two seconds after pushing the throttle lever forward does the high-pitched whiny sound of the engine in takeoff mode start, where it soon settles. The aircraft rolls down the runway with a steady pace, and soon we are back in the air.

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People waving us off.

 

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Taking off at Darrington.

 

The flight to Skagit is straightforward and uneventful. I have to get used to hand flying this aircraft though. It feels extremely twitchy and touchy, something I’m not used to from my Cub. As such, keeping it straight and level requires some very subtle use of the trim.

Reviewer’s note: I was surprised by the twitchiness of this plane and I don’t know if this is really the way it should be flying. It seems much too responsive. Certainly compared to the Cub, which sometimes felt like flying a log, this Cessna is like flying a Formula 1 racecar. I have my doubts about the CT210M’s FDE…

We have a GPS and autopilot, but as I feel I know my way around these regions pretty well, I opt not to use these tools too much. I have to confess I’ve never before flown from Darrington to Skagit, and as such there are some nice vistas here that I haven’t seen before. Soon, however, the runway of Skagit appears on the horizon and it’s time to start the decent. Even though I carefully manage the throttle and trim settings on decent, the landing is still pretty hard. That’s another thing about the plane: the landing speed is much faster than the Cub! Another thing to get used to…

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Flight to Skagit.

 

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Landing the aircraft at Skagit.

 

So the landing wasn’t that good. But, we survived, and you know what they say: “a landing is a good landing when you can walk away from your plane afterwards…”. Now Skagit is a bigger airport than I am used to. It’s clear that it was used for regular commercial aviation. It has a big, broad runway, an actual terminal building and there’s also lots of FedEx busses, denoting the apparent freight traffic this place seems to see often. (Reviewer’s note: that’s good news. You could use the Carenado C208 in FedEx Feeder livery to fly in and out of this place to “distribute cargo from Seattle” or something of the kind). As we taxi down the taxiway to the apron where we shall await Fred, we taxi past hangars, refueling areas and airport personnel doing their job. This is a change: at the another airports you’d see random pilots and visitors everywhere, here’s it’s strictly airport staff, with other people staying behind the airport’s perimeter fences. It’s quite enjoying to see a bigger airport such as this once in a while. But, to every trip comes and end, and soon we park and I shut off the engine. Time to wait for Fred. Meanwhile I’m going to stretch my legs…

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Taxiing to the parking and waiting for Fred.

 

Picking up Paul at Anacortes

After a five-minute way we see Fred on the apron. I wave so he’ll spot us, and soon he does. As he comes walking to the plane we greet, after which he immediately mentions the beauty I rented out for the day. After some quick chit-chat we get back in and start the enginme. Time to go again! Whilew e taxi back to the runway for takeoff so we can pick up Paul at Anacortes, we look some more at the buildings at Skagit. It’s all just hangars and a terminal building, nothing too fancy. It all looks pretty nice though. Seems to have good facilities, too.

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Taxiing to the runway, looking at the various airport buildings.

 

After a short taxi we find ourselves back at the runway. We have to wait for a plane taking off before us, but as soon as he’s gone we quickly turn onto the runway, and fly off. This was a nice visit though and it seems like a fine airport to go to now and then. It will for sure be an airport I’ll get back to more often.

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Taxiing back to the runway and taking off.

 

The flight to Anacortes is a short one, but there are some pretty spectacular things to be seen on the way. First up is a beautiful and very large bridge. Second is an oil refinery (or so it seems), closely followed by beautiful mud flats formed in a bay. Soon after we have already arrived at Anacortes. As I said, it’s but a short flight; short and sweet!

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Some scenic highlights on the way to Anacortes.

 

The approach at Anacortes is one of my favorite approaches because of the steep cliffs. I’ve always been the type to like rocky formations and cliffs are as such no exception. Also the view of the town of Anacortes on approach is very nice, with all the houses and the harbor. This time I will be more careful on landing though. I fly to south for a bit first in order to have ample of time to set up when doing the actual approach. I mainly need to get that approach speed down; I was too fast when landing in Skagit.

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Landing at Anacortes. Notice the beautiful scenery on this approach.

 

When far enough I start slowing the plane down. I turn around, meanwhile admiring the scenery some more, and make sure that the plane is aligned correctly. We are too much to the left, but some careful maneuvering eliminates that problem Soon we find ourselves on course. As we fly past the harbor and city of Anacortes, the runway comes closer and closer…

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Taxiing and parking

 

Screeching tires, and we’re finally on the taxiway. I was still a bit fast, but the landing was more fluid then at Skagit. Slowing down so much actually helped pretty well! Gives  a man more time to think, I guess. Anacortes is a pretty little airport, and it’s surprisingly big. For its location, cramped between two coastlines, you’d think it’d be a small, unimportant kind of place. Fact is the runway is pretty big and it has taxiway signs and everything, with a rather big apron. It’d be easy to see regional props taking people from here to wherever. Maybe for quick hops to Jefferson County International or Skagit, even though the latter is practically around the corner and a car would more than suffice. Still, for the rich people it would be nice. With these thoughts, there has come an end to this leg. We’ll wait for Paul to come as we’re really early. I didn’t think the distance to Anacortes would be this short! But when he’s here will be flying onwards to Harvey Field.

Reviewer’s Note: I really enjoy Anacortes. It’s one of those perfect little airports. With which I don’t mean that the scenery is perfect; no, it’s the atmosphere. Because it has a wider runway it comes across as a bigger airfield, suitable for larger aircraft beside stuff like the Piper Cub or C172. It would seem like a place where you could fly to with the BN2 Islander, and in fact I have done multiple hops from Skagit to Anacortes and back, simulating a regional/local carrier for short hops. At some point I will expand “business” to Jefferson County. For now I will just stick to Anacortes and Skagit. Their proximity is also a plus, because it makes for a very short light if you are short on time, without missing out on any of the fun. Fact is that in my opinion the route between these two airports is packed with interesting scenery. One thing is the bridge; another is the oil refinery in the screenshots. There’s also a mining site of sorts, and let’s not forget the beautiful approach into Anacortes itself. And of course the airport of Anacortes itself is very nice, with all the trees, and the relative business, it’s a lovely place to start any flight!

 

Going for Simon at Harvey Field

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Paul’s car arrives

 

I’m having another sip of coffee as I talk with Peter about the airport and the intruiging movement of the personell walking around the fuel depot, as we hear screeching tires. Surprised we look in the direction of the car park when we see a blue car coming in our direction, then suddenly sharply turning to the left and parking at the staircase of the hangar-like building. A sweating and panting Paul climbs out of the car, goes through the gate, and starts running up to us when he’s stopped by an airport official who asks for ID. Paul starts gesturing, then look at us and points in our direction. Together they come our way. I explain to the airport official about the plan of going to Monroe together and soon he is satisfied and leaves us, and Paul starts a story about what happened to him. Apparently he thought he would be horribly delayed due to some incident at work for which he was called in, and so he raced our way. We ask him what the incident was all about, but he refuses to talk about it now. “Just get into the plane and go!” is his answer. We might be able to pry it out of him during the BBQ… For now, we do as he pleases. We get into the Cessna, I start the engine, and we start our taxi to the runway, giving Anacortes a last look before we leave.

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Taxiing to the runway.

 

We taxi along the apron and see how a guy is trying to fix a plane. Good to know there are mechanics around this place, though I guess it’s to be expected since Anacortes is a pretty large airport it seems. As we pull up to the runway we also pass a sign regarding departure procedures, which is actually quite important. We are asked to fly out over the coastline, and only then start our turn. That is to prevent low overpasses of aircraft over built neighborhoods. These can cause noise and disturbance for people living close to the airport. We will only be happy to comply! Soon we find ourselves back in the air, and once we are over the coastline, we turn 180 degrees to get on course to Harvey Field.

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Departing Anacortes.

 

The trip to harve Field is surprisingly smooth. No wind, sunshine, few clouds and some nice scenery. We look at the mountains and the various landmarks we pass on the way. No matter how you slice it, Washington State is a beautiful area. Soon we reach one of the Boeing fields; Paine Field KPAE in this case, where the Boeing Everett factory is located. It is here where they assemble the wide-body aircraft such as the 747 and 777. We check the GPS to make sure, and we also see we are quite close to Harvey now. Indeed, not long after, we look to our left and there it is: Harvey Field.

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The flight to Harvey, passing Paine Field enroute.

 

As we continue our flight I start to descend and slow the plane down. By listening to the another GA traffic it becomes clear from what side I ought to approach: runway 28 right it is! This means we fly past the airfield, then turn and take a nice and long approach into the airfield, like I did for Anacortes. In the meantime we fly over farms, houses and all kinds of interesting facilities of which I really don’t know what they are, but it’s nice nonetheless.

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Approach into Harvey Field

 

Reviewer’s note: there are two things I want to highlight hgere. First of all that this must have been one of my sloppiest approach in weeks. It went unbelievably bad, so bad that I in fact did a go-around and tried again. The shots you see above are a mix of these two approaches. Secondly, I’m quite thrilled by the kind of detail OrbX put into this airfield. In the above screenshots, look for example at the barn with the Piper Cub parked next to it. This kind of thing makes the world seem more alive. Sadly Harvey Field has always been a worse performer than many of their more northern airfields. Darrington, Concrete, Israel’s Farm, Diamond Point, Orcas Island and Anacortes tend to be much easier on my computer than Harvey (and Monroe too, but we’ve not gotten that far yet in the story…) ever was. I’m not sure whether this is because of the scenery itself, or because it being so close to airports like Paine Field and its proximity to Seattle in general, which ah always given me notoriously bad FPS (certainly with the FSX settings I use to fly around central OrbX PNW).

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Taxiing and parking at Harvey.

 

The landing wasn’t very smooth, but the taxiing afterwards was quite nice. Harvey Field is a nice place I must say. Lots of things happening here. Everywhere you look, you see movement. Whether it’s people walking around, fixing aircraft, or whether it’s a car with tires bouncing around in the back, or simple an aircraft taking off, there’s always something to see. Because of the way it’s built, it’s also an airfield that ahs quite some corners where you might never come if you didn’t know it existed. The main portion of the airfield is just grass and tarmac for storing aircraft, but there’s also a restaurant and various hangars on one side. Point is, you’ll hardly even see this if you don’t specifically taxi here. Incidentally, this is also the place where we agreed to meet Simon. He should be drinking a cup of coffee there. I therefor park the CT210M close to the restaurant. We then all get out and walk to the restaurant. Simon is indeed sitting there, with a cup of coffee and a sandwich. We join him and order drinks.

 

To our final destination: Monroe

We sit at Harvey’s restaurant for a bit and finish our drinks, meanwhile talking and laughing. Heidi tells Simon about the trip, and he starts to grin when she tells about the disastrous landing into Skagit. Since it’s becoming a bit late, we decide to go to our final destination: Monroe Firstair field. Fortunately it’s very close by, so we should be there in a matter of minutes. We quickly get into the plane and I start the engine. Soon we find ourselves at the edge of runway 28 right.

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Taxiing to the runway.

 

We have to wait for a bit for an aircraft to land, but soon we are back on the runway. Like at Anacortes, there are all kinds of signs telling us how to fly on approach and what to do for noise abatement. We keep them in mind as I push the throttle forward. Soon we are back in the air, and I turn east. Getting to Monroe is very easy: you just have to follow the railway track. While we do this Heidi looks down, and to her pleasure a train drives past us in the direction of Harvey. It seems to be a rather long freight train.

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Taking off and the flight to Monroe.

 

Reviewer’s note: The train is a very nice addition. It’s one of those things that creates cohesion among separate airfield sceneries, bounds them into one so to speak. It was a good idea of OrbX to include it!

Very soon Monroe comes into sight. Right in front of the airport is an industrial area, and behind that is the racetrack where we will go after landing. Firstair field is a pretty small thing. You can easily see it from afar, but I’m a bit nervous landing the CT210M here because of the narrow runway. For some reason, I have always felt like I’m approaching Firstair way to fast, even if I’m really slow. I guess it ahs to do with the layout and architecture of the airfield, but it ahs caused me to be generally less enthusiastic about landing here, even if the field itself is absolutely charming. Still, here goes. As I take the throttle back and start descending, trying not to look nervous in front of the eyes of my friends, we start the approach.

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Approaching Firstair.

 

Pretty soon we are on the runway, and all went fine. I still have the feeling we were too fast, even though this was not the case. I guess it has to do with the relative shortness of the runway and the airfield not having a very typical layout. Landing at Monroe always feels like you are “entering” a house. The moment you slow and down and stop, houses and trees surround you. This is somewhat unlike any other airfield, where the hangars and such are located roughly halfway the runway and you have to taxi back. At Firstair you land, and you’re there. No need to taxi back or anything… It’s convenient but it also messes up my sense of speed.

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Landing and parking at Monroe.

 

This concludes our trip and everybody seems happy it’s over. We will go for the race now. We are already a bit late because Simon had to finish his super-duper sandwich, so we make haste. Afterwards there is a BBQ here, at Firstair field. On the third shot from above in the above series you can actually see them firing up the BBQ already!

Guys, I hope you enjoyed flying with us today. We’re going to stay here for sometime, but if you want to catch the flight back you are of course more than welcome. We’ll see ya again sometime soon!

 

Conclusions

As Jacob said, here the flight ends, but the review continues. I have done several flights with the Piper Cub and the CT210M, landing and departing a large amount of airports in just very short time. I have seen multiple types of terrain, being mountains, islands and a more inland kind of setting. I visited various sizes of airports also, the smallest being Israel’s Farm with its grass runway, and the biggest being Skagit with its status of regional airport. Fact is though that I could give a rather big list of all the interesting things that are unique to one or more airport, because they all have at least one thing that makes them out of the ordinary. I will run through all of the reviewed addons one by one now, albeit quickly, to give my lasting impression.

 

A2A Piper Cub

I can be very shrot about this one. I’m very enthused about this aircrarft addon. It handles very well, it has some interesting features that require you to actually take care of your plane as if you wree its owner, it looks terrific with its 3D gauges and significant attention to detail both inside and outside of the plane, and lets of course not forget Heidi, your interactive passenger that reacts to your flying style. The only drawback of the Cub is that it’s very slow. If you don’t mind that, or you fly only short distances, the Cub is your plane. It’s a great addon!

 

Carenado CT210M

Sadly, I wasn’t very into the CT210M from the moment since I started flying it. The first introduction it passed with flying colours: both interior and exterior modeling and texturing is top notch. The modeling is very detailed, and the textures are crisp and high resolution. The problem that I have with this plane is thus not how it looks; it’s how it flies. The FDE seems way to sensitive for this plane. Perhaps it’s just because I’ve never flown a real one, but even the tiniest input can have a significant effect on what the plane does. It makes for a rather erratic flying experience that I simply do not like very much. I’m also not a fan of its speed; I guess I find it too fast… So overall, the CT210M is an okay plane if you’re not too concerned about the FDE (and that you can turn on the lights without the battery turned on), but if realism of the FDE is your number one concern, you might not to want to get the CT210M.

 

OrbX Israel’s Farm

Of all the airports I own of OrbX, Israel’s Farm must be my top favorite. The detail here is very nice, although it ahs already been taking over by other OrbX airports. What it will always retain, however, is its atmosphere. There is nothing quite like landing on this grass trip, surrounded by trees and flowers, taxiing your way to a farm’s barn, shutting down the engine, and hearing nothing but birds. This is what makes Israel farm so nice. The detail of flower pots at the farm, various agricultural equipment, logs, flowers and trees finishes it off. If you like a somewhat interesting approach; if you like grass strips; then Israel’s Farm is for you. It certainly won me over very quickly!

 

OrbX Concrete Muni

Concrete Muni is a rather nice airport with some nice details ina  nice environment. I will not say it is one of my favorite airports though, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good scenery. Like other OrbX sceneries, it is of very high quality and there’s a lot to see. It’s also nice that so much of the surroundings were included. As you could see on the relevant screenshots, the photoscenery starts quite a distance away from Concrete Muni itself; at least, when you arrive from the side of Israel’s Farm. The coverage on the other side of the airfield is somewhat smaller, but it is more than enough. So in summary, while I think Concrete is a very nice airport scenery that includes great detail and sports good performance, it’s not in my list of favorites because I don’t really “feel” this airport. Still, on the way from Israel’s Farm to Darrington, it’s a welcome quick stop.

 

OrbX Darrington Muni

Darrington is my second favorite, right after Israel’s Farm. It ahs to do with the overall look and feel of the airport and it’s surroundings. The river and the mountain create a very distinct feel that I have loved right from the start and I’m happy OrbX decided to model this airport. The town of Darrington is nice to fly over on approach to the airfield, and I’m very grateful that OrbX extended the coverage of the photoscenery some way out of the surroundings of town, in order to provide a realistic depiction of the river. The Darrington airfield itself sports some very nice details and the moving figures of PeopleFlow add a new level of realism and interaction. Fact is however that Darrington does seem a bit old compared to sceneries such as Monroe Firstair, but still I recommend Darrington for the sheer beauty of the surroundings and the nice atmosphere at the airport. Darrington feels like an out-of-the-way kind of place where people know each other, creating a pleasant atmosphere that I love to come back to again and again. Mind you, it’s usually the Israel’s Farm – Darrington route that I show my friends when they come and visit me for some Flight Simulator X time…

 

OrbX Skagit Regional

Now this airfield is something different. Usually, OrbX makes small, GA only type of airports for their PNW region, but Skagit is not like that. It’s significantly bigger and the runway is broader, giving the impression of an airfield that sees commercial aviation. Until some time ago this was actually the case, but regular airline services were scrapped, probably due to insufficient passenger numbers. That said, that doesn’t mean that we simmers can’t land our turbo and propliners here. It’s also entirely possible to do FedEx feeder flights from this place, given the high amount of FedEx cars just outside the airport perimeter fence. Thus Skagit has a very different atmosphere than the fields I discussed. Technically it’s a very nice scenery with lots of ncie detail, and there’s even a grass strip not too far from Skagit that is included in the scenery. So, you get tow airports for the price of one. You just have to find it first! In summary, Skagit is an airport that I now newly added to my list of favorites. It really is a nice place to operate in and out from, although I will probably do so with larger aircraft. Landing with a Piper Cub or ACA Scout on this wide runway makes me feel terribly small and insignificant…

 

OrbX Anacortes

Anacortes is another one of the fields I have always liked. It’s slightly bigger than most OrbX airfields it seems, making it a good place for operating some of the bigger GA aircraft. The surroundings of Anacortes are very nice, it being an island with all kinds of cliffs and hills. OrbX also added the oil refinery in the vicinity and there is a mining site that is worth a look. The airport itself looks terrific. There’s plenty of detail to look at, and OrbX managed to make it into a convincing place that seems real and alive. I’m a fan of Anacortes airport; the atmosphere is of the kind I like, there’s plenty to see and it’s in a beautiful location. And, having signs telling you about noise abatement procedures really does add a lot to the sense that the FSX world is not just about you!

 

OrbX Harvey Field

For some reason I could never really “get” Harvey Field. Perhaps it’s because it’s one of the least performing airports I have by OrbX, or perhaps it’s because it always seemed very empty. I like airfields that are surrounded by trees, and Harvey doesn’t have this. Still, it ahs a nice atmosphere to it, and taxiing around it really gives you a good sense of appreciation of all the detail that was put into it. Besides “regular” stuff like PeopleFlow, it is a “VehicleFlow” airport, evidenced by the cars I saw driving around that had tires in the back that were moving around due to the car driving over dirt terrain and grass. Despite the fact that Harvey is different in terms of type of surroundings, layout and size, it’s still a very nice OrbX airport that I will want to visit more often. It feels like a busy, friendly kind of airport where people meet up and share a drink at the local restaurant. I can recommend Harvey to pretty much every kind of GA pilot, and its location is also very good. It’s right in the middle between the more northern airfields (such as Skagit and Anacortes) and the southern airfields (such as Fall City and Vashon muni, and Goheen even further south).

 

OrbX Monroe Firstair

Firstair is a beautiful airport. It’s small, it’s cozy and it has lots of trees. Which I really like. I would say that I feel at home at Monroe Firstair because it’s a very personal experience. This has got a lot to do with its layout: as I said previously, once you are at the end of the runway, you are basically at the heart of the airport. You see people having a BBQ; you see people meddling with their aircraft; you see all kinds of nice houses and hangars in styles I haven’t previously seen at other OrbX airports. In that sense it’s a very different experience and a lovely one at that. I can really recommend Monroe Firstair, the only problem I have with it Is the rather variable framerate. Getting Monroe Firstair in combination with Harvey is recommended by the way due to the train that drives between these two airfields. As I showed in a screenshot, you can actually see it passing by. Also of note is the big coverage of the photoscenery. So in summary, Monroe Firstair is a lovely airport that I would very much recommend, but note that it’s probably better suited for the smaller GA aircraft like the C172 and Piper Cub.

This brings us to the very end of this review. I hope you found it not only informative, but also fun to read. I furthermore hope it gave you some kind of inspiration for doing similar things on your own. OrbX airfields are very easy to combine into these kind of big adventures. In all honesty, I already got my next “adventure” planned. If your read this review carefully, you might have found a few hints of what it might be about!

You are welcome to follow the links below to the relevant product pages, where you’ll find many more screenshots. I recognize I haven’t shown that much of the surroundings of many of the airports, so please look at the screenshots at the relevant web pages to get a fuller idea of the coverage of the individual sceneries.

Addon used Place to get Price
OrbX Israel’s Farm http://fullterrain.com/product_usWA56.html €20,15
OrbX Concrete Muni http://fullterrain.com/product_us3W5.html €25,00
OrbX Darrington Muni http://fullterrain.com/product_us1S2.html €25,00
OrbX Skagit Regional http://fullterrain.com/product_kbvs.html €26,60
OrbX Anacortes http://fullterrain.com/product_us74S.html €26,60
OrbX Harvey Field http://fullterrain.com/product_usS43.html €26,60
OrbX Monroe Firstair http://fullterrain.com/product_usW16.html €26,60
A2A Piper Cub http://secure.simmarket.com/a2a-simulations-piper-cub.phtml €20,81
A2A Piper Cub Accusim Expansion http://secure.simmarket.com/a2a-simulations-piper-cub-accu-sim-expansion-pack.phtml €16,65
Carenado CT210M http://secure.simmarket.com/ct210m-centurion-ii-hd-series-fsx.phtml €32,07

NOTE: All prices at the time of writing. Also remember that for these airports to work correctly, you will need to have OrbX’s PNW regional scenery. You can also buy the A2A Piper Cub + the Accusim expansion at the same time and you’ll get a discount.

 

Test machine details

27” Apple iMac:

i5 processor @ 2,8gHz

ATI HD Radeon 5750

4GB DDR3 RAM

Windows 7 SP1 64-bit

Additional addons used: REX, OrbX PNW

 

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