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Review of TAXI2GATE – KMCO ORLANDO INTL FSX

Feature imageTaxi2Gate have with this latest release for FSX, added another large and impressive airport, Orlando International Airport, to their stable of products.

Orlando International Airport, ICAO: KMCO, is located six miles southeast of Orlando, Florida. Like many modern airports it began as a military airport during the Second World War. It was originally known as Pinecastle Army Airfield until 1959 when it was renamed to McCoy Air Force Base after Colonel Michael Norman Wright McCoy, commander of the 321st Bombardment Wing, who was killed in a crash in 1958. It remained a military facility until the early 1960’s when it began to serve as a joint military-civilian airfield. In 1975 the Air Force completely left the airport and in 1976 the airport was renamed to Orlando International Airport but retained the ITAO code of MCO to give it the current ICAO code of KMCO.

Statistically it is the second-busiest airport in the state of Florida, after Miami International Airport and the 13th busiest airport in the United States. On a world scale it is the 29th busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic. The airport has four runways; 17L/35R @ 9,000ft, 17R/35L @ 10,000ft, 18L/36R @ 12,005ft and 18R/36L @ 12,004ft.

Installation

Installation is simple but requires an active internet connection to receive your personalized authorization code. Once this code is entered the process will continue through to completion. The entire process is straightforward and easy to follow. The final step adds the airport to the FSX scenery library.

Available from SimMarket’s product purchase page is an online tutorial that takes you through each screen of the installation process. I’ve included the link below. It is very well written and shows you exactly what you’ll need to do.

http://secure.simmarket.com/installation.html

Configuration

There were no configuration options for this scenery addon.

Documentation

The product comes with two documents; a single page word document and a three page pdf document. In a nutshell neither document is really very informative. The word doc has a small description of the airport, a list of scenery features and some product information that was in Spanish even though this was an English document. The pdf document wasn’t much better. Again they included some general information about the airport plus a map that illustrates the diversity of destinations that connect with the airport. On the last page is an explanation of how to install the scenery and then add it to the FSX scenery library.

Airport Scenery

The differences between Taxi2Gate’s version of KMCO and the one in FSX are striking. FSX includes some basic structures but beyond that it there is no comparison. Taxi2Gate have taken it to a whole other level of realism that will place you in surroundings that you will thoroughly enjoy.

FSX default KMCO Taxi2Gate KMCOTaxi2Gate scenery coverage areaOrlando International Airport is a fascinating airport visually and really quite different from most others. Sure, there really isn’t anything unusual about the general layout but if you take a few moments to look at it from a birds eye point of view you’ll see that in the design of the airport, especially near the terminal, they’ve included more green spaces and water than you typically see. They’ve taken the natural features of the surrounding area and incorporated them throughout the airport’s grounds.

Green spaces near terminalGround textures

Photo real hi-resolution ground textures were used throughout the entire scenery area and because of that many small natural and man-made features were clearly visible.

I found the hard surfaces were very realistic looking. Those areas that were subject to more traffic showed the tell-tale signs. The same held true for the aircraft parking areas where staining and signs of dirt were also clearly visible.

Typical parking location with definite signs of heavy useThe grassy areas within the airport were further enhanced with the addition of volumetric vegetation.

Orlando airport is one of those airports that has taxiway bridges. There are five of them and they’ve all been included.

Taxiway F taxiway bridge Taxiway bridges for taxiways E and FBuildings

Structures at KMCO are concentrated in two main areas. Centrally located we see the terminal complex and along the western edge of runway 18R/36L are some hangars and other small structures. In addition to these there are a few other small buildings scattered throughout the airport grounds.

Looking at the visual quality of the structures overall I have to say that they are very good. Colouring, shading and the inclusion of addition 3d details are all excellent. The quality of the high resolution imagery used throughout is among the best I have seen in any scenery. The minute detailing that can be discerned is pretty amazing.

If you get a chance I highly recommend slewing around the airport to take a closer look at the work that went into this product, especially the terminal area.

Orlando International Airport has an interesting multi-structure terminal complex located in the center of the airport. If you envision the entire terminal area as a large square the central core consists of terminals A and B, two very large multi-level parking garages, the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport Hotel, the control tower and then the four corners have what are referred to as Airsides 1 thru 4. Each one of them is connected to the  main terminal via the people mover system which is a tram that moves along an elevated track. Their recreation of the entire complex has resulted in visuals that are very realistic and look great from any angle or distance. From the ground level to the upper most level the results of their diligent work can be seen in every facet of the terminal complex. Intricate structural details, roof top details, the curvature of walls, glassed in surfaces, colouring, it is all extremely well done.

Looking west towards the Hyatt Regency Hotel and terminal building Looking east towards the terminal building North parking garage South parking garage Orlando control tower Side entrence into the terminal complex Security checkpoint People mover entrance into terminalHere are a few more screenshots that help showcase the high resolution imagery and how it adds significantly to the visuals.

Garage parking level signs Signage is easy to read

My only real concern with the entire terminal complex were the top floors of the parking garages. The top floors were void of any vehicles. They should have included vehicles and allowed us to remove the appropriate files if they proved to be too much of a resource hog.

Empty garage roof top level

Some of their best work can be seen with the airside buildings. Each one of these four structures is different and those differences are clearly visible thanks to their great work. These happen to be my favourite part of the scenery. All of the rendering techniques have been put to good use and we get to enjoy the results. Some of the things that caught my eye were the curved walls, the exterior stairways, the  tower on airside 4 and so on. When you fly in and out of Orlando these are the structures you’ll be in contact with the most. You won’t be disappointed with what you see. Besides what I already mentioned a few other features struck me as being special. First were the jet ways; in many airport sceneries the jet ways are detailed however quite often the exposed end consists of a flat image. Here at Orlando they have actually modelled it in 3 dimensions so you have an actual passageway leading into the jet way. The other special visual feature was the enhanced modelling of the airside interiors. Those parts that are visible through glassed walls have been populated with benches, flower stands and ticket counters.

Airside 3 Airside 1 Airside 2 Airside 4Under the airside Airside 4 towerOne of many detailed stairways Close up of jet way Jet way with 3 dimensional interior passagewayAlong runway 18R/36L is where we find the other major concentration of structures consisting mostly of maintenance hangars and cargo facilities. Most are basic in their design but with the techniques they’ve used to recreate the airport structures the results remain impressive.

Galaxy Aviation US Customs Continental hangar Fire training area Cessna Aircraft hangar Maintenance hangar US Postal Service Fedex apron Looking south along 18R 36LScattered in various other parts of the airport are several satellite fire stations and other miscellaneous buildings. Although they looked pretty good their quality didn’t come close to the work they put into the terminal complex.

Hangars near taxiway L One of several airfield fire stationsObjects and Vehicles

I was very impressed with this aspect of the scenery. It is clearly evident that they put a lot of effort into making it as realistic as possible for us while on the ground or in the air. The variety, quality, quantity and placement are all factors that were addressed and each one was extremely well done. Most objects you expect to find were included however I did notice that there were no PAPI light fixtures.

Apron clutter in front of DHL Express building Taxiway signage Static aircraft Communications masts Typical apron clutter Maintenance stairways Misc vehicles on apron Fuel trucks, mobile stairs, portable power units Baggage tugs and palet liftersVehicles are common place at a large airport, especially on the tarmac around the terminals and hangars. How well they do in this regard can have a major impact on how realistic this environment feels while you are on the ground. It also isn’t enough to just have a bunch of generic service vehicles parked around the airport, that’s not the way it is in real life and so it shouldn’t be here as well. If they are trying to make the airport environment resemble reality then a good developer needs to include airline or airport specific logos and paint schemes on at least some of the vehicles. They came through with different airlines represented in the fleet of service vehicles.

Airline logo vehiclesIt’s extremely difficult to create a perfect scenery and so there were a few instances where the results were less them optimal. There was a blast fence that appeared in a few locations and it looked to be unfinished. A surprise considering how impressive the rest of the objects were.

Unfinished blast fenceIn another visual blooper there were some palm trees protruding up through the roadway at the main terminal complex. Luckily it was only noticeable while I was slewing around the airport. It was something I hadn’t noticed while on the tarmac or flying overhead.

Some misplaced palm treesAnimations

Apron traffic does exist but is sparse. Airport service vehicles consisting mostly of baggage tugs with carts along with tow tugs, could be seen travelling around the various airside structures. These vehicles are the same high quality renderings as the static vehicles used throughout the airport.

The most interesting animation however was, as I see it, the above ground tram system that travels between the central terminal building and the four airside complexes. This system has been modelled and includes trams that travel along the elevated tracks; very nice.

People mover People mover elevated trackIn addition to the people movers they also include animated jet ways which are activated by using the FSX <ctrl+J> command sequence. This is good in that you don’t have to rely on 3rd party programs to get this feature however I encountered a few issues. They didn’t always line up properly with the aircraft and at some gates the jet ways actually travelled through the aircraft from the right hand side to try and connect to the aircraft’s left front door.

Surrounding Area

In addition to the airport they have included approximately 200 sq miles of the surrounding area. The area consists mostly of residential style housing along with a number of small lakes and lots of lush green vegetation. The area is also intersected by a several multi-lane roadways. All of these feature are easily distinguished because of the high resolution ground textures. The built up areas have been populated with a combination of custom and standard objects. Overall it enhances the feeling of realism while on final approach or when taking off.

Descending to Orlando One of several residential neighbourhoods near the airport Flying over Orlando Airport Approaching 17LNight

Night time overall was pretty good. For the interior and exterior building lighting they used high resolution imagery as they did with the daytime renditions so we could clearly distinguish between areas that were lit up or not.

Main terminal lit up at night Several hangars lit upThe airside structure interiors which are modelled were clearly visible from the interior lighting. Another good point.

Interior at nightGround lighting was quite good. Taxiway lights and taxiway signage appeared to illuminate the ground next to the fixtures which is a nice effect.

Ground lightingApron lighting for the most part was good but unfortunately there were some illuminated areas that either didn’t line up with the pole lights or had no visible pole light as a light source.

Apron lighting near cargo facilities Airside apron lighting Approaches

Chances are if you buy this airport you will probably be flying tube liners so accurate instrument approaches are an important factor.  During my time at KMCO I tried and was successful in using the published instrument ILS approaches as per the available charts.

Final Thoughts

Taxi2Gate have given us another top notch product as they continue to raise the bar with each new release. Visually, Orlando airport is a feast for the eyes. There were a few minor problems but overall it doesn’t disappoint and so I am sure anyone who buys this product will be very happy with that decision. Orlando will be added to my list of must go to destinations. I am definitely looking forward to their next release.

My Ratings

Installer: Very good. Simple to use.
Documentation: Poor.
Modelling: Very good.
Extras:  Animated people movers and working jet ways.

Download Size: FSX 306MB
Price: EUR 23.99 without VAT
Developer Homepage: http://www.taxi2gate.com
Link: http://secure.simmarket.com/taxi2gate-kmco-orlando-intl-fsx.phtml

Test System:
Intel i7 960 OC @ 4.2 Ghz, 6 Gb RAM, Gigabyte GTX780 w3Gb video, Win 7 Ultimate 64, FSX w/acceleration, UT2, REX Overdrive, GEXn, UTX, AES, GSX, FSUIPC.

Richard Desjardins

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