What airports are the nicest to fly into? The really big ones? Where you see planes taking off, landing, taxiing, being serviced at the gate? Or perhaps smaller airports. The ones which are cozy, where various types of GA aircraft are standing on the ramp, waiting for their owner to fly them to some remote island. Maybe you like whatever airport, as long as they are in some special location? Think Kai Tak, in Hong Kong. If anything, the approach to that airport is (or has always been, since it’s now closed) one of the most exhilarating approaches one can fly.
I myself have no real preference, but I do know I hardly fly into airports where I haven’t been myself or that I do not think have something special about. So Manchester, Budapest, Amsterdam Schiphol and Ben Gurion Tel Aviv are some of the airports I like to fly into because I have been there myself. Airports like Stockholm Arlanda and various other ones in Scandinavia I’ve always liked for the simple, but perhaps weird reason that these were the very first freeware addon airports I had download in my life (these were for FS98 and looked quite good at the time!). Airports like Berlin Tegel, St. Maarten and Paramaribo are places I’ve never been too myself, but I still like them because of the location. Berlin is a very interesting town, St. Maarten has a very funny approach (going low and slow over the beach is absolutely great) and Paramaribo is the capital of Surinam, which once was a colony of the Netherlands, which somehow makes me like the place.
Finally, there is Innsbruck, the focus of this review. What’s so great about Innsbruck? It’s a rather small airport, not too much traffic it seems… Is it even that important? Well, that honestly doesn’t matter, not this time. This airport has got a lot going for it, as you’ll soon see. What I’ll review here is Aerosoft’s “Innsbruck Approach” scenery for FS2004, and eventually for FSX (at the time of writing it wasn’t released for FSX yet).
Installation and documentation
Installation is simple and straightforward, like with any Aerosoft product. Upon completion of the order process, you get one zip file, which includes a readme and an executable. You run the executable, enter your email address and keycode, and off you go. The installer asks you whether you want to install some static vehicles at the airport too. If you feel your computer can’t handle it, you shouldn’t do it, but it’s very nice to install them. The more detail, the merrier!
The documentation is presented in the form of a PDF file containing both German and English languages. In it, you can read about Innsbruck, the airport at Innsbruck and various nice trivia. You’ll also read that a lot has been done to make compatibility with various payware and freeware addon sceneries as good as possible, one of these being Ultimate Terrain Europe. We’ll soon see if this is true!
Finally, there is a PDF containing charts. They are all in German, but nevertheless it should be very clear what it’s all about. I have found them to be very good and very detailed, and it’s very nice that they have been included.
Scenery location: why Innsbruck?
So indeed, why Innsbruck? I think this question is answered best by just showing a screenshot:
I think it’s rather clear: there are mountains everywhere, and that’s because Innsbruck is situated in a valley. This means that first of all, you don’t have much room to maneuver: approaches will be challenging because of this. Secondly, Innsbruck isn’t really known for the great weather. Just think how much fun it’ll be to approach the airport in rainy weather at night! Thirdly and finally, mountains are awesome. They make for beautiful surroundings. So, this is why Innsbruck has been chosen as a setting for a payware addon scenery: I think these are three good reasons. Now let’s look at how well Aerosoft did its job.
Taking a look around
First of all, let’s go see the airport. That’s the focus of the entire package, anyway, as is stated in the manual, so let’s see what we can find.
First of all, an overview. Some things are quite apparent, like ground textures that seem to look very good. The airport isn’t very big though, and it’s mostly GA aircraft we see parked on the apron (although to be fair, if you fly around at another time of day, you’ll see a lot of A320 and Boeing 737 planes parked at the airport). Small airports do enable greater amount of detail, though, which is good. Let’s see if there really is a great amount of detail to be found.
The first part we’ll concentrate on already looks rather nice. You can see some buildings, of which one is the office of Tyrolean (the regional carrier that was taken over by Austrian Airlines and then rebranded to Austrian Arrows). See that fence? The poles are 3D! That’s very nice attention to detail indeed. The second screenshot shows similar detail. I’m mainly hinting at the racks that hold the Austrian Airlines containers, but the blue building has also been modeled and textured very nicely.
Next up are the control tower and the terminal. As you can see in the first screenshot, you can look into the control tower and actually see all the radar displays. This is fabulous attention to detail, although it’s a pity you’ll never actually see it when flying your plane. Still, it’s nice its there.
The airport terminal itself is also nicely done. People are standing on the balcony, and some doors and such have transparent textures, which I think is a very nice addition. The nicest thing, though, probably is the woman at the arrivals door in the last screenshot. For me it’s evidence of the fact that the designer of the scenery has a big imagination, and making these kind of nice details adds a lot to what otherwise might be a “boring” scenery. It mainly adds life to scenery, which I think is very important.
What also “adds life”, is AESLite. The apron is just one instance where you’ll notice moving vehicles. In due course, I’ll show more instances, but ultimately it’s one of the nicest things included in sceneries: these moving vehicles add something to an airport, especially one as small as Innsbruck. I like it a lot and it’d be sad if it hadn’t been included.
The next two screenshots show the fire department and the ground vehicles. What I wanted to point out mainly is the detail on the vehicles you see on the second screenshot: if you look closely, you’ll notice transparency in the air stair’s yellow cover. I think it’s rather neat, and it is a welcome detail. It looks very convincing.
These last screenshots show the other end of the airport. Although admittedly the first two screenshots don’t show us anything truly especial, the third screenshot shows us a modern, good-looking, well-made hangar. What I especially like are the awesome-looking reflections on its roof. This has been done truly well! This also concludes the apron side of the airport. Now let’s go back, but on the other side of the buildings and see what we can find there.
Firstly we see the back of the hangars, fire department and some of the surrounding buildings. There are some details to be seen on the second screenshot that look very nice, like the small chimney-like structures you see on the dark-grey concrete building. For the rest, I would like to point out the relative sharpness of the ground textures. Cars are cars and it’s very clear that this true, which is something you don’t see that often in FS9 airport sceneries (I have noticed ground textures tend to be somewhat blurry).
The first screenshots shows us some very good-looking parking lots. Especially note the direct surroundings of the parking lot: the dirt and grass is very convincing and seems to be a very high-resolution texture. Unfortunately, the parking lot on the second screenshot doesn’t seem to have such high quality textures. It is a tad blurrier, although, in the end, it’s perfectly fine. All in all, it’s very convincing and it certainly belongs to the top addons in this respect!
The second screenshot also shows us some neat modeling in terms of buildings. The transparent roof leading to the terminal’s entrance is one thing, but also note that the parking garage has all the decks modeled into it too. It’s not simply a bitmap plopped onto a cube like you’ll find in many sceneries, it’s an actual parking garage. It looks very good!
These last airport-at-daytime shots show some of the great texture quality you’ll find in this scenery. Look how sharp these all are! The sign can be found on the entryway leading to the parking lots I showed just now, and the ground detail on the last shot is on the airport’s apron. I am astounded by the level of detail and realism found in this scenery — especially because this is FS9. It makes me very anxious about the FSX version!
These final shots show some parts of the airport at night. I didn’t see much use in taking endless night shots, since there isn’t a lot of detail to see in it. These two shots will give an impression: generally it’s good. The buildings look very good, anyway, but I’m not that fond of the lighting used for the ground. It looks “washed out”: where once there was a lot of detail, now it looks like all detail on the ground has been lost. I think that’s a pity. Although it’s not really connected to the ground textures, I do want to point out the one car you can see in the second screenshot. You may notice the blinking directional indicator. Yes, when a car of AESLite turns into another street, its light blinks before he actually turns. Wondrous, no?
This concludes the airport. Let’s go downtown!
Surroundings of the airport
The scenery isn’t called “Innsbruck Approach” for nothing: the whole idea of the scenery is, as stated in the manual, that one experiences the actual approach to the airport. To experience the approach, you need some surroundings. We’ll start with the city, and then follow the highway around to the other side of the airport.
This first screenshot shows you what we are going to dig into first. As you can see, there are a number of buildings and the photo-realistic ground textures look very good. So, without further ado, let’s get cracking.
The first screenshot shows clearly where the scenery ends. Generally, if you have Ultimate Terrain Europe installed, all will be well and roads and rivers of the photoscenery will flow without problem into the Ultimate Terrain roads and rivers. If you do not have this (magnificent) addon installed, though, your river will end abruptly into nothingness. It is stated in the manual that it was decided not to meddle with the FS9 default rivers in this location, because many people have Ultimate Terrain installed anyway… if this is true I don’t know, but I definitely recommend acquiring Ultimate Terrain. It’s a very good addon, whether you are interested in this particular scenery or not.
The other shots show some houses and appartmentblocks. While the modeling seems only standard, the texturing is very good. I love how sharp the textures are! So okay, the roofs are not that good, but the walls do have very sharp texturing, which is also very nice.
Moving on, we find that there is a large area without any custom buildings. It is the area you see in the first shot. I’m not sure why nothing was put here, but I find it a great shame. Many buildings have been put around this particular “field of flatness”, so I wonder why not simply on it. Perhaps it’s got to do with certain limitations of FS2004? I don’t know, I only report about what I see. And what I see is a sea of emptiness. Not so nice… Although, to be frank, the ground textures here are very nice, as you can see on the second shot.
As I said previously, AESLite makes many of these sceneries come to life. It not only provides car traffic, but also train traffic. Here we have an example of a train moving over the rail. It looks very convincing, as it moves along, like a giant snake. Looking from close-by, we can see the designers took the trouble to model the wires above the rail: truly a great effort!
Before moving on, I wanted to show this sports club. I found the attention to detail, not only on the soccer fields, but also on the roofs of the buildings, to be very good. It really is very good texturing! So with that out of the way, lets follow the highway and see what we can find at the other side of the airport.
I realize now I should have actually taken the screenshots in another order; as it’s now, the order may be correct, but the aircraft flies in the wrong direction. The aircraft should be flying the other way. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the view. Looking at this highway, first of all the exceptional ground textures are worth mentioning. This has been done truly well. An expert has been at work, at the very least! The second thing that deserves mentioning, is the car traffic. It’s very nice to follow the cars and trucks as they drive along. Yes, AESLite was successful here, too.
After following the highway, we have reached the other end of the scenery and by doing that I have run out of material to review. The other end of the scenery looks as good as the rest, and you may notice, again, the good quality of the ground textures and well-modeled and well-detailed buildings. You can also see that train, in the bottom-right corner, moving along. Probably going to Vienna or some other city in that direction…
These last shots show some parts of the city at night. To be honest, it really isn’t as awe inspiring as it all is at daytime. It’s all sort of black-and-white, and makes it all look very dreary. What I do really like, are the lights of the cars on the highway. It really adds to the atmosphere, when you’re flying in at night, and you fly over the highway, to see these little cars with these tiny lights drive under you. Looks very realistic!
By the way, an important note: the abundance of red, green and yellow lights you see, are placed on the roads by Ultimate Terrain Europe. If you do not have this addon, you will not see the lights appear over the Approaching Innsbruck scenery!
This concludes this chapter. On to performances.
On every screenshot, you can see the framerate at which it was taken. My computer isn’t exactly state of the art, so even in FS2004 my framerates aren’t very good. See for yourself, I guess, but here’s a short rundown of the FPS I have been getting (I am locked at 24 FPS):
- Carenado Cessna 182RG:
- Virtual cockpit: 20 – 23 FPS
- Exterior view: 23-24 FPS
- Wilco 737-400
- Virtual cockpit: 16 – 21FPS
- Exterior view: 20-23 FPS
I should add that (as can be seen in the various screenshots) FPS can be very different depending on where your plane is. If it’s facing the terminal, you may have 20 FPS, but when on approach it may go down to 16 FPS. It all depends on the plane, time of day, weather and other addons. Here’s still some shots of the Wilco 737 and the framerates I ahd with it:
Framerates of the Wilco 737: Virtual cockpit.
That question can be answered quickly and simply: Yes, there is AES support. It will cost you one credit to activate the scenery.
After all I’ve shown you, I can say but one thing: this is one hell of an addon. It provides you with all the tools necessary to have a very enjoyable flight to a place that is beautiful by its surroundings and by the scenery provided by the addon. I’m very happy with the overall quality of the texturing and modeling, and especially the detail of the ground textures is very good. I’d recommend this product to everybody interested in flying in Europe. Those that like difficult approaches will certainly want this addon as much as Fly Tampa’s Hong Kong Kai Tak scenery!
I just have one complaint that I will not neglect to mention: I wish the scenery were bigger. I did some approaches from both sides, but when you come from the Innsbruck side of the airport, it’s striking that you hardly see any buildings until just in front of the airport. It would have been great if there had been more buildings to fill this gap. If you own Ultimate Terrain Europe, you won’t have such a feeling at least at night, because the UTE lights will fill the entire city, giving you a dazzling ballet of tiny lights that truly looks very good.
Now, with that off my chest, let me tell you how you can solve the problem: buy Austria Professional. This is also a scenery addon by Aerosoft, and it is bound to make Innsbruck look a lot better than it is now. I say, go to the Aerosoft website and look at some screenshots. Oh, and did I mention you get a discount if you bought Approaching Innsbruck?
So, in summary: Approach Innsbruck is a great addon. It’s a pity the scenery doesn’t extend over more terrain, but you can always get Austria Professional to solve that problem.
- Developer: Aerosoft
- Medium: Download/Boxed
- File size: 180 MB
- FS version: FS9
- The scenery can be acquired at Simmarket for â‚¬ 23,94, here.
Reviewed by Benjamin van Soldt
My system specs:
Macbook pro with:
- Windows XP 32bit
- 4GB RAM
- Nvidia 8600GT
- 300GB Hard disk (dedicated FS9 disk)
- Intel T8300 2,4 gHz Dual Core processor