Review: Orbx – FTX: NA KORS Orcas Island

Quick Summary:  Orcas Island Airport scenery pack:
Orbx have been developing superior ‘scenery’ for FSX for some time with the wonderful FTX Australia series.  The latest addition to my library is the superlative Orcas Island that jewel in the crown in the San Juan Islands just between Seattle and Vancouver.  As with all of their products you get a wonderful visual experience both in the air and on the ground.  In fact if you are not careful you can spend more time on the ground than in the air as there is so much to see.  Make no mistake, Orcas is a veritable wonderland of all what’s good and what makes for memorable flying in FSX.  This is a great add-on for FSX and it fully compliments and fits seamlessly with Orbx’ FTX —Pacific Northwest (required for full functionality).  KORS is the main airfield that has been modelled, it is a great place to navigate, and it is ideal for VFR flying.  Every time you open this scenery you will discover something new.

Orbx – FTX: NA KORS Orcas Island – The ‘Free Willy’ or the Mariachi review

Using the download option, you extract the zip file and run the OrbxFTXKORS100.exe file produced.  You the fill in your order number, date of purchase and key and the installation is seamless.  In the manual you are also given a method for installing from the DVD edition (as available).  The configuration in the FSX scenery library is usually automatic but again the manual displays a manual method if needed.

Background: See KORS manual and Wikipedia:
This is very well covered in the manual, so will not be repeated here in detail, just a few background facts.  The name ‘Orcas’ was truncated circuitously from the surname of the Mexican Viceroy who sent the explorer who ‘discovered’ the island and subsequently re-named by the British.  It is the largest island in the San Juan group which are situated in San Juan County, Washington State sitting in the Salish Sea.  The San Juan Islands are a part of the San Juan Archipelago.  The archipelago is split into two groups of islands based on sovereignty. San Juan Islands are part of the U.S. state of Washington, while the Gulf Islands are part of the Canadian province of British Columbia. There are over 450 islands in the entire archipelago but only ≈15% are permanently inhabited.

Orcas Island is approximately 80 nm from Seattle and approx 31 nm from Vancouver (as the crow flies) and has a land area of 57.3 square miles (150 km²) and a population of ≈4,500.  KORS, the major airport, has a single asphalt (tar seal) runway 16/34 of 2900′ long and 60′ feet wide plus numerous buildings and a parking area.  Also included in the package is WA35 Clam Harbor being a grass strip and W48 Rosario a seaplane base and these can be selected in FSX.

‘Orca” is a term also applied to ‘killer whales’ being a toothed whale that is an efficient predator, capable of attacking other whales and sharks.  They can be seen in this area and for further details please view: ACSONLINE. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons and acs online

The Manual:
The manual is 22 pages long in pdf format, and is saved to the desktop during installation.  The manual is quite comprehensive covering compatibility, history, geography, sights, installation, features, system requirements, audio, coverage area, recommended FSX settings and details of the airfield, strip and SPB included.  Also included are details of the FTX Aero Tool and the KORS control Panel.  It covers any aspect that you need to know about this scenery.

FTX Aero Tool for KORS:
During installation the Aero tool is loaded to the desktop and it is basically an ‘enhancement’ environment rendering tool with 3 main functions:
1.     Detail Bump Map:
This adds realistic textures to the runway surfaces, including default, coarse, fine soft or cracked surfaces.

2.     Runway 18 Texture:
Here you can choose the resolution of the runway, with default, 1024 x 1024 and 2048 x 2048.

3.     Taxiway Markings:
This changes the taxiway markings with default, single yellow or double yellow as options.

KORS Control Panel:
During installation the KORS control panel is loaded to the desktop and it manages the complexity of the detail that you want to experience in KORS.  You can disable or enable any feature and by default all selections are enabled.  You can choose such items as, airport clutter and cars, 3D grass and flowers (an Orbx speciality), AI and non-AI traffic, Static People (dynamic coming soon), birds, Orca Whales and 6 different sounds (see later).

In the Sim:
In FSX just choose KORS, (or WA35 or W49) your location and aircraft, weather time and season and you are good to go.  There is a very useful Google map (kmz) on the website covering the PNW and showing the locations of the airfields included.

The Viz:
The default FSX scenery is fairly basic to say the least in this area, and FTX Orcas Island with FTX PNW transforms the area into a vivid life-like experience.  The coastlines resemble the real world, as seen in Google Earth (see above) and the beaches, rocks, cliffs, mountains vegetation; land and sea are what you would expect to see in this archipelago.  It is an amazing transformation of this part of the USA.  The airfields sport buildings, trees and other features indicative of the local area.  There are flocks of birds wheeling around and I found that the scenery is at its best around dusk or dawn.  Obviously there are Orca whales basking off the coast but it is quite a challenge to spot them and get close for that once in a lifetime picture (see above).  The island roads are excellent and you can ‘travel’ down many of these using a 3rd party road vehicle.

We have3 listed airfields that have been modelled and positioned to represent how they are in the real world.  KORS itself is depicted with stunning accurate detail and is obviously a significant increase in quality and realism over the default FSX airfield.  It is alive with buildings, people, birds, cars, sounds and GA aircraft and all the signs are there too.  Clam Harbor WA35 is a great grass strip, realistically reproduced with its own buildings, vehicles, people, etc.  W49 Rosario Seaplane Base is also beautifully and accurately rendered and I’ll discuss WA35 and W49 a little later.

I was also fortunate to be sent a pre-release copy of animated people who now amble around the airport in a random but realistic manner.  This is a feature that is going to be added to all FTX airports!

The main airfield KORS is accurately depicted in terms of official charts covering, runway heading, RNAV, GPS, etc.  Approaches using ORCUS and Penn Cove according to the chart result in accurate placement on final, and the departure procedure likewise.  The trees ‘obstacle’ for Runway 34 is well depicted in FTX KORS, so you need to clear these if you don’t want to end up as a birds nest!  The various runway lights, beacons, etc are numerous and accurately placed in the sim.  Night lighting at KORS and the whole island is excellent but unfortunately my screenshots can’t do it justice, so you will have to see for yourself.

These are depicted accurately in the software, and represent what you see in Google Earth.

The Vegetation:
You can select the unique Orbx FTX grass and flowers via the KORS Control Panel (see above and this gives an extremely dense realistic ground cover, very typical of the terrain displayed, see the various figures above.  The ‘forests’ where shown were dense and realistic.

The Whales and other AI traffic:
These can be selected via the KORS Control Panel (see above).  You have the choices of ‘airport clutter and cars, static non-AI planes, GA planes movements, static people and animated birds.  I believe that dynamic people will be with us in the near future.  The various pictures above show the AI planes at KORS and there is also a static AI Ferry shown at the Ferry Terminal.

These are excellent and you have the choice of turning these on or off via the KORS Control Panel (see above).  The choices include car park sounds, birds in trees and in flight, marina sounds, ringing telephone, workshop sounds and the sounds of planes overhead.  This all adds up to a quality product and enhances the feeling in the Sim.  The volume of the sounds can be reduced or increased in the FSX settings.

Areas of Interest:
There are 3 historic camps on Orcas Island, Camp Orkila, Four Winds Westward Ho and Indralaya.  The Historical museum in downtown Eastsound is well depicted and I found it easily enough with “BOB”.  Strangely there is no mention of the lookout tower on Mt Constitution which is extremely well drawn and looks so realistic, nor is there any mention on the best times, seasons and areas for viewing the ‘killer’ whales.  I found that just north of KORS runway 34 gave the best viewing spot, but there may have been others that I didn’t see.

WA35 Clam Harbor and W49 Rosario:
These two are included as a bonus with WA35 being a grass strip and W49 being an extremely detailed Sea Plane Base.

FSX Settings:
The manual gives excellent guidelines on how to set KORS up optimally in FSX.  Using the default recommended settings I saw no significant performance impact and saw stunning visuals.  There are also recommended FSX slider controls for Graphics, Aircraft, Scenery, Weather and Traffic and again following these settings balances quality to performance.  There is even a section on the Autogen Density slider with values being given for computers from ‘entry level’ types such as Core2duo @ 2.5GHz plus moderate GPU, to an ‘extreme’ type such as an i7 9xx @ 4GHz and state of the art video card.  I set my i7 860 to High End and did not see any significant drop in performance.

The Success Story:
How do they (Orbx) do it, simple (not really — but by sheer hard work) they gather around them the crème de la crème of talented software developers, photographers, artists, call them what you will and only release top quality software that performs from Day 1.  If it doesn’t work, redevelop it to make it even better.  It takes time to do this but Orbx have achieved it easily.  The next objective is to develop a marketing strategy par excellence, not for them giving their customers the mushroom experience, they give out realistic timetables on what they are doing, lots of preview ‘screenies’ and then create demand by offering the product in ‘pre-pay mode’, 24 hours before anyone else can get their hands on it.   You then back this marketing plan up with an excellent sales network.  You also give simmers lots of free software that interacts seamlessly with your pay ware products, in other words, a total package.  Finally, you create a support forum that not only solves any problems that you might have but it makes you feel that you are part of some vast flight sim family.  You take on every issue that your consumers have, you tell them how you are going to solve said problem, you state publicly, ‘No question unanswered‘ and then, you do actually solve the problem.  That approach breeds success.

Summing Up:
This was a very enjoyable experience using this quality add-on for FSX.  In my brief review I couldn’t cover every aspect of FTX KORS so my overview however inadequate attempts to show just the salient features of this lovely island.  It really does enhance the simming experience, especially if you are like me a low-level GA Flyer.  This is a great improvement over the default scenery, this much more realistic and is accurately mapped so both accurate VFR and IFR flights are possible.

WOW Factor: 10 out of 10

Peter Hayes, Australia, December 2010

The Important Bits:

  • Publisher: Full Terrain FTX – Orbx
  • Supplier: Boxed versions as available from simMarket.
    Download & Boxed versions from: Flightsimstore
  • Download File Size: 1.01 GB (exe file) Automatic install from the “exe” file.
  • Installation File Size: ≈1.02GB scenery and texture file.  On the desktop a KORS control panel,
    User Guide and FTX Aero app.
  • Simulator Requirement: FSX SP2 Acceleration Gold DX10 not supported.
  • OS Requirements: Win XP, Vista and/or Win 7;
  • Testing System: Intel i7 860, 8 GB DDR 1600 RAM, Windows 7, nVidia GTX460 1GB, 260.99 Driver, nVidia Inspector 1.94;
    FSX SP1 + SP2; 120GB SATA II OCZ Colossus SSD; Saitek X52 + Pro Pedals,
    No Tweaks all standard and no over-clocking.
  • Scenery: NA KORS Orcas Island; Orbx FTX PNW
  • Supplementary: Requires Orbx FTX Pacific North West for full functionality, with patch PNW.003 needed to be installed. 
    Always install the Orbx Object Libraries app file at the end of each install.
  • Installation: Automatic via a self extracting “exe” file, entering order number, date and code.  A manual install is also possible.
  • Manuals / Documentation: Manual 22 Page pdf
  • Support: Orbx FTX Payware forum
  • Main Forum: Community Forum
  • Updates: Service Pack? Always dynamic;
  • PNW.003 Patch: Patch
  • Orbx Object Libraries: Libraries
  • Aircraft used: LionHeart Quest Kodiak; Real Air Scout; FSS OSS C182K (Rust bucket)

0 Responses

  1. Yup, I agree Orbx KORS is spectacular and I love it… but also, I am left awed at Richard Goldstein’s efforts in FS9 (FSAddon KORS); I still recognise many details of the airfield from the previous version of the sim, which speaks volumes to me about the quality of that original release.

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