Review: MSK’s Karachi Jinnah international airport

intro

Look west, and tell me what you see? I tell you what I see. I see airports everywhere. A map, filled with pushpins all over Europe, even the US. Now look east. What do you see? You’ll agree with me that you see mostly desert and mountains. Even the desert and mountains you see don’t look very spectacular. The reason is simple: The Middle East and Asia are rather forgotten in Flight Simulator. Many of the big airports got an addon for them, like Singapore, Hong Kong (old and new) and Tokyo. Speaking of Tokyo, Japan is the only country in Asia to have been very well covered thanks to the efforts of Overland. Let’s take a few steps back, though, back to Middle Asia. While most of Middle Asia and the Middle East is, literally, desert, the real Middle East still has some life in it. In FS, the Middle East is about as welcome a destination as a big pit of broken glass. Why? Because there is hardly any scenery for it. Is there scenery for Jordan? Syria? No. No scenery that is of truly high quality, anyway. There is quite a lot of scenery for Israel, but that’s about it. We have one scenery for Iraq (Baghdad), and that’s where most of the effort ends… until now.

We have a new country to fly to: Pakistan. A new developer, MSK productions, has embarked on a journey through the airports of his home country, delivering them one by one to the world, via Flight Simulator 2004 and X. In this review I’ll be reviewing MSK Productions’ Karachi, the first airport to be released in MSK’s Pakistani airport series.

Why would you want to go to Karachi, or even Pakistan in general? The view the west has of Pakistan can be hardly worse: very strong religious ruling, poverty, hunger… it’s hardly a new and exciting place to visit. So why take the trouble? Indeed this is a question I asked myself when I asked to review this product. Why would I want to fly there? Well, I have three reasons to do so:

1)   I always like flying “uncharted” territory. I fly very rarely in these regions, and I noticed, when doing my first and only flight to Hong Kong VHHX, that I really enjoyed flying over the Middle East. It was something new. I had never been there. It was exciting, even though it was night and didn’t see anything except the occasional road.

2)   It is this flight which brings me to my second reason: on your long haul flights between the US or Europe and Asia, Pakistan is exactly at the right spot for a stopover. On my flight, I departed at Amsterdam and flew to Tel Aviv. I absolutely love landing at Tel Aviv. Ben Gurion’s runway 12 approach is lovely, especially at night. Plus, there is some great freeware scenery for Ben Gurion. However, when I embarked on my second and final leg (LLBG-VHHX), the flight was somewhat longer than I fancied and in hindsight I wished I had done another stopover somewhere. Problem was, I didn’t have good airport scenery I wanted to land at. Now, however, I do. So when I go back to Amsterdam, I’ll know my first leg will be VHHX-OPKC.

3)   PIA flies to a surprising amount of  destinations, of which many are American or European. Sadly, most are from Islamabad, not Karachi, but who knows. Maybe they’ll fly from Karachi too in the near future, since Karachi is the biggest airport in Pakistan.

So there you have it. I think Karachi is a new and exciting destination. Now let’s see what quality this airport scenery is. Is it good enough to warrant the money, however desperate you may be for Pakistani airport scenery?

Ordering, downloading, installing

Upon ordering the scenery, you get a serial number, an exe installer and an update file. Well, actually you get three: update numbers 1, 2 and 5. I suppose this is just a small error on Simmarket’s side, because update number’s 5 readme says that it makes all other updates unnecessary. So, after installing MSK Karachi itself, then the update, you are all set to go.

What you get is, of course, Karachi’s Jinnah international airport. The scenery covers it all: the new and old passenger terminals, the cargo area, the various warehouses and buildings along the various aprons and some other stuff in the immediate region of the airport, such as the parking lot in front of the new passenger terminal. All in all, a first impression of this scenery is rather good. You also get a text file with a description and a short history of the airport, but ultimately you can’t really call it a manual. Since, however, installing is so easy and the airport isn’t really packed with additional features, it’s not really necessary. And the features that are described, are describes adequately.

The scenery itself

First some overview shots:

airport-overview-1

airport-overview-2

Overview shots of the airport.


As you can see, it’s not a very big airport. Parts of it have been covered with photoreal ground imagery, but it looks very brownish. The colors are not very distinct, so while you do recognize buildings and cars, it all looks greyish and brownish. It’s a pity, because if the colors would have been more distinct, it would have looked more real, too. Here’s an example of the parking lot:

parking-lot

Jinnah’s parking lot.

As you can see, you recognize roads, cars, sidewalks and a square in the middle. But, the colors are all very much the same and that’s a pity. It makes it look like the lamp posts don’t really belong there, as if they have been put there just for the sake of it. Also the slightly asphalt look that has been made is a bit weird. It may have been better if it wouldn’t have looked so “grainy”, or “pixely” even. Now that we are at the parking lot, let’s go over to Jinnah’s main passenger terminal. It’s a rather distinct building, which is easily identified as middle eastern. Fortunately, the building looks much better than the ground imagery:

terminal-back

terminal-back-detail

The passenger side of the passenger terminal.

The texturing has been done well, and there is some very nice detail modeled into it as well, as the second screenshot shows. All matter of signs, flowerpots and even stairs have been modeled. You can even see a sign hanging with departures listed. So from this side, it looks rather good. How about the other side?

terminal-overview

terminal-closeup

terminal-detail

Planeside of the passenger terminal.


This side of the terminal looks just as good. Texturing is once again nice, although I wonder if the Jinnah international letters aren’t a bit too stretched. That’s a minor gripe though, because in general, the texturing gives a very good impression of what the terminal looks like in real life. A nice mix of cleanliness and dirt make the building look authentic, and together with the modeling, we have a product that looks quite good. Now let’s look at other parts of the terminal building: the concourses and jetways.

concourse-overview

One of jinnah’s concourses.

Jinnah international has two identical concourses, each harboring six jetways. Modeling and texturing is rather nice, although some parts look a bit plain and maybe could have had some more detail in them. The jetways, however, look very good. Here are two shots:

jetway-1

jetway-2

An example of Jinnah’s jetways.

Jinnah’s jetways are very… yellow. To be honest, they look a bit like very long, yellow containers to me. But, if they enable easy boarding of the plane, then who am I to complain? Ultimately, the jetways looks very good in this scenery. There is lots of detail, and the texturing is very sharp. What I especially like is the cab of the jetway. MSK has actually taken the trouble to model some of its interior instead of putting a texture over it that sort of signifies a closed door, like in so many sceneries. A job well done!

parking-guidance

Last thing to talk about regarding the terminal, is the parking guidance. It looks good, although it doesn’t function without AES. Actually, it’s also quite primitive. Many parking guides recognize your plane and tell you exactly where to stop. This guide doesn’t do such a thing. It only tells you what line you have crossed, and the pilot is supposed to know at what line he should be. It works, I guess, but it’s more primitive than what most of us will be accustomed to.

ramp-overview

ramp-detail

Next are the ramps belonging to the older terminal. The above two shots show parts of this ramp, and a clear distinction can be seen: there is a part where mostly small aircraft stand, and a part where bigger aircraft stand. The lower of the two screenshots shows the details a bit better, and what is immediately apparent, is the collection of cars, trucks and carts. They are nicely textured and offer just that spark that makes the difference between a dull and a lively airport. And, there are also cars driving around, but this can of course not been seen in this screenshot…

vehicles-at-old-terminal

vehicles at the old terminal.

Next to the ramp we looked at just now are even more parkings, as you can see on the above screenshot. I suspect these are also for passengers, but cargo planes could just as well stand here. The cars are again a nice touch, but the building is a bit bland, although I like the fans and antennae on the roof.

old-terminal-front

old-terminal-back

The old terminal.


Adjacent the previously shown ramp, is the old terminal. It’s a small structure with a small control tower on top. It seems to be one of two control towers, another one being on the new terminal. Which one is used for ground control and which one for air control I do not know, however.

The first thing I thought when I saw the old terminal, was that the texturing is blurry and not so nice. However, this is not completely true. As a matter of fact, most of the texturing is pretty nice: it’s only the sign saying “terminal-1” that doesn’t look good. However, exactly because this is such a prominent sign and a real eye-catcher, you quickly conclude that the entire terminal’s texturing is blurred. I wish the sign’s text would have been sharper and cleaner. For the rest, though, the old terminal is a pretty decently modeled and textured structure.

ramp

The final bit of the airport is a section that is populated by hangars, workshops, warehouses and garages. Most of the hangars look pretty good, although one or two could have been better in my opinion. To be specific, I think the structures in screenshot 4 could have been made better. It looks extremely bland, as if no photographs could have been obtained of this structure. However, the big PIA hangar is very nice, and I especially like the fact that it is not closed. It’s nice that you can look into it (although, admittedly, there is nothing to see!)

hangars

hangars2

vats

building

dhl-building

pia-hangar

Some buildings and hangars around the final section of the airport.

Finally, Below there are some shots of various things that I couldn’t fit into any other of the paragraphs. The first shot mainly shows the detail of the taxiway and runway textures. Overall, I quite like them. Problem is, around the terminals it looks a bit empty, and some cracks and dirt might have been fitting. Overall, though, it looks good. The second shot dhows some service vehicles. These look very good, my only gripe being the surface they are standing on. It, again, looks a bit bland and I would have liked more detail. Again stuff like cracks and dirt would have livened it up a bit. By the way, what amazed me is the lack of a fence here. People seem to be able to go from the parking lot directly onto the new terminal’s apron.

ground-detail

service-vehicles

Ground detail and service vehicles.


So that’s what OKPC is all about. Just one more thing before I give a conclusion and my final judgment: night shots. Overall, the night lighting is very nice, especially at the new terminal. One thing I expected but didn’t see, are green centerline markings on the taxiway. Apparently these don’t exist at OPKC (which is not something the scenery should be blamed for!).

terminal-at-night-2

Overview of the airport at night.

terminal-at-night

The new terminal at night.

old-terminal-at-night

The old terminal at night, plus its surrounding ramps.

Conclusion

OPKC Karachi Jinnah international airport is a new and exciting airport in a region where hardly any third party airport is available. It almost seems like a black hole: as soon as you reach the Middle East, there are no addon airports to be found. That is why I am very pleased with Karachi: not only do we get a new destination that destination ahs also been done quite well. My impression is that this is an airport that already looks very good but is a little rough around the edges. So how could it be improved? I propose these things:

-       Sharpen the sign on terminal 1;

-       Add some cracks on the taxiway and runway surfaces;

-       Add cracks and dirt on the serve vehicle parking, maybe even lamp posts or something;

This would probably improve the airport a bit. But do not misunderstand me: The new terminal looks very good, and I’m especially fond of those concourses and jetways. These look stunning, with great texturing and modeling. Oh, and did I mention that this airport is AES compatible? Yes, for two credits, you can get AES in this airport! I think this is a major benefit.

My final word is that this airport looks very nice. But there is a problem: the price. It is difficult in this day and age to review a scenery product and not compare it to other developer’s offerings. Seeing that this is one of the only Middle Eastern airports that have been done quite well, too, I am okay with the price of 20 euros. However, I am not okay with a price of 20 euros for one version, and 18 euros for the other. I personally think that the two versions could have been combined and cost 20 euros together. I base this on the offerings of others: Aerosoft, FSDreamteam, Flytampa, all publish airports that combine both FS9 and FSX versions in one package that costs 20 to 25 euros. Since these airports are subsequently of high quality, it becomes harder and harder to justify prices for airport scenery addons that go above this 25 euro price point while maintain the same or a lower scenery quality.

Ultimately, I think OPKC is a bit overpriced. Very nice, a great initiative and a perfect spot for an addon airport, but nevertheless a bit overpriced. Still, if you would like to fly from the west to the east and don’t fancy those 10-hour long flights, OPKC is the ideal place for a short stop-over before that last leg towards Hong Kong, Singapore or Tokyo.

By Benjamin van Soldt

Product available from simMarket: FSX, FS2004

My system:

Apple iMac 27” containing:

-       Intel i5 Quad Core

-       4GB DDR3 RAM

-       1TB hard disk @ 7200RPM

-       ATI 5750HD Radeon

-       Screen resolution of 2560×1440

-       Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit

-       FS2004 version 9.1

-       Addons used: REX, GEPro, FSGenesis mesh, World-of-AI packages + self-compiled AI packages.

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Benjamin van Soldt
Friday, December 24, 2010 16:52

Thanks for the comments Jean, glad you liked the review. I agree that it’s overpriced, as I said in the review. That’s why I also mentioned ways to improve the scenery. That would ultimately increase the value of the airport.

Regarding the plain colors: I complain about it in relation to the parking lot. Unless the entire parking lot is sort of the same sandy color, then okay, but I do not believe all cars in Pakistan have the same color… So that’s what my criticism was about. For the rest it’s good.

Jean.Claude
Friday, December 24, 2010 15:53

Thanks for the review! I have a slight advantage on you, I lived in Karachi several years, precisely when Jinnah terminal was inaugurated and used it quite extensively professionally during those years, so I know it… a bit! I bought the scenery – be it only to remember some (good) parts of my life there -, as Pakistan is not exactly what we see on TV and read in papers. Back to the scenery: I found it quite simple and basic, more freeware like, obviously the work of someone who tries very hard but does not get the result (yet)… Read more »