AEROSOFT ONLINE – US CITIES X – CLEVELAND — The ‘Rock ‘N Roll’ or ‘Sixth City‘ Review

Quick Summary: Aerosoft are well known for their quality add-on software for FSX and this no exception being the seventh in the ‘US Cities X’ series including: Las Vegas, Niagara Falls/Buffalo, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Indianapolis.   In FSX Cleveland & environs is pretty bland with few features, but install Aerosoft Cleveland and watch the transformation into something that is relatively full of life and detail.  Also included are a group of Islands in Lake Erie about 50 – 60 miles from Cleveland, namely the Bass Islands (North, Middle & South), Kelley’s and Rattlesnake Islands all complete with revamped airstrips.  Cleveland itself has tons of detail, including, buildings, trees, rivers, bridges, heliports, airfields, shorelines and roads.  It appears to blend in reasonably well with the default FSX scenery.  Night and/or seasonal textures are not modelled, but there is some “default” illumination in various buildings which still give a nice effect.  I experienced some mild impact on frame rates but even so, my simming experience was still smooth.  It would be impossible to go back to the default scenery after using this one.  I’m definitely going to add the other Aerosoft cities to my virtual hangar.

Background:  (Courtesy Wikipedia):
Cleveland is a large city located in NE Ohio on the southern shore of Lake Erie, and is the county seat of Cuyahoga County.  It was founded in 1796 at the Cuyahoga River (nicely modelled by Aerosoft), and was a heavy manufacturing centre latterly diversifying into service based operations, including financial, insurance, legal, and healthcare services. Cleveland’s claim to musical fame is that it is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The population is around ≤400,000 which has been steadily falling from its peak of ≈920,000 in 1950 but is still the second largest city in Ohio.  However, its metropolitan area has a population > 2,250,000 ranked 14th largest in the USA.

Cleveland is home to ‘The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’ which is located on the Lake Erie shoreline in downtown Cleveland.  It is dedicated to the best-known and most influential artists, producers, engineers and others who have influenced rock music.

Cleveland City has 2 major airports both modelled in US Cities X Cleveland: Cleveland Hopkins International Airport KCLE) – an international airport plus the Burke Lakefront Airport, KBKL) located on the north shore of downtown, i.e. very close to the city a la Miegs.

KCLE is located nine miles (14 km) SW of Cleveland city in Cuyahoga County.  It is the largest airport in Ohio and as of 2009 is the 39th largest airport in the USA/Canada area.  It has 3 runways: ÂŒ 6L/24R – 9,000′ (2,743m) long with a concrete surface,  6R/24L – 9,955′ (3,034m) long also with a concrete surface, and ÂŽ 10/28 – 6017′ (1834m) long with a concrete/asphalt surface.  The airport was originally built in 1925, and has had several major upgrades since then with a new development program starting in 2007.  KCLE handles ≈9,500,000 passengers with ≈ 190,000 takeoffs and landings in any given year.)

. . . and now the Aerosoft US Cities-X version:

KBKL is used primarily for corporate jets and is owned by the City of Cleveland. It sports two asphalt paved runways: 6L/24R – 6,198 x 150 ft (1,889 x 46 m) long/wide and 6R/24L measuring 5,197 x 100 ft (1,584 x 30 m) long/wide.

And now the Aerosoft version:

The other airport within the metropolitan area is Cuyahoga County Airport KCGF this is located in NE Cuyahoga County, Ohio, ≈10 miles (16 km) east of Cleveland.  It has a single asphalt runway 5102′ (1555m) long.  This is modelled in US Cities-X Cleveland.


And the Aerosoft version:

The Islands:
The various Lake Erie Islands modelled include the Bass Islands i.e.  3 islands in close proximity located in the western part of Lake Erie.  South Bass Island is the largest of the islands, then North Bass Island and Middle Bass Island.  Middle Bass Island has also been called Ile de Fleurs and North Bass was known as Isle St. George.  The village of Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island is a popular tourist stop during the summer. Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, (a hazard to flying into) near Put-In-Bay is almost in a direct line with the runway 21 at 3W2.

Kelley’s Island is a tourist island located quite close to the Bass Islands, and it has an airport 89D modelled by Aerosoft.  It is the largest of the US Lake Erie Islands and it is now basically a State Park taking up about one third of the Island.  The park offers hiking, ruins of lime kilns and quarrying operations, beaches, and camping.

Rattlesnake Island is a small 85-acre island located near Put-In-Bay.  It has two ‘airstrips’ that cover most of the island. The name ‘Rattlesnake’ comes both from Rattlesnakes found on the island, as well as from its overall shape i.e. 2 x small islets near the tip look like a rattlesnake’s rattle.

and now the Aerosoft version:

There is one heliport and 3 helipads included in the package and for touring the city sights a helicopter is obviously the best way to go.  Three are located within Cleveland City with one being located in a nuclear facility north of Cleveland.

Being the first time that I had used this system it was reasonably complex, (I guess to avoid piracy), with the installation being performed via the new Aerosoft installer (“WEEZE X“) and launcher.  To successfully install the software, you need to be connected to the internet, logged on as administrator, product realise that activation is required, with all files being customised to your PC so that they can easily be traced back to you.  To proceed you have to insert your email address plus a serial code (emailed or downloaded), then point to the FSX destination address and the files install.  The Aerosoft launcher now starts you then need to click on the sceneries section and choose the scenery just loaded, enter your buying email address, the serial code and the online activation process starts.  If you are successful, you get the ‘green’ light to use the scenery in FSX.  Initially I got confused and entered the right numbers in the wrong place but eventually I got it sorted.  You can also install and activate without an active internet connection, but I have no experience of that process.

The Manual:
The manual is compact having 16 pages.  It covers an introduction, system requirements, copyright data, support, Aerosoft installer and launcher, display settings, compatibility, credits, airport and heliport information, and FAQ’s.  I did not see if this airport works with AES, so it will be interesting to test that feature in the future.  The manual also contains links to the web for the airport charts for the various aerodromes and airstrips. No links are given for the heliports/pads.  During the installation a kmz file for Google Earth is downloaded to the Areosoft\US Cities X folder in FSX, detailing all of the features of this package.

Advised Display settings:
In the manual, there is a comprehensive section on the advised display settings.  With this scenery package, I did note a fall in frame rates, but at all times it was reasonably smooth.  The setting that might impact a system most adversely was setting the “autogen density” to “extremely dense” and the “scenery density” also to “extremely dense”. “Water effects” were set to “Max 2” and this may also have an impact on lesser systems.  There was quite a reasonable section on road vehicles using a setting of around 20% or higher, but inexplicably the airline and general aviation traffic densities were not mentioned but set to “zero” in one of the screenshots.  Airport vehicle density was also set to 0.  Using the advised settings, I did not see any AI traffic (aircraft or road vehicles) at the airport so I had to set the airline traffic density to 60 and the general aviation traffic density also to 60, and the airport vehicle density to low.

The Visual Experience:
As I state above, there is quite a diverse amount of scenery in this package, ranging from metropolitan scenery in Cleveland to rural islands scenery on the Lake Erie Islands.  Much of it is well done, but I did find that some of the buildings are not as clear as I would have liked them.  I think that the thing that got to me the most was that some of the buildings were grey, almost featureless, and very blurry close-up, but others had excellent detail.  There seem to be a mixture of flat photo type scenery mixed in with 3-D rendered buildings and textures, this was quite disconcerting when moving around the various objects.  Therefore, while you get marvellous 3-D images in most of the scenery you also got these flat textureless areas that only became alive when viewed from above 200 feet or so.

Therefore, from this height of 200 feet + the roads are excellent smooth nice curves and excellent elevations, but travelling at road level showed that the textures were anything but smooth with large bumps and humps experienced as I moved through the city streets.  In the end, I tended to use the helicopter to explore the various areas of the city.

The City a collection of Screen shots:

I’m not sure if the problem was due to my texture loading settings but when you flew more than 20 miles from Cleveland, you seem to lose the cityscape with everything becoming a flat amorphous mass.  Under about 20 miles in the cityscape appeared in all its glory.  I also experienced black textures as I was flying over various areas.  However, in all fairness, these artefacts could have been due to my system or video card.

The Airports and Helipads:

The Lake Erie Islands:
The islands are quite well done they look good and the airfields seem to be an improvement on the default FSX textures.  On 3W2 (Put – in – Bay), the busiest airports in the islands, there is the is an accurate representation of Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial, which makes landing on runway 21 little daunting as it is almost in line with runway.  Landing at 58OH, (Rattlesnake Island), is quite tricky, as both runways are short and have a grass textures.

Night Textures:
In the FAQ section of the manual it is stated that there are no night and seasonal textures included, however, there is some “default” illumination from the various buildings.  Because I usually fly VFR during the day, I did not find this limitation to be a problem.

It is no doubt that the scenery is quite detailed and it is quite pleasant to fly over, but I do feel that some improvements could be made, which would significantly enhance it.  I guess that one can’t be too critical as you do get quite a lot of scenery for a reasonable amount of money and so the level of detail might well be reflected in the price that you pay.

IFR Flights:
Flying an IFR flight from New York in poor visibility, default B737 and using the GPS for navigation, I had no issues in finding the correct runway at KCLE and being directly in line when I burst out of the clouds.

The taxiways are accurate with excellent textures, and clear taxiway signs guiding you to the departure or parking point.  I would have liked to have seen more air traffic at Cleveland Hopkins International airport, but this is properly due to the fact that I do not and AI traffic program and only using the default FSX AI aircraft.  Another comment that I would like to make is that at KCLE and KEVKL the runways looked slightly too “new”, to my mind they should have been dirtier and shown more tyre and oil marks, but this is a minor criticism, and again could have been as a result of my settings.  I would also like to have seen better grass textures around the runways, with perhaps some colour correction.

The water textures are extremely good (as they should at max 2 settings) with both the Lake Erie in the Coyahoga River textures being depicted accurately and realistically.  The river curves Serpentine like throughout the city and looks extremely lifelike as it flows under the many bridges.  Likewise, Lake Erie looks excellent, with good colours and wave flows and cloud reflections at the higher water settings.

Aircraft Taxiing and Parking:
I only tested this feature at KCLD — Cleveland Hopkins International airport and used the default B737 from the runway and taxi to the “gates” via the taxiways and vice versa.  Take-offs and landings were also performed with a default A-360, and I found no issues in either scenario.  There are several air-bridges or jet ways at Cleveland and these work quite well.  Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to test if AES works at this airport.

AI Traffic:
At KCLE, the major airport, there was a certain amount of movement of vehicle and aircraft traffic which lent itself to a realistic experience.  Obviously, there was less traffic at the Lakefront airport, and at Coyahoga County airport.  There was even less traffic etc at the Island airports.

Cleveland surrounding scenery:
Aerosoft have done a reasonable job in melding with the surrounding scenery, but you can occasionally see some delineation between both the Aerosoft ‘photoscenery’ and the default FSX scenery.

Aerosoft supplied its own sounds for highway traffic, (AI plane traffic??), city traffic, birds etc, i.e., around the city and the airports, but these are extremely loud and I had to lower the volume on my sound system, so that I could hear myself think and fly.  Having said that, the sounds are excellent and they do enhance the flying experience.

Support is via the forum, but unfortunately I could not check if there were any “issues” or if AES worked with KCLE, as the forum was closed for maintenance.  In the past support from Aerosoft has been excellent and I am sure this has not changed.

Summing Up:
This is a competent scenery/airport add-on from Aerosoft, built for a price.  The airports, airfields, helipads, etc are well modelled and the accuracy is pretty good.  There’s a lot to see easy to fly with great visibility for miles around (except when the weather is bad!).  The lack of detail in some the buildings when others were built to a very high standard is also a little disappointing, but all in all, it is value for money.  The lack of night textures did not worry me, but it would have been nice had they been included.  My final thoughts are that it is a very nice professional package, and as I have said many times before, once you fly around, into or out of US Cities-X Cleveland you will find it very difficult to fly in the default FSX scenery.  QED

WOW Factor: 7 out of 10.
Peter Hayes
April 2011


The Important Bits:

  • Publisher:                               Aerosoft Online
  • Supplier:                                 simMarket
  • Download File Size:               547MB
  • Installation:                           Automatic install procedure via installer & launcher with on line
  • Extracted File Size:               ≈637 MB
  • Simulator Requirement:     FSX SP2 Acceleration Gold (DX10 not supported).
  • OS Requirements:                Win XP, Vista and/or Win 7; Acrobat Reader (pdf manual)
  • Testing System:                   Intel i7 860, 8 GB DDR 1600 RAM, Windows 7, nVidia
    GTX560 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:                                US Cities X Cleveland
  • Supplementary:                   N/A.
  • Documentation:                   User Guides: 16pp as pdf.
  • Support:                      
  • Main Forum/FAQ:    
  • Updates:                               N/A
  • Aircraft used:                       MS Bell Helo; Real Air Scout; FSS OSS C182K (Rust bucket); OrbX BOB.
  • Uninstall:                              No uninstall procedure listed.
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