Review: Orbx – FTX: YBCS Cairns International Airport

Orbx FTX have been developing superior ‘scenery’ for FSX for some time with the wonderful FTX Australia series and are now producing enhanced air ports for that continent.  The latest addition to my library is the superlative Cairns which is a major tourist resort city in Far North Queensland, Australia.  As  I have noted on previous occasions is that with all the ORBX FTX scenery 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, Cairns is another phenomenal detailed add-on that makes for great flying in FSX.  in addition, it fits seamlessly with Orbx’ FTX — Australia AU GREEN, as you would expect it to.  It is a great place to navigate, and it is ideal for VFR flying, and the Great Barrier reef and the rainforest hinterland beckons on every flight.  To see everything in great detail I used the A2A Cub, the default Bell, Carenado Baron B58, and the ubiquitous ‘ORBX BOB’ as my exploration vehicles.

I’ll say this yet again, every time you open this scenery, you will discover something new.  I also used the latest freeware scenery for Murray Island, Queensland situated in the Torres Strait, north of Cairns.

Orbx – FTX:  YBCS Cairns – The ‘Stone Wall’ or the Terrier review)

Installation: Using the download option, you extract the zip file and run the OrbxFTXAUYBCS100.exe file produced.  You the fill in your order number, date of purchase and key and the installation is seamless.  During the extraction a ‘readme text’ file is generated that warns about having .NET framework 3.5 pre-installed (as with many FSX packages).  In the user guide, 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 YBCS manual and Wikipedia)
Cairns is a regional city in North Queensland (123 years young), Australia, and was named after William Wellington Cairns (former Governor of Queensland).  Although it is a railhead and major port for exporting sugar cane, gold and other metals, minerals and agricultural products from surrounding coastal areas and the Atherton Tableland region, it is also a desirable tourist destination having a great climate and being within easy reach of the Great Barrier Reef (approx 1 hour by boat).

The current population is ≈151,000 and growing!  Cairns is located about 1,700 km (1,056 mi) from Brisbane, and about 2,420 km (1,504 mi) from Sydney .

A notable feature of the Cairns esplanade is a swimming lagoon and this is modelled in great detail by Orbx FTX.  Unfortunately, I did not spot any topless sunbathers there as is permitted in the real world.  Perhaps when people flow comes to Cairns we might see one or two then.  However, when I spoke to Jarrad Marshall (Cairns’ Papa) he diplomatically answered my naked question and advised me to, “Make sure you have a look out for the Catalina Memorial (about 100m south of the Cairns Base Hospital helipad), Captain Cook on the Cook Hwy about halfway between the airport and the city, and if you look closely you may even see some salties in the river near the runway approach lighting!“  I have to say I looked hard and often but couldn’t find the crocs that are supposed to live there!!

Courtesy Wikipedia

Also downloadable as a ‘freebie’ is Murray Island Airport YMUI situated in Far North Queensland.

Murray Island:
Murray Island is a small volcanic island of origin and situated in the eastern section of Torres Strait, near the Great Barrier Reef, with a population of around 450.  There is an airport on the Island YMUI and this is well modelled in this scenery add-on.

Pic courtesy Panoramio

Cairns International Airport (YBCS):
According to the statistics, Cairns International Airport is the 5th busiest airport in Australia, and its closeness to Asia makes it an ideal destination in the huge sub-continent called Australia.  It used to have two runways but from April 2011 it will be limited to the main north-south runway (15/33) which 3,196 m (10,486 ft) long (big enough for a B747) and constructed of asphalt.  The airport is located approximately 6 kilometres north from the Cairns CBD, easily reached by car or for the adventurous – bicycle.

The airport has two passenger terminals (International & Domestic) located on the Eastern side of the airport in two separate buildings 200 metres apart.  The general aviation area is on the western side of the airport adjacent to the Captain Cook Highway.  The International terminal has 6 gates (named as ‘ramps’ in FSX) and the Domestic Terminal has around 10 gates.

International Terminal and Airlines:
The International Terminal plays host to the following airlines: Airfast Indonesia, Air New Zealand, Air Niugini, PNG, Cathay Pacific, Continental, Korean Air, Macair and Jetstar.

Domestic Terminal and Airlines:
The Domestic Terminal at Cairns airport has the following airlines. Aero Tropics Air Services, QantasLink, Jetstar, Regional Pacific (REX), Skytrans, Vincent Aviation and Virgin Blue.

Pic courtesy

The airport is faithfully reproduced by FTX in all its glory, but more of that later.

Salt Water Crocodiles “Salties”: (courtesy Wikipedia)
The saltwater or estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is the largest reptiles living on the planet. It is found in Northern Australia, and Cairns is a suitable habitat.  Salties are also found in India East coast) and parts of Southeast Asia.  I used to fish in the Calliope River at Gladstone and it was rumoured that “salties” could also venture this far south (1200 Km south of Cairns), so I never trailed my hands in the water whilst I was fishing!

An adult male saltwater crocodile’s weighs between 600 to 1,000 kilograms (1,300—2,200 lb) and length is around 4.1 to 5.5 metres (13—18 ft) [females: 2.1 to 3.5 metres (7—11 ft)], although mature males can be 6 metres (20 ft) or more and weigh 1,300 kilograms (2,900 lb), with females being much smaller than males.

The saltwater crocodile is an extremely efficient predator capable of taking nearly any animal that enters its territory, either in the water or on dry land. They have attacked human beings and there are sporadic reports of death by crocodile reported in the Northern Territory of Australia around Darwin each year!   They are quite fast so keep a wary eye out when you are in their domain.

courtesy Wikipedia

The User Guide:
The User Guide, entitled, “FTX AU CAIRNS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT V 1.0”, is 20 pages long in pdf format, and is saved to the desktop during installation.  It is quite a comprehensive document covering thanks, introduction, ORBX FTX Aus requirements, compatibility, history, geography, sights, installation (auto and manual), features, system requirements, coverage area, recommended FSX slider settings, community forums and details of the airport (charts) all included.  Also included are details of the FTX Aero Tool and the YBCS control Panel.  It covers any aspect that you need to know about this scenery.

FTX Aero Tool for YBCS:During installation of the software, 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.  The latter are magnificent)
  3. Taxiway Markings
    This changes the taxiway markings with default, single yellow or double yellow as options.

YBCS Control Panel:
During installation, the YBCS control panel is loaded to the desktop and it manages the complexity of the detail that you want to experience in YBCS.  You can disable or enable any feature and by default, all selections are enabled.  You can choose such items as, airside details (3 levels), (city, esplanade and airport) buildings static aircraft, boats and ships, etc. Also in the scenery (not selectable) are Static life-like people with dynamic moving versions appearing soon.

In the Sim:
In FSX just choose YBCS, your location (gate, active runway, etc) aircraft, weather time and season and you are good to go.  If you have Orbx FTX AU installed you will also have access to several weather themes that you can use in this scenery.

The Visual Simsation:
Cairns City and Esplanade:
The default FSX scenery is fairly basic to say the least in this area, Orbx FTX AU Green made a huge difference and Orbx FTX Cairns further 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 coastal city.    The airport and city sport buildings, trees and other features indicative of the local area.  There lots of activity going on with moving vehicles and cruise ships and I found that the scenery is at its best around dusk or dawn.  Orbx FTX have faithfully modelled the world famous esplanade and river estuary and if you look carefully, you can almost see the pedestrians and cyclists moving along the boardwalk.  (Perhaps in people flow . . . ?)

Cairns is a provincial city, running ≈50 km (30 mi) from north to south (Edmonton to Ellis Beach).  All of this is superbly modelled by the very talented Orbx FTX team – it was just breathtaking to fly low ‘n slow over this visual feast of sub tropical vista.  Urban sprawl is well modelled, with suburbs depicted in great detail as well as the cane fields that haven’t been swallowed up.

The Northern Beaches are great as are the ‘burbs’ eg Smithfield (nestling in the shadow of the Great Dividing Range, and we can even see the modern shopping arcade at Smithfield.   Other suburbs modelled include the suburbs of Caravonica, Kamerunga, Freshwater, and Stratford (on the edge of the Barron River flood plain.  The Redlynch valley is there plus Mount Whitfield and the Copperlode dam which supplies Cairns with its water.

The city centre of Cairns is fabulous you can even order a big Mac as you use BOB to traverse the busy street.  It seemed to me that all of the suburbs of Cairns well depicted including t Captain Cook Highway, the main road that runs all the way along coastal Queensland.

They haven’t forgotten Southside Cairns including the various suburbs eg White Rock, Edmonton, etc . The small townships of Goldsborough, Little Mulgrave, and Aloomba are near Gordonvale, and the Mulgrave River are also there in great detail.

The night lighting is also well done and you can see the glow of the city from YBCS as you can in real life.

Areas of Interest:
You need to take BOB on a tour of the city and hinterland to look for:

  • Flecker Botanical Gardens (Beautiful public gardens with a myriad of plants)
  • Cairns convention Centre (conventionally placed)
  • Reef Casino (I’ll wager the best ever seen)
  • The Esplanade (a boulevardier’s paradise)
  • Centenary Lakes (near the Botanical gardens)
  • Crystal Cascades (I couldn’t spot this world famous swimming hole but I’ve no doubt that it is there somewhere!  Here are the directions if you want to look yourself:  Find the suburb of Redlynch (due East of YBCS), and the Red Beret Pub, the swimming hole is about 10 kilometres away.)  Could be just outside the coverage area.
  • Copperlode Dam aka Lake Morris (Possibly outside the coverage area) – directions – It is in the ranges above Cairns, 25 Km SW from the CBD – good luck

Alternatively, you could take BOB on a leisurely stroll down along the Esplanade and admire the estuary and mud flats or order a burger to go at one of the fast food joints included.

Cairns International Airport:
YBCS has been painstakingly modelled and positioned to represent how they are in the real world, with stunning accurate detail and obviously a significant increase in quality and realism over the default FSX airfield.  It is alive with buildings, people, cars, sounds and commercial and GA aircraft and all the signs are there too.  The runway textures are excellent showing how well an asphalt runway can be depicted.  In a previous review, I was fortunate to be sent a pre-release copy of animated people who now amble around the airport in a random but realistic manner and I’m reliably informed they’ll be wandering around Cairns hopefully not in “Shaun of the dead” style.

The main airfield YBCS is accurately depicted in terms of the official charts covering, runway heading, ILS, DME, LOC, RNAV, GPS, etc.  Unfortunately, for the time allocated for the review, I could not sample all of the STARS procedures for YBCS, but I did manage to fly some of the ILS approaches and can report that approaches using SUNNY and UPOLO (Rwy 15) and BASIL (Rwy 33) according to the charts resulted in accurate placement on final.  VFR was easy, I just ignored all ATC messages and flew in probably breaking every rule in the book, but boy was it exhilarating! I also used a couple of the SIDS eg BIBOOHRA, EAZEE ONE and these were entirely accurate.  The various runway lights, beacons, etc are numerous and accurately placed in the sim.  Night lighting at YBCS and the whole coastal city and environs was up the usual Orbx FTX standard, I particularly liked the airport lighting around the terminals it is some of the best that I have seen in any airport depicted in FSX.  The buildings and static aircraft plus the people and vehicles all add up to a wonderful visual experience.

The charts used in Orbx FTX Cairns are those supplied by Airservices Australia

These are depicted accurately in the software, and represent what you see in Google Earth.  The Bruce Highway is great, but unfortunately I have not applied the Orbx vehicle slow down app, so my vehicles whizzed around like demented bees. (see above)

There are 3 modelled in the scenery, 1 at the airport, 1 for the hospital and one for the jetty/wharf in the main city.

The Vegetation:
The team has captured the flavour of the green tropical paradise that encompasses Cairns.  It looks so realistic and it is what I remember about my visits to Cairns over a decade ago now.

I did not notice any special sounds.

Great Barrier Reef:
The world famous GBR is approximately one hour by boat from Cairns, even shorter by FA 18 and it is well modelled in FTX AU tropical North.  This world heritage area would warrant a review on its own so I’ll just post a typical picture.

Murray Island Torres Strait Queensland:
This is a nice free add-on issued by the Orbx FTX team and the remote Island together with its airport KMUI is very well modelled.  It is quite a flight from Cairns (around 1000 Km) and the scenery is breathtaking all the way.  Here are a couple of pictures of the scenery which you can compare to the real deal above.

FSX Settings; (repeated from an earlier review):
The manual gives excellent guidelines on how to set YBCS 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.

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 Orbx FTX YBCS so my overview however inadequate attempts to show just the salient features of this tropical paradise.  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.  This is another quality add-on from the Orbx FTX team.

WOW Factor: 9.99 out of 10 add 0.01 when people flow arrives.

Peter Hayes, Australia, April 2011

The Important Bits:

  • Publisher: Full Terrain FTX – Orbx
  • Supplier: Boxed versions as available from simMarket here
  • Download & Boxed versions from: flightsimstore
  • Download File Size: 1.64 GB (exe file) Automatic install from the “exe” file.
  • Murray Island: 26 MB
  • Installation File Size: ≈1.76 GB scenery and texture file.  On the desktop a YBCS control panel, User Guide and FTX Aero app. KMUI: 32MB
  • 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, 270.61 Driver, nVidia Inspector 1.95.5;
  • FSX SP1 + SP2; 120GB SATA II OCZ Colossus SSD; Saitek X52 + Pro Pedals,
    No Tweaks all standard and no over-clocking.
  • Scenery: YBCS Cairns; Orbx FTX AU; KMUI Murray Island
  • Supplementary: Requires Orbx FTX AU Green.  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.
  • User Gide 20pp as a pdf
  • Support: FORUM
  • Main Forum: here
  • Updates: Imminent with people flow
  • Orbx Object Libraries
  • Aircraft used Carenado Baron B58; A2A Cub

A Panorama shot of the scenery:


Toggle Dark Mode