Review: LatinVFR’s Toncontín Intl. Airport

intropic

When I say “Dangerous approach”, what airport do you think of? I personally think of Kai Tak, in Hong Kong. That must be one of the most well known approaches in the world. It’s not hard to understand why, either. A fully loaded Boeing 747, turning at a slow speed, flying very low over the city, to align itself with the runway at the last moment is for many an unforgettable sight. Search it on YouTube if you don’t know what I’m talking about. However, in all this, there is a sad thing: Kai Tak was closed several years ago, replaced by the new Hong Kong intl. airport. So did we lose one of most fun approaches? Probably, yes, but that doesn’t mean there is a replacement. As a matter of fact, there is an airport with an approach that is very similar to Kai Tak’s approach, but for that we have to go to the other side of the world. Namely, to Tegucigalpa, a city in Honduras. The airport of that town, being Toncontín intl. airport (MHTG), is one of those airports that must be a thrill flying into. You approach the runway at an angle, and at the last moment you have to turn to align with the runway, much like at Kai Tak. What Kai Tak doesn’t have, however, is a hill, right at the start of the runway, forcing you to fly extremely low, brushing your extended landing gear against bushes and small trees. It is this airport and this approach that LatinVFR recreated in the scenery that I will review here.

Please do note that LatinVFR’s Tegucigalpa isn’t by any means a “new” scenery of theirs. It was released in 2009, as a matter of fact. As such, I will review it with leniency, since I know what LatinVFR can produce at this point in time. Also, note that while the scenery was produced and released in 2008-2009, the scenery itself portrays MHTG the way it was in 2006. This was done because after 2006, the approach was made significantly less interesting: the hill was removed and improvements were made so that the approach would be both easier and safer. But, that’s really not what we want in our FS world, do we now! As such, we get an out-dated portrayal of the airport, but at the same time we also got a more fun portrayal of the airport, a trade-off, which I wholeheartedly support!

 

Installation and Documentation

Installation is very straightforward. You run the executable enter the serial, and that’s basically it. The rest is all done for you. The scenery is by default installed into Addon Scenery/LatinVFR, which is a choice I really like. I dislike it when addon sceneries get installed into the root folder of MSFS. The scenery is also automatically added to the scenery library, so that’s also one less thing to worry about. As for the documentation, it contains everything you need to know. There is a description of the airport, some details, like ICAO code and such, a list of features and separate folder containing charts in PDF format. These charts are rather old, though, and come from VATSA (the South American branch of VATSIM). Navigraph, sadly, doesn’t have any up-to-date charts available, so unless you are willing to shell out the money for official charts, you’ll have to use the out-dated charts provided with the scenery. It’s not a problem, though, since it seems that the RNAV procedures necessary for a correct fly-in into Toncontín’s runway 2 have remained unchanged, for all the waypoints and such can be safely entered into the FMC without getting faults.

Terminal area

airport-overview

Airport overview

 

The first thing we are going to look at is the passenger terminal. It’s not a big building, but given the traffic volume, that’s also not really necessary. There are jetways, but not that many, and they are only there at what seems to be a modern extension of the old terminal. As you can see on the above shot, it’s also a pretty small part of the airport that’s reserved for commercial passenger aviation. So without further ado, let’s look at some screenshots:

terminal-overview

Terminal overview.

 

In this first shot you see the new, bigger control tower. Modelling and texturing is quite nice, looking good from close by as well as from a distance. Behind it you see the old terminal. Basically, the passengers walk out onto the tarmac and into the plane. On top of it you see a smaller control tower, which is the old control tower. Behind the old terminal, you can see tow jetways: these belong to the new extension of the terminal. We’ll look at each of these at a bit more detail now.

terminal-old-overview

Overview of the old terminal.

terminal-old-gate-detail

Aircraft parked at the old terminal.

 

The old terminal is a very “manual” affair. Passengers walk out onto the tarmac to reach the aircraft, and it seems even luggage can be picked up outside on those black, half-oval shaped luggage tracts you see coming out of, and going into the terminal building. The texturing of the building is quite nice, it’s very detailed. The ground equipment is a bit crude however, and so is some of the modelling of the terminal itself. An example is the luggage tracts, which are only oval shaped by approximation, for they are very blocky. Same for the ground equipment, of which the texturing is quite blurry. For the rest, it looks good. Not as detailed as one might wish, but it does its job very well.

terminal-jetway-gate-detail

The new terminal: gate detail.

 

The newer terminal is exactly that: new. The design is modern, with big windows and sand-coloured stone on the corners. Basically what you would expect from a modern airport terminal. It has also got jetways, two of them as a matter of fact. The texturing and modelling of the terminal building is again good, the texturing being the better of the two. The jetway looks good, but I’m now blown away. The cab seems a bit stretched horizontally, which looks a bit weird. The texturing is okay, but I find the terminal building’s textures to be better. There is again some ground equipment, but the texturing is a bit blurry and the modelling isn’t very detailed. It’s without a doubt that LatinVFR has come a long way since making this airport! Especially the jetways and ground equipment look a lot better in their recent releases.

terminal-entrance

The entrance to the terminal building.

terminal-car-park

The terminal’s car park.

On the passenger side of the terminal, we find the entrance and the cark park. Both look quite good, and I must say I’d rather have this kind of car park (cars placed on ground scenery) then what I have seen in in LatinVFR’s recent Las Americas intl. airport scenery, where basically objects with high resolution cark park textures on them, were placed on a somewhat blurry ground scenery. At least here you don’t get the “objects floating on a sea of pixels” idea.

Overall, the terminal area looks nice. It’s not as detailed or as good-looking as recent LatinVFR sceneries, but it does its job well.

Cargo and miscellaneous areas

It doesn’t really seem like Toncontín has a dedicated cargo area, but there sure are lots of smaller, secondary apron. All of them tend to be enveloped by countless warehouses, hangars, garages and such. What can I say? All of it looks quite nice. The texturing is overall okay, although sometimes a bit blurry. The modelling is okay, but there simply isn’t that much detail to bring into a warehouse, so any detail lacking is normally just because there isn’t any real detail to display. I will say one thing I dislike: it all seems randomly placed. Maybe not per se randomly, but then for sure inaccurately. On the ground scenery you can often see very well where a certain building should be placed, but the actual objects would stand a few meters to the right, for example. Sometimes it doesn’t even have the right orientation relative to the ground scenery. This kind of error is usually easily noticed and is quite sloppy. In below images you can see it occurring plenty of times. In recent releases, this sadly still is a problem, although fortunately much, much less than in this scenery. So, stuff has improved dramatically over time.

buildings-along-the-airport-1

buildings-along-the-airport-2

buildings-along-the-airport-3

Buildings along the airport perimeter.

storage-and-maintenance-1

storage-and-maintenance-2

storage-and-maintenance-3

Aircraft storage and maintenance facilities and warehouses.

warehouses

Warehouses and garages along the main street.

Toncontín intl. airport also seems to have a small military apron, at which we find a nice-looking hangar and a military helicopter, all nicely modelled and textured, although I’d wish more ground equipment would have been placed. Also, it seems like plants are growing out of concrete.

military-area

The military apron.

 

Finally, I want to attract some attention to the textures of the runway, taxiway and aprons. These are very detailed and very lifelike, and look awesome in just about every regard. It’s nice to see that throughout its airport scenery releases, LatinVFR has managed to keep its standard up!

ground-textures-1

Beautifully detailed runway textures.

ground-textures-2

Good-looking taxiway and apron textures.

 

The surrounding area

Let’s now leave the airport ground and go look at the surrounding area. As was already said, Toncontín main charm comes from its location: it’s in the middle of the mountains, with elevated terrain surrounding every side of it. LatinVFR has, like with many of its addons, added substantial coverage of photoscenery to cover a great part of the valley in which Toncontín intl. lies:

photoscenery-coverage

Photoscenery coverage.

And now for some shots of how it actually looks. Most of it is a bit blurry, but it’s not too bad and much of it is perfectly okay. Have a look yourself:

surroundings-1

surroundings-2

surroundings-3

surroundings-4

surroundings-5

surroundings-6

warehouses

Shots of the surrounding scenery.

Finally, here’s a shot of that difficult approach, the approach to runway 02. LatinVFR took special care to model that hill correctly, and they also placed some bushes on it, like in the real world. Note that this hill has been removed in the real world and the runway was renovated. This also makes landing at the airport a bit more boring, of course, which is LatinVFR chose to make the scenery according to the way it was in 2006.

runway-02-hill

The approach to runway 02.

 

Night lighting

Of course this scenery package also contains night lighting for both the airport and the surrounding photoreal scenery. The photoreal scenery night lighting looks a bit blurry (which was to be expected, as the day textures are also a bit blurry), but the airport’s night lighting is really well done. My only complaint would be that it doesn’t fir very well in the photoreal surrounding’s night lighting, since the airport has silver lighting and the surroundings have got golden lighting. Other than that, I really like the look of this. Take a look yourself:

night-approach

night-terminal

night-street

night-surroundings-1

night-surroundings-2

night-surroundings-3

Night lighting.

Take a close look at the terminal. Overall this looks really nice, don’t you think? Well, what looks weird is the baggage tract. The lighting of that thing is golden. In theory, this could be perfectly fine. Perhaps they simply have lights emitting a yellow/golden light under that roof under which the luggage tract sits. The problem however is the textures of the wall of the terminal. These are silverish! The result is that the golden luggage tracts look out of place against the walls of the terminal buildings. It would have been better to make the luggage tracts silverish too. Other than that, no further complaints. All in all, I’m pleased with the looks of this.

Performance

The performance at this airport is pretty good. It’s very light, and that’s a good thing. Landing at this airport is difficult, and if the FPS would be low, it would become near impossible. Fortunately, I can report that FPS is not a problem at all and thus you can safely land your aircraft at this place. Here’s the result of some of my tests:

Aircraft FPS at daytime FPS at night-time
Trike Ultralight 30+ 30+
Aerosoft Airbus X 26-30 25-27
CS757 24-25 24

Just for fun…

How could I write a review with telling about my experience landing a plane at this airport? Indeed, I can’t. I did a short flight with TACA 478, a A320, from Guatamala City MGGT to Tegucigalpa MHTG. After overflying VITAN, the tricky bit was coming. At a height of 6800 feet and with a speed of 215 knots, I overflew the airport. The charts show the exact route you have to fly. In essence, if you come from the south (which I did), you overfly TNT VOR, which is positioned just in front of runway 02. So, you overfly the airport. You then have to turn gently to the left, around another hill. Flying through a valley, you start descending slowly, all the time following the RNAV approach path. This will finally get you in a approach path that gets you to fly at a 90 degree angle relative to the runway. Finally, you turn quickly towards the runway, flare as soon as you are over the runway threshold, get that plane on the ground, and slam on the breaks. Sounds easy, no? Think again. Here’s my story.

So, flying from MGGT to MHTG, I overflow VITAN, and finally TNT. At 6800 feet and with a speed of 215 knots, I was extending flaps 1. Continuing my flight, I decided to bring back the speed even more, to 180 knots. Thankfully, you are helped on the way by programming the route into the FMC: TNT TG018 TG006 TG015 TG014 TG013 TG012 TG011. Done that, the approach also tells you at what height you should be at what point. You start the approach at TG015, at 7000 feet. I was at 6800 feet, which seemed okay to me (I’m rarely going for utmost realism). So far, all went well. The slow turn towards TG015 had gone according to plan. By that time I was flying 165 knots, as was stated on the RNAV approach chart: you have to start the approach at 165 knots. Here are some shots up until this point:

approach-overflying-mhtg

Overflying TNT and MHTG.

approach-turning-towards-tg015

A/P gets the plane on course towards TG015.

approach-final-approach-started-at-tg015

Overflying TG015 — final approach has commenced!

At TG015 I extended full flaps and gear and made all final preparations for landing, such as setting autobrakes and arming the spoilers for touchdown. At this point I also disengaged the A/P. I was going to do the final approach manually. I also disengaged FBW — I’ve had some significant problems with FBW in Aerosoft’s Airbus and didn’t want it turning on me at the most critical phase of this flight that would require my complete concentration.

From TG015 to TG014 to TG013, I flew. The airport got into sight and I disengaged A/T, for I also had problem with A/T in the Aerosoft Airbus, so now I had complete control of all flight controls.

approach-photoscenery

It would have been nice of the photoscenery coverage would have gone up the hill here, too.

approach-airport-in-sight

Airport in sight.

As the airport got closer, I got to TG012, and finally TG01, always keeping my aircraft exactly on the published RNAV approach path. The closer I got, the more nervous I became, and closer the hills came. Finally I overflew TG011. At this point I had to start my turn, but not too soon! Too soon and you’d miss the runway; it would be too late to correct. Same for starting the turn too late, with the added risk of flying your plane into a hill. Then, I started the turn. Gently, with authority, I got the plane to turn to the left. I looked out the window, and oh god, I was going too slow! I had to turn faster or I’d miss the  runway. Probably in a sudden burst of panic, I yanked the aircraft to the left, almost getting in A-Floor range, giving full thrust to make sure that didn’t happen. I came out of the turn, the plane shaking and bobbing about, I cut the throttle instantly, and the plane sort of plummeted down onto the runway. Gosh, what a hard landing!

approach-starting-the-turn

Starting the turn.

approach-almost-there

Almost there, but watch out for those hills!

approach-hard-landing

Very rough landing.

approach-at-gate-8

At gate 8.

Thus endeth my flight into MHTG. I had never through flying into this place would be this hard. I knew how to fly into Kai Tak, so I thought this would be more or less the same. Wrong! MHTG is far more difficult it seems. At Kai Tak you are helped due to the fact that you fly in at an angle, there are lead-in lights and there is the checkerboard. You have none of this at MHTG. You, the pilot, has to do everything by himself. You have to be miles ahead of your plane, knowing exactly when to do what and how to do it. This is, in my opinion, the most difficult approach one can do — in clear weather at day time! Don’t even think of doing this in a storm or at night. Heck, even if you’d want to, you can’t. The airport is closed at night and with stormy weather, simply because you otherwise can’t see where you have to go until it’s too late. I can only commend those pilots that do this daily. It’s extremely hard, and I’m in awe that they can do it right, time on time again.

Conclusion

LatinVFR’s Toncontín intl. airport is a very nice scenery. It really aims to recreate the experience of landing at this airport. Most of the texturing is very nice, but the modelling is a bit rough around the edges. Do note that this is one of the earliest sceneries that LatinVFR produced, and as such we can’t expect it to be up to the standards of the airports they release now. Considering the fun had when landing here, the good textures, the coverage of the photoscenery, it is my opinion that the price of almost €18, for which you get both FSX and FS2004 versions, is absolutely more than fair. If you want another fun, interesting and very challenging approach, than Toncontín is for you!

Scenery details

Test machine details

  • 27” Apple iMac:
  • i5 processor @ 2,8gHz
  • ATI HD Radeon 5750
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM

Comments are closed.