FSX

Aerosoft – Nice X Cote d’Azur for FSX review

 

This review is based on the latest 1.1 update from Aerosoft to their Nice X Cote d’Azur airport scenery that was originally a while back. I never had version 1 installed on my PC prior to doing this review so I cannot make any comparisons or comments to the earlier version of Nice X.

The update adds a number of new features:

  • Animated vehicle traffic on the airport and its surroundings (AES-Lite)
  • Brighter approach lights and custom taxiway lights
  • Correction of the ILS to match the 2 degree offset (runway  heading 44° and ILS heading 42°)
  • Animated windsocks and beacons

The airport of Nice Cote d’Azur can trace its historical roots back to the early 1900’s and the days when air shows took place at the Nice Hippodrome and postal flights began between Nice and the Island of Corsica.

The airport is located in southern France on the picturesque Mediterranean coast several miles from the city of Nice and the city-state of the Principality of Monaco. Nice is the third busiest airport in France after Charles de Gaulle International Airport and Orly Airport which are both located in Paris. Being so close to Monaco it also serves as its airport.

The airport has two passenger terminals, two runways 04L/22R @ 8,432ft and 04R/22L @ 9,711ft and a freight terminal. The passenger handling capacity is 13 million passengers a year however in 2010 the number of passengers was only 9.6 million.

Installation

The Aerosoft installation process for this product is simple; it involves adding your registration information and then having the installer do the rest. At the end of the process you are asked if you want to launch the new Aerosoft installer program. If you say yes the application will launch installing itself on your PC. When it’s done the program will open and you will see the following on your screen. Unlike the newer sceneries this product does not need to be activated through the launcher application.

Aerosoft Launcher

The launcher does has several nice features. It will show you if there are any updates available for installed addons and let you install them with a single button click. It also gives you access to whatever tools and documents are installed with a scenery package. In this case you can see that you have the ability to launch the traffic tool and get to the manual and charts. This makes it very easy for the user to get to all of these with minimal fuss.

Configuration

Configuration options can be accessed via the LFMN X traffic configuration menu. The simplest way of getting to it is from the Aerosoft Launcher which when installed creates a desktop shortcut. Once you open it up you can decide where in the scenery you want the AESlite supplied traffic to be enabled or disabled.

LFMN X traffic configuration tool

Documentation

The 50 page manual for Nice X is in a multilingual format with information in German, English, French and Spanish. The English portion is 19 pages and covers both the FSX and FS2004 versions. What you’ll find in the manual are all the customary types of information found in most manuals; procedures for installing and uninstalling the addon, airport description and recommendations for display settings. I found a few minor typos as I read through it. The system requirements are listed in German rather than English; not a big problem as they are self explanatory. The other typo was in the explanation of the installation process; it states that if there is an earlier version of Stuttgart X installed the files will be disabled automatically. This I expect should have read Nice X Cote d’Azur. I checked the French language section and there was no mention of any of this.

If you wish to check out the manual before purchasing it is available for download from the Aerosoft site Nice X Cote d’Azur product page.

Included with the package are a full set of IFR and VFR charts. A link is also provided where you can access current charts from the website of the French Aeronautical Information Service SIA.

Scenery

The airport is located in a very picturesque part of the world; the Mediterranean coast.

This reproduction of Nice X Cote d’Azur is based on the layout as it appeared in 2008.

I like to begin by showing a comparison between the addon and FSX so you can see just how much of an overall improvement there is. The differences are quite obvious; structures, shorelines, ground textures and colouring. All significantly improved and much more realistic looking.

FSX default Nice Cote d'Azur

Aerosoft Nice X Cote d'Azur

Structures

This is one of the prettiest airports I have seen. The airport’s main structures are its two passenger terminal buildings. Their designs have some unique characteristics, they are interesting to look at and they compliment the surrounding landscape.

Terminal one is the more conventional looking of the two but is still distinctive in its own right. The roof line is slopped and covered in horizontal slats, on either side of the building are long covered walkways which are supported by the roof trusses which extend downwards and wrap around the walkway. This particular architectural feature I thought added to the visual appeal and uniqueness of the building in this scenery and felt they deserved to be mentioned.

There are other details that they’ve incorporated into the building that make it interesting to explore. Coming down from these long elevated walkways are metal staircases; if you look closely you can see the individual metal stair treads. It is this level of detail that makes so much of this airport fun to explore because this type of attention is found throughout.

Terminal 1

Closer look at terminal 1

Apron access roadway in front of terminal 1

Inside terminal 1 elevated walkway

Stairway details

Terminal two consists of the original terminal building and then the newer annex which is a large circular structure with floor to ceiling glass giving passengers a panoramic 360 degree view of the airport, the sea, the city and the mountains. Aerosoft have captured the look of this unique structure in this scenery and it really does look good!

Terminal 2 extension

Putting yourself in the terminal and looking around you get a good idea of what the passengers get to experience from this inside vantage point looking out. Some of the views are quite stunning and impressive.

Looking south

Airport at night

The older part of the building also has its own interesting features with the roof being the most obvious; it has external supports along both edges of the roof.

Close up of terminal 2 with the roof supports clearly visible

Terminal 2 arrival and departures area

This airport has relatively few buildings; besides the two main terminals there is the control tower, freight and GA hangars, fuel storage, and rescue/fire station. Each of these buildings just like the main terminals is rendered in high detail for both day and night time.

Radar tower

GA hangar

Freight terminal

Control tower

Probably the most visible building within the airport grounds is the bright red “SSLIA or Services de Sauvetage et de Lutte contre l’Incendie des Aéronefs sur les aérodromes” which roughly translates to rescue and fire fighting services for aircraft at airports. It is centrally located at the intersection of taxiways C, D and T in front of the terminal 2 building. The bright colour ensures that there is no way you will miss it! Again worth checking out.

Fire/rescue station

Even from a distance the fire station is clearly visible

Ground

Ground textures within the airport are typical for most sceneries being a combination of hi resolution photo scenery and graphic textures. The hard surface areas show the weathering, age and abuse from high volumes of traffic you expect to find at an airport of this size. Grassy areas are also high resolution and have textures with realistic colouring.

Faded and weathered

Realistic textures as seen from above

Grass and dirt

This is one airport where the ground markings in certain areas are far more complex than most other airports. In some sections you have parking spot designators, wing span limitations, directional arrows and some old faded markings all visible and very close to each other. I am sure this must have taken quite some effort but the developers have really done a good job at reproducing all of these and have done it in such a way that looks realistic.

Markings

Markings in front of terminal 1

There is one area where I find the majority of scenery developers seem to fall short in my opinion and that is with base photo textures used to depict the large parking lots found at so many airports. Nice has a large parking garage just in front of the terminal 2 building and another large lot that surrounds the CAP 3000 shopping mall. In both cases they use hi resolution photo scenery for the base textures but there are no 3D cars. The developers put so much effort into getting the scenery to look as realistic as possible and then they seem to neglect this aspect of it. I just think it would make the scenery look just that much more realistic looking if they addressed this issue.

Flat bitmap parking garage

Objects and Vehicles

For any airport to function successfully it requires a vast array of objects so that all the different functions that go into the daily operations can take place; there is physical security, safety, navigation, aircraft marshalling, baggage handling, refuelling, servicing and passenger movements just to name a few. Without trying to get into all of the different types of objects let me say that I didn’t notice anything obviously missing. Anything that I thought should have been included was and just like all other aspects of the scenery they were all top quality reproductions which anyone familiar with the Aerosoft products has come to expect.

As part of this 1.1 scenery upgrade they have added animated windsocks and beacons. To see the windsocks move you had to get up very close but they were swaying in the breeze and the light from the rotating beacon could be seen day or night.

Bus and fuel bowser

Buses

Baggage carts and tugs

Air stairs and blast fencing

Apron clutter and AESLite traffic

VOR/DME

Refueling depot

Windsock with anemometer

Rotating beacon

Le Voyageur greets passengers as they arrive at Nice

The vehicles at Nice were well done, they had sufficient detailing and included added touches like airline logos. They have many different vehicles types such as; fuel bowsers, several styles of passenger buses, pushback tugs, baggage tractors and carts, service vehicles, mobile stairs, cars and more. This airport comes with AESLite so many of the vehicles can be seen moving around the airport. The traffic is intelligent enough thanks to AESLite to know when an aircraft is nearby so it can stop thus avoiding any collisions. At night the traffic can be seen moving around with headlights on and even using turn signals when required.

Surrounding area

The surrounding area is rendered in hi resolution photo textures with some of the local landmarks recreated and precisely placed to match the ground scenery. These additional buildings and objects definitely add to the ambiance and sense of realism when exploring the area near to the airport.

Right next to the airport are the Promenade des Anglais and Promenade Edouard Corniglion Molinier roadways; both are very busy day and night with lots of traffic.

Some of the major local landmarks have also been included; there is a major shopping center the CAP3000 and then the Park Phoenix with the colourful Nice Arenas. West of the airport is the Var river and crossing it right next to the airport are two major bridges; the Pont Napoleon III and the Var Viaduc both of which are modelled. You will find much more autogen but these were the ones that stood out for me.

Nice Arenas

Hi resolution photo scenery of Pheonix park

CAP3000 shopping mall

Pont Napoleon III

Night

I have to say that this airport looks very good at night. One aspect of the night lighting that I thought was unique had to be how the building spotlights that were shining their light towards the jet ways caused them to seem to cast ground shadows. I liked this effect and how it made the lighting appear that much more realistic. I don’t recall seeing shadows such as these at any other airport.

Jet ways casting shadows

In other parts of the airport where you had pole lighting such as the parking area south of 04R/22L you definitely saw where this light was being projected and again it looked very realistic.

Parking area lit up

The ground lighting was another aspect of the scenery that was upgraded with the 1.1 release of the scenery. Looking at the lighting from close range as well as from a distance I couldn’t see anything that I wasn’t happy with. Approaching the airport the lights were nice and bright but they didn’t appear as large blobs of light and up close they appeared to glow and again weren’t overly bright. I especially liked the blue rod lights along the taxiways.

Ground lighting

Building lighting like the rest of the night time airport experience was well done. Not all windows in the buildings were lit up which reinforces the impression of activity much more than having every window lit up.

Terminal 1 interior lighting

Another shot of T1 with the control tower

GA hangar

Looking east over Nice XCote d'Azur

Approaches

Following approaches into Nice you have the opportunity to admire some of the wonderful scenery. I made a number of flights from Menorca choosing several different approaches that took me to runways 04L and 22R. The runway most commonly used for landing is 04L and has full ILS capability and was straight forward and simple. Coming into runways 22R or L from the south over the Mediterranean following the VOR approach it was a different matter and proved to be a bit more of a challenge. As you can see by the chart you need to be aware of what your aircraft is doing and your surroundings or you can easily overshoot the required turn and end up over the city of Nice at a dangerously low altitude.

LOC and GS captured to rwy 04L

04L appraoch at night

Approach to rwy 22R

About to touchdown on 22R

Chart for 22L

Note to nVidia card users

I use an nVidia video card and one of the first things I observed on my maiden flight over the airport was a very noticeable flickering from much of the base terrain, what some people refer to as the crawling ant effect. Reading in the Aerosoft forums I saw that it was a known issue with a fix available from their support site via the FAQ’s/Updates link. The fix is a tool called “Mipmaps Tool”. After downloading the file you execute the installer and then based on your graphic card setting you make your choice and run the program. This cured the problem and got rid of that distracting visual anomaly.

Mipmaps tool

Final Thoughts

I love the Mediterranean region for several reasons; one is its beauty and the other is the abundance of interesting and realistic looking airports that exist in the area. What Aerosoft have given the flight sim community is one more detailed and beautifully rendered airport to add to this list. When it comes to landing here don’t be fooled by the idea that this airport is a pushover. Depending on your approach this airport can prove to be a worthwhile challenge to your piloting skills. This airport is well worth the price and sure to provide many hours of enjoyable flying time.

 

My Ratings

Installer: Very good. Simple to use and also includes Launcher application. Adds scenery to FSX library.

Documentation: Good. Contains all the basic information and is written in four languages, includes all necessary charts.

Modelling: Very good. Lots of high quality detailing.

Extras: AES Lite provides road and apron traffic. Traffic tool included.

 

Download Size: FSX 235MB, FS2004 100MB

Price: EUR 15.08 (+VAT where applicable)

Developer Homepage: http://www.aerosoft.com

SimMarket Purchase link: http://secure.simmarket.com/aerosoft-online-nice-cote-dazur-x.phtml

 

Test System: Intel i7 950 OC @ 4.2 Ghz, 6 Gb RAM, ASUS 480GTX w/1.5Gb video, Win 7 Ultimate 64, FSX w/acceleration, Ultimate traffic 2, REX Overdrive, GEXn, UTX, AES 2.11

Richard Desjardins

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