Review of Aerosoft – Anchorage X for FSX

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, ICAO: PANC is located in Anchorage Alaska. The airport is quite large and occupies 4,500 acres; it has two passenger terminals one domestic one international and several cargo terminals. The airport has three runways; 7L/25R @ 10,600ft, 7R/25L @ 10,900ft and 14/32 @ 11,582ft.

It is the most important airport in Alaska as well as being ranked the fifth busiest airport in the world for cargo. Additionally it is used as a hub for several carriers; Alaska Airlines, FedEx Express, PenAir and Polar Air Cargo.

Next to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport are the Lake Hood airstrip: Z41 and Lake Hood seaplane base: PALH. Lake Hood airstrip has a single gravel runway 13/31 @ 2,200ft. Lake Hood seaplane base is the busiest seaplane base in the world handling on average 190 flights per day. It spans Lake Hood and Lake Spenard.

Installation

The scenery file is a very large file @ 2.35Gbs. Installation is now a two-step process; installation and activation. For the first part you will need your registration information which you would have received at the time of your purchase. During this phase it is a good idea to watch the screens, for example they ask if there are any other terrain addons such as Ultimate Alaska X installed. Upon completion of the installation of scenery files you get the last screen which asks if you want to run the Aerosoft Launcher. This begins the second phase of the process. The Launcher is where you will activate the scenery on your PC. For this you will need an active internet connection. Once again you will have to input your registration information and after several minutes it will show that it has been activated on your PC.  After this you are ready to enjoy Anchorage X.

Minimum system specifications as recommended by Aerosoft:

2.66 GHz Dual Core Processor

2 GB RAM

Graphic card with min. 512 MB

Internet connection for the online registration required

Installation-Size: 3.2 GB

If you go to your program group you will see under Aerosoft a sub group titled Anchorage X. Here you will find links to the charts, manual, traffic and season tools.

Configuration

After the scenery has been installed you have access to two configuration tools; the Season tool and the PANC X Traffic configuration tool.

The Season tool is self-explanatory; you simply choose which season you want the vegetation and ground textures to portray. The changes you make will affect all of your Aerosoft sceneries and you need to make them prior to starting FSX.

The second tool at your disposal is the AES Lite PANC X Traffic Configuration tool.  As the name implies it is here that you choose to enable or disable apron traffic as well as the train.

Documentation

This package comes with a German/English PDF manual. The first couple of pages are the introduction, a list of system requirements and how to install the software.  They then go on to explain in great detail over the next half dozen pages how the Aerosoft Launcher works and the activation process. The last part of the manual is titled “Technical Advise” and it is here they deal with various topics that will affect the performance and the display of the scenery. As I always do I highly recommend reading the manual especially this portion as your ability to run the scenery satisfactorily may depend on it.

Charts are not included however they do include web links where you can find charts for Anchorage International Airport and airfield information for Lake Hood airstrip and seaplane base.

Scenery

The first thing I would like to do is show a comparison between this scenery product and how the area appears in FSX with Ultimate Alaska X installed.

FSX Anchorage area

Aerosoft Anchorage X coverage area

I was really looking forward to the release of Anchorage X for several reasons; the preview screenshots that had been posted in the Aerosoft preview forum showed great promise and this was also going to add a major airport to a part of the world that had very little in the way of detailed and realistic airport addon scenery.

Flying into Anchorage for the first time I was amazed. The whole area is very picturesque and then to have this highly detailed airport, I was definitely impressed with what I was seeing.

Looking at the Anchorage airport area you can split it up into three different areas; Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Lake Hood air strip and Lake Hood Seaplane base. Each has its own characteristics and each has been accurately recreated down to the smallest of details.

Buildings

Between the three airports there are quite a few buildings ranging in size from the large South terminal at Anchorage International to the very tiny wooden structures that dot the shoreline at the Lake Hood seaplane base. Each one appears to have been recreated with an eye for realism using good colouring techniques, hi resolution graphics, an abundance of details and accurate location.

At the center of the airport are the two main passenger terminals, parking garages and the Alaska Railroad train station. The two terminals are prime examples for showcasing what I feel are the qualities that resulted in realistic looking buildings. In the close up screenshot of the terminal you can easily see the wall mounted light fixtures and gate marker. These are the types of details I refer to.

 

In front of the south terminal’s entrance is a multi-level car park garage; a difficult structure to get right I am sure with its multiple levels, exterior circular ramps and sloped parking surfaces. These architectural features have all been recreated quite nicely with great results. To give that extra boost of realism they’ve included 3d cars on the uppermost level.

Immediately to the north is the U.S Customs building and then along runway 14/32 are the fire station, FedEx and UPS ramps and then the North air park.

East of the terminals and along the north side of runway 7L/25R there are a number of maintenance hangars.

 

Lastly on the south side of runway 7R/25L is the South airpark and the former home of the Kulis Air National Guard.

Another nice detail that they chose to model in many of their buildings were the doors, they have them recessed so you don’t have that flat look that is all too common in other airport scenery addons. For the hangars that have large multi panel doors the individual panels were modelled so you get a realistic multi-tier look.

Lake Hood Airstrip and Seaplane Base

This package actually consists of three airports. Although the main focal point may by Anchorage International it also includes the Lake Hood airstrip and seaplane base which are directly next door.  In fact this is one the features of the package. I found that the quality of both of these was also very good and they shared in the same positive attributes as their larger neighbour. These are both busy places in their own right so to help get that point across they’ve included many static aircraft on shore and in the water.

Objects

The quality of the objects was among the best I have seen up to now. The level of detailing on some of them was quite impressive. I was checking out the apron areas and came across some freight. Taking a closer look I realized that I could see the wrinkles in the plastic wrap that the items were wrapped in.

Scattered about the airport and airfield are road signs; here again the level of detail was worth noting. On the warning sign there are two lights and above these lights are shields. All of these elements are discrete parts and not just flat bitmap images.

A last example to show the quality of the objects I saw; the PAPI lights are detailed to the point of showing the three discrete and individual lenses in each of the units plus the raised concrete pads that these units are mounted on.

Throughout the entire scenery you can see many more examples of this type of quality and intricate detailing.

The variety of the objects is also worth noting, especially the different vehicle types. I came across the usual gamut plus others such as de-icing vehicles, snow ploughs, front end loaders, ambulances, security vehicles and more.

The Lake Hood airstrip and seaplane base have not been forgotten. Both are populated with an abundance of small aircraft along with all sorts of other objects scattered in amongst the small buildings and along the shorelines.

Ground textures

The base scenery is made up of hi resolution photo textures. This really became evident while flying overhead; the graphics were extremely clear and crisp and so realistic looking. Seasonal ground textures are also provided to match the time of year you choose to fly in. This goes for all areas covered by the scenery.

Hard surface areas at the airport were especially well done. The level of detailing on the runways, taxiways and aprons could almost be described as extreme it is that good. At ground level you can really see what I mean; there are parts of the taxiways where you can see how temperature fluctuations and heavy traffic loads have taken their toll on the asphalt and concrete. The painted markings and dirt stains are also exceptional. They are easily read and also show appropriate signs of exposure to weathering and effects of traffic.

Winter in Anchorage

Winter and snow both figure prominently at Anchorage due to its geographical location and the developers have not forgotten this very important fact. First of all you will need to use the Season tool to have the airport ground textures and vegetation show up with the appropriate textures. After you’ve done this you are ready to experience winter in all its glory.

The winter months have the grassy areas covered in a blanket of white snow. The hard surfaces show some signs of snow along the outer edges and in less travelled parts, this eliminates that hard edge look so often found in scenery addons. There is also what appears to be a further light dusting on some parts of the runways.

Cold weather also means ice so I was happy to see that they took this into account and each of the small lakes that are part of the scenery coverage area are frozen over and ice covered.

As I was moving about the airport I noticed an interesting event happening, snow ploughs out clearing the apron roadways. I thought this was an interesting touch.

My only complaint with winter textures had to be with the roof tops, they show no signs of any snow cover. They did such a great job with the rest of the scenery making it extremely realistic it is a shame that they didn’t take it that last little step.

Animations

AESLite is an integral part of the Anchorage scenery as it is with most Aerosoft sceneries and as a result you get lots of road traffic throughout. Something that was noticeable here was the variety of vehicles, in addition to the usual cars and trucks there were some unique looking ones; fuel bowsers, tractor trailers, ambulances and the aforementioned snow plows moving about. They could be seen using turn signals at corners and lights when it was dark.

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is also served by the Alaska Railroad. The station is modelled and the train can be seen and heard moving along the rail link. Traffic signals at the railroad crossing do work and traffic stops as the train proceeds through the intersection.

The scenery includes two other interesting and unique animations. They’ve added an animated marshaller at each gate. I was pleasantly surprised when I came across this as there was no mention anywhere in the documentation about this feature. As you start to make your way to the gate the marshaller will appear and guide you in to your final location. The figure is only visible when you are in the cockpit however.

The other unique animation has aircraft access gates on the taxiways from PANC to LHD or Z41; they open automatically as you get close.

Jet ways do not move at Anchorage. This seems to be the way a lot of developers are going lately. To get that functionality you will have to get AES as it has been added to the list of supported airports in the latest release v2.13.

Surrounding Area

The area surrounding the airports has been rendered using hi resolution photo textures for the base and populated with autogen making a huge positive difference to the overall product. In the picture showing how the area looks in FSX without Anchorage X installed you can see that there is no blending between the airport  and surrounding area and the airport looks out of place.

In these screenshots you can see how the photo scenery and autogen combine to give the whole area a very realistic appearance; blending with the default scenery along the scenery boundary is less harsh and less noticeable. When you are in close proximity to these airports you will be glad they included it. I especially enjoyed the view as I was coming in on final to runways 14 and 7L.

Night

The overall quality of the scenery at night was very good. Except for one area of concern all other night time necessities such as ground lighting, building lighting and apron lighting were all very good.

My only negative comment was with the lighting of the parking lots right next to the airports, for me they appeared too bright.

Performance

Make no mistake this is a scenery package that will put your hardware to the test. The manual lists the minimum hardware specs and they should be treated as such. If you do find that your PC is struggling to give you a fluid experience you might want to experiment with your AI aircraft and scenery settings.

Final Thoughts

This is an excellent product that can accommodate every type of pilot from the bush pilot to the jet jockey flying a 747. The versatility, quality and very reasonable price point are significant factors that should make you want to give Anchorage X a try. It could open up a whole new world and I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

My Ratings

Installer: Two-step process but still simple. Active internet connection required for full product activation.

Documentation: Informative manual but no charts.

Modelling: Excellent all around.

Extras: AESLite included. Lots of animations including aircraft marshallers.

Download Size: FSX 2.35Gb

Price: EUR 20.97 without VAT

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

Link: http://secure.simmarket.com/aerosoft-online-anchorage-x.phtml

Test System:

Intel i7 960 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 2.13

Richard Desjardins

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