PNG Extreme Bush Trekker
For FSX Published by SimMarket / Pacific Islands Simulation
Reviewed by Gabe (“GabethePilot”) Logan
August 2009

After the success of PNG Bush Pilot, which modelled 23 airfields in and around the rainforests of Papua New Guinea, Pacific Islands Simulation has released an expansion pack offering the FSX bush pilot an additional 15 airstrips of the “extreme” variety. In addition to a number of helipads and seaplane bases, the scenery offers unique customised objects, a 76 metre mesh and a detailed manual complete with NOTAMs and suggested flight plans for the inquisitive explorer.

Less than 100 kilometres from the northern-most point of Australia, Papua New Guinea (PNG) is certainly an extreme environment. From tropical islands and sandy beaches, to hardwood-covered mountains topping over 15,000ft, PNG is speckled with small towns, tiny villages and free-trade farming settlements clinging precariously to the sides of the myriad of valleys viscously cutting though the landscape.

Real photographs of PNG

Real photographs of PNG

Although most of PNG’s trading areas hug the coastal areas, a sizeable proportion of the populous still prefers to inhabit the remoter, elevated areas of the islands... areas that are only accessible by plane and whose inhabitants rely on the network of airfields that have evolved over the years, for supplies and (of course) tourists.

Real photographs of PNG

Real photographs of PNG

While PNG is certainly host to some extreme terrain, it is also a place of extreme contrast: tropical reefs surround often inaccessible mountains; yet nestled in the valleys are wildlife reserves and ‘free-trade’ farming enterprises. In terms of access for aircraft, there are a few ‘hubs’ dotted around PNG both serving the smaller airfields and acting as the first port of call for international flights of both cargo and passenger traffic. A number of seaplane bases and helicopter pads can also be found, and a fair few of these are modelled in the scenery package in addition to the main airfields.

Installation, Pricing and Features
The base package: “Raw Grit: PNG Bush Pilot” was developed by Pacific Islands Simulation, and subsequently reviewed by Joe "Mutley" Lawford in March 2009 and as such, I do not intend to repeat many of the details included in Joe’s article. Little, fundamentally, has changed and the new airfields included in this expansion pack are within the same geographical boundaries and rest upon the same (included) 76 metre mesh used in the base package.

This time around, for the ‘Extreme’ airfields, the scenery is packaged as a Mining & Exploration Run to add to the 3 tours presented in the base package. The image below shows the new airfields modelled in this ‘Extreme’ expansion pack are shown.

Installation was trouble free, and only required the user to go into the scenery library and activate the two new scenery layers.

Features (As per the manual)

15 airstrips ranging from sea-level to 11,515ft
Except for 3 runways, all are sloped from 1.5 to 13 degrees
8 seaplane docks and heliports, including a helipad on cruise liner.
Bamboo helipad sitting at the base of a waterfall at over 7,779ft and another at 11,527ft
Hand-drawn river networks and coastlines with white, tan and black beaches
Customised vegetation, typical of the region
Modern and traditional buildings made of grass and coconut-thatch
Typical wildlife - crows, white parrots, gulls, eagles, whales, dolphins
Night lighting where appropriate
Detailed maps with detailed (recommended) routes and operations

In addition, a 76 metre mesh (LOD 6-9) is provided with the scenery, which makes a huge difference to the default mesh in such a remote part of the world. Now, although there are sceneries that have more detailed mesh, the developers feel that the 76 metre LOD does full justice to the look of the real-world PNG terrain. Compared to real-world images, I feel I can only agree; moreover, being restricted to this level of detail has helped to keep costs down.

One feature of note is that the manual includes excellent details relating to the position, approach, Navaids and other NOTAMS for each of the airfields. Typically, each airfield is treated to a full expose on relevant details and warnings: here is an example:

As far as I’m concerned, this is the sort of detail that all addons should include in their manual...unfortunately, it’s not always the case. A quick summary is also provided to aid your flight planning:

Pricing, particularly in the current climate, is an important factor. Both the base package and the expansion are priced at around 20.82* Euros (incl. VAT). According to the developer, by Mid-Aug 2009, a combined “super-package” will be available download and the pricing is regional:

 “...The RG-EBT combo pack will be sold at 20% discount price, which means that if you're paying in Euros it will be €32.66* Euros (€27.44 without VAT). If sold in the US, it will be US $39.55*. In Australia, it will go for AUS $46.90*. The three quoted prices reflect distribution in these markets/regions. The package will come in both download and boxed versions...””

Scenery: Graphical quality and performance
Having delivered my Beaver Amphibian to the main hub, ), I was delighted to see not only a healthy spattering of custom-made scenery objects, but my sim was easily managing to maintain my chosen (fixed) rate of 40 FPS for relatively basic GA’s such as the Carenado’s and defaults, or 30 FPS with more complex GA’s such as the RealAir Duke. (Note: I occasionally experienced a slight reduction of 5 FPS when taxiing around the main hub airport, Madang). Overall, this boded well for my pending explorations, enabling me to crank-up the autogen settings; something I rarely do, normally.

The benefit of using autogen in mountainous, forested areas is palpable and certainly an advantage of a scenery package that is kind to ate performance. This is in part, due to the fact that the realism strived for when developing the scenery was truly achieved – it isn’t a densely populated, urban environment – and in part, due to efficient graphical-design methodology, employed during its creation.

This was achieved constantly with the following scenery settings running at resolution of 1680x1050 with 4xS AA and 16x AF using a GTX 260 with a Q6600 (G0) at 3.4Ghz on XP.

So, how does the scenery and mesh, compare to the default offering? Note the mountains in the upper left of the image, the re-worked coastline and the modified landclass/autogen – visibility is set to 30 miles and the settings are identical in both images. Click on the images for a larger version.

Before PNG Scenery

PNG Scenery with 76m Mesh – AYMD (Madang)

Very few – if any – default objects are used, and the experience is very much one of bush-flying in a diverse and extreme wilderness. As such, it really does what it says on the tin and any complaints (I have seen only a few) are therefore totally unfair, and ungrounded. Where there are scenery objects, they are both authentic and nicely realised, with a fair attention to detail – including smoke, moving birds and animals.

Madang - As Busy As It Gets

Some airfields are pretty lonely-looking places...but nonetheless, realistic.

Others, however, are a little more populated with people and even swimming pools.

And by exploring the area, helipads made from bamboo, and seaplane bases are dotted around, adding to the variety.

Immersion, realism and challenge
I will often try a new scenery addon out and wonder if I will ever ‘visit’ again. So, is there long-lasting appeal to this scenery? Absolutely!

With a total of 23 (base pack) plus 15 (Extreme) pack airfields, ranging from short dirt strips only accessible by STOL-type bush aircraft, to 5000ft tarmac (and lit) runways at sea level, to 15,000 ft sloped strips literally cut out of the mountainside, there is plenty to challenge a pilot and maintain long term interest.

When combined with the base package, you are immersed in a diverse 3-dimensional world that actually covers an area perfect for GA Bush trekking. It is also accessible by regional twin or jet from Australia or even the SE Asian or South Pacific islands, and as such can easily be integrated into a role-playing environment such as Air Hauler.

AYMR (the most westerly point on scenery) to AYTK (the most easterly) is the longest point-to-point trip and is just short of 600 miles (shown by yellow line), and with the highest airfield at over 15,000ft, your trips really are 3-dimensional. And of course, being less than 100 miles from mainland Australia, the area is a perfect off-shoot for basing cargo operations, especially if you are also using the FTX scenery. (N/B I found that switching FTX-mode ON, created no noticeable problems in and around PNG.)

Many of the airfields are at a high altitude, which in addition to presenting technical problems are sometimes tough to find especially if the weather closes in. The upside is that the area provides a real challenge. VFR conditions are essential to a successful flight, as is a good knowledge of the area, a GPS and a good weather forecast. Your willingness to invest time in flight planning and weather forecasting will influence whether or not you will survive over the long term in Papua New Guinea.

High altitude and general inaccessibility, means that runways tend to be: ‘one-way one-attempt’ affairs. Although most are sloped to varying degrees, decent landings are achievable but only with a well planned and executed approach: Air Haulers, you have been warned: keep up the insurance payments!

Taking Off At 10,000ft Can Be Nerve-Wracking

Click for full size image
Spot The Runway Cut Into The Mountainside
Click for full size image
Now Land On It!

You Will Need A GPS – And A Reliable Weather Forecast

Night flying is restricted to the larger fields that have runway lighting, but generally a number of settlements can be spotted at night and the whole effect is quite pleasing.

Some Airfields Are Well Lit – As Are Many Settlements And Coastal Area

A word of warning here: if you are tempted to try and modify the airfields (adding lights, parking places or navaids) you may run into problems due to the way in which they have been constructed. The manual warns against modifying them, as it may result in the sim crashing.

Night Flying Is Permitted And Good Fun – But Not All Strips Are Lit

Notwithstanding the lack of airfields that support night operations, coastal flying still remains very enjoyable, and of course trips between Queensland and the larger PNG airfields are easily flyable at night. For cargo dogs, large consignments can be delivered to the larger ‘hubs’ overnight and then disseminated throughout the islands during the daylight hours...subject to weather conditions of course!

Time To Get Home – Quickly!

For those looking for a new challenge, a change of scenery or simply a change of pace, this scenery ticks all the boxes. Although it is not the most detailed, intricate or complex scenery around, it represents a great balance between eye-candy, performance and price.

It also covers an area that is not available elsewhere, yet remains close enough to Australia, to integrate it into your overall flightsim experience. For cargo dogs the airfields modelled here, cover a manageable area which is a perfect size to create a series of bases and go into business.

Although EBT and Raw Grit are standalone products you can purchase one or the other or both, each software title compliments each other perfectly. To date, there hasn't been any complaints or technical issues raised for customers who've bought both separately or together.

At 20 Euros per pack, it is certainly competitive, but if you stretch to the full (combined) package - a total of 39 airfields and some 18 sea-ports / helipads - for a total of 32.66* Euros, it is an absolute bargain.

/Gabe Logan
* Prices are for guidance only

Future products from Pacific Islands Simulations.
The developer has advised Mutley's Hangar that they are currently working on their next project Atolls of Tuvalu Here you will find a lot more unique scenery objects like turtles, flamingos and dugout canoes, some with sails!

More details and screenshots can be seen here Larger screenshots can be seen in their user forum here

      System Requirements
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator 10 (FSX) Pentium IV 2.6 GHz
    (2GHz Duo2Core Intel or equivalent advised)
  • 1Gb RAM and above
  • 256Mb DirectX 9 graphics card (512 Mb or higher recommended)
  • Windows XP (SP2, SP3), Windows Vista, Windows 7
  • 150Mb hard drive space


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