Mutleys Hangar - Sydney Professional review

CLS Sydney Airport X
For FSX Published by Just Flight
Reviewed by Joe (“Mutley”) Lawford
September 2009

Introduction
New from Just Flight is Commercial Level Simulations (CLS) rendition of Sydney Kingsford Smith International airport (YSSY).

Sydney Airport (IATA: SYD, ICAO: YSSY) was officially declared an aerodrome in 1920 and today is one of the oldest operating airfields in the world. In 1936, after the disappearance of Australian pioneering aviator Lieutenant (Sir) Charles Edward Kingsford-Smith MC, the airport was re-named the Kingsford Smith and keeps his name up to the present day.

Situated next to Botany Bay, the airport has three runways, colloquially known as the "East-West", "North-South" and "Third" runways. (07-25, 16R-34L and 16L-34R).  It has three passenger terminals with the international and cargo terminals separated from the other terminals by a runway. (16R 34L).

Terminal 1 is the international terminal, located in the airport's north western sector. It has 29 gates served by aerobridges, as well as a number of remote bays. It can accommodate the Airbus A380, which fly routes to Singapore (Singapore Airlines), Los Angeles and London via Singapore (Qantas), Dubai and Auckland (Emirates).

Terminal 2 is the domestic terminal and is located in the airport's north eastern section. It has 12 parking bays served by aerobridges and a number of non-contact bays.

Terminal 3, aka the Qantas Terminal, is also located in the north eastern section, this serves Qantas domestic and some Qantaslink flights

The airport has an unused fourth passenger terminal, east of Terminal 2. This was formerly known as "Domestic Express" which I believe now is the GA area.  As mentioned above, Sydney Airport's International freight terminal is just north of Terminal 1 therefore keeping most of the international operations to the west of the main runway.


Looking at terminal 1 and Botany Bay in the distance. The international freight area and customs buildings are in the foreground

Installation, Pricing and Features
CLS Sydney Airport X is available by download only and by its "X" designator you would be correct in thinking this is for FSX only. Presently priced at £ 19.66 / € 24.95 / $ 29.99 does it provide value for money? We will see later. Certainly the 200 reward points on offer would come in useful for my next purchase!

Downloading, as ever, is effortless from Just Flight's product server. At 276Mb it's not a small file so a good connection at your end will save a lot of table-tapping.  Installation is really fast considering the 440Mb footprint, an internet connection is required to activate the product but if that is not an option for you a manual activation is available too.

The manual, I found, was a bit confusing in places. "Only follow step 1 if you did install the halo provided with the CLS package, it will once installed decrease the appearance of the lights around the scenery but not anything else". Er..do what!?   Following this rather cryptic message was a suggested alteration to your FSX.cfg. The recommendation is to increase(?) the size of your runway (Surface,vasi,approach and strobe) lights by a factor of 1.5.  Usually any amendments to these settings would be to reduce the setting to under 1.0. Anyhow, I checked what files were installed and Halo.bmp wasn't one of them, so I made no changes to my config.


Runway & approach lighting looks ok to me, not so sure about the aprons

Some of the default AUST scenery terminal texture (.dds type) files are over-written but a back up is taken and stored in your FSX/Just Flight folder.  I think it is safe to assume that the uninstaller would restore these files if you should remove the software.

Finally, the manual instructs you to activate the scenery by adding the new area to your scenery list.  This is almost the full extent of the manual, but to finish, there is an excellent link to an official Australian government website where you will find all the most up-to-date airport and approach charts you will need and is a valuable resource for all Australian airfields.

At this point I would like to list the published features as I intend to look at them in more detail later on-

Published Features
 
• 50cm HD-resolution aerial Images airport buildings
• Numerous surrounding buildings - petrol stations, McDonalds, hire car etc.
• Detail right down to moving air vents on top of terminals
• Accurate AFCAD with real life assignments
• Water effect on all runways and taxiways
• Accurately modelled heliport and GA area
• High quality textures, both photorealistic and hand-painted
• Accurate gate placements and models
• Photorealistic terminal textures
• Exact placement of trees to their real world positions
• Oil marks at gates
• The Old Control Tower
• Living environment
• Dynamic moving road traffic
• Flashing runway warning lights
• Plane spotters at Tower Hill
• 3D street lights
• ILS poles with 3D lights
• International freight shipping terminal

Realism and performance
So armed with my feature sheet I'm off exploring. To be fair, as I have a reasonably high-end machine, I set the scenery and autogen sliders to full so that none of the features will be missed.

There are no pre-saved flights or missions so it is straight into the "Free Flight" screen. There are plenty of starting locations including the cargo ramp. I thought I would be brave and get into the Just Flight Marshaller's bus for a drive around.

First impressions are important for any product, there are no static aircraft included or any AI flight plans so a third party traffic program such as Traffic X or Ultimate Traffic is essential for the overall effect.

Having set myself up at Gate 10 Heavy it's time to get underway. My first impression was "blocky" where's the detail? After checking my settings had not changed I carried on exploring with the same thought. The main terminal 1 is home to the international carriers, it has no animated jet ways or parking guidance systems. The terminal textures were pretty run of the mill. One feature is the departure terminal which has the futuristic Qantas Club lounge perched on top of departure gates 8-37.

Driving roughly north I came across the International cargo terminal. A couple of big warehouses, one branded Qantas Freight and a low-level office block surround the apron, the customs building and another building annotated "P" are also situated between these two terminals.

Our next destination is the domestic area which incorporated T2 & 3. We have to cross the threshold of 16R. I stopped here briefly by the flashing wig-wags to admire the approach lighting which as the feature list says is 3D and looked rather good. To our left was the Qantas jet base maintenance hangars.

The first passenger terminal we come across was T3 the Qantas Terminal (I am sensing a Qantas are important here!)

As expected it was wall to wall white and red aircraft with kangaroos on the tail (Thanks to Traffic X). There are quite a few gates here, again, not animated or guided. At the end of this terminal is a hub with mini satellites which looked good.

Terminal 2 is separated from terminal 3 by a huge multi-story car park which has exit ramps suspended from a bridge like structure similar to suspension bridges found in road crossings. An unmistakeable feature and nicely modelled. Terminal 2 is fairly unremarkable except for the animated air vents on the roof. It is functional looking and capable of taking around 12 aircraft.

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International terminal 1
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International freight terminal
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Qantas domestic terminal 3
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Domestic terminal 2

We pass a featureless building to the left which I found out later to be the Ansett maintenance hangar. Behind this is the general GA area where executive airlines have their bases and also a DHL depot. Looking across the apron away from the airport 3 hotels overlook this area. For the budget conscious the "Formule1" and for Just Flight staff when visiting Oz, the Sheraton!

All these buildings are in the northern section of the airfield. Almost directly south, over runway 25/07 is the heliport which has a taxiway into a little commercial area of its own. A good place to watch landing aircraft on 25 but be careful when looking up as there is a flock of seagulls circling overhead.

From here our next destination has to be the distinctive control tower and the plane spotters at Tower Hill. My advice would be not to look too closely at the tower as it is not that detailed and wanting of a few more polygons. Unfortunately the tower glass suffers from the transparency problem that some do with SP2 if they were not originally made to the SDK. Maybe this is because it was originally an FS2004 product and not all textures are new?

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Mutley's Hangar award for worst scenery texture!
So I looked for the plane spotters on Tower Hill and found these guys to the left, oh dear, I wonder if these are the developers advertising themselves to the public!?

Doing a 180 I was more impressed with the textures of the car rental buildings. These buildings are situated on a road which crosses the airport eventually diving under 34L/16R.

I decided to take a drive up here. A dual carriage road with street lighting I will look forward to looking at this at night. I will say the street lights looked odd as they had no poles so were floating 20 foot off the ground.

Driving past the car rental buildings you come across a fast food restaurant and petrol station. There are plenty of advertising boards and you will instantly recognise them.

Along this stretch are many animated characters. Again they will appear familiar; you know, waving bloke with broken leg, spiv on mobile phone whilst minder looks on and FSX's very own piece of "totty", they are the "standard" characters included with FSX.

Opposite these buildings and overlooking the bay between the two parallel runways, is the fire station. There are no signs identifying the building and the textures are blurry but looking at a map, this is what it is, there's no fooling me!

On the western foreshore is the old tower complex, a cute set of buildings and a nice addition. From here you can spend a leisurely hour watching the traffic. (So long as you have Traffic X)

So, from the description above you can see there is quite a lot of included detail if you go looking for it. When viewing the airport from above, the photo-textures come into their own. They do in my opinion, finish rather abruptly at the boundaries of the airport, the surrounding areas revert to the default immediately. The quality of the photo textures are listed as 50cm and it does look very good albeit a bit light for my tastes.


There are a lot of other interesting features to find!

After dark, if anything, the building textures come alive, they really stand out and some of the buildings that look rather dull by day look great at night. Apron lighting was poor in respect that there is none, I was expecting a sense of flood lighting but the only light you will get is if you have your aircraft lights on. The street lights looked better as you didn't notice the poles were missing!

The approach and runway lights were very good, even without adjusting my scalars! Both of the "North-South" runways have raised approach and PAPI lighting when landing from the north, from the south it is just PAPI, over Botany Bay and straight in.  All four of these approaches have ILS guidance.

The "East-West" runway 07/25 has no raised approach lighting and the runway itself terminates abruptly at both ends with concrete barriers. This can hamper your view of the PAPI lights if your glide slope doesn't isn't high towards the runway threshold. Approaching too low on final can result in an interesting landing!  Runway 07 does have ILS whereas the opposite direction doesn't.

I had no performance issues at all with this software, everything ran smoothly. I think that the cautious use of excess polygons help to make this a high performance, if not the highest quality product, you will find in the FS market. As you can see from the system requirements below it does not require a high-end machine.

Verdict
A lot of detail and interesting features but lacking in the X factor you would expect from commercial scenery made for this sim.

Far, far better than the default FSX Sydney airport scenery and very useable.  In my opinion though, CLS really need to up their game to deliver better than freeware quality scenery that they offer with this product.

My score? 6/10



/Joe Lawford



      
      System Requirements
  • Flight Simulator X (Acceleration or FSX SP2 required)
  • 2.5GHz PC or any dual core
  • 512Mb RAM
  • 128Mb 3D graphics accelerator card
  • Windows XP / Vista / Windows7 with the latest Service Packs
  • 440Mb hard drive space