Bienvenido a Bilbao Aeropuerto, a public airport which is situated 9km (5.6mi) north of Bilbao, in the municipality of Loiu, Biscay. Bilbao is the most important airport in the Basque region of northern Spain. It is famous for its new main terminal opened in 2000 designed by Santiago Calatrava.
Airport construction was given the go-ahead in 1936 but works did not commence until the following year. The works commenced during the civil war (1936-39) but during this period it was only used by the military. In the following years, various works were carried out to improve the airport and improve the general facilities. It was not until 2009 when plans were drawn up to expand the main terminal building effectively doubling its capacity. The new modern design is constructed using white concrete and glass, and the locals have nicknamed the terminal building La Paloma (the dove) due to its sleek symmetrical wings, which is more evident when approaching from the sides of the airport.
Another airport developed for Orbx by Marcus Nyberg and Philip Schall. Both of Valdez and Stockholm - Arlanda fame.
This being the first foray into Spain for Orbx, where better to start than on the northern shores of Spain, in the Bay of Biscay. At first glance, the guys have entered itno Spain in true Orbx style. Surrounded by lush green hills, and having a more temperate climate than the southern Spanish counterparts, Bilbao Airport will definitely test your skills on some of the more interesting approaches, especially with the weather and the Pyrenees close by.
Bilbao Airport is available from Orbx via the FTX Central 3 application, and It is priced at AUD$39.95, or the equivalent on currency cross rates. Download and installation took no more than a few minutes with the process being incredibly simple and quick using FTX Central 3, simply click on the scenery you want, pay for it, and then FTX Central 3 does all the work for you, even placing the scenery in the correct location within your scenery library.
To be able to use Orbx Bilbao, the following prerequiste products are required - FTX Global Base Pack, and or FTX Global OpenLC Europe.
Also included in the installation is the familiar 'Product Control Panel'. which gives the user the option to adjust various settings that are pertinent to each airport or region. The Bilbao version is not a huge panel, but incudes a good selection of choices across the board. This panel also includes the option to enable / disable the Dynamic Lighting feature but this is only relevant to P3Dv4 users only.
Orbx Bilbao scenery contains the whole city of Bilbao with important buildings added. Also included is the whole harbour area which has been upgraded and of course the airport itself. Measuring this area on Google Maps I came up with approximately 300sq km. The aerial imagery belies what is actually included and you only really get to see the true content at approach altitude or on the ground.
The two screenshots below show the amount of detail that has gone in to making Bilbao airport, with the left screenshot showing the default P3Dv4 version of Bilbao whilst the screenshot on the right showing the Orbx version.
Key features include:Super-detailed rendition of LEBB;
Orbx Bilbao airport has a goodly amount of detail in it. The developers have recreated Bilbao airport beautifully but that does not mean it is perfect. There are some niggling aspects that given more time would have elevated Bilbao and made the user experience more realistic. Starting with the positive though, the terminal buildings on both the passenger and the commercial sides of the airport, have been created with near perfection and the main terminal (locally known as The Dove) is a work of art. It is not an easy shape to recreate but it sits there as though it grew there.
The main terminal building is very impressive and if you have ever attempted building design for flight simulation, you will also appreciate just how much work actually went in to produce this building. From here though, let's have a closer look. The attention to most of the detail is very good indeed but I came across a few things that let it down for me, which I will cover later.
It wasn't until 1927 that steps were taken to build an airport in Bilbao, but it took until 1936 until the airport construction was given the go ahead to be built in the Sondika area of Bilbao. Up until 1948 the airport was used for military purposes, after which it was to opened to civilian traffic. The airport was established with an air route to Madrid, by Aviación y Comercio, SA. Two years later, the terminal, named Carlos Haya after the well known pilot from Bilbao, came into service. At this time, the airport had an asphalt runway, 11/29 (measuring 1,440 by 45m (4,724 by 148ft)), another earth runway (measuring 1,500 by 150m (4,921 by 492ft)), a taxiway, a passenger terminal, a tower control, a radio beacon, a direction finder as well as police, post office, weather, health, fuel and telephone services. Between 1964 and 1965, the runway was extended to 2,000 m (6,562 ft) and in 1975, the runway was surfaced and its orientation became 10/28 due to the change in magnetic declination. During the 1980s, the ILS entered into service for runway 10/28, the communication centre, passenger terminal and parking facilities were enlarged and a fire service building and cargo terminal were constructed.
As with the north side of the airport, the south side also has some amazing detail. The tower is centrally located along the southern airport boundary and it has clear views of both runways and the whole airfield. It would have been a nice touch if the tower had transparent windows as I always like to get a view from inside the tower looking out. Having said that the detail of the content on the south side is pretty nice indeed.
As I mentioned earlier Orbx Bilbao airport also includes the complete harbour area of Bilbao. There are also helipads on some of the ships in the harbour. The team have done a great job of rendering the full harbour area although it does seem a little devoid of small craft. I don't know what I was expecting but I thought there would have certainly been a substantial amount of yachts and other small craft around the various sheltered safe havens. What has been covered though is very good and fairly accurate. There is also a row of five animated wind turbines at the entrance to the harbour, so watch out for these if you are low flying. Other things to look out for are ranks of gas/oil tanks and shipping containers as this is a major petroleum and container freight harbour. There are also several passenger ferries that use the harbour.
The quality of the buildings included with Bilbao airport are, in general, very good but there are numerous areas which need to be looked at by the developers. I noticed some glaring mistakes and anomalies whilst doing my usual "BOB" walkabout. Orbx customers have come to expect ever increasing levels of detail with Orbx airports because the standard to date has been quite exceptional on the whole. It gnaws at me for pointing these anomalies out because I admire the dedication the Orbx developers put into their craft but it has to be pointed out so that it may be corrected. It would be nice if it turns out to be my system and setup rather than an oversight by the developers and if it turns out that way, I will be only be too glad to hold my hands up and apologise. Enough waffle, here are some examples of what I found.
The work that has gone in to producing this quirky looking museum is, I must admit, excellent, but on my system it just looks like it is floating and overhanging the road, and the roads look crumpled and misaligned for some reason.
Whilst flying around Bilbao I came across quite a good deal of crumpled roads, which appear to be a mesh problem. Other anomalies were these two. Vehicles would follow the roads but when they came across this bridge, they seemed to follow an imaginary road, cross the bridge and drive down the other side only to continue along the original road. Likewise, when I found the Estadio San Mamés, there is a sizeable cliff around it, again perhaps this is just a question of mesh.
The airport also had some anomalies.
Whenever I review an Orbx airport I like to see if the terminal has been modelled internally. Well yes, Bilbao has been modelled internally but only to a certain degree. The user is able to walk up and down the front of the terminal and there are signs and seating inside. But that's it. Unfortunately, there are no waiting passengers apart from silhouette man. I'm unsure if this was a deliberate placement or a 3D person has been missed out but he looks very suspicious. Another gripe is that the AI vehicles seem to pay no attention to parked cars at the rear of the airport.
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of objects, airport clutter and people scattered throughout the airport and the surrounding scenery. People flow is in evidence on both the north and south terminal aprons. Passengers waiting for buses at the rear, GA pilots and guests tending their aircraft and airport personnel are in abundance. Most of the personnel appear to be dynamic, in that they seem to sit around most of the time then are focused whenever an aircraft arrives or departs. The quality of the airport clutter is very good and straight from the now well loved, Orbx library.
The textures that the team have used are by far some of the best yet from Orbx. Especially the airport ground textures. The apron, taxiways and runways are peppered with marks of every description, which give the airport a feeling of near realism. Even the 3D grasses are very convincing, from a distance at least.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a mismatch of textures surrounding the airport. Within the confines of the airport boundaries, the textures are quite beautiful but once you look further than the boundary fences, the textures are really blurred, which dampens the excitement somewhat.
With the advent of P3Dv4 heralds the ability to use dynamic lighting. The use of this extremely nice tool is evident throughout and it gives the airport the atmosphere it deserves. The night lighting on the runways is also very nicely rendered and gives sharp detail to any of the four approaches during dawn and dusk.
With Bilbao situated on the Spanish north coast it has a temperate climate and as such sees very little, if any snow at all. The surrounding hills get some snow but the low lying city and airport is kept fairly clear all year round. With this in mind, Orbx Bilbao does not tend to alter greatly in appearance throughout the year. The main difference is only going to be with the trees and shrubs.
A 17 page user manual is included in the download as standard from Orbx. It explains all the user needs to know, from installation to using the control panel to configure your settings for LEBB Bilbao Airport. It also includes all the charts you are likely to use. A short, succinct manual that does what it says on the tin.
At AUD$39.95 I feel Orbx Bilbao may be a little overpriced, given the amount of anomalies I have discovered. Others may feel the price is justified considering the amazing amount of incredible detail and the area covered. I put myself in the latter category simply because the anomalies I found could for one reason or another, be attributed to mesh differences. I hope so. Besides, when flying in and out of the airport, the user would most likely not have the chance to see them anyhow.
Orbx Bilbao performs beautifully on my system. Using P3Dv4 and almost all the settings maxed out, there was never any hint of a stutter. Obviously, this is just my system, others may have different results depending on setup and flight-sim version used
The specifications of the computer on which the review was conducted are as follows:
Asus Maximus VIII Hero Motherboard;
Intel i7 6700K, 4.0GHz;
Asus Strix GeForce GTX970 OC, 4GB;
32GB DDR4, Corsair Vengeance, 3000MHz;
500GB, Corsair Force 3 SSD (OS);
2TB WD HDD (Prepar3D);
1.5TB WD Sata HDD (programs);
Windows 10, (64bit); and
Lockheed Martin P3D Version 3.4.
Additional Major Add-ons. ASP 4; Active Sky Cloud Art; FS Global Ultimate; Orbx FTX Global BASE; Orbx FTX Global VECTOR; Orbx FTX Global openLC series; Orbx FTX region series; and Orbx FTX Trees HD.
With Bilbao as a first port of call in Spain for Orbx, Marcus Nyberg and Philip Schall have produced a good Spanish intro. Not as crisp as some Orbx airports, but still with a reasonably high degree of content and interest, making it worthy of a decent Mutley's Hangar score. Thanks Marcus, Philip and the Orbx team.