FTX US 1S2 Darrington Muni Airport
For FSX Published by Orbx
Reviewed by Joe (“Mutley”) Lawford
June 2010

The second in my series of FTX US Airfields is 1S2 Darrington Muni. This airfield and scenery package continues the roll out of high resolution airfields in the US Pacific North West region. It  was created by the same lead developers who gave us  Hervey Bay for FTX AU Gold, so with this sort of pedigree expectations are high for a real quality product.

Darrington and it's environs consist of a simple municipal airfield and a township situated at the intersection of three valleys and the confluence of two rivers. Darrington Muni 1S2 serves Snohomish County in the eastern side of Washington State. It has a single 2450ft runway running roughly east/west (10/28) with edge lighting and REIL lights.

It has a helipad, designated 1 on the airfield and a second helipad designated 2, which is in fact situated in the town at a medical facility and is just a short hop from the airfield.  Helipad 2 is very distinctive and has pad lighting so you can practice your night landings as well.

Local attractions include a pretty village with plenty to discover using Bob, Orbx's 1st person "aircraft", a busy timber mill, a mighty river, power station, custom buildings and detailed airfield.

Further afield is some excellent bush flying country, especially if you have the region pack installed too that will give you accurate landclass and mesh.  This is mainly a mountainous region, to the north are the Cascade mountains, to the east is Mount Baker National Forest and to the south the Boulder River Wilderness.

Like Starks Twin Oaks,this scenery is FTX Aero and TextureFlow compatible but additionally this product also benefits from local soundscapes in various locations around the airport and scenery.

Availability, download and installation.
By now, especially if you have read the previous Orbx reviews we have published, you will know that this product should be available by download or by limited edition dvd of the software. My copy came from the FlightSimStore.com although it is also available from PC Aviator SimWare and FSPilotshop.com Such is the popularity of the FTX brand, new distributors are appearing all the time.

As with most highly detailed scenery, expect a large download, fortunately the FlightSim Store server has always been pretty fast outside peak times but you will still need to allow plenty of time for it to complete.  My advice would be to download the manual available separately and read it whilst waiting for the download to complete so setup should be quick and easy.

The manual offers plenty of setup advice and tips on what will affect or FPS the most, as with all these tips, trial and error will always be required to get the best. 

If you find the sweet-spot and have the FSX Go program (Also available from Orbx) you can save the FSX config as a custom file to use next time.

Every time I install a new program from Orbx I always check to see that my copy of the Orbx Libraries is the most recent.  This is available free from Orbx's home page and is date stamped for easy identification.
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Overhead view - Click to enlarge
FTX Central, Aero and Control Panel
For owners of the PNW region pack you are already going to have FTX Central, if you do, you will have access to the Aero tool which sets the bump mapping for the runways, taxiway markings, 3D lights etc.  For Darrington Muni, it is worth noting that it comes with it's own custom Gmax polygon surface. However, the ubiquitous 3D grass and other ground areas do use the Aero bump mapping.
The 1S2 control panel focuses on the individual features of this package. You can use the control panels to reduce autogen, AI movements and sound areas.  Each selectable option also has a hint as to what performance gain may be achieved.
The Product
Although this is a very comprehensive package and works in stand-alone mode, to get the best from Darrington Muni you should really have the PNW region pack as well.

When you consider that the airport is modelled at 15cm per pixel and the surrounds at 60cm the transition to default FSX scenery will seem like a bad dream!  The region pack will also give you 3D street lighting and moving traffic on all roads, custom houses, trees and other objects.

Extent Of The Scenery

This is quite a large area and will take hours to discover in detail, as with other airfield/scenery combinations you will keep finding new features you have never seen before, all in excellent quality thanks to the detail of the ORBX library objects as well as the custom objects for this scenery.

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Click for larger image, courtesy of Orbx Systems

Being northern hemisphere, the seasons are the right way around (Sorry Oz!) All 5 seasons are catered for with the most notable changes being the tree and ground texture colour.

Spring - The trees and ground textures are a lovely fresh green, the mountain tops show some snow at the peaks, a great time for flying.
Summer- The greens intensify and become more verdant, all but the highest mountains have snow at the summit, great for early and late take offs and landings.
Autumn - Sees a change in some of the trees to a golden foliage and the mountain tops are snow lined a much more mellow feeling.
Winter - Dull brown ground textures, the trees much darker and the mountains are covered in show from mid to high altitude, my least favourite season.

Stunning in hard winter

Hard Winter - Darrington looks really beautiful in the hard winter (January) with snow falling. The ground textures change dramatically to give that freezing feel. The smoke from the chimneys is more apparent as are the 3d lights.  In the distance the mountains are covered in snow and it is almost a complete white-out!

It's fair to say that the seasons are not a selling point for this product but they sure do give it an extra dimension.

Night Lighting
There are so many points of light it's difficult to know where to look first.  The raised lamp posts with the 3D lights really gives a sense of depth of field. It's easy to follow the roads at night especially as they're of a lighter texture giving a sense of illumination.   The buildings also give this illumination effect of surrounding base texture too, a nice touch, it makes the place feel more alive.

The runway is dark at night and has no PAPI but the edge lighting helps to identify the tarmac strip.  The apron is not floodlit but some of the buildings have down-lights,  you will be relying on your taxi lights here.  As mentioned earlier, helipad 2 at the medical facility has it's own pad lighting so it is reasonably easy to identify. I actually found the windsock first which glows bright orange like a Chinese lantern, the one at the airfield is much lower-key.  I would say this windsock is a bit too bright , but hey, if it helps me land then I am not going to complain!

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This is what helps set this scenery apart from Starks Twin Oaks which doesn't have soundscapes, it might just be that dog bark, or the saw mill in full production that makes it more realistic. I like to sit and watch the world go by sometimes and sometimes I just like to leave my flight sim PC on with Bob sat on the apron and just watch and listen to the AI and the welcome birdsong in the distance.  I do that in the real world too so it IS as real as it gets!

If you use the microlight to fly around in you should still be able to hear these sounds as you fly by.

This scenery really packs a punch, Orbx realise this and give advice on how to deal with it.  It is pretty future proof software that at the moment would not run smoothly on any PC at the highest settings. It might just need less traffic or one notch back on the autogen to make it acceptable.

My machine is pretty up-to-date, running all traffic at 16, scenery complexity at extremely dense, autogen at dense, trees at 1800 and buildings at 2000 I was achieving a constant 25 FPS with a dip to 19 on sharp turns, that will do for me, in-fact I am really pleased as it seemed like it was faster as transitions were very smooth.

Exploring the Airfield
This is probably one of the least built-up FTX airfields I have seen. All the action happens on the south side of the runway, airside, there are several anonymous hangars, the Hiline Helicopters FBO and also a finely modelled wooden building which really gives it a rural feel, there are no sides to the building so it is just like a shelter.  There are many cable drums inside this shelter that act as tables, a real nice touch.

Access to the airfield from the road appears to be unrestricted.  There is a bus station which has it's own access road but there doesn't appear to be any fences.  The bus station is full of yellow school busses parked up. In autumn and winter you will see smoke from the boiler chimneys.

There is an animated windsock easily seen between the taxiway and the runway set amongst the 3d grass which is evident all over the field.

The tarmac and apron areas take advantage of the bespoke Gmax textures which override the Aero bump mapping and look to be much finer in definition to me as I usually have my textures set to course.  It looked good, I think I prefer the Aero version but I need to experiment more.
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All around the airfield are lumber logs which designate parking areas etc, I wonder where they came from!?  When walking around there a couple of signs warning you and your bicycle off the runway so don't do it, ok! There is no terminal or office per se but I found signage for Hiline Helicopters Inc positioned next to the road.  On their apron there looks to be a fuel pump but it's not accessible to FSX so make sure you have plenty on board before travelling here. 

For visiting GA there is a reasonable sized apron but no real facilities, you will find your self visiting the shops on the main road for nourishment!

Exploring the Town
Most of the highly-detailed buildings run alongside the main road which passes the airfield.  Whether your needs are spiritual or physical, you will be catered for here with a church, DIY store, liquor store, eatery and Motel. at the junction is a Shell Gas station in great detail too.

As mentioned earlier the bus station is situated just off the main road on a side track to the airfield. Just before this turning there looks to be, how can I say "affordable housing" with what looks to be trailers and temporary buildings, apologies to the residents if their not!

Moving into the town it is mainly residential, there is the medical centre in great detail and the local school which has many custom buildings and school busses parked outside.

It's great just to roam around and admire the custom buildings, at night they take on a new feel with the lighting being so brilliantly modelled.
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Exploring the Area
The main business of the town appears to be the saw mill, it looks to be almost as large as the town, it is situated beside the river to the north. The timber yards are full of stacks of wood as well as sheds, buildings and machinery allied to the business. Looking at the way the lumber arrives I would say some arrives by road as I noticed trucks in the forests stacked with timber, but mostly it arrives by floating it down the river as the photoscenery textures gives it away in fine detail.

Nearby, leading away from the timber yard is a distinctive bridge leading to a small quarry with heavy vehicles and machinery working away.

The river is very well drawn and can be followed for miles, the water mask makes it look very clear and sparkly in the sunlight, like the timber yard it features highly in this scenery and it is easy to see why Darrington sprung up here.
Another very distinctive feature are the power lines which comes in from the north and then heads out west passing a power station on it's way.  There is a vast swathe cut through the forests and countryside in order for these lines to run without hindrance.  This is another very good way to find your way around.

When looking out from the airport, apart from the long, wide, valley that heads out west, the town is surrounded by mountain ranges dominated by the Whitehorse Mountain which overshadows the town and can be seen from most locations. Darrington almost feels to be on the edge of civilisation. It really makes you want to get out and about and explore.

So it's time to stop talking and get back out there exploring.  Below, I have posted some shot of some of the items mentioned above.

No2 Helipad at the medical facility
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The School with yellow busses waiting
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The gas station
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Another shelter near the airport
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The bus station, looks to have move than it can cope with!
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The river heading in from the north towards Darrington
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This product is more about the beautiful scenery than the airfield. Knowing Orbx I am sure the airfield is detailed to exactly how it is in real life.

There are so many interesting features in the surrounding scenery it deserves to be modelled in this detail and is a place I will make sure to stop at on my future travels around this region.

Considering this is one of the most densely autogen populated sceneries I have seen, I think Orbx did a wonderful job in the optimisation of the textures.

From every direction there is a vista to die for if only all scenery was modelled like this!

Overall, I award this a Mutley's Hangar score of 9.5/10 Well done!

//Joe Lawford

      System Requirements (Mutley's Hangar Recommendation)
  • Flight Simulator X (Acceleration or FSX SP2 required)
  • Windows XP / Vista / Windows7 with the latest Service Packs
  • Pentium 2 GHz (Duo2Core Intel or equivalent advised)
  • 1 Gb RAM (2 Gb recommended)
  • 512Mb graphics card
  • ~729Mb Download size
  • ~740Mb hard drive space