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FTX US 2W3 Swanson Airport
For FSX and Prepar3D Published by Orbx Simulation Systems
Reviewed by Joe Lawford
May 2012

Swanson 2W3 is one of Orbx’s latest airfields for their Pacific North West Region. 2W3 was developed by seasoned Orbx developers Tim Harris and Alex Goff whose previous titles include KHQM Bowerman, WA79 Walter Suttons, WA56 Israel's Farm and W52 Goheen.

With the release of Swanson, Orbx have introduced 2 new technologies, SnowFlow and PeopleFlow2 (More Later) The location of Swanson is ideal to premier SnowFlow as it's geographical and altitude above MSL virtually guarantees some snow in winter.

The scenery covers a wide area with the regional scenery at 60cm ppx which encompasses Eatonville, Lake Ohop, and the surrounding valley area. Swanson airport, ICAO: 2W3, is presented at a much higher resolution of 15cm ppx and includes nearby houses.

Swanson is a public airfield located only a mile from the town centre of Eatonville in Pierce County, Washington state. The airfield is owned by the town and is situated among housing developments near a former logging mill.

There is one paved runway with non-standard medium intensity lights: 16/34 measuring: 2,990 x 36 ft (911 x 11 m). Runway elevation is 843MSL, right-hand circuits are flown at 800 AGL (1643MSL). A notification to watch out for deer on the runway is also in force.

The runway sits in grounds of around 14 acres (5.6 ha) and with only an average 16 private aircraft movements a day, this is just about as quiet as it gets!

This package comes with the following advertised features:

  * Ground imagery at 60cm and 15cm per pixel   * Fully custom modelled airport and houses
  * FSX gmax poly runway, aprons and lights   * Large photoreal coverage incl. Lake Ohop
  * Custom modelled static aircraft   * Based on actual photos taken on-site
  * Entire town of Eatonville is modelled   * NEW! SnowFlow tech on buildings in winter
  * Includes custom GA AI Traffic movements   * Includes amazing new PeopleFlow 2!
  * Expert 5 seasons coloor matched imagery   * A perfect addition to your PNW collection!
Installation & Setup
Presently the product is only available by download and in FSX format. If you are a Prepar3D (P3D) user a migration tool has been released to enable to get the FSX installation to show in P3D. 

As always, the FlightSimStore servers delivered the file with the minimum of fuss. Whilst in download mode I also retrieved copies of the latest Orbx library and the latest PNW update now in its fifth iteration. (NA PNW.005) from the Orbx support page .

The manual and the installer make it quite clear to open FTX Central (The main controller/interface) and set the region to North America prior to installation.

Once installed, FTX Central resets back to default FSX, the installer switches over to it so you can apply it again then finishes the installation. You will need to enable FTX Night  (to enable the 3D lighting) if you want to fly at dusk or at night.

The manual delves further into optimal setup for your machine, but if you are an existing user you probably have the best set up already. The idea is to have maximum scenery complexity with tweaking the Autogen density so solve any slowdown issues you may have. 

The final set up item involves using the dedicated control panel for the airport, this is accessible from FX Central and you can set bird sounds animation, grass levels and bespoke GA traffic.

Airport detail
The airfield layout is fairly basic; there are no taxiways just gravel tracks, so all positioning is done by back-tracking down the runway and parking is on grassed areas. With having so few aircraft movements it is unlikely that a queue will form! Overhead the runway has the town name of Eatonville painted along with traffic pattern indicators.

There are several open-sided sheds where aircraft can park with their noses undercover, the wings and rear fuselage remain exposed the elements, this allows engine maintenance to be carried out in the dry. There are a few bigger hangars and a closed off compound for CP Aviation which at the time of this simulation no longer trades from the airfield. There is another large building that has a camper van and a glider transporter near-by fronted by some tie-down points for small aircraft.

Airfield Views

A couple of windsocks and a wind tee is about the extent of the meteorological facilities, both are well animated and react to changes in wind direction.  There is no fuel or commercial flying club. The airfield also comes with GA traffic which is a Cessna doing circuits. Actually, I rode along with the AI and took in the sights of the town, it was quite a relaxing experience to watch someone else doing it!

Running along both sides of the runway there are some very detailed buildings and few houses with verandas and vehicles parked, one small mistake on the 4x4 tyres is the white writing on the tyre wall is back-to-front, on both sides.  Milling around the houses and the ex FBO are some animated people made to PeopleFlow V2 standard so they are much higher graphical quality and more human-like in their movements. There are around five areas that have animated people, so just about right for a sleepy airfield community.

The field inside the airfield boundary abounds with lively grass which is very dense and very detailed. The trees sway in the wind thanks to NatureFlow technology and the air is filled with the sound of singing birds. These are all trademark features with Orbx airfields nowadays and they add a lot of realism and interest to the product.

On the northern side of the airfield there is construction work going on so you get a nice rendition of a yellow construction tractor, but has no function, maybe a little movement would perk it up. On the southern side, and as part of the high resolution scenery ,there is a small housing development, they reside in roads with names like Cessna Court and SuperCub Drive, these also get the SnowFlow treatment in winter.

Regional Scenery
Surrounding the airport is the 60cm regional scenery. Essentially, being part of Washington state, the topography of the area will be familiar for users of PNW scenery in which this sits in perfectly.

Although Mount Ranier is 25 miles away, it still has a huge presence in the area, with a lack of points of interest nearby and around the town, you will soon find yourself heading ENE to check the mountain out.

The surrounding scenery and town of Eatonville is also presented in the lower 60cm resolution, but over-flying the town you wouldn’t really notice it. One thing quite evident to me about the town was the lack of variation in some of the residential buildings and some of them are repeated quite frequently.

Regional Views

There isn’t much of a trading centre to the town, a Motel, Gas station and eatery are the main outlets, mostly along one street. There are a couple of large ponds/fishing lakes, one of which has a wood burner of some kind and smoke rising from the chimney.  This can be used as another visual reference for runway 34.

Just on the edges of the town is the bus station with the ubiquitous yellow school buses. The Eatonville Raiders have quite a nice arena to  play in with running track and tennis courts nearby.

There is a large lake, Ohop lake nearby which helps as a fix on the airfield.  The water has many pontoons but no boats on the water which considering it is a landlocked lake, I found surprising.

Vegetation changes colour throughout the seasons as does the colour of the base textures, a lot of the trees turn golden brown in the fall and white in hard winter (January).

A new technology introduced with this scenery is SnowFlow, which changes the building textures within the high-resolution area in January when all around is white.
Roll mouse over to see the SnowFlow effect

The snow effect really does make a big difference to the realism, the building roofs have proper snow textures, so what? you may say, well, look at the buildings outside of the SnowFlow area and you will see they are the same as the other seasons and look out of place. The buildings inside the area look and feel very cold especially if it is snowing.

There are a few groups of people that are animated. Near the old CP Aviation hangar there are a few characters with varying mobility, there is a young lady walking a figure of 8 course, a man on a phone and another lady sat down moving her leg. The models are very well made, particularly the perambulating woman.

Near a chalet and Winnebago are a group of people having a conversation with hand gestures and head movement which makes you believe they are they are really having that chat. On the opposite side of the runway there are a couple on a veranda and a woman gyrating near a Ute-pickup truck.

Yes, that is a DeLorean!
Considering the layout of the airfield and the number of buildings I would say the amount of characters is just right. These new models are definitely looking a lot nicer than the older PeopleFlow characters, their outlines and textures seem to be much higher resolution and they move quite gracefully.

Night Textures
If you have the  FTX Night option set the houses and 3D street lights will illuminate. At dusk, looking from the airfield in a westerly direction, the town looks good with the lighting giving a great sense of depth and with a sunset behind.

Dusk at Swanson
The airfield is unlit, the runway has Medium Intensity Runway Lighting (MIRL) from dusk to dawn and Runway end identifier lights (REIL) which indicate the threshold, green in the foreground and red at the far point. I haven't tried to land there at night, especially on Rwy 16 where high trees are very close to the airfield, that's my next challenge!

This is a very detailed little area, it has all the Orbx tricks up its sleeve and a few more besides.

I cannot fault the presentation and the performance. My only (slight) disappointment is a lack of points of interest in the town and region to explore, but it serves as an excellent base to visit Mt Rainier and other small airfields in this series.

So this gets an overwhelming seal of approval from me and a Mutley's Hangar score of 9/10, well done guys.

Joe Lawford
Review machine Spec:
Core i7 Extreme 965 @ 3.6 Ghz | 12Gb Corsair DDR3 Ram |GTX580 Graphics |Windows 7 64bit

      System Requirements
  • Flight Simulator X (Acceleration or FSX SP2 required)
  • Windows XP / Vista / Windows7 with the latest Service Packs
  • Intel Core 2 Duo CPU (Core 2 Quad advised)
  • 2 Gb RAM (4 Gb recommended)
  • 512Mb graphic card (1Gb recommended)
  • 551Mb Download size
  • ~551Mb hard drive space