29Palms are a scenery design studio consisting of two people, Lars Pinkenburg and Martin Pahnev. The company is named after their first product "Twentynine Palms Airport" in California. That original development was never originally released but they came back to it and released it in late 2014.
You may have heard of these guys before, ever used FTX Southampton, FTX Sumburg, Skiathos X or Mykonos X? Well you’ve already used their products. 29Palms have done a lot of development work for both Aerosoft and Orbx. One of their latest projects has been working with Orbx on the upcoming FTX Germany region pack.
Samos is their third Greek Island to date. Both of the previous Greek Islands featured the complete island with many extra points of interest added to the default scenery. Samos is no different, Lars has put in seven months solid development to see this product to market.
Samos is a green island with mountains and one of the most beautiful islands in the eastern Aegean Sea. Samos is located only 1650m from Turkey separated by the Mycale Strait.
Samos is mostly mountainous, Kerkis, an extinct volcano at 1,433m and Ampelos with a peak of 1060m dominate the skyline. The island has three large bays, Vathi Bay, Marathokambos Bay, Tigani Bay, and many capes. The coast of Samos has a total length of about 159km and the island has an area of 472.48sq km.
Samos is the birthplace of the Greek philosopher and mathematician, Pythagoras. after whom the Pythagorean theorem is named, the philosopher, Epicurus, and the astronomer, Aristarchus of Samos, the first known individual to propose that the Earth revolves around the sun. The island has a rich history steeped in Greek mythology and played a signifcant role in culture and politics not only for the region of Ionia, but for the entire ancient Greece.
It is a favourite package holiday destination for western Europeans, and is sometimes chosen as a location to transfer to other Dodecanese islands like Patmos and Leros.
Samos International Airport, "Aristarchos of Samos" (IATA: SMI, ICAO: LGSM). In 1960, work started on the new airport, undertaken by the Air Force, and was completed in November 1962. Then on June 23 1963, the brand new airport was inaugurated.
The first type of aircraft serving the airport was a twin-engined Dakota which visited 3 times a week. In 1968 it was decided to expand and widen the existing runway to be able both to serve larger four-engine aircraft, and ensure the access to the island regardless of weather.
In terms of passengers, according to the Greek CAA, in 2015 there were a total of 400,150 people passing through the airport on 5378 commercial flights. In high season the airport opens from 06:00 to 21:45, there are no night flights.
|Samos Airport is well known for its challenging approaches. Classed as an approach categtory 3 airport it has non standard aids (such as a skewed PAPI), no approach radar, and an unusual approach pattern. Couple this with unpredictable local weather conditions and you have one exciting place to land.
Due to its location on the southern shores surrounded by rising high ground on three sides, the runway 09 approach is the preferred procedure. The approach to runway 27 is hampered by gusts and windshear from the Meltemi winds generated by the hill overlooking Pythagoreion, just east of the airport north abeam of the final approach to runway 27. Most airlines publish their own preferred approach, to the right you can see one such customised chart. Included with this package are a full set of charts and a very comprehensive overview of local procedures in the manual. Using your favourite weather generator you could try to recreate the local conditions for even more realism!
29Palms Samos is available from most popular online stores and direct from the 29Palms store. I sourced my version from Aerosoft who probably have the best download speeds, back up and support.
The download zip file sits on my hard drive at 696MB and at 1.1GB installed. The installation is fast and intuitive offering installation into FSX,FSX SE, P3D v1, v2 and v3. Your simulator root directory is automatically selected and as part of the installation process the scenery library is also updated without any intervention from the user.
Before running the sim for the first time you should run the configurator. The first screen offers a season switch, by default the global season is set to summer so a change here is required if you are flying in a different season or live in the southern hemisphere.
If you already have the configurator from a previous 29Palms product then Samos will appear in a new tab along with your previous purchases. Within this tab you set the airport specific options for animations, static objects and complexity. Also, and most importantly for FTX Global users, there is a compatibility patch you can download, this is a 378MB patch which is download and installed automatically from the 29Palms.de server.
LGSM - Samos scenery is made up from several elements such as mesh, landclass, vectors and photo scenery. The mesh, land class and vectors cover the entire island of 477.6 sq km (184.6 sq mi) as well as some outlying islands and a small part of the Turkish coast.
Photoscenery covers 90 sq km (19.3 sq mi) of the island @ 0.5m per pixel resolution, which due to its very high cost and licencing issues is limited to the area surrounding the airport. If you view the region from above you can see where the photoscenery ends and the default textures begin.
General - Lars and Martin bring with them a wealth of experience in custom design, and Samos is no exception. With information from over 1000 reference photos taken by Kyprianos Biris, the attention to detail is really first class. We are invited to look up close using an avatar as extra (optional) extended hardened platforms have been applied so that the avatar can walk up ramps and stairs to investigate objects and different views.
The scenery also benefits from mesh at a resolution of 2m. Some of it was hand-crafted to the smallest detail to achieve the accuracy required to display items like the trenches which run through the airport. A large proportion of the island is high ground and the subtlety of the elevation detail in the peaks and troughs well and truly stamp this product as very high quality.
Airport - The configurator allows us to populate the airport with many differing extra objects which raise the immersion to a higher level. The airport benefits from 3D grass, an animated windsock (which displays an accurate depiction of the wind direction - very necessary here), fuel tankers, baggage carts, air stairs and so much more aviation paraphernalia. The level of clutter feels right, as though it should be there and not just placed willy-nilly.
The terminal building is very well made. The real word terminal was last renovated at the turn of the century so quite rightly this model shows wear and tear, discolouration and staining, typical of a structure sun baked in the Greek islands. The design of the building isn't particularly attractive and has mostly straight lines and a blocky feel but 29 Palms' depiction looks totally accurate.
Examples of this aging can be seen most everywhere in the airport, from the tiling on the terminal roof to oil stains and rubber marks on the runway to the faded red and white stripes on the tall lighting posts. The realism is helped in P3D by the shadows which darken the textures as clouds pass by and with texture baking by the developers.
Land side we have more superb detail, the terminal building is pretty Spartan looking and lacking any character, so lots of attention has been paid to the other structures like shelters, low walls and fencing. The car parks are very well occupied with vehicles and painted realistic markings. There are a couple of animated cars and people (static and animated) which adds life to the area. This area also benefits from the use of SpeedTrees (P3D only) to add more motion.
Island - The most attention has been paid to the accuracy of the small villages and buildings on the approaches to the airport. Samos is recognised as a demanding airport to land at as the prevailing winds and proximity of high ground require a "stick and rudder" approach. The zero nine approach relies on visual references such as a white agricultural shed on the extended centre line and the little village of Mili which you fly toward until hitting the 240 VOR radial signalling your final turn right. You can find many videos of this approach both real and virtual on YouTube.
Nearby villages of Mili, Chora, Potokaki, Ireo, and Pythagoreio have nice collections of terracotta roofed buildings with the coastal towns benefitting from extra details such as piers and harbours. Pythagorion in particular has a beautiful harbour with a distinctive statue of Pythagoras, whom the town was named after. Unfortunately the statue is not modelled in 3D so you get a flat texture with the same image both sides.
On the hill overlooking the south eastern towns is an imposing wind farm populated with 9 wind turbines with moving rotors, the rotors are pointing into the prevailing wind, the Meltemi which as I mentioned earlier can cause unpredictable downdraft and turbulence on the approach to runway two seven.
The coastlines and beaches are very nicely drawn and a massive improvement on the default. The beach next to the airport however does look very washed out (as does a lot of the other photoscenery) in bright sunlight. This is partly a limitation, some would say "feature" of Prepar3D and its advanced shaders effect on the photo scenery textures. The amount of objects such as trees and buildings placed on top of photoscenery help to mitigate this problem. The beach is also the location of a few highly detailed hotels, they really do deserve a closer look with your favourite Avatar.
The other coastal towns away from the airport are not very highly detailed and in some cases, the town of Samos for example, the roads over-power the overall look of the town. I felt it would have been nice if more could have been done to make Samos town more attractive by modelling the harbour in more detail.
Many animations exist within the scenery, mostly around the airfield. I have already mentioned most of them but there are more, animated flags on the terminal, birds overflying the airfield, and boats to name a few. There are a couple of large ships cruising past in the bay. One of them, an oil tanker, has a landable helipad so if you are a confident rotor head then here's a moving target for you!When walking around the airport with an avatar or with your engine off there are sounds of the baggage trucks and busses always present, as are some bird noises and what appears to be a general sound of work going on all around.
Runway, approach and taxi lighting were all spot on with the intensity of the beams being easy on the eye. As far as I could tell the accuracy of the PAPIs (being skewed 5 DEG to the south) were correct, a couple of times on approach to zero nine the top two lights were red on one side and white on the other which seemed odd but (hopefully) intentional.
The 3D light poles on both the apron and the car park have volumetric rendering of light, we have seen this from 29Palms before and it does really make for a good effect. In the hotels on the approach to runway two seven the swimming pool lighting and the lighting around the buildings is superb.
Around the island we have other 3d lights sources (not on poles), red hazard beacons on the high ground surrounding the airport, and on top of the wind turbines. If you were looking for a stunning screen shot to take then take one at at dusk, just after all the lights have switched on, and you won't fail to get a great shot!
Generally, where there is a light source there is the complimentary light pattern on the ground, as we saw from the specs above, you get a realistic rendition of light sources on all 3D objects and ground by using a "baked lighting" effect.
I could just sum it up in two words "first class" but that wouldn't do justice to the time and attention to detail 29Palms have put into creating the objects. I gave an example above of the trenches above which run through the airfield. Not only to they require a intricate flattens, they also need 3d modelling to slope the sides of the trench.
Every object in the vicinity of the airport has been given similar attention to detail.
There are 2 main user manuals provided, both in English and German. The first 16 page document is the main user manual which offers general and technical information, along with an outline of approach and departure procedures used in the real world. Secondly a manual dedicated to the set up and use of the Scenery Configurator which explains the effects of switching on certain graphical options .
Also suplied are:
Range of SIDs (x3) and STAR charts;
Samos approaches screenshot;
Aerodrome obstacle chart (AOC);
Instrument approach harts (IAC) (x2); and
VFR approach charts.
All credit to 29Palms, my aging PC (see spec below) had no problems keeping up the 31 FPS I have it pegged at. I don’t run every graphical setting at maximum but I do have all the special effects switched on as well as HDR lighting and shadows. It was good not to have to worry about stutters or slow frame rates.
I don’t tweak the Prepar3D.cfg file I let P3D take care of things and it works for me. Of course, this is system dependent and paying heed to the relevant sections in the User Manual should avoid any disappointment and provide optimum performance for your particular system.
This is a top quality product. All the latest techniques have been used and the results are superb. At €24.15 or the equivalent on currency cross rates, that’s not a bad price to pay for this quality and for a complete island. I would class this product as good value for money.
29Palms Samos is a nice addition to their Greek island series. It offers a challenging approach for airliners and scenic adventures for GA aircraft, including helicopters. Quality and performance are the watch words here and if this is an island you wish to stop over or explore then, in my opinion, you won't find a better rendition.