FTX AU YCNK Cessnock Airport
For FSX Published by Orbx Systems
Reviewed by Joe (“Mutley”) Lawford
January 2010


The third in my mini-series of reviews of Orbx System's sceneries is YCNK Cessnock Airport.  To a "Pommie" like myself, the name Cessnock didn't ring any bells so I wondered what could be so special about this place?   It didn't take much investigation both on the net and by looking at the airfield signs that Cessnock is the gateway to the Hunter Valley, now you are talking my language!  Vineyards, loads of them in the oldest wine-growing region in Australia.

For seasoned FTX users, you probably know that this airport falls within the AU Gold region of the subtropical east. It is quite close to 2 other FTX airports, YWVA Warnervale and YPEC Aeropelican, all within 30 minutes of Cessnock in GA aircraft so you can really get immersed in this scenery from the beginning to the end of your flight.

The scenery includes 120sq km 60cm photo-real textures that seamlessly blends in with the AU Gold region pack.  This includes the township of Cessnock to the south. If you roll your mouse over the picture below you can see the effect these textures have.

Airport history
Cessnock airport (Elev 211ft - 64m) was built out of necessity by the Royal Australian Air Force in 1942 as part of a network of aerodromes throughout New South Wales.  Then being known as RAAF station Pokolbin, it originally had 2 x 5000ft (1500m), 160ft (49m) wide, parallel runways but now only one remains, 17/35, which is officially listed as 3600 x 60ft (1097 x 18 meters).

There are no precision approach facilities here so a true GA airfield, of course GPS will direct you here but you have to line her up and land!

The airport is a popular flight training centre being home to the Hunter Valley Aviation training school, so expect a lot of circuit work and touch and goes happening even if it isn't liked by the locals!  Other notable local aviation activity are ultra-light, helicopter and hot air balloon scenery flights.

So we are looking at a true busy rural airfield at the centre of the community. 

The Orbx touch
I have grown accustomed to the quality and attention to detail from Orbx, there always appears to be an innovation in every release so let look at the advertised features.

FTX AU YCNK Cessnock was the first SP3 certified airfield which means you are going to get better ground textures thanks to the FTX Aero tool (Detail bump mapping, Runway 18 textures taxiway markings and Texture_Max_Load tool).  Also, sound enhancements, HD quality textures on airfield buildings and 15cm textures within the airfield boundaries. 

Like other SP3 airfields the Control Panel is included where you can adjust the complexity settings whilst seeing any FPS cost.  For more details on both the Aero tool and control panel have a peek at my Tamworth review.  

Delivery & Installation
My copy came from the flightSim Store by download, FSS remain the biggest distributor of this product.  FSS also offer the airport on a DVD for those that prefer a hard copy.

As with all detailed simulations this scenery will demand a chunk of your HD but the download is quite modest by current day standards, only weighing in at only 508Mb. This will result in a disc cost of about the same amount.

Be aware that this product requires Microsoft .NET Framework v2.0 to be installed.  A lot of people assume that if they have 3.5 installed that will do but this is not the case. If you do not have v2.0 installed then it can be obtained from Microsoft   The included "Readme" advises "it is included on this disk in the dotnet folder" Not the case, I could not find it but had it already installed (You probably have too).

Once installed and after a quick test flight, it is always advisable to check you have your display options set for optimum performance by checking out suggestions in the manual.  The manual will explain quite clearly the best combination of display settings as well as introducing the sound options along with a map of where the hotspots are.  As ever it is not a one for all solution so you may have to do some experimentation.

The level of detail will depend on your willingness to tweak the settings but it's well worth it.
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The airport and its environs.
There are two main airport scenery areas either side of the runway, by car they would be accessed by different roads but by air the taxiways connect the two. The main airport terminal area is accessed off the main road.  There are some nicely detailed signs for both the airport and its facilities. In the background you can hear the traffic passing by, this is thanks to a new innovation in FTX airfields of sound hot-spots where various audio samples are scattered around the airfield so you will hear things like a Kookaburra in the trees or a Cessna starting up on the apron.

Passing a large cafe and information centre you arrive at the apron, here, there is another sound hotspot of cars parking.  You are surrounded by HD imagery, including the ground textures if you have set them up in Aero.  These are very noticeable in the signs on the apron fence and the Balloon Aloft lorry.   Once onto the apron you get industrial manufacturing noises from the nicely modelled warehouse on the left.

Walking past the low-key terminal on the right you pass what looks to be semi-residential buildings on the other side of the fence and an aviation company based in surroundings you would want to work in!  In front or the building and the low barbed-wire fence is the main parking area for Hunter Valley Aviation.  Further on is the fuel farm and a very nicely detailed, animated windsock which has a brother at the other end of the airfield.

Passing across the threshold of runway 17 to the hangars on the other side of the airfield the taxiway here is reminiscent of an old runway, so it is possible it could be that other WWII parallel runway but I am only guessing.   More bird noises here and who is he "laughing" at!  There is a large tarmac apron home to a few hangars and what looks almost to be an aero club with a ranch fence and transmitter on top of the building.  Scattered around there are some static aircraft with at least one without its wings.  Further along are 8 more hangars accessed by a grass taxiway.

At the northernmost end of the taxiway is an industrial area with a couple of maintenance hangars and vintage aviation business. Most of the taxiway borders and grassed areas have the Orbx "trademark" 3D wild grass adding that extra dimension at ground level.

On the western side beyond the fence are grape vines introducing the winery theme nicely. Nearby are many bespoke modelled trees and in the distance a high mountainous region just outside the boundary of this scenery.  Floating in the near and far distance are balloons, these are static so be careful at night.

Is it real or is it FTX?
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From here on in we take to the air.  Be aware of those balloons, once you have a fix on them you will be OK as they do not drift, there is one close by but it will not affect your approach or take off from the field.  There are pretty specific rules about where you can go, there is noise abatement procedures in place as well.

The runway runs roughly north / south. Centreline, edge and threshold lighting is about all you get with an airfield of this class, the runway texture is suitably worn looking taking advantage of the bump-mapping if enabled.

To the south I passed a superbly detailed golf course with many lakes, distinctive grey/white buildings and inter-joining roads, it looks like a nice place to visit.  Carrying on the extended runway course I came across the many wine houses and their vineyards.   There are some very distinctive shaped buildings which, if you check with Google Earth actually exists in those locations.  In fact this is not an unfair comparison, you will be blown away by how accurate it is (With a little artistic licence!) The specifications state that every tree and house plus rivers are annotated.

The detailing of the roads, lamp posts and buildings is just phenomenal. From high up you can see a patchwork of green, gold and subtle red colours reaching into the distance so there's no mistake what this region is famous for. The airfield with it's adjoining vineyard is quite well camouflaged from the air so is not that easy to find unless you know the area have a GPS or good radio nav skills.

So after flying over the vineyards and ranches we turn north towards the township of Cessnock.  There are hundreds if not thousands of small domestic households with multi-coloured roofs that emanate from the town centre.  The roads and roundabouts (Circles) can be clearly seen from the air.  The main road is lined with familiar and famous named traders and detail such as graffiti can be seen on the rear of the premises. Also included are the big warehouse type retail outlets and a showground.

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Apron detail
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Terminal area
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GA hangars and businesses
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Down-town Cessnock
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Beautiful vineyards everywhere
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Sun up over Cessnock

The township is quite near the southern boundary of the airport pack but luckily for me AU Gold takes over to well past the horizon!  There are many more vistas to discover, every time you go flying you notice something new.

Night lighting
In the rural areas, 3D points of light emanate from remote households and vineyards. Some settlements, where a collection of buildings form a pattern of light, come in useful for navigation and familiarisation.  The street lights are less common until you reach the main urban areas were you would expect to see them and you won't be disappointed.  Most main roads are lined with street lamps.  The showground has a bright white oval shaped ring of lights which makes a great point of reference from the distance. You can see the affect of the night lighting by rolling your mouse over the image below.

Cutting corners a bit here but the same rules apply here as it does with the Tamworth scenery. Take note of the hints and tips in the manual, they do work. I believe I got slightly better performance here then in Tamworth, with my set up pegged at 24FPS (Using FPS Limiter) my flights were smooth and pleasurable.

The high frame rate is quite (pleasantly) surprising given the detail, Orbx have taken care to produce very efficient textures.

You will probably want to hang around Cessnock for a long while as there is so much to discover.

Superbly crafted scenery ideal for low and slow flying, a high quality and high performance product that will keep you going back for more, it doesn't get much better than that!
My score? another 9/10 for John and the team and very well deserved.

/Joe Lawford

          System Requirements
  • Flight Simulator X (Acceleration or FSX SP2 required)
  • Windows XP / Vista / Windows7 with the latest Service Packs
  • FTX AU Gold region pack recommended for best performance