Lukla For FS2004
By Kevin Glover (10 April 2008)
What is Lukla?
Lukla, which translates to 'place with many goats and sheep', is rather famous as being the second highest airport in the world, and an essential tool in starting many Everest expeditions. The area is famous for its culture, shrines, and villages. Flights flying into Lukla airport generally come from Kathmandu, a nearby Nepalese city. VNLK (Lukla's ICAO) is a short, highly sloped, 1500 foot concrete runway. If a Piper Cub could get up that high, Lukla is truly abarnstormer's dream. Of course, there's not a whole lot of barns up at that elevation, but the sheer thrill of barreling down that short, very bumpy strip must appeal to any pilot willing to fly through a building. At its small parking space, there is only room for about four aircraft.
Although the scenery is largely billed as being solely scenery for the airport, it's actually quite a bit more. The package covers scenery from the Mt. Everest base camp to Phaplu. I couldn't find a specific range in the manual, so this is a rough estimation for you. There's a lot of custom buildings; in fact, there isn't a single FSX building throughout the scenery. As well as custom buildings, the autogen for this area is Nepalese, and you can see the difference. Unfortunately, I did notice a lot of buildings partly buried into the land. Of course, this can be expected with a mountainous region, but it would probably be worth the work for Aerosoft to put a foundation of sorts under all the buildings. As well as Lukla, there are two more airports in the vicinity at about 12,000 feet. Another really excellent effect is the waterfalls. There is a swath of mist at the base of each fall leading up the canyon, and if you fly close to them, you can hear the water's sound. Small villages and the famous shrines extend far up the valley towards Mt. Everest.
The airport itself is...really quite stunning. Aerosoft is by and large the leader in specialized scenery like this. The airport is absolutely loaded with people, ferns, tents, shops, and absolutely lovely objects. The buildings look pleasantly like the pictures I've seen of Lukla; bright, colorful, and designed to attract the tourists who feed the area's economy. There are small weeds lining the runway, realistic landscaping with lots of stone walls bracing steep hills and slopes. The runway and tarmac itself are really nice, too. All of us have landed out before, and we know how bumpy it is when you go down hills and such. The Lukla runway is similar to this in the slopes and bumps; however, takeoff (but maybe not landing) is surprisingly smooth. I say landing isn't as it will take some practice before you don't cause at least one use of the airsickness bag. Turning in either of the two small parking 'pads' is tricky, as it's a rather absurd angle, but it's a welcome reprieve from the equally unpleasant slope of the runway. Frankly, you'll have a lot of trouble if you're not in a proper aircraft. The Twotter is basically Lukla's poster plane, and I would really recommend purchasing the Aerosoft Twin Otter for a proper aircraft for these altitudes.
To sum it up, Lukla is a great location for screen shots, double-dares, or those with death wishes. There's absolutely loads of photoreal and custom scenery (and polygons for that matter) yet it maintains a very pleasant impact on your performance. This pushes FS to new boundaries, and if you want a highly realistic experience, then Aerosoft Lukla is the airport for you. Documentation is simple and very adequate. It walks you through the basic stages of what you'll encounter at this rugged and exotic airport. Also, it goes through known issues (such as the camera being able to sink into the ground) and I found that faults to this scenery, few though they are, are mostly caused by the limitations on the FSX engine. If you want a place to push your skills (and nerves) to the limit, this is it. It's a great add-on, and finally, we can X out a decent portrayal of Lukla from our wishlist.
If you have questions about the product or comments on the review, feel free to contact me.