Gift Guide: Swanson Airport
By Bill Stack
Screen shots by Orbx
Swanson Airport (2W3) is a small general aviation airport one mile east of the Town of Eatonville, Washington, U.S.A. Runways 16/34 are 2,990 feet (911 meters) long and 36 feet (11 meters) wide. Elevation is 843 feet (257 meters). Twelve aircraft were permanently based there as of 2011, and it averaged 115 flight operations weekly for the 12-month period ending 31 May 2011. It is owned and operated by the Town of Eatonville.
Because the airport has no air traffic control, pilots rely on CTAF (common traffic advisory frequency). Night operations are enabled by MIRL (medium intensity runway lights). They are white along each side. At each end, they emit red toward the runway to indicate its end and green outward to indicate the landing threshold. Having no published instrument procedures, no instrument flights are allowed to depart or land.
Eatonville is a rural community of approximately 2,775 residents about 60 miles south of Seattle. It is about 25 NM west of Mount Rainier (an inactive volcano), and about 45 NM north of the famous Mount Saint Helens (an active volcano that literally blew up in 1980). Its economy relies on tourism to those volcanoes and to the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. "Nestled among the foothills of beautiful Mt. Rainier," the city's website says, "Eatonville enjoys a small town charm and distinctive natural beauty."
Eatonville's climate is relatively mild for its latitude. Rainfall is slightly above the United States average (39 inches versus 36 inches), and snowfall is below the U.S. average (4 inches versus 25 inches). January high average temperature is below the U.S. average (78 versus 87), while January low average temperature is higher than the U.S. average (33 versus 20).
Major features named by Orbx in its product description fall into these categories:
- Fully custom modeled airport and houses
- Large photoreal coverage including Lake Ohop
- Entire town of Eatonville is modeled
- Expert 5 seasons color matched imagery
- SnowFlow tech on buildings in winter
- Custom modeled static aircraft
- Custom general aviation AI traffic movements
- Ground imagery at 60cm and 15cm per pixel
- FSX Gmax poly runway, aprons and lights
Although named for the airport, Orbx's Swanson Airport scenery includes much of the area around the airport, including realistic details of Eatonville, Lake Ohop, and the surrounding countryside. Schools, churches, motels, gas stations, trailer parks, and farm houses are realistically represented. Even the municipal trash incinerator, which is among photos I found on the Internet, is shown in Orbx's scenery. I found realistic buildings throughout the scenery area and around the airport, in the town, and in the countryside. The town representation provides realistic landmarks when flying airport circuits, and outlying structures such as water towers and bridges provide realistic landmarks for visually navigating to the airport. Orbx says its scenery is based on actual photos taken onsite.
The light general aviation aircraft that I observed taking off, going around, and landing at Swanson are part of the scenery package.