• Aerosoft's Mega Airport London Heathrow

    Aerosoft's Mega Airport London-Heathrow

    By Bill Stack (11 August 2009)


    Screen shots by Aerosoft



    London Heathrow International Airport (EGLL) is the largest commercial airport in the United Kingdom and the European Union, the fourth busiest commercial airport in the world, and the busiest international airport in the world. Located about 11 miles (22 kilometers) west of London proper, it has two parallel runways running east-west. An old diagonal runway is used only as a taxiway. There are six passenger terminals (5A and 5B are separate buildings), a large cargo terminal, and a large maintenance facility, plus many various support buildings and facilities.

    Aerosoft has released a scenery of this huge and busy airport for FS2004 and FSX. Aerosoft applies "mega" to "the biggest and most important airports of a country." This scenery itself is not called "mega," although it qualifies as such because of the extent of enhancements in number of items and space covered. Aerosoft made this scenery because they believe there is a demand for it and that it will sell.

    Based in Germany with offices in several other countries, Aerosoft creates addons for Microsoft Flight Simulator and Train Simulator. Next to this development department, marketing and sales departments handle the sales of products that Aerosoft does not create internally. About 70 such products are distributed annually through these two channels. Lately Aerosoft started to create its own simulators.

    Both the FS2004 and FSX versions of this Heathrow scenery are available in this package. I reviewed the FSX version.



    Aerosoft

    FSX

    London Heathrow Aerial Photo
    Screen shots by Bill Stack




    Major Features

    This scenery package is conveniently available for instant downloading from the Flight Sim Pilot Shop.

    Installation is easy. The installation program installs all needed files into the correct folders and activates the Heathrow scenery.

    Features of this scenery include:

    • Airport layout based on official maps
    • New Terminal 5 buildings and taxiways,
    • Hundreds of airport signs and runway details
    • AI-traffic compatible
    • Every possible gate contained in the AFCAD file*
    • Gates assigned to specific airlines
    • Rebuilt docking-guidance systems

    * AFCAD is the program within the flight simulator that stores and controls airport information for the simulator.



    The sensation of being at a real airport is genuine.

    Screen shots by Bill Stack





    AeroSoft

    FSX
    Terminals 1 and 2


    AeroSoft

    FSX
    Terminal 3 and Control Tower


    AeroSoft

    FSX
    Terminal 4


    AeroSoft

    FSX
    Terminals 5B (left) and 5A (right)

    Extent of coverage is impressive
    Screen shots by Bill Stack




    Nice Features

    • Based on real-world photos and charts of Heathrow International Airport that I found on the Internet, this scenery is remarkably realistic in its scope, features, detail, and accuracy.

    • Enhancements span the entire airport from corner to corner.

    • Many more buildings are present in this scenery than in FSX or FS2004, such as terminals, hangars, and control towers, and they are very realistic. This realism is obvious from the comparative aerial shots of the overall airport and the individual comparative shots.

    • Many jetways are present.

    • Many airport objects are included, such as baggage carts, blast fences, storage buildings, and fuel tanks.

    • Ground textures such as runways, taxiways, and lawns are enhanced.

    • The HSBC bank logos on jetways are realistic &#8212 they're plainly visible in real airport photos.

    • Hangar doors and fence gates of the British Airways maintenance hangar can be opened and closed.

    • A mirror guidance system helps simulation pilots know when to stop their aircraft at gates. "Please move forward to the right parking position until you see your nose wheel in the mirror," Aerosoft's manual says.

    • The static aircraft that's boxy, all green, and on stilts represents defunct aircraft that airport fire fighters use for training, Aerosoft said.

    • Aerosoft says its version of Heathrow has "about half a million more polygons" than the default FSX Heathrow scenery.

    • Frame rates are barely affected by the numerous objects included with this scenery. They are about the same in Aerosoft and FSX versions of this crowded airport.

    • To optimize the frame rates, developers reduced visibility of some objects and made others with as few surfaces as possible. "Sometimes - depending upon the angle - as you come closer, a building or airplane appears very suddenly. This is normal and is done so to increase the performance," their manual says. Static aircraft are low-polygon models to minimize their effects on frame rates.

    • A manual in German and English is available for separate downloading from the Flight Sim Pilot Shop.

    • A link for free United Kingdom airport charts from the National Air Traffic Service is provided on the FS Pilot Shop web page.




    AeroSoft

    FSX
    Terminal, Pier 4A


    AeroSoft

    FSX
    Terminal 3, Pier 7


    AeroSoft

    FSX
    Terminal 3 Rooftops

    Degree of accuracy is remarkable.
    Screen shots by Bill Stack




    Comparative Screen Shots

    My comparative screen shots were made as follows:

    • With Aerosoft's London Heathrow scenery activated, I slewed to suitable "photo spots" and snapped various screen shots.

    • Activating and deactivating this scenery is time consuming, so I made all the Aerosoft shots first, with position data shown at the top.

    • With Aerosoft's London Heathrow scenery deactivated, I slewed to the same "photo spots," using the same position data shown at the top of the corresponding set of screen shots, and snapped screen shots of the default FSX scenery.

    As a result of this process, each pair of screen shots is made from exactly the same position, altitude, and heading. Apparent differences in viewpoints result from differences in the sceneries themselves.



    AeroSoft

    FSX
    Maintenance Facility


    AeroSoft

    FSX
    Cargo Terminal


    AeroSoft

    FSX
    Miscellaneous Support Facilities on Heathrow's Northern Edge


    AeroSoft

    FSX
    Runway Textures


    AeroSoft

    FSX
    Signage

    Screen shots by Bill Stack





    A manual in German and English is available for downloading from the Flight Sim Pilot Shop.

    Screen shots by Bill Stack





    AeroSoft

    FSX

    AeroSoft

    FSX

    AeroSoft

    FSX

    AeroSoft

    FSX

    Night Effects
    Screen shots by Bill Stack




    Issues

    • This scenery is large and for people with a slow connection may take a while to download, install, and activate. This is to be expected for such complex and comprehensive scenery, however.

    • The included manual does not recommend optimal display settings, but does include help on the more problematic areas. The scenery requires nothing special in the way of settings.

    • Neither the text files nor the manual address the problem with aircraft shawdowing and AI traffic. "The calls to the shadow draw commands make the whole object invisible," Aerosoft said in response to my question. The text files say there are no known issues, but Aerosoft says the effect of aircraft shawdowing on AI traffic is "a well known problem with FSX." Aerosoft offers a free patch on its website.

    • The overwhelming green lights and the lack of blue lights on the taxiways at night drew my attention. Aerosoft showed me actual photos in which the green centerline lights were dominant and the blue edge lights barely visible or apparently not present.




    This "incomplete" aircraft represents those used by airport fire departments for training.



    Summary

    Aerosoft's Mega Heathrow International Airport scenery is like watching a good movie over and over again. Every time I examine it, I find features I hadn't seen before. It's truly awesome in its abundance, detail, features, and realism. When taxiing around this airport, there's a genuine sense of actually being at Heathrow, which is missing at a lot of simulated airports. Yet the frame rates are about the same as in the default FSX scenery. That's because developers considered their effects on frame rates, which is welcome and appreciated. Users would benefit more, however, if recommended display settings were provided in the manual and/or the "read me" text files.

    A lot of planning, research, and construction obviously went into this scenery and manual. Aerosoft said two developers spent about half a year making this scenery. The results are outstanding.

    For any flight simmer who wants to feel as though he's actually taxiing around Heathrow, this scenery is ideal. And it's well worth the price for any buyer.


    Bill Stack



    Learn More About Aerosoft's Mega London Heathrow Scenery for FSX and FS2004



    Bill Stack is author of several books about flight simulation, a regular author in flight-sim magazines, and a contributor to Flight Sim Com. His website is www.topskills.com


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