• Review: Orbx Tacoma Narrows

    Eventually, through much drooling, "oh my goodness's," and, "holy cow's," I made it to the gas pumps and Heli Track building, where a friend of mine actually works. Again, more impeccable modeling and exacting textures were to be found here. The fuel pump area is full of small details and there are two helicopters (a Bell 206 and a Robinson R44) parked in front. Along the north ramp, I was impressed to find custom modeled and appropriately N-numbered light singles and business jets parked on the tarmac. Some had vehicles parked nearby and one Cessna even had a 3D modeled person posed as though he were working on his engine! These types of details are easily overlooked, but serve to bring a sense of life and plausibility to the scenery.

    Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows     Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows

    Continuing north of the threshold of runway 17, I went looking for the tunnel built under the approach lights along Stone Drive NW, but was a little disappointed that it really wasn't modeled at all by the Orbx team. I believe this was a bit of a missed opportunity to truly put this scenery package over the top in terms of high fidelity, but I understand also how this could've been an insurmountable obstacle and deserving of more leniency on my part. The one consolation for me here was that there are depressions where the openings of the tunnel would be, and cars traveling along Stone Drive NW disappear and reappear in the appropriate places.

    Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows     Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows

    I resumed my virtual tour of the Orbx Tacoma Narrows Airport by moving over the runway and taxiway and really scrutinizing the pavement and grass textures, lines, and lettering on the taxiway. The detail of the pavement textures, as I've already touched on, is simply pristine and gives the impression that KTIW is a very well maintained airport (as it truly is). The grass texture mesh has the appearance that it is browning (which anyone familiar with the Pacific Northwest will understand is part and parcel for the summer months here). The 3D grass is beautifully modeled as well, but is patchy and gives the impression that whomever is mowing the lawn has done a terrible job. To be perfectly honest, I've never really liked 3D grass at custom designed X-Plane airports for this very reason. When I was creating custom scenery back in my misguided X-Plane 9 and 10 days, I initially dabbled in 3D grass for its patchy appearance and frame rate-killing propensity. Still, if you're going to have 3D grass at an X-Plane airport, the best looking ones I've seen come from the Orbx team.

    Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows     Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows

    Once satisfied with my examination of the runway, taxiway, and grassy areas of Orbx's Tacoma Narrows Airport, I returned my attention to the buildings and ramp area on the southern and mid point parts of the field. Here I found more expertly constructed and textured buildings and an airport that was alive with the lazy day-to-day routine of a relatively small American airport. The iconic blue PAVCO Flight Center building looks amazingly realistic, as does the US Customs building and The Hub.

    The Orbx team has also done a superb job with the modeling and proper placement of the trees surrounding the airport. The main parking lot adjacent to The Hub is nearly picture perfect in how it is landscaped with small to medium sized deciduous trees. These are not X-Plane's default trees, but, rather, are custom modeled and appropriately heightened. All the surrounding landscape and wooded areas surrounding the property are properly placed and really enhance the realism for the sim pilot.

    Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows     Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows

    Once I finally finished my virtual tour of Orbx's rendition of KTIW, I took to the air in my Piper Tomahawk and did several takeoffs and landings as well as numerous low level over flights of the airport to see how it blended in with the surrounding TrueEarth US Washington HD scenery that was already installed on my machine. I was exceedingly pleased to find that everything on the ground appeared absolutely seamless and I could not tell where the TrueEarth scenery ended and KTIW began.

    I tested KTIW during both the daytime and at night and I was surprised with how much I loved touring the airport at night. The lighting from the overhead lamps on hangars and the backlit AVFUEL sign looked incredibly realistic, and I loved that several of the windowed buildings lit up at night. Unlit areas of the airport are ominously cast in shadow and are only illuminated with the lights from an aircraft.

    Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows     Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows

    Flying in and around Orbx's KTIW Tacoma Narrows Airport reveals its biggest flaw (if it can be called that): it is very demanding on the graphical resources, especially with how I have my rendering settings configured on my modest iMac. I found that by reducing some of these settings and decreasing the atmospheric visibility, I was able to increase my frame rates some, but they were still relatively low. Sure, some of this comes from testing the package with a high fidelity aircraft, but overall, the impression that such gorgeous looking scenery comes at a cost was not lost on me.

    Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows     Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows

    In conclusion, Orbx's KTIW Tacoma Narrows Airport is another absolutely beautiful and incredibly realistic custom scenery package created by true masters of their craft. The details are all here in spades and bring a very enjoyable element of plausibility to an already excellent corner of the world in which to fly in X-Plane 11. If I'm completely honest with myself, this is the scenery package that I have been waiting for since I started flying in X-Plane about nine years ago. Attractively priced at $24.25 over at the Orbx web site, I believe that this scenery is easily worth every penny and not just because of my own personal experience with the real world airport. If anything, you should take my experience as a true testament to the degree of accuracy the Orbx team dedicates to their products. They absolutely nailed it with Tacoma Narrows! Don't hesitate, this scenery package is money well spent as long as your machine can handle the graphical demands inherent with a picture perfect scenery package. You will love it! I just can't guarantee you won't become an Orbx scenery addict like I have!

    Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows     Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows

    Shawn Weigelt

    Purchase Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrow

    Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows     Orbx - KTIW Tacoma Narrows

    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      Excellent review Shawn...this scenery is a must have!!

      Many thanks

    1. raymengel's Avatar
      raymengel -
      Thanks for the review and I hope that one day I will be able to add KTIW to my collection of Orbx scenery.

      BTW: As a teen during the 1960's I did most of my flight training out of Tacoma Industrial Airport via what was known then as "Tide Air". I received my Private & Commercial pilot's license along with my Instrument rating. After graduating from high school my first job was working for Tide Air at TIW. I sure enjoyed it.
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