• Review: Orbx Orcas Island

    Review: Orbx Orcas Island

    By Shawn Weigelt

    Orbx - KORS Orcas Island Airport     Orbx - KORS Orcas Island Airport

    We all have our favorite airports, right? Whether it be a favorite launching point or a favorite destination, everyone in the flight simming community has those places where the love to fly. For me, one of my absolute favorite locales for cruising the X-Plane 11 world in a light general aviation airplane is Washington's scenic San Juan Islands. Located smack dab between the southern tip of British Columbia's Vancouver Island and Washington's northernmost coast line, the rugged San Juans are a favorite destination among locals to escape the rat race and live the, "island life", either on vacation or permanently. Residents love the islands for the quaint, small town, lifestyle they offer, and tourists love them for their rugged natural beauty and abundant recreational opportunities. Only accessible by boat or airplane, numerous small airports are scattered throughout the San Juans, providing pilots with a multitude of options for accessing nearly all of the islands. The most active airport of these is KFHR Friday Harbor Airport, with KORS Orcas Island Airport being a close second.

    Orbx - KORS Orcas Island Airport     Orbx - KORS Orcas Island Airport

    That brings us to the topic of this review, the Orbx rendition of one of Washington's shining jewels of general aviation, and an airport that embodies the "island life" character of the San Juans, Orcas Island Airport. Is this somewhat older scenery package ported over for the current X-Plane 11 platform still a relevant purchase for the modern flight simmer, and how does it compare with Orbx's more recent offerings? Let's find out.

    This may come as a shock to some of you, but while I have been a Washington resident for the past 10 years, I have never set foot on any of the San Juan Islands. Believe me, it is on my "short list" of locales in the state I would like to visit, but my busy schedule hasn't yet permitted me to get there. I would like to mention that I have been extremely close to the islands (namely San Juan and Lopez) on a whale watching tour out of nearby Anacortes, and immediately found myself enchanted with them. Having grown up on the opposite coast in the great state of Maine, Washington's San Juan Islands share a similar rugged and rocky coastline to that of my home state.

    Orbx - KORS Orcas Island Airport     Orbx - KORS Orcas Island Airport

    Ever since I started my flight simulation journey back in the heady days of X-Plane 9, I have enjoyed launching from either KTIW Tacoma Narrows or other western Washington airports making the San Juans my destination. I loved flying in and around the islands so much, that by the time I was creating my own World Editor scenery packages in X-Plane 9 and 10, I decided to make my own rendition of Lopez Island Airport (S31) for version 10. Other, more skilled scenery designers had already done great freeware renditions of Friday Harbor and Orcas Island, so Lopez presented a great opportunity to help "flesh out" the region.

    Back in my scenery creating days I was always impressed with companies on the FSX side of the "aisle" such as Orbx, and drew a lot of my inspiration and attention to detail from them. I spent way too much time on the Orbx web site pouring over screen shots and pining for the day when their products would be available to flight simmers in the X-Plane world. Creating scenery can be hard work and the use of the handy World Editor software was fun but hardly advanced enough for the lofty creative aspirations I had in mind. I suppose I could've ventured down the rabbit hole and tried to learn more advanced 3D modeling software such as Sketchup, for example, but the lack of time and patience were definitely working against me. Ultimately, it was my increasingly critical attitude toward my own work and the belief that whatever I created wouldn't be "good enough" that made me step away from scenery creation altogether. Though I desperately wanted my work to rise to Orbx levels of detail, I decided to direct my creative juices toward the review writing process instead, and hope that one day, I could be reviewing Orbx caliber scenery for X-Plane!

    Orbx - KORS Orcas Island Airport     Orbx - KORS Orcas Island Airport

    I guess you could say that my wishes have finally come true now that I'm writing a review for Orbx's Orcas Island Airport for X-Plane 11! That realization finally sunk in for me recently, as I took a flight from the outstanding Orbx Anacortes Airport to Orcas Island in my trusty Just Flight Piper Tomahawk. As the airport began to materialize in the distance, I began to get really excited for what awaited me on the ground. Though I was flying under no wind, standard day conditions, I decided to make my approach over the water from the north for runway 16. This is realistic since, in the real world under calm wind conditions, runway 16 is preferred for noise abatement purposes. I'd always greatly enjoyed this approach back when I was using versions 9 and 10, but seeing it from this angle as built by the Orbx team, especially with the adjacent pleasure craft marina, gave me chills up my spine. I was really doing it! I was flying in X-Plane to one of Orbx's oldest and most legendary airports!

    Orbx - KORS Orcas Island Airport     Orbx - KORS Orcas Island Airport

    I intentionally landed a little long in my beloved Tomahawk and rolled out all the way to the 34 end of the runway before pulling up in front of little beige terminal building to park and shut down. At this point I tapped the "C" key on my keyboard and began my virtual "hover tour" of Orcas Island Airport in earnest.


    1 Comment
    1. dancowan's Avatar
      dancowan -
      That's where I picked up my '41 Culver Cadet back in 1987. Bought it from Doug McTavish, who worked in the San Juan Airlines office there.
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