• Review: Alderney Airport And Island For X-Plane 11

    EGJA - Alderney Airport And Island

    Publisher: Boundless Simulatinos

    Review Author:
    Andrew Parish

    Suggested Price:
    $24.99

    Buy Here

    Alderney...

    The island of Alderney is the northernmost and third largest of the Channel Islands, an archipelago in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. I knew before embarking on this review that the islands are steeped in history, but my obligatory 'pre-review research' turned up some surprising information.

    Its unique location, between the French Normandy coast and the UK mainland, has shaped Alderney's history. A 4,000-year-old burial chamber and Bronze Age artifacts found on the island show that it was occupied by Neolithic man and its occupation by the Romans is evidenced through a small fort which was built in the late 300s, and the recent discovery of a nearby Roman settlement.

    All the Channel Islands were annexed into the Duchy of Normandy in 933 but in 1204, when mainland Normandy was incorporated into the kingdom of France, the islands remained loyal to the English monarch. Whilst the islands are not part of the United Kingdom, they are dependent territories of the English Crown, and the current UK monarch - Queen Elizabeth II - is the present Duke of Normandy, a title that can be traced back to the year 911 AD, and which was once held by William the Conqueror!

    Boundless Simulations - Alderney for X-Plane
    Figure 1 - Boundless Alderney - from above

    Henry VIII was responsible for construction of a fortification on Alderney towards the end of his reign in 1546, but it was unfinished when work was stopped by Queen Mary in 1554 and the garrison was converted into a private residence. The island was heavily fortified by the British in the 1850s to deter attacks on the expansion to the island's harbor from France; works which had been commissioned in response to an earlier extension of the harbor and new fortifications at Cherbourg. In this short period, at least ten forts were built, including a new Fort Essex which replaced Henry VIII's original fortification which was largely demolished. These new defensive installations became redundant however when the French and British started to fight alongside each other in the Crimean War. In the Second World War, German forces, arriving in 1940 on an island which had been deserted as the residents had been evacuated, also built their own fortifications and added to existing ones as part of Hitler's Atlantic Wall. This collection of fortifications makes the 8 km2 of Alderney one of the most heavily fortified places in the world.

    The capital of Alderney, St. Anne, is today home to around 80% of the island's 2,400 residents. The town can be traced back to the 15th century and today hosts several unique buildings, including the St. Anne church, the clock tower and the museum, all of which Boundless lists as featuring in the package.

    The airport on Alderney was built in 1935 and became the first operational airport in the Channel Islands the following year. The terminal building didn't open until 1968 however, as the number of routes operating to and from the airport grew, peaking in the late 80's. Passenger numbers have been in a steady decline for many years now though, and the only airline with a scheduled service to Alderney is the loss-making Aurigny (which is the French name for Alderney) which, at the time of writing, was operating nine flights a week to (and from) the nearby Guernsey using aircraft from its Dornier 228 fleet. A second airline, Air Alderney, which owns a couple of Brittan-Norman BN-2 Islanders, is reportedly planning to commence operations between Alderney and Guernsey, Jersey and Shoreham, but no firm date appears to have been put on a start of those services.

    All of this points to a rich and varied environment, and I can't wait to find out how Boundless has managed to capture all of these elements into its Alderney scenery package.

    Installation

    The 890 MB installation package provided to me contained two directories, one containing the scenery package, and the other an optional custom mesh for the island. Treading a well-worn scenery installation process, all that was required to install the scenery was to copy the folders into X-Plane's 'Custom Scenery' folder, and the unpacked files are using around 1.9 GB of disk space. The default names that the folders have force X-Plane's default scenery ordering algorithm to order them correctly for normal usage with no manual intervention.

    Boundless doesn't suggest a minimum spec that I can find for the scenery package. The system that was used to generate the images in this review has an i7 processor, 32 GB RAM and an nVidia 2080 Super graphics card. X-Plane was running comfortably with Vulkan enabled and no third-party add-ins enabled.

    A Custom Mesh

    As with other Boundless scenery packages, their Alderney package includes an optional custom mesh, the use of which is recommended by Boundless.

    I'll admit to being a fan of the idea of including a custom mesh with an airport or scenery package of this size, and I applaud Boundless for it. There's nothing quite as disappointing as looking for your favourite geographical feature at a given airport, or in this case small island, whether it be a characteristic hump in a runway or a particularly steep incline, only to find that they've been flattened or smoothed to an unrecognisable nothing when you fire up your simulator.

    Unfortunately, a feature of the X-Plane scenery system means that mesh modifications may have undesired side-effects. The mesh provided in this package covers not only Alderney, but all the Channel Islands and this is where the idea breaks down. A cursory inspection of the other Channel Islands when the Boundless custom Alderney mesh is being used suggests that the modifications have been made to the default X-Plane scenery. As such, if you've installed your own mesh in place of the default for any of the other islands, then you're going to need to make a choice as to which you use. I've tried to capture the differences between different meshes in the three pictures below; the most obvious difference can be seen under the front left-hand corner of the building in the centre of the images:

    Boundless Simulations - Alderney for X-Plane
    Figure 2 - Looking towards the airport from Val du Saou with the default X-Plane mesh

    Boundless Simulations - Alderney for X-Plane
    Figure 3 - Looking towards the airport from Val du Saou with AlPilot's HD4 mesh

    Boundless Simulations - Alderney for X-Plane
    Figure 4 - Looking towards the airport from Val du Saou with the Boundless custom mesh

    This isn't a problem that's unique to Alderney or to Boundless, but when vendors headline a custom mesh, it's important to understand the possible wider implications.

    In the case of Alderney, a geographical convenience means that the French mainland isn't affected by this limitation. X-Plane scenery is specified in files that cover whole degrees of latitude and longitude, and the Channel Islands fit nicely into the 'square' that sits with its bottom left corner at 49 degrees north and 3 degrees west with no part of France encroaching into it. The upshot of this is that any mesh compromise is only going to affect the Channel Islands.

    Tags: alderney, egja

    1 Comment
    1. clankilp's Avatar
      clankilp -
      I've had this scenery for a couple months now and have visited a few times.

      All in all I really like it as I mainly bought it as a somewhat fitting place from which to operate the FIS P-38 Lightning.

      In all honesty I never picked off the (now obvious) errors you brought to light. Perhaps if I had gotten around to helicoptering around a bit, i would've...

      my main nit-pick for the scenery is that the orthophoto is so detailed that missing buildings are blatantly apparent (particularly those somewhat separated from town). A fair sprinkling of even simple buildings would go a long way to helping that out.

      Other than that, though, I truly enjoy visiting the island. Though my use case is somewhat unconventional, I consider it money well spent.
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