Commercial FSX Scenery Review
Aerosoft Antarctica X
|Description:||Real presentation of the Antarctica Continent|
|Reviewed by:||Tércio Sampaio|
|Published:||May 24th, 2012|
Computer / Software Specifications
|Computer System:||- Intel i7 920 2.4GHz
- 6 GB RAM
- ATI/AMD Radeon HD6970 2GB
- TM Hotas Cougar + TM WCS + CH TQ + Track IR
|Software:||- Windows 7 Ultimate x64
- Flight Simulator X SP2
Antarctica is a big continent, located at the south pole and in many ways is a very exotic place. This continent is 1.3 times larger than Europe but is the only continent that does not have paved roads, runways, rivers or trees. This geographic region has practically 6 months of continuous darkness and temperatures that can go as low as -90ºC/-130F . So, its probably one of the most challenging environments to fly in the world.
Sadly, Antarctica is a region of many air accidents, including one of the biggest air accident in the aviation history, which was Air New Zealand Flight 901. So, flying here is for certain a big challenge. The weather here has many strong winds, a great deal of bad visibility and always ice and snow.
All this contributes to special procedures that are not common in other parts of the world. One of these procedures, for example, is the worry of the pilot to cool down the skis of aircraft after landing. This is necessary to avoid the aircraft being stuck on the ground because the hot skis (from the friction) will melt the ice below, hence freezing the aircraft to the ground.
Common aircrafts in this area are the Ilyushin Il-76TD, DHC-6 Twin Otter, C-130 Hercules and the Basler BT-67. The Basler BT-67 is in fact a converted Douglas DC-3 with the well known Pratt and Whitney PT6A engines. These aircrafts have STOL (Short TakeOff and Landing) capabilities and this characteristic is usually required in almost all airfields in this continent.
Anyway, there now exist larger aircraft flying over Antarctica that make tourist sightseeing flights. There is a commercial airline company that uses the Boeing B747 and the new Airbus A380 for these kind of flights.
In Antarctica, the costs of fuel and maintenance are high. Sometimes, to reduce the total cost of the trip, some airliners decide to carry fuel for the return with them.
Many times, if an aircraft was severely damaged, it would be left on Antarctica because the recovery costs are too high.
Another aviation issue in Antarctica is the absence of a standard ATC (Air Traffic Controller) and the non existence of any Air Traffic Radar. To make things worse, and as a consequence of vast sun radiation and solar storms, quite often the radio does not work correctly
To overcome these problems the ATC checks every 30 minutes for the position of each aircraft flying over Antarctica. They use VHF when close to airfields and HF when far away. When those radios do not work, due to the reasons mentioned above, pilots will use satellite Iridium phones.
LimeSim and Aerosoft recently released Antarctica scenery for FSX. It covers the entire continent, 3 icebreakers and 1 aircraft. Its a great add-on and they had an almost impossible effort to make it as real as possible.
This add-on is amazingly huge and the full package has many things that I had not expected to see.
The size of this scenery after installation is about 13 GB and it includes:
- Full Antarctica Continent.
- 49 FSX real flight plans using the airfields that are included.
- 3 Manuals.
- 1 DHC-6 Twin Otter (Lite version of the Aerosoft Twin Otter).
- 2 Google Earth files. 1 with airfields pinpoints and the other with the ferry trips.
- 1 Utility.
And finally, important to mention, the scenery has many airfields and heliports. It’s going to keep you busy for many months.
Installation, Manual and Utility
The installation is easy. It has a wizard that requires you to occasionally press the “next” button. The insertion of your email and serial key is required for copy protection.
At the end of the installation process, it will also install the usual Aerosoft Launcher and there, you need to activate the product again. If you already have the Aerosoft’s Twin Otter, don’t worry because the DHC-6 included, does not replace your full product.
About the manual.
It’s composed of 3 PDF files. Two of them are related to the Antarctica scenery and come in English and German. The third PDF manual is only in the English language, and offers an DHC-6 Twin Otter user manual.
The Antarctica manual has 65 pages and mainly was written by a pilot that flies aircraft in Antarctica. It’s a pleasure to read this manual since it has a good deal of interesting information.
The manual covers these areas:
- History and list of some major events in Antarctica aviation history.
- Description of all included flight plans.
- Typical aircraft, flight companies and common routes that operate in Antarctica.
- Usual Weather.
- Description of the flights and communications between ATC and aircraft with examples.
- Full list of all airfields and heliports with the corresponding diagrams of the runways.
- Tips and recommendations to configure FSX to get the best visual effects using this add-on.
This manual also has many links to outside websites that give you much more information about the covered parts. About the DHC-6 Twin Otter manual, it has 25 pages and essentially describes everything you need to know about this aircraft.
The manual has a full and detailed description of the gauges and buttons including the systems associated with them. It also includes full checklists and tips about how to operate this aircraft with skis on an ice runway.
This add-on, as mentioned above, includes a utility. This utility, which requires that you not have FSX running while using it, has 4 great functions. With it, you can increase the LOD radius out from the default value. This will give you a better look of the landscape, reducing the blur effect on far distant textures.
Using this utility you can also remove or insert static aircrafts on airfields, giving airfields a more realistic look. There also exists a function to turn the approach lights on and off in the McMurdo airfield to make it more realistic. Finally, and for me the most important feature in this utility; The possibility to change between early or late season.
With this feature you can enable and disable some airfields and runways according to the associated season. Because of the weather and melted ice associated with the seasons, you’re able to change/reposition airfields due to this natural phenomenon.
This utility is very useful because you can do all this things without the need to rename or change any files in the scenery
Landscape, Graphics, Animations, Performance
The developers created an awesome work here. This add-on gives you the best and most complete elevation terrain of Antarctica. The SRTM data that is used by many scenery developers, is not available for this continent.
To get around this problem, they collected and merged elevation terrain information from many sources. The mesh has an excellent resolution as you can see by the screenshots.
The terrain textures are custom, and around important airfields and bases, for example Rothera and McMurdo, they are high resolution aerial images. This gives an excellent realism and when I fly out there, I could almost “virtually” feel that I’m in Antarctica and not in front of my PC.
You almost feel “virtually” the cold of this continent, as when you see a documentary about Antarctica on TV. The bases are very detailed and you see much animations such as the moving flags, windmills, snowflow and smoke coming out of the chimneys.
These animated objects increase, even to a greater extent, the realism of this great add-on. All objects present in this scenery are very detailed and many of them have photo realistic textures. This gives you extraordinary realism and is beautiful to see. Flying in Antarctica is kind of exotic. You will see 2 types of landscapes.
Very big rock mountains in a complex mesh, or an infinite white desert like an ocean of milk. Everything here is very well represented as reality. Also Included in this add-on, and in my opinion a great addition, are 3 icebreakers.
These 3 ships are beautifully modelled. With great detail and moving in predefined routes, they act like real ships. They also have smoke that increase the realism of them. These icebreakers will also gives you ample challenges, as all of them have helipads.
Two of these icebreakers are the massive and most technologically advanced icebreakers in the world: the German Polarstern and the Healy from the US Coast Guard.
In this huge scenery, with thousands of custom and complex objects even in the most dense areas with many detailed objects and with high resolution textures, the fps (frames per second) was not affected. It runs smoothly without any stutter or problem.
The information about airfields and runways mainly came from the AFIM (Antarctic Flight Information Manual) in the previous version. The developers had 2 problems using this manual. First, the last version is old (2008).
Second, it depends on information that’s given by various organizations and is not updated as often as expected. To overcome that, the developers use information from real pilots and people that work at the various airfields. The final result is the most realistic scenery ever made of Antarctica.
Don’t forget that in real life some airfields change their position year after year. You can notice that when you see the control tower looking down over skis. With Antarctica X you will have 47 airfields and helipads and that’s a huge number for a single scenery. Some are only a single runway but created completely as in real life.
But others are very complex with many objects. Everything is reproduced as real as possible. There are also some airfields that are sizable with a large runway like McMurdo that can even handle aircraft as large as an Airbus A319-LR.
Its a type of aircraft that you wouldn’t expect to see landing in Antarctica.
Here you have airfields for all likes and challenges. You have many sloped runways like the Lukla (Nepal). Rothera Station is another nice airfield to use, with water at both ends of the runway, like you have in Gibraltar.
Curiosity, both bases (Gibraltar and Rothera Station) are both belonging to Great Britian. I was pleased to see that the runways follow the terrain and this not only gives more realism but also increases the challenge of the landings.
Another extreme example, you have the Kunlun Airfield that is the highest in Antarctica and the coldest in the world (4,000 m / 13,123 ft at -90ºC /-130ºF). A curious thing that you will notice here is that almost all runways do not have lights but instead black signals along the runway to limit it.
These kind of signals, because of the white snow, are much more effective to mark the runway than the usual lights that you see in other runways around the world. In Antarctica there are some runways that frequently change position between seasons, like McMurdo runways.
There also exist two, Browning Pass and Enigma Lake, that don’t even exist in the early season. The developers create all these changes. With the utility described above, you can easily change all these with only 1 click.
When you change to the correct season, you can even have the opportunity to see the US Coast Guard Icebreaker and the track that he created in the ice. In this icebreaker, as also with the German one, you can practice your skills as a helicopter pilot, landing on their helipads.
After I tried and had seen all airfields and overall scenery, I’m happy to have Antarctica X. It’s a great scenery and increases the quality and detail of your FSX.
The DeHavilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter is a Canadian twin propeller aircraft. In my opinion it’s a very beautiful aircraft, but it’s outstanding feature are the STOL characteristics.
This company is one of the best in the world producing STOL aircraft. Another example of this is the well known DHC-2 Beaver. This Twin Otter is a pleasure to fly, its very easy to pilot and you can land and takeoff everywhere without any problem. The 2 engines are the well known Pratt & Whitney PT6A giving the aircraft great reliability.
This DHC-6 are so versatile that it can be equipped in normal, tundra, skis or amphibious versions. I also recommend you search some videos on the Internet of awesome and incredible landings using this aircraft.
This aircraft is very well known in numerous companies that land on remote and hard to access locations around the world. On these flights they carry passengers and supplies that otherwise would be difficult or almost impossible to provide.
Antarctica is one of these places, and it’s a pleasant surprise to see that Aerosoft includes a DHC-6 in this product. Its unusual that an excellent scenery includes an excellent aircraft.
The Aircraft included is a lite version of another Aerosoft great product, the DHC-6 Twin Otter. This lite version is exactly the same as the full version and the only difference are the number of versions included. In this add-on, Antarctica X, only the DHC-6 Skis version is provided.
If you already have the full version of Twin Otter, no problem. It will not change any file in your original Twin Otter, it only adds this version to your hangar. The DHC-6 included, as expected, has a high resolution livery based on a real company that makes many flights to Antarctica.
You can notice the black and red colors that create a big contrast when flying over white ice. This feature is important to others in Antarctica as pilots can easily see the aircraft in far-off distances. The aircraft has a detailed cockpit with all buttons working within the limits of FSX. I personally like the cockpit as it’s very detailed and easy to read.
The panel is full 3D and a 2D panel is not provided. As is the real one, this aircraft is very easy to operate. There are no complex systems here. The interior of the aircraft is modeled, including the passenger compartment.
I like to see that developers put textures with an aged look to give you a better and more realistic feel.
An very important thing that I would like to say, is that this aircraft, using PT6A engines, have special characteristics. These come from the fact that PT6A is a free spin propeller engine.
I was completely surprised when I saw that this aircraft has this engine nearly perfectly modeled. When you change the prop, the fuel flow doesn’t change, only the RPM of propeller changes and his torque in an inverse way. This feature is beyond the limits of FSX.
To make it work, the developers had to make a special outside module to get around a bug that exists in the core engine of FSX. Exist very few exceptions in the world of PC flight simulation world, that this engine are well modelled. The asymmetric flight and power cut reaction are also very well done.
The doors open and close and all the standard things that move in the real one also move here. The sounds of the engines were recorded from real ones and it’s like you are there. The outside graphics of the aircraft are perfect with a very real and detailed model which do not affect your FPS. With a stall speed of around 58 knots you can imagine how easy to land.
You’ll use this aircraft many times because its an awesome airplane to land even on the most small and dangerous runways. For example, one of the most used aircraft in Lukla (Nepal) is this one. The maneuverability of this aircraft and realism is perfect from what I could confirm after looking at many videos. It’s a pleasure to fly and a perfect aircraft to do bush flights.
This lite version does not include the Bendix King advanced avionics that includes a GPS which is included in the full version of Aerosoft Twin Otter. I’m very happy with this aircraft, and the developers made a superb product here. This aircraft complements the Antarctica scenery perfectly.
The developers did many workarounds to bypass the many problems that exist in this area of the world, not only in FSX but also in real life.
Examples of these kind of problems:
First; Non existence of any public detailed satellite data of Antarctica. The developers had to mix and cross information about elevations from many sources. Some places, the only public sources are the manual data that come from the scientists that work there. Another difficulty is the distribution of this kind of information through many nations that have bases in Antarctica.
Second; Limits of the FSX engine in Antarctica. FSX is the first flight simulator that is based on a globe, but at the Poles, many problems exist. These problems are related to ATC communications, GPS and compass readings, as well as the textures and mesh representations.
At the South Pole, and also applicable for the North Pole, is like having all longitudinal lines of the Earth coming together, but compressed in one dot. Close to the poles, everything is incorrectly represented. Not only because of compression but also because of the LOD (level of detail) distances.
Also, at 180º or -180º longitude, there is a small line of junction. All of this is not the fault of Aerosoft or LimeSim, but a fault in the FSX core engine. The developers made the best efforts possible to minimize these bugs.
Third; Much information about airfields was hard to get because many operators, to avoid competition, keep it almost secret. The final result, Antarctica X from Aerosoft offers a highly realistic representation of Antarctica for FSX.
This add-on cost only 35.00 € ($44.74 USD as of this writing) and that in my opinion is very cheap considering what it includes. Don’t forget that it also has 47 airfields and helipads. With great graphics, detailed scenery and with, unexpectedly, the DHC-6 aircraft, I strongly recommend this scenery to you.
Flying here is a big challenge and a pleasure at the same time.
You will feel and see a not so well known side of the big world of aviation. The scenery is very beautiful and the aircraft included is one the nicest twin-propeller airplanes that exist in FSX. Another important thing in this scenery is that it covers first-rate, a zone that in the default FSX has a lack of details. Finally, with this scenery, you’ll have a great continent in which you will surely start to fly many many hours.
For more information about Aerosoft’s Antarctica X for FSX, visit the Aerosoft eShop dedicated web page and, right from this spot, here’s a nice YouTube movie to warm you up. And when this is not enough, once you bought Aerosoft’s Antarctica X, you’ll find many freeware add-on expansion packages at LimiSims dedicated Antarctica web page.
This review is written for Aerosoft News Service and published via the Aerosoft website.
While the reviewer has complete journalistic freedom, we ask the reader to keep in mind where the review is posted.