Mutleys Hangar Joe Lawford 2006 - 2009 All Rights Reserved.
          Review
  Home | Forum | Site Map | Reviews | Downloads |Contact | Old Home


Madeira X
For FSX Published by Aerosoft
Reviewed by Joe Lawford
August 2009

Introduction
Set in the Atlantic Ocean c.350 mi (560 km) off the coast of Morocco, Madeira is the largest island in the Portuguese archipelago and is accompanied by another populated island, Porto Santo. Two other islands Desertas and Selvagens are also part of the group but are relatively small and uninhabited.

Madeira:
The landscape is dominated by mountain ranges with the highest peak being Pico Ruivo 1832m (6046ft). Deep valleys cut their way down to the coast and on the northern side terminate in high cliffs. The volcanic origins of Madeira can still be seen, the amphitheatre that surrounds Funchal was once a caldera

Until comparatively recently Madeira was covered in ancient subtropical rainforest. Indeed this is the reason for the name of the island, 'Madeira' meaning 'wood' in Portuguese.

The airport aka "The Airport on Stilts" is perched on the south-eastern coast and has a notorious challenging approach to rwy 05, a runway of 2871m (9419 ft).

Porto Santo:
15 minutes away by air from Madeira is Porto Santo. Described by its tourist department as "One long beach with a bit of an island attached" is not strictly true but probably subliminal comparison to Madeira which has practically no beaches.

The island's topography includes farmlands in the southern and central parts, forests and mountains along the north-eastern part with around six main mountaintops including Pico do Facho (literally 'Peak of the Torch') which is, at 516m (1703ft), Porto Santo's highest point.

The airport almost splits the island in half running roughly north south. Built before its neighbouring islands airport in 1960, the runway has been extended in stages to its current length 3000m (9843ft) so has opened it up to all types of aircraft.

Comparisons between real world and FSX

Click for full size image
 MADEIRA -FUNCHAL LPMA IN THE REAL WORLD
Click to enlarge image
Click for full size image
 MADEIRA -FUNCHAL LPMA IN FSX
Click to enlarge image
Click for full size image
 PORTO SANTO LPPS IN THE REAL WORLD
Click to enlarge image
Click for full size image
PORTO SANTO LPPS IN FSX
Click to enlarge image
   

The product.
Madeira X for FSX from Aerosoft, is a brand new product from a different developer than the 2004 version. So it is built from the ground up (So to speak), as well as the scenery there is a user manual and airport chart pdf's included, after installation they can be found in the FSX/Aerosoft folder.

Being a previous user of Wonderful Madeira for 2004, when asked to review MadeiraX I thought it will not take that long as it cannot be that much different? I was very wrong, after a couple of weeks l have managed to pull myself away from the sim long enough to write this article!

Click for full size image
Highly detailed mountainous regions
Click too enlarge image
Madeira boasts these features:

• Photo realistic 50 cm pixels ground coverage
• Highly detailed airports of Funchal (LPMA) and Porto Santo (LPPS)
• Super detailed 9,5 metre mesh
• 120,000 hand-placed autogen objects
• Dozens of detailed VFR objects (bridges, wind power plants etc)
• Dynamic traffic on all highways
• AI Traffic (compatible with MyTraffic)
• Extensive manual with charts


Installation.
The product is available in both download and dvd versions. My installation was from a download. At 1.3Gb it took a while to download on my connection but the server delivered the file without problems. Installation followed a familiar pattern installing into Aerosoft's FSX folder.  I like this as I always know where to find their scenery files.  With online activation using a keycode we were ready to go.

Manuals & Charts
The user manual is full of recommendations for display settings and shows examples from each tab. (More below)

A target FPS of 22 is recommended and is a realistic and achievable target. On my review machine I use a third-party program called FPS limiter, here I set my FPS and leave FSX at unlimited.  For me, this stops stuttering caused by my set up, not the program.

One thing I really liked were the included charts, for both islands. Aerodrome, parking, SIDS & STARS, visual and instrument approach and my favourite, the detail of the curved approach, staring at the "Gelo" beacon and finishing at "Rosario", by this time you should have Rwy 05 straight ahead or it's the missed approach procedure!

You may want to print some of these charts out, especially the approach charts as trying to alt-tab to the pdf document at the wrong time could spell disaster.

Setup.
If you have a mid to high end machine and you are an experienced user you will be familiar with editing the FSX.cfg file. To get the absolute best from the program I would recommend a couple of tweaks, MipBias=7 (or a range from 5 -9 ) this needs to be entered in the [Display] section and the [Display.Device.{your graphics card}] section. The overall affect of this setting is to increase the far focus of the textures. 

The second tweak is to increase the level of detail setting (LOD) in the [TERRAIN] section. By default if you have the level of detail slider in the sim set to large then this results in a LOD_RADIUS=4.500000 . The shots in this review are taken with a setting of 8.500000 so you may have to keep tweaking it up or down until you get your best mix of quality and performance. One point to note however, if you set the
LOD_RADIUS higher than 4.5 every time to change a display setting in the sim then this gets reset back to 4.5. 

 
PORTO SANTO FROM THE SOUTH EAST

Touring the islands
As mentioned above, Porto Santo is the smaller of the two populated islands in the Madeira archipelago. The detail of the mountainous  peaks is very good and the remnants of the rainforests can be clearly seen. There are some stretching effects on the shear cliffs near the coast which detracts slightly from the quality.  The westernmost peak overlooks the airport and is a good viewing point to watch the comings and goings of the airport.

The southern shore is one long beach, there is a harbour where cruise liners dock, so something to add interest. The autogen is well chosen and I would say, about the right level of density.

The airport has quite a modern looking terminal and tower. What looks to be the old tower and terminal are adjoining the new buildings further up the apron.  LPPS has a Doppler VOR/DME not far from the threshold of runway 36 as well as an NDB nearby. The runway has PAPI lighting as well to guide you in.  To the northern end there is a military facility and a single hangar.

The island is quite a bland colour as it is in real life and this is accentuated by the verdant green of the golf course. Overlooking the airport there are three huge animated wind turbines, these dominate the local landscape. 

In all a very nice and believable representation of this often over-looked island, after using this scenery I could spend a couple of days there exploring the real world island. 

Click for full size image
 SPOT THE GOLF COURSE!
Click to enlarge image
Click for full size image
PORTO SANTO NEW TERMINAL WITH MOUNTAINS BEHIND
Click to enlarge image
   

Madeira is a whole lot more mountainous than Porto Santo.  This means that there is far more detail to be displayed, the 9.5m mesh does a great job and is a huge improvement on the default, however had they used a 5m mesh then it would have been awesome, I guess this depends on what SRTM data there is available and possibly a prohibitive price?

As you can see from my shots I am being very picky as this is already prime screen shot territory, the combination of photo textures, mesh and autogen make VFR flying an absolute joy.

The cliffs along the northern coast suffer from the same stretching appearance as it does in Porto Santo but is a lot more noticeable as the cliffs are so much higher and longer.  For me, this looses the scenery some points as it is so noticeable when flying low and slow.

Click for full size image
 INCREDIBLE DETAIL IN THE VALLEYS
Click to enlarge image
Click for full size image
A SOCCER PITCH IN THE HILLS AND ROADS RUNNING ALONG THE RIDGES
Click to enlarge image

There is plenty to make up for it though, there is incredible detail in the photo scenery,  I have seen it written in many places that the locals and visitors alike can point to a place and say that IS what it is like in real life.  That is a great testament to the developer and the quality of the product

Most of the northern and western districts are situated in high ground, the whole area is dominated by a wind turbine farm of around 35 windmills (Yes I counted them!) The ground slopes away to the sea where not many of the population live but they have some wonderful panoramas.



At night, these turbines have red flashing beacons in the hub centre of the blades, they can be seen miles away and is very dis-orientating until you realise what they are!

Working our way around to the south we see more densely populated areas.  There are several marinas along the shore and I found a beach! Not that long and over-shadowed by those ominous cliffs!

Click for full size image
 BEACHES CAN BE FOUND MOSTLY NESTLING AT THE BOTTOM OF CLIFFS
Click to enlarge image
Click for full size image
 THAT VALLEY IS FAR TOO TEMPTING NOT TO FLY UP!
Click to enlarge image
Click for full size image
 CRUISE LINERS FILL THE HARBOUR
Click to enlarge image
Click for full size image
PORTUGUESE MAN O' WAR?
Click to enlarge image

Finally, let's turn our attention to the airport. For those amongst us who are not concerned with eye-candy (Then why are you considering this scenery!) this will be the main attraction.

The runway is slightly shorter than that of Porto Santo and twice it's original length thanks to the extension that sits upon a series of 180 concrete columns.  This gives the airport it's distinctive look that makes it an un-mistakable location.

Again we have a CVOR/DME and NDB to tune into. PAPI lighting guides you in from both directions.  Runway 05 has the notorious curved approach where on the base leg you aim at a light beacon called Gelo then tightly turn to starboard following the beacons to Rosario, by now the runway is in sight and o-so close!  The prevailing winds rushing down from the mountains make it a challenging approach for the most experienced of pilots.


KEEP THE FAITH BROTHER!

The night lighting will not disappoint, both on approach and on the apron it was well represented. The rest of the scenery has night textures too just to add that feeling of life going on into the night.

Click for full size image
 THE ELEVATION IS 341 FT SO KEEP ABOVE THOSE YELLOW CHEVRONS!
Click to enlarge image
Click for full size image
NICE DETAIL AND CLUTTER ON THE APRON, THE LIGHTING IS SPOT ON
Click to enlarge image

Conclusion
It's obvious that a lot of time and attention to detail has been spent on this scenery. A true classic in it's genre.  There's no point anyone else making scenery for Madeira as Aerosoft have been there, done that!  You know anything else is just a compromise!

/Joe Lawford


  System Requirements

  • FSX - Compatible with SP2 and Acceleration) 

  • 2GHz PC with 1GB RAM (2GB recommended)

  • 256 MB graphic card (512 MB recommended)

  • Windows XP/Vista

  • 1.5 GB hard drive space

LINKS
Product page FSX  :: Aerosoft home page :: User forum