Between Maine on the east coast and Oregon on the west coast of the USA lie vast plains. Here it is wide open living with a sky that reaches as far as you can see and then some. Idaho has potatoes, Kansas has corn, and then there is Michigan, which has the Great Lakes. Michigan is home to lots of things, like Chicago, wind, and as mentioned above, lakes. It also meets the border to the north, where the Canadians politely live. That is about the sum of my knowledge of Michigan, so I am pleased to find a new destination to a State I have not flown to since FS4. I am heading east of Chicago for those plains, out to Saginaw Airport, also known as MBS International Airport. It is new from Turbulent Designs and I cannot wait to see it.
The original airport has a bit of a chequered history. Originally just a single runway field, during WWII the airfield was used to house prisoners of war. It was also taken over by the federal government as an alternate airfield should Detroit Airport be bombed. The simple, single runway grew along with taxiways and the amount of land the airport sat on. In the end the airport was not needed by the Air Force and in 1946 it returned to full civilian use, being renamed Tri-City Airport.
Today the old runway is all but derelict and two separate runways allow operation no matter what the wind direction. An extensive GA operation is located on the southwest side, whilst in 2012, a new state of the art passenger terminal opened to the north. The airport sees a fair mix of GA and commercial flying with Delta and United operating services to Chicago and Detroit. It is not as busy as it was in the heyday of the deregulated 1980's and 1990's, but the airport is still an important part of the local community, serving three towns and the surrounding area.
Turbulent Designs' MBS International Airport is available from the Turbulent Designs web site as a 'download only' product. It is priced at ₤23.99 (including VAT), or the equivalent on currency cross rates. The download file size is 662MB and the installation process is easy and intuitive.
My first impressions of the airport are, "I thought it would be bigger". The two runways give the impression that they have been moved from a much bigger airport. The airfield can be split into three distinct sections, the passenger terminal, the GA apron, and the tower complex. Beyond the airport there is plenty to see but for now let's concentrate on the airport itself.
Let's start by looking at the passenger terminal. There are six gates here for parking. On at least one of these I saw a parking position for an A310. In reality though, anything larger than a 737 or A320 would be pushing it for space. Ideally, the CRJ family would be perfect here. There is even a Delta CRJ there for a bit of scale. Looking around the apron I am struck by how clear the textures are. I am running P3D v4 with textures set at 4096px though, but still the ground textures are impressively crisp. What is also pretty impressive is the level of clutter. Airports are never clean areas, there are always trucks, carts, and a thousand other bits and pieces lying around the apron - and so it is here. For most airports in any sim we get a smattering of clutter, but Turbulent have gone beyond what we normally see. Forget low to medium resolution baggage carts and low quality tugs. Instead, every object is beautifully dirty, lovingly scratched, and suitably realistic. There are few airports I have ever had that have had the bits and pieces so faithfully recreated and that look as good as the real thing. No object is too small to get the Turbulent treatment.
Moving from the apron, I turn to the terminal building itself. The attention to detail continues inside the terminal. Forget photographic textures of the terminal interior, here the whole terminal has been modelled in exquisite detail. I take a wander around the gates, through security and out to check in and baggage claim. It is all here, wonderfully detailed and life like. I have played first person shooters that have not looked this good. I exit the terminal to the car park and find a plethora of parked cars along with perfectly textured roads and signs. So far, so good.
Moving on to the southwest and the GA apron, I am treated to more of the same in terms of detail. The assembled static aircraft models I see there are better looking than some of the same flyable versions I have in the sim. I spot all sorts of aircraft ranging from the Cessna 310 to a large CRJ bizjet and a cracking amphibian parked against a hangar. Speaking of hangars, one of the many hangars is open for visitors and is home to a few little bizjets. There is plenty of room for you to taxi in and join them. I could spend hours trawling up and down the apron, looking at the different aircraft found here. Alongside the aircraft is the expected clutter and out the back of the hangars is another huge car park filled with rental cars and so on.
The tower more or less completes the whole airport and just like everywhere else, it is finished with high quality textures and a keen eye for detail. It is certainly well protected. The tower sits in its own fenced off complex, complete with car park and a sprinkling of cars. Beyond the only entrance gate to the compound is yet another fenced off compound which has gates on all the entrances. You are not getting in here without some serious effort. Atop the tower there are a few animated bits that give the airport that alive feel that is often missing from some airfields.
At MBS, the airport, beautiful as it is, is only half the story. A large area around the airport has been modelled. Numerous farms are found in this area and you will find them scattered around. Again, you would expect these to be low resolution things, and you would be wrong. The farms are all produced to look as good as the airport. Grain silos, barns, and old fashioned windmills give that authentic "Superman lived here" feel. The windmills even turn like the real thing. The farms are joined by the local community of Freeland. Streets and buildings are placed perfectly and recreated in pretty good detail.
For the adventurous, there are even the remains of the original WWII runway. You are welcome to try a landing on the old concrete, which is now barely half its length, and covered in more plant life than the average woodland. Speaking of woodland, Turbulent Designs have made ample use of their RealFlora plant life technology. This is the same technology used in the new TerraFlora tree replacements. All I can say to this is, "Wow!". I have never been so impressed with grass and trees in my life.
There is no documentation provided with the product. However, from the Turbulent Terminal, there is a support link which takes you directly to their forums where you will find E-manuals covering frequently asked questions on installation and system requirements etc. These E-manuals are generic to Turbulent Designs' products and therefore do not contain any airport specific details or diagrams.
EDITORS NOTE: Good News! Following feedback from our members, Turbulent Designs now inclue PDF documentation for all their products including this one.
So far I have painted a picture of a beautifully produced airport that is heavy on the details. No doubt you would expect it to be heavy on frame rates. Surprisingly, it is not. Sitting in the PMDG 747 v3 in P3D v4, I can cap the FPS at 60 with a resolution of 1920x1080 and it stays there. Moving to three screens brings that FPS down, but I am still sitting in the high 30's to low 40's. Even in heavy weather the FPS never really drops below the 30 FPS mark. Switch to something GA and you will find the performance to be exceptional. If you do find yourself struggling with FPS, you can switch features off using the "Turbulent Terminal". This control panel allows you to customise what you see in the sim, allowing you to fine tune your experience.
Whilst Turbulent Designs' MBS International Airport is a fantastically detailed airport with high quality, its location provides limited opportunity for scenic flights of any nature. Combined with a lack of any documentation, the value for money can only be considered average.
The specifications of the computer on which the review was conducted are as follows:
ASUS Z270 motherboard;
Intel 7700K, 4.5GHz;
NVidia GTX 980 Ti, 6GB;
16GB, DDR4, 3000MHz;
240GB SSD, 2 x 1TB Caviar Digital Black HDD;
Windows 10 Pro, (64bit); and
Lockheed Martin P3D Version 4.
Turbulent Designs' MBS International Airport is without a doubt one of the best airports I have come across outside of X-Plane 11. The attention to detail is superb and to combine that with high performance is nothing short of some sort or sorcery. It is not without criticism though. My first complaint has to do with P3D v4's dynamic lighting. This new feature was introduced to MBS in a recent update. Compared to the standard "burnt in" textures, the dynamic lighting is just far too bright. The lights on the main apron are so bright they cover the terminal in white, and blind everyone on the ramp. Given this is a new feature for P3D, it may need a bit of "dialling in".
My other criticism is all about the location. There is no doubt this is a beautifully made airport, but in terms of location, it is in the middle of nowhere. If it is not in the middle of nowhere, then you can certainly see it from there. A lone airport in the Rockies, the Alps or other mountainous area my work well, but on the flat Michigan plains, there is precious little to see and less to explore. On paper, it is in a prime spot, being just 100nm from Detroit and 200 nm from both Chicago and Toronto. In reality, it is an airport you are likely to visit once or twice before moving on to somewhere more "happening". At ₤23.99 it is expensive for such a location.
Finally, there is no user manual with MBS International Airport so you have to search their site online for further reading and help with set up. In the end though, there is lots to like here. Turbulent Designs just set the standard by which others are going to be judged, and I get the feeling they are just starting to get warmed up. If you are looking to get away from it all and fancy a great airport as a base of operations, then MBS International Airport may be just what you are looking for.