Bill Womack is a self confessed fanatic of flight both real and simulated, and is one of today's best known and talented scenery designers. Over the years, Bill has been involved in many well known scenery projects such as Emma Field, Misty Fjords, Tongass Fjords and via his partnership with Holgar Sandemann has produced a few airfields for Orbx, I remember reviewing 7S3 Starks Twin Oaks in 2010 and being amazed at the detail and multi-elevations of the airfield. I have to admit to being a fan ever since!
When looking through Bill's old iBlueYonder (iBY) blogs as far back as 2006, I see there is a history between him and New England which prompted him to take on projects such as Plum Island. Plum Island (2008) was the first in a series Bill called his "100 Dollar Burger Series". In 2013 BIll announced a follow on project called "Hundred Dollar Burger: Nantucket", at that time Bill was already showing us a sneak peek of the Nantucket Memorial Airport terminal model. Bill (as a writer) has kept the community up to date via his blog with the progress with Nantucket and makes for interesting reading about the life cycle of a project like this. The "Hundred Dollar" moniker has dissapeared but the scenery has at last made it to market.
Nantucket sits just off the coast of the US state of Massachusetts, below the long arm of Cape Cod. It's an island steeped in history dating back to the colonial days, and is best known as the centre of US whaling in the 19th century. These days, the primary industry is tourism. From a quiet, isolated enclave of around 10,000 in the winter, the population explodes to around five times that in summer. Looking for the most expensive real estate in the country? Forget Manhattan, Oahu, or San Francisco. You'll find it right here.
Nantucket Memorial Airport (KACK) is the island's air link to the rest of the world. A three runway airport on the south side of the island, the airport is one of the busiest in Massachusetts and often logs more take-offs and landings on a summer day than Boston's Logan Airport. This is due in part to the large number of private planes used by wealthy summer inhabitants, and in part to the 10-seat Cessna 402s used by several commercial air carriers to serve the island's community.
iBY offer the following as the key features of Nantucket Island:more than 100 square miles of photo terrain in full 5-seasons;
No technical requirements are published by iBY except that this product requires one of the flight simulators listed above in the title in order to work, and support is limited to those versions.
Nantucket Island is available as a download only product directly from iBlueYonder, Just Flight, FlightSimStore and other flight sim product resellers. My version was bought from Just Flight at £19.99 or the equivalent on currency cross rates. Subscribers to Bill's newsletters or Facebook can obtain a 15% discount with a code (for a limited time), on a starting price of US$24.95, after currency conversion, and commision paid to credit card or PayPal, makes it slightly less than Just Flight.
The download file size is 1.79GB, I find the download speed from Just Flight's servers are comparible with other top online distributors so a wait of about 10-15 minutes was experienced with my FTTC broadband connection. In total, the approximate installed size is 2.28GB. The installation process is automated with only the choice of simulator necessary. This scenery depends on a custom dll being installed (viva_P3D.dll) which didn't happen automatically for me. I recognised this after looking through the support forums on iBY because I was missing the terminal and other objects, this dll also controls the texture loading for the seasons. Fortunately, there is a standalone Viva module installer available from the Windows start menu under the iBlueYonder section. Running this option also adds an entry to the dll.xml file in order for the module to be loaded when P3D starts.
Once the installation has completed you have many options in the control panel to suit your needs. This scenery benefits by having all the options switched on and in my case, with dense scenery settings too in Prepar3D. If you think the installer looks familiar, it is, it has Lars Pinkenburg from 29Palms design talent written all over it!
This scenery covers the the complete island of Nantucket as well as 2 neighbouring islands, Tuckernuck and Muskegat. Below, I have included shots from both Google Earth and Prepar3D. As expected, as the base component comprises of phototextures, so they look almost identical.
In and around the airport there is much to discover. For a reletively small island of around 11,000 souls, the amount of commercial buildings seems quite high, and they are concentrated all in this one area giving the rest of the island an almost village feel. The hangars, sheds and miscellaneous buildings must have taken quite a time to model as the detailing is superb. Along with the buildings there are many items of airport clutter, be it tow bars, freight containers, fuel farms or trolleys, they all add plenty of interest. The density of these objects is controlled via the control panel options above so if you experience a hit on performance, you can fine tune the detail.
There is an overlay to most of the tarmac and runway textures which gives it a good old cracked and used feel, the taxiway and runway markings keep this quality goinf. Unfortunately there is an underlying problem with the ground textures which make them flash from certain angles. There is an option in the control panel to use Prepar3D advance ground polys, there is also a hint that disabling this option will apply FSX type textures which will stop the flickering, not so for me, although much better, there was still flickering around some buildings and it got quite distracting at times. There is also a major error in the tarmac textures in front of the terminal, there is one section (tile?) which has the wrong classification applied, when taxiing or hovering on or over this texture, dirt and dust gets blown around. This needs fixing. It is worth noting that I have FTX Global Airports installed, and disabling the 3 .bgl files (ADE_FTX_FTXG_KACK.bgl, ADE_FTX_FTXG_KACK_CVX.bgl and FTX_FTXG_KACK_objects.bgl) in the Orbx scenery folder made no difference.
Here are some scenes from around the airport:
Moving swiftly on, as I mentioned above, the island has quite a rural feel. There are marshes and nature reserves to the southwest and long golden beaches backed up by dunes to the south. The simulator mesh resolution should be set to 5 m to get the correct effect of the high dunes. To the north there is a huge lagoon which serves as a haven for yachts and a harbour for the town of Nantucket. The harbour has a few custom buildings but not with the detail of the airport buildings, and with no signage, so they have a more generic feel. Nantucket Island, however, does benefit from a custom autogen set, so most of the outlying buildings have a wood shingled, New England feel.
Far out to the east of the island is a finely presented golf course, the Sankaty Head Golf Club. From the air you can clearly see each hole including the bunkers and greens, more impressively, if you are walking around you will see the bunkers also have depth as with the real thing. One of the holes pass the Sankaty Head lighthouse which gives the course its name.
Finally, as a nod to the maritime history of the island, there are a couple more lighthouses, Great Point Light and Brant Point Light, several dry stack boat storage areas, and custom boat AI including a car ferry which serves Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, as well as Nantucket.
There are five seasons included with the scenery, Nantucket Island experiences all of them including the glorious New Engand autumn colours, and hard winter, the three most outstanding seasons are shown below. These textures change automatically depending on the simulator date so do not have to be selected in a control panel outside the sim, unlike some other sceneries.
Where detail matters, Bill's modelling is second to none, curves and almost impossible angles sit almost effortlesslely on the buildings and objects. Other objects such as the airport clutter are also as well detailled and drawn and they certainly pass the close up viewing test, a sample can be seen below.
Away from the airport and harbour, the autogen quality is another story, I found multitudes of buildings with the wrong shape textures applied, so you get front doors on the corners of buildings and mis-shapen roofs, if this was isolated to a couple of buildings then it wouldn't be a big deal, but in this case there are literally scores of them. Besides ill-fiiting textures on the models, they are of a high enough quality to have the New England feel that Bill was aiming for, and as a non-local like most of us, it is as close to the real thing as it needs to be.
Airport and apron lighting are spot on. Many of the buildings and hangars have down lighting as does the quarry near by. On approach to Runways 6 and 24, there are sequencing lead in lights which complements the ILS localiser. Runways 6/24 and 15/33 both have edge lighting as well as REIL lights. Runways 6/24 and 33 have 4-light PAPI with a 3 degree glide path. Owing to the layout of the runways, Runway 15 has no PAPI. The third runway, 12/30 has no lighting at all. There is some 3D lighting on some of the roads around the town and leading to the airport, other than that, the autogen buildings do have a nice subtle light coming from the windows.
With my frame rate locked at 31 frames per second, and most of my simulator scenery settings set high to very high, I enabled all the features in the KACK Control Panel. With P3Dv3 installed I did not need to make any adjustments to compensate for performance issues and there was only a slight impact on frame rate performance against what I typically get. Of course, this is system dependent and paying heed to the relevant section in the Nantucket Settings and Info user guide should help to tune your system.
When reviewing products as closely as we do, we often come across texture anomolies which quite frankly should have been picked up by the beta testers. Where we feel they should not have made it to the RTM version, it's time to name and shame:
As part of the installation, a small two-page pdf file entitled "Nantucket Settings and Info" is supplied. There is not a great amount of detail for the unexperienced user but just enough for experienced simmers, I feel an explanation of how the Viva module interfaces with the scenery would have been a good addition. The document covers the following elements in limited detail:
scenery area background info;
supported sims guide;
recommended scenery settings;
the KACK control panel; and
On a value for money assessment, Nantucket Island with over 100 square miles of scenery is considered very good.
Nantucket Island has just about enough points of interest to make it a worthwhile destination to visit. It's proximity to Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard will tempt simmers in from the mainland. The overall quality excluding the outlying autogen mistakes and flashing textures is superb, once these are fixed, and some TLC applied, Nantucket will make a nice addition to any flight sim library.
The specifications of the computer on which the review was conducted are as follows:
CPU: i7 4770K @ 4.2 GHz;
GPU: GTX980 Ti, 6 GB;
RAM: 16 GB, DDR3, 1,866 MHz;
OS: Windows 10 Pro, (64bit); and
Sim: Lockheed Martin Prepar3D V22.214.171.12470.