Gibraltar, for those unfamiliar with it's location and history, is located at the southern tip of Spain at the entrance to the western Mediterranean. Also known as "The Rock" it is a Crown Colony of the United Kingdom. The territory was ceded in perpetuity to Great Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 but it's sovereignty has been consistently disputed by Spain.
On September 18 2006, as part of a tripartite agreement signed in Córdoba, the governments of Gibraltar, the UK and Spain decided to put the sovereignty issue to one side and to implement improved cross-border relations through a number of practical measures. The most notable of these was Spain’s agreement to lift its objections to the operation of commercial flights between Gibraltar and EU airports. At the same time operational rules limiting access over Spanish airspace were also relaxed. It was agreed that passengers travelling to Gibraltar airport from Madrid or other Spanish destinations to Spain would not have to clear customs and immigration controls.
With an agreement with Spain in place, Gibraltar’s government announced in May 2007 that the airport’s terminal would be replaced along with the construction of a new road tunnel at the eastern end of the runway. It had long been argued that the airport’s existing terminal and infrastructure were inadequate for planned traffic increases and to attract new operators to Gibraltar. Pedestrians however will continue to cross the runway (in between aircraft movements!)
North Front airport (GIB/LXGB) N36-09.1/W005-21.0, 15ft ASL, has a 6004 x 148ft paved runway. Presently, the current airline operators are British Airways, EasyJet, Monarch and Ándalus Líneas Aéreas. The airport has no ILS so a VFR approach is necessary. Crosswinds can be a real problem here, a southerly breeze greater than 15kts can create erratic up and downdrafts due to the shape of the rock.
If you are, or were, a FS2004 and Aerosoft Gibraltar owner then you will be familiar with this title. Developed by the same Thorsten Loth of Sim-Wings fame, this is an up to date version reflecting some of those architectural changes highlighted above for both sims, FS9 and FSX. This scenery shows the new terminal but it is not yet equipped with the car park. The overall construction works at this airport will still continue for the next couple of years so this is as up-to-date as you can get.
Included in the package are versions for FS2004 and FSX, for the FSX version you do need SP2 or Acceleration installed and it is, by default, a more detailed product. GibraltarX is not yet available in boxed format but looking at the product page you can see that it should be available on or after the 30th September 2010.
I think we are all familiar with Aerosoft's and others, on-line purchase and download routines now so I won't waste your time other than to say Aerosoft download servers are the fastest you will find and you will be grateful if you have a fast connection as a fairly large file is on it's way to you!
Single east - west runway
The supplied pdf manual is brief and to the point, it doesn't mention use on a Windows7 OS computer but as a W7 user myself I can confirm I had no problems. Any references to Windows Vista can be assumed as good for Windows7 too. The installer found my FSX location and updated the scenery.cfg flawlessly. In true Aerosoft fashion your old scenery.cfg is saved as Scenery_CFG_Before_Gibraltar X_was_installed.cfg.
The manual advises to set AI traffic to 30 - 50% and to cut back the autogen density bit-by-bit until you get the performance you need. I ran with sliders right and had no performance issues at all. I could imagine a less powerful machine may be affected by so much autogen but you can always try the FSX.cfg tweak of decreasing the quantity of trees and buildings per 1Km cell by using this:
TERRAIN_MAX_AUTOGEN_TREES_PER_CELL=1500 < increase or decrease according to preference and performance
TERRAIN_MAX_AUTOGEN_BUILDINGS_PER_CELL=1000 < increase or decrease according to preference and performance
You can see below a view from the northeast with the default on the left and the GibraltarX scenery enabled in the right. Gibraltar itself is only 6.5sq Km so you can see that there is quite a bit more modelled of the town of La Línea de la Concepción just inside the Spanish border.
- Photo realistic high resolution ground textures (15 cm/pixel) for Gibraltar and parts of "La Linea"
- Dynamic car-traffic across the runway, it stops automatically when you depart or approach at the bounds (manually controllable with NAV frequencies)
- Dynamic traffic on the apron (AESLite)
- All buildings around the airfield and bordering districts of Gibraltar
- New terminal including new apron park positions
- Excellent night lightning
- Many animations like ships, cable car etc.
- All important sights (Upper Rock incl. the defensive fortification, "Point of Europe" light house, "Ibrahim al Ibrahim" mosque, "Gibraltar - Cradle of history" monument, etc.)
- Whole scenery-area covered with extensive autogen
- FSX and FS2004 version included
Please note not all mentioned features above are included in the FS2004 version.
The Scenery in Use
So lets try these features out. As I mentioned earlier I tried the DX10 preview mode which can look good at certain heights and certain angles but is not really to my liking. This is not a criticism of this product, far from it, it is commendable that this option is given.
At the southern tip of the Rock, at Europa point, is the Mosque of Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim a gift from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, it looks pretty good by day and great at dust, in silhouette. The eastern sheer side of the rock gives way to sandy beaches that run all the way past the airport, into southern Spain. In contrast, the western rock is home of some very impressive real estate.
The cable car, which takes tourists to the top of the mountain, (to get molested by the Barbary Apes!) is nicely animated and the two cars pass each other half way up, you can even see the smiling faces of the tourist inside! Overlooking the town are 4 huge gun emplacements, a popular location for photographers as it also overlooks the airport. They are not that detailed and maybe deserved better treatment.
The area to the west of the rock is populated with a lot of Mediterranean looking villas in a mass of terracotta roofs, this leads down to the westernmost shore where there is a marina complex for pleasure boats. Nearer to the airport, there is the hospital, Morrisons, a well known UK food chain and the small industrial port and commercial sector.
Bordering the airport are several sports areas such as soccer, tennis and hockey that are very brightly lit and form a distinctive sector of the town at night. Moving past the one of the two, well known branded gas stations, there is the traffic control for the road, Winston Churchill Avenue that crosses the runway. Traffic will wait patiently for the runway to clear and the barriers to rise. Eventually this route will be for foot traffic only but presently the lights go red, the barriers go down, cars and trucks will stop until the aircraft has left the runway.
Finally, there are the military buildings of RAF Gibraltar including named hangars and parking areas, there is no military military aircraft base here but the signs remain. This is also the location of a huge cemetery which borders the airport.
La Linea Town
Although not the focus of this scenery, Sim Wings have changed quite a bit of detail including a small section of coastline. For those users who have no additional scenery of this area it is nice not to have a severe cut-off at the border with Spain. All the border control buildings are still there and well detailed with clearly written custom and border signs. Away from the border there are not really any bespoke looking buildings but they were not the boring MSFS type and more than adequate.
The new modern glass terminal has a distinctive shape, especially from above and is possibly the biggest structure around, not you need it for VFR with that rock! The rock is shown as a permanent low-key reflection from the south side of the terminal and adds an extra touch of realism. The terminal has an underpass for traffic, but in its unfinished state it is difficult to see how this will be implemented, it is written that the terminal will straddle the border road but I think they will have to re-direct it. In front of the new terminal there are 5 main gates/parking areas for medium size jets, Hopefully your favourite air traffic program will recognise these new spaces, mine did.
Notice reflection of the Rock!
Old and new still remain
The original parking areas still exist with air stairs at the ready, these are branded Gibraltar Airport. There is quite a bit of airport clutter, busses and
baggage trolleys moving around. AESLite, if switched on, controls the movements of the airport ground traffic. Bordering the apron are more airport services such as the fuel trucks. There is still construction going on to the
north east so you will see a few diggers too.
The old RAF tower and its compound is still there next to the crossing along with the fire station, this is a familiar sight from the old scenery and looks slightly more detailed than the old version. Next to the road leading to the border is the old airport terminal which is still in use at the time of writing. On the opposite side of the road are mostly residential buildings and car parks etc. not really notable builds but accurately placed.
The runway is paved and a little indistinguishable from the
surrounding textures save for the edge markings. There is no grass within the airport so it has a very dusty feel. There are yellow and black grids at the thresholds of the runways and PAPI approach lighting. One thing you do have on approach are 2 light beacons out to sea that are extended from the center line, this really helps to ensure you are on target for a good landing! At 6004 feet you could be flying, at most, an A320-200, 737-700W , CRJ200ER or EMB 195std. With the possibility of erratic updrafts your need to be alert! Smaller regional props are ideal.
As is common with most photoscenery there are no seasons and this package is no different, even at hard winter the vegetation did not change colour, but considering there are only coniferous or palm trees I think they got away with it!
I could just sum it up with one word- superb! Winston Churchill Avenue has some special road lighting treatment near the airport that gives the lampposts a star burst type directional halo. Definitely worth a screenshot. The sports fields stand out well as does all the roads circumnavigating the rock. Even on the east side at the base of the cliff you are see the road brightly lit.
Airport at dusk
Superb road lighting
It seems odd to have a sounds section for scenery but it is becoming more popular nowadays. There is a fixed sound track of environmental sounds including seagulls, traffic and church bells within the scenery area. The "sound track" does not change when you move your location and after a while I found myself thinking "I want to shoot me a seagull!" Of course, in the sound settings you can turn down the environmental volume so it was not a problem.
Although it is suggested that you may want to start at low density autogen etc. I used my usual configuration of sliders right. That's with all the animation and traffic switched on. The FPS didn't drop below 30, I think the size of the area helps to make it less demanding as there is not so much autogen generated.
When I first knew I was reviewing this product I thought it might be a bit uninteresting and a chore to do. As you can see from the above that is far from what I found.
Taking time to get to know the scenery and the history really pays dividends. The inclusion of many of the extras such as the mosque, the gun emplacements and new terminal led me to explore the net for more information and a long road of discovery!
The photo texture of the rock and the mesh were first class. If I were to try and highlight negatives, some of the houses on the rock were at right angles to the mesh and jutting out, the lighthouse quality was very poor and also had no proper connection with the land and finally the guns could have been better detailed. Maybe some static aircraft would bring the airport alive more although the Ai ground traffic was excellent. Now I'm struggling, I am happy with the rest!
Well done Sim Wings a product you can be proud of, a few rough edges but with all things taken into consideration I am awarding this a
Mutley's Hangar score of 8.5/10
Review machine Spec: Core i7 Extreme 965 @ 3.6 Ghz | 12Gb Tri-Channel Corsair DDR3 Ram |GX260 Graphics |Windows 7 64bit Pro
nVidia 64bit driver 258.96 WHQL | - nHancer 2.5.9