FTX: NA Gold NCA - Northern California
For FSX/P3D/P3DV2 Published by Orbx Simulations
Reviewed by Joe Lawford
June 2014

Orbx System’s latest FTX terrain regional scenery release is for the Northern California region of the USA, bringing their total tally of regions for the USA to 6.

Northern California, often abbreviated to NorCal, is the northern portion of the U.S. state of California. The San Francisco Bay Area which includes the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Sacramento (the state capital) are the main population centres.

The region is home to some of the nation’s most spectacular natural attractions, ranging from the grandeur of the rugged northern coastlines, to the majestic redwood and sequoia forests, the spectacular cliff faces and waterfalls at Yosemite, Mount Shasta (the second-highest peak in the Cascade Range after Mount Rainier in Washington), and the northern half of the Central Valley, one of the world's most productive agricultural regions.

NorCal was inhabited by Native Americans until the mid-16th century when Spanish missionaries set up missions along the coast. Later, Russians from Alaska established fur trading posts but left the region after the expansion of interest by other countries, such as Mexico, who had designs on the region. This later led to the Mexican-American war. In 1848, the California Gold Rush started, which resulted in an influx of over 300,000 people. This boom time was responsible for the boomtowns such as San Francisco. Now the region enjoys a vast economy and a diverse population.

Product Features (From Orbx)

FTX NA NCA includes a range of custom-built landscapes, including urban areas, farmland, hills, rural, and alpine areas to recreate the diverse and iconic landscapes which Northern California is renowned for. The landclass textures are drawn from aerial and satellite photography of California and hand placed so as to accurately render the visual environment. Custom textures have been used to accurately portray the buildings and vegetation unique to California.

Every single square mile of landclass (land use type) is hand placed and all major roads, railroads, rivers, lakes, powerlines, wind farms, and vertical obstructions are included for accurate VFR flying.

More than two dozen key areas, urban as well as natural, are featured with seasonal photoreal coverage and are fully annotated with autogen. Custom models of landmark structures include iconic bridges, buildings, and hydro dams. As with other Orbx regions titles they have given each of the ~360 airports, airstrips, and seaplane bases in the region an upgrade, with more accurate placements of runways and taxiways as well as buildings, hangars, static aircraft, moving people (and creatures), and lots of "clutter".

Last but not least all ground textures are hand-annotated with custom autogen objects, including the spectacular new and frame-rate friendly FTX Global-style night lighting.

    ● Superb ground textures from local sources;
    ● Hand-placed landclass covers every sq. mile;
    ● Custom autogen textures and objects;
    ● New (FTX Global) 3D night lighting effects;
    ● Accurate roads, rivers, lakes, and powerlines;
    ● Over 360 airports have been upgraded;
    ● Custom models of eight major Bay bridges;
    ● More than 30 windfarms and many hydro dams;
    ● Over 25 photoreal natural and urban areas;
    ● Includes Yosemite, Mt. Shasta, Crater Lake;
    ● 10 m USGS terrain mesh with LIDAR inserts; and
    ● Continues coverage south from Orbx PNW.

Availability and Installation

FTX: NA Gold NCA - North America Northern California is available by download from the FlightSimStore.com.

The download size is 3.53 GB and using 'Free Download Manager', the time to download was less than 15 minutes with my FTTB fibre connection. For an extra AUD$ 7.95 you can opt to have a DVD version sent via their Digital Media Service.

The product has a triple installer which offers you a choice of FSX, P3Dv1 and P3Dv2 flightsims with the keycode being valid for multiple services e.g. FSX and P3Dv2 installation on the same PC.

As usual, the installation was faultless and fast considering the amount of data being installed. If the installer detects you don’t have the FTX Central controller program installed, it will install it for you too.


A very detailed 25 page PDF document is provided and follows a familiar format for existing users.

There is an interesting overview of the region and a product highlight feature so you know what you can expect to see. The manual  then addresses performance and set up issues and will instruct users how to set up your machine for optimum performance.

Finally, another feature I like which Orbx always include, is an introduction to the team. Not surprisingly you will find FS geospatial data guru, Holger Sandmann in charge, with a team of developers including Eugene Krikunov, Scott Armstrong, Alex Goff, Misha Cajic, and Tim Harris to name a few.

Scenery Coverage

FTX: NA Gold NCA Northern California covers ~115,000 sq mi (~300,000 sq km), reaching from southern Oregon, all the way to Monterey Bay, and east across the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Basin.

The map on the left gives you a good idea, geographically, of the area covered. On the right is a view of the supplied .kmz file, which can be viewed in Google Earth, showing all the airports, nav aids, and points of interest. This is a great way to plan a scenic flight plan.

*Tip - If you have the excellent Plan-G flight planner, you can also load in the .kmz file as an overlay and create your flight plan right there!

Level of Detail

FTX: NA Gold NCA comes with a complete set of 10 m, high-resolution, terrain mesh files. This amount of detail is most apparent when flying over mountain ridges. Some of the most scenic areas are treated to a photoscenery cover which emphasises the resolution more.

I am also using FSGlobal 2010 FTX edition. It is placed well down the scenery table, below my FTX regions, and switched off for this review, but it works seamlessly with NCA, as the sim will automatically use the highest resolution mesh available.

Mt Shasta showing hi-res mesh and photoscenery

Near Lake Tahoe - note all the peaks

FTX: NA Gold NCA has 'hand-crafted custom landclass'. Below, I have shown examples of the landclass from high level. Landclass, as we know, is the land classification and usage of the land, e.g. urban, grass, farmland, and beach to name a few. That landclass layer sits over the mesh layer.

Reportedly, every square kilometre has been hand placed using references from various sources, including street maps, aerial photography, and topography charts. Going this extra mile (0r Kilometre) for accuracy should result in the scenery closely resembling the real word. As a visitor to the region, I am happy that what I am seeing looks real and well placed.

Many different land classes are in use here

San Joaquin Valley - An agricultural region

The scenery also boasts enhanced vectors. This is the most noticeable of features in an FTX region upgrade. So many things get corrected over the default scenery, including coastlines, roads, rivers, lakes, streams, railways, motorways, and much more. This is where Orbx excel themselves by making the scenery less anonymous and more like the real world. I followed a road for hundreds of miles and it is very accurately placed and can be used for VFR navigation.

Arcata Bay

Lake Tahoe- detail

Towns & Cities

Large cities, like Sacramento and San Francisco are much improved over the default, but, they are just an approximation of the buildings. Howver, the major roads and railways are accurate and this is enough for very basic navigation - good luck if you use this method! Good news on the horizon is, Orbx are working on a freeware version of San Francisco to enhance the FTX regional version.

Smaller cities and towns, like Fresno and Santa Rosa, do have a more rural feeling. If you are following US Route 101, you will fly over most of the built up areas. Indeed, US 101 is the road which crosses the Golden Gate Bridge.


101 Southbound near KACV Arcata

Santa Rosa

Golden Gate Bridge

San Jose


San Francisco

Updated Airfields

Many of the airfields have been updated with Orbx features, such as animated people and animals, custom buildings, and objects. I didn't try to visit all 360 of them but see below for a selection of what to expect.

One feature I liked was the variety of updated airports and airfields in the scenery. There are large airports such as KSFO, military and NASA fields such as Travis AFB and NASA Crows landing, sky parks such as E79 Sierra, and many interesting club fields and ranches.

CL77 Bonnie Doon

E79 Sierra Sky Park

KFAT Fresno - Yosemite

KMFR Rogue Valley - Medford


NRC NASA Crows Landing

L36 Rio Linda

KSFO - San Francisco International

It's easy to understand that many flight simmers buy Orbx regional sceneries for the eye candy of the landscape and there is plenty of that here, however, take a moment to admire the work which has gone into improving these otherwise basic fields.

Quality of Buildings / Objects

Generally, the building models used are from generic Orbx library stock which are in keeping with the region.  These buildings can be very repetitive in urban areas but is expected to be so, and in rural areas similar buildings are used. In short, they serve their purpose well and are well optimised.

What we do get are custom items such as pylons, windfarms, dams, tunnels, and bridges. There are some very fine bridges in the Bay area which are custom built by Tim Harris and their unique structure serve well as VRPs. When venturing out of San Franciso to the east, you are likely to come across some vast areas of wind turbine farms and these look stunning at twilight.

Mare Island Draw Bridge

Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge


Altamont  Pass windfarms

Shasta Dam

Sutro TV tower near Twin Peaks

With so many lakes and rivers that which their source in the mountains, we have no shortage of hydro dams and there are 13 which have been given special treatment and are great to view on cross country-tours.
Night Lighting

FTX: NA Gold NCA comes with the new (FTX Global) 3D night lighting effects. The views over cities are just stunning with lights on poles and red and green traffic lights at intersections. The smaller townships, understandably, have fewer, more sparsely placed lights, which help distinguish them as lower populated areas.

You definitely cannot navigate using roads by night. The placement of the lights is not very accurate outside of built up areas and some main routes where you would expect to have lights, don't.  I also found some lights terminated halfway down a stretch of road heading into town.

View over the bridge

Down town San Francisco

Overall the lighting was fine for me and I love flying at twilight or dawn when you can see the 3D lights and scenery together.


As with all Orbx’s regional sceneries, you get five seasons. When ‘Hard Winter’ is chosen (this is normally the month of January in the northern hemisphere) snow will appear on the base textures and rivers and lakes, depending on altitude and location, will freeze over. It is this sort of dynamic scenery which makes you believe you are really there.

Summer at Lake Tahoe

Hard winter at Lake Tahoe

Compatibility Issues 

Known compatibility issues are highlighted and addressed in the user manual. Advice for use with 3rd party scenery such as Flightbeam Studios – KSFO, Aerosoft – US Cities X San Francisco and Ground Environment X (GEX) are clearly detailed and range from full compatibility (Flightbeam) through partial (Aerosoft) to no compatibility (GEX).

Technical Requirements

With the exception of requiring a good broadband connection to download the 3.53Gb of installation files, nothing else is specified.

I think it is safe to assume you need MS Windows with FSX or P3D or P3Dv2. At least 2GB of video RAM, 5.4GB of free disk space, 6GB ram and a 2.5GHz or higher processor. The user manual does provide you with useful information on setup and scaling the display settings to suit your machine.


FTX: NA Gold NCA performed excellently within the existing settings I have in Prepar3Dv2. I have my frame rate locked at 30 frames per second with most of my settings set high to very high and with full shadowing (HDR Off) and there was no need to make any adjustments to compensate for performance issues.

Value for Money

As far as a Value for Money assessment, FTX: NA Gold NCA is excellent considering the complete package and how much this scenery will give you back in enjoyment. If you are an FSX user contemplating upgrading to P3Dv2, then there is already an installer provided, making it virtually future proof.

Review Computer Specifications

The specifications of the computer on which the review was conducted are as follows:
    ● Intel i7 4770K o/c to 4.2GHz);
    ● GTX 690 4096MB GDDR5 graphics;
    ● 16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3 1866MHz;
    ● Windows 7 Pro, (64bit);
    ● Lockheed Martin Prepar3D v2.2; and
    ● Additional major add-ons seen in screenshots include REX4 Texture Direct and Active Sky Next.


Another peerless product from Team Orbx. With every new region released they continue to up their game.


    ● High quality;
    ● Excellent level and attention to detail; and
    ● Superb value for money.


    ● Nothing major found.


    ● Orbx home
    ● Product page
    ● User forums

  Verdict:    Gold
Scenery Coverage: 10/10
Level of Detail: 10/10
Quality of Buildings: 9.5/10
Performance: 9.5/10
Value for Money: 10/10
FTX: NA Gold NCA is awarded a Mutley's Hangar score of 9.8/10, "Outstanding"
and a Mutley's Hangar Gold Award.