FTX: NA Gold NCA - Northern California
For FSX/P3D/P3DV2 Published by Orbx Simulations
Reviewed by Joe Lawford
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
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.
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.
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
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.
- If you have the excellent
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
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.
Towns & Cities
Lake Tahoe- detail
|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
Golden Gate Bridge
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
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.
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
CL77 Bonnie Doon
E79 Sierra Sky Park
KFAT Fresno - Yosemite
KMFR Rogue Valley - Medford
KSUU Travis AFB
NRC NASA Crows Landing
L36 Rio Linda
KSFO - San Francisco International
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
Mare Island Draw Bridge
Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge
Altamont Pass windfarms
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.
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
Summer at Lake Tahoe
winter at Lake Tahoe
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
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
● High quality;
● Excellent level and attention to detail; and
● Superb value for money.
● Nothing major found.
● Scenery Coverage:
● Level of Detail:
● Quality of Buildings:
● Value for Money:
FTX: NA Gold NCA is awarded a Mutley's Hangar score of 9.8/10, "Outstanding"
and a Mutley's Hangar Gold Award.