ADX FirstLook: Aerosoft Berlin Brandenburg!
P3Dv2. Admiration. This followed by a hint of sadness. And perhaps a bit of confusion. Welcome to another ADX FirstLook, my brief journey into the virtual world of Lockheed Martin's Prepar3D flight simulation platform version 2.2 and the remarkable products developed for it. This time around, I have made my way into the very heart of Germany where not only is history among the most profound in human history, but even the present seems not without a bit of controversy. I am talking about the German capital of Berlin. Home to so much that has shaped world culture from architecture to music, it really is a defining point on the globe. In the world of flight simulation, Berlin is no stranger to me. Tegel has felt the pressure of my landing gear a great many times as it has also seen me depart for the skies. As a WW|| enthusiast, it had always saddened me a bit to see Berlin's most historical airfield Tempelhof close it's runways for the last time in 2008 and I was equally awaiting this sadness to expand to Tegel closing it's own doors. A pending sadness that is continuing to prolong it's arrival due to the very complex fact that Tegel's successor just can't seem to get itself to fruition bringing me back to my opening line:
Admiration. This followed by a hint of sadness. And perhaps a bit of confusion.
Admiration: Because I am very pleased with the style of architecture chosen for the new Berlin Brandenburg airport. It very appropriately says "This Is Berlin" and in many ways pays it's design homage to the architectural and historic presence of Brandenburg Gate. No wonder they named the airport that.
Admiration: Because the combined German forces (yes I did say German forces) of 29Palms and LimeSim have done an impeccable job of bringing their capital airport to fruition in FS in such a versatile way, it's almost perfect in every manner. Germany should be proud of them. I sure am.
Sadiness: Well as stated, the popular airports of Berlin have or will be closing their doors once Berlin Brandenburg is ready. But also because of reasons why Brandenburg has not yet opened which leaves me to...
Confusion: Just what the hell is going on here? Germany in my eyes has always been in my mind and heart synonymous with quality, integrity, and durability. From automobiles, to airplanes, well, practically almost everything except food, Germany knows how to build, create, and do so with style, and beauty. So what the fuck went wrong with Brandenburg? And is continuing to go wrong?
Sure, when the FS product was initially announced by Mathijs Kok as a pre "Preview of a Preview" it was already questionable if the real Brandenburg would have been complete by the time the Aerosoft version would be released. But once the first previews rolled out, this became more of a solid concept. The FS version would come first. Now? Well if I am not mistaken, this is the very first time an entire airport was developed and released in FS, prior to it's real world counterpart reaching competition.
As I stated, sad and confused.
[Note: For format purposes, some images are cropped. Click each image for full size resolution preview.]
I remember my very first European payware scenery. It was LSZH by FlyLogic back in the wee early days of FS9. I had visited Zurich in real life for the first time in February 2004 just a few months after the opening of Dock E and I had been lucky enough to be one of the first passengers to christen one the brand spankin new A340's delivered to Swiss. In business class too. Believe it or not, it was actually a bit of a disappointment as I was hoping to get a shot on the MD-11 prior to it's retirement. A few were still in service at the time and to this day, I have never flown on one. No bother, it was also the first time I had the opportunity to help break in a new aircraft. She smelled so new too!
Wow that was a long time ago. Anyhoo, after returning home from almost a month in Europe, I immediately began to set out in search for a proper payware version of Zurich.
With Google as my friend. I came across FlyLogic and what followed after a great many flight hours later, had become a product that had really started to show it's age. After years of use, I again returned to Google to discover FlightSimulationDreamTeam (FSDT). I had never heard of these guys before but oh my God was their LSZH in development looking mighty awesome. Far better in quality than anything I had ever seen before. Later on I came to learn these were the guys responsible for all of my favorite Cloud9 addons and shortly thereafter, I was discovering an all new and finally accurate version of Zurich. I had also discovered AES for the first time as well. This was a defining moment in my life between these two products.
Let's go ahead and push back and make our way to Berlin. I'm glad to have you aboard.
Along with my UK2000 Heathrow Pro, FSDT LSZH, and Cloud9 AMS, I had also discovered the Aerosoft German Airports series of products. One of the many sorties I conducted back in those FS9 days, was the German Airports 4 package which among a number of airports was Berlin's Schönefeld. At the time, the quality was not as good as the 3 other aforementioned airport developers products but it still was quite good for it's time. It's been quite a few years since I did the ZRH-SXF sortie so I was very excited to relive some good old times. But in this case, whereas the departure was one I had done a great many times out of LSZH, this was indeed a whole new approach experience into EDDB.
The first of which to catch my attention was the coverage area surrounding the airport. Quite massive I might say with a very high resolution phototerrain coverage complete with custom hand placed autogen. It also blended quite nicely with FTX Global Vector and OpenLC EU. As I continued my approach down 07L the airport came into view like a freshly completed Death Star. Brand new yet, unused with Schönefeld still out of view. A 15kt crosswind took me off guard just before touchdown but a quick reaction lead to a smooth touchdown. I made a solid effort not to look over to my right to look at the new airport. There would be plenty of time for that tomorrow.
Today, it would be all about the brand new version of Schönefeld.
Berlin is an amazing place with so much for anyone to discover. Among that is music. One of my favrorite music groups just happens to be based in Berlin and they composed a track that not only in my opinion captures the spirit of Berlin, it's also quite fitting for this review. I hereby introduce you to Jazzanova. Thank you flying with me and I hope you will enjoy your stay.
Now without a doubt, I have become quite accustomed to the development quality of 29Palms and I have everything these guys have ever released much of which, is under the brand of other development companies. So when I got my first look at Schönefeld, the efforts of Lars and Martin was immediately obvious. That said, I have very little experience with LimeSim products so their efforts in the project were not as obvious to me. So as this was a joint effort between the two teams, this is the last time I will refer to the development companies as separate entities as they pertain to this review.
The product comes with it's own control manager complete with several options such as the ability to close the Brandenburg airport bringing that portion of the airfield to it's real world state. But if you are anything like me, you choose to open it for the option to utilize. The down point of this is there are not yet any scheduled flights into Brandenburg that I am aware of so don't expect it to look busy. Well unless you modify your AI flight plans. But that could be a nightmare in the long run as many of us well know. As for Schönefeld, I noticed my EasyJet, RyanAir, Transaero and several other AI airlines present.
To remind myself of just how far flight simulation quality has come, I decided to go back and pull a few shots of the old GAP Schönefeld one of which I added below. It's amazing how far our developers have come over the years. Looking at the new version, the texture quality was immaculate and night lighting even better.
But by all means, i'll let the screenshots speak for themselves. I have to remember not to go too far with the verbiage in these simple first look articles. Having felt very impressed with my discovery at Schönefeld including the amazingly smooth performance, I headed to my hotel for the night to rest up for my exploration of Brandenburg in the morning.
When I awoke the following morning, I was very displeased to see the weather was not by any means good. In fact, it was the worst possible weather for taking pictures. Low hanging fog almost completely blanketed the airfield making it quite difficult to adequately capture the detail. Nevertheless, out I went. I headed over to the local shopping center for some grub and settled on Zur Currywurst. I was quite pleased to see the entire area modeled in high detail. I got my snack to go and headed right over to the airport.
Now if you are used to my reviews, one thing I am known to nitpick at or otherwise rip some developers apart on is the landside portions of airport sceneries. There used to be a thought process that the only thing sim pilots really care about is the detail from the gate perspective. A thought process that suggests that if you are not taxiing your airplane into the parking lot, there is no point in a detailed representation of that area. More and more developers are getting out of this thought process and putting a lot of focus and effort in every part of the airport and not just the airside. I have a lot of respect for these developers and here in Berlin, I was very impressed. A quick look at Google Earth and Bing's Birds Eye View suggested every building, structure, and object was included such as signage. The texture quality was highly detailed as well. But damn this bloody rolling fog.
This airport is desolate enough to be honest and the fog ain't helpin. It's like the zombie apocalypse broke out and everyone get the hell out of there. Sort of eerie to be honest. A beautiful sort of eeriness though. I find that I am amazed at just how realistic everything looks.
When I first flew into FlyTampa's Dubai, I thought the ground textures looked new. But this. This is almost like a fresh blanket of snow without footprints. Man this place is new. The terminal and ground textures are sharp and crisp and the glass so real I could have sworn I left a smudge on one.
The concrete makeup of the control tower looks so real it's almost as if the team had mixed and poured it directly into their computers. But there is an issue here.
An issue or dare I say a mistake I continue to see several developers make. I am referring to glass reflection. There is I assume some default environmental reflection image that some developers keep using and I have pointed this out in a few past reviews already. There are no mountains in Berlin, so why am I seeing a mountain in the glass reflection? The same mountain reflection I have seen in countless sceneries. Take a look at FlightBeam and LHSimulations, these are just two developers I can name that get it right. Here, the team really should have created their own background reflection image depicting the airfield. The way they did it here, it actually ruined an otherwise perfectly rendered and shaded glass presence.
On a positive note, I was pleased to see transparent glass used. I can't really say internal modeling was done because there is not really anything to see looking in but a long walled corridor with doors on all three levels. So I will just call it hollow modeling. Not the best I have seen but miles ahead of texturing the windows be it photorealistic or baked.
The above shot should give you a better idea of the bloody P3Dv2 voulmetric fog I had to deal with this morning. One thing I noticed about the terminal structure was just how clean the rooftop was. At first I thought that perhaps the team did not want to bother adding the duct systems that usually clutter rooftops of large buildings but then after looking at Google Earth, I realized they had in fact rendered everything perfectly. So where the hell were the duct systems?
Turns out, in order for the structure to remain aesthetically pleasing to the eye, the designers decided that the terminal would not have ducts incorporated on the rooftops. This also includes the all important smoke extraction systems. Okay. But as we all know, smoke rises. Thus this is why the ducts go on the roof. So in this case, if there were a fire, smoke would need to have a natural way out of the terminal somehow. The designers had this light bulb idea to place the exhaust ducts below the terminal buildings requiring this natural behavior of hot air and smoke to be reversed artificially. The smoke would have to be pumped downwards. Bloody hell. Obviously, this design or rather dysfunctional system is one of the biggest contributors of the airport's continuous ongoing delay's. So guess what they decided to do as a temporary measure in an effort to open the airport? Employ 700 people throughout the building as human fire detectors. What the absolute fuck. Bright minds at work here.
Sadly this is only one of many issues that will not see this airport reach it's intended potential until well after 2016. Lucky for us flight sim fans, it's fully available and in perfect working order today which at the date this article was published, puts the real airport at roughly 5 years behind schedule.
Here is another shot of the glass. Minus the reflected image, it looks wonderful. The night lighting was very well applied and the control tower itself is just fun to sit and look at. The concrete on that thing so real, it looks as if the developers mixed and poured it right into their computers. The photo terrain coverage is pristine.
As for the hangar and cargo areas, all were done to some of the best quality I have seen as the screenshots will no doubt depict.
Just looking at it, real or not, Brandenburg is a work of art and a reminder of some of the incredible talent we have in this community.
Admiration. This followed by a hint of sadness. And perhaps a bit of confusion.
But now? Just Admiration.
What was done here is reflective of what can happen when a group of highly talented developers pull their heads and resources together. The results here are amazing. Growing up here in the States, it always been known that German manufacturing is equivalent to and in many ways, superior to that of the US in many ways. Automobiles has always been one of them. We have always seen German luxury automobiles superior to ours. That is why my car is one of them. Heck many American luxury cars are designed by Germans. A known fact. And as for construction and architecture, some of the best in Europe is found in Germany be it modern or ancient.
So what is going so wrong with Brandenburg? Indeed, with the fall of Berlin after WW2 and it's subsequent separation between East and West, cities like Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, and Munich and grown and surpassed the capital city.
Brandenburg Airport was supposed to be a defining moment for Berlin. It was supposed to say, Berlin has bounced back and is ready to take on the world again. Instead, poor construction planning, management oversight, execution, and corruption has only served to add to Berlin's already controversial history. The way this project has been handled is almost a proverbial spit in the face of Germany especially towards it's capital city.
I do hope the bright minds will quickly get things in order for this airport and as Berlin's new gateway, restore pride to this great city.
As for our development team, my final thought? If you ask me, they have already restored some of that confidence and that pride. I highly recommend Aerosoft Berlin Brandenburg and you can purchase and begin your experience now by clicking the link below:
Hope I kept it short and sweet. Thanks for coming along and Happy Flighting!