I would like to start by making a point very clear; I am not a great believer in reviews per se. When I’m shopping in Amazon or searching in Trip Advisor, I pay little to no attention to the “star rating” of a product unless the number or reviews is overwhelmingly high (a high “n” number leads to more significant results for all the math geeks like me). Why is that? Simply put, humans are emotional beings and we act on impulse. So more often than not, a review is written immediately after a “tail event”, meaning an overwhelmingly positive or negative experience. Those with average experiences never bother to express their feelings.
Having said the above, I do realize that AirDailyX is a news and reviews site, and my aforementioned theory goes against our core existence. However, fear not, I am only one of many authors in AirDailyX and this is my personal view and not the view of ADX as an institution. All I’m trying to say here is that if my reviews seem outlandish, and focused on products that are not fresh out the oven; keep in mind that this is by design. I don’t think I can add any value by telling you that a “blue chip” developer’s latest release is very good, because odds are that you are enjoying it already. They have set the bar so high that a simple “released!” announcement on Facebook is enough to clog the servers of the online shops while everyone rushes to install the product with confidence. I personally feel that reviewing those products is a complete waste of my time and yours; no reason to tell you what you already know. However, I can add value by expanding your horizons and introducing you to an experience that has been there for some time but you never extracted all of the ripe juice it had to offer.
So after this introduction/disclaimer, I would like to talk about the first of many reviews of this kind: “Scraping the peaks of the Himalayas”. I have been a huge fan of FSDG Paro Bhutan scenery since its release. This is the only rendition that replicates the white knuckle approaches into this secluded field hidden in a small valley amid 10,000-foot peaks. If you surf through my YouTube channel, you would get a high dosage of Paro adventures. But this is not about me or my 738 simulator. This is purely about the wonderful marriage between FSDG Paro (VQPR) and Thai Creation – Namaste Nepal: Tribhuvan (VNKT). With a mere 180 nautical miles separating these two airports and both having a long enough runway to fly a true single-aisle airliner, this short flight is perhaps one of the most enjoyable and challenging ones you can find in the world of flight simulation. A quick side note: I did not overlook Lukla; I just don’t think it’s realistic or even possible to land a Boeing in that short roller coaster of a runway.
Thai Creations – Tribhuvan (VNKT):
I feel very strongly that every simmer should own both of these titles and load up their favorite single-aisle aircraft at VNKT to really test your skills. While you are at it, you will also test your ability to hand-fly an airliner, perform a very difficult approach based on a simple briefing (There are no approach Charts into Paro) and test the accuracy of your flight control calibrations. So let’s start by placing a 737 or A320 in the gate of your choice at VNKT during the day (in the real world, this flight is illegal at night). You will notice several things right away; first, the performance at this airport is amazing, partly due to the lack of a metropolis anywhere near the area. Second, your terrain display has every shade of red possible. This is because you are about to take off from the foot of Mount Everest! Lastly, if you are using real world weather, a thick layer of fog is going to limit your visibility to a mere 2 to 3 nautical miles. If you are not impressed by Thai Creation’s level of detail, I encourage you to google images of the actual airport. Because as underwhelming as it may be, their representation of VNKT is extremely accurate. We are taking runway 20 outbound which calls for a short back-taxi with a turn-around point that is elevated some 20 feet from the terrain below. I want to focus on the quality of these sceneries and the exhilarating topography of both areas; this is not a screenshot contest of a perfect orange sunset. Therefore, all of the images were taken with clear skies. Well, except one. The first image attests to my point earlier; VNKT is located in a very foggy valley. I begin my slideshow by juxtaposing a view of VNKT using real-world weather and the same image under clear skies.
There is something very appealing to me about flying from a deep valley into another deep valley. The mere thought that it takes careful planning and execution to avoid terrain on the climb out and decent just makes this flight very exciting. As soon as the landing gear comes up after departing VNKT we begin a sharp right turn. And the hundreds of hand placed autogen around the field begin to slowly fade into a thick layer of fog. It is here that you realize the importance of your terrain display and the ability to fly an RNAV departure with minimal course deviation. At approximately 20,000 feet you will finally brake above the clouds. This image never fails to impress me, as you see an infinite bed of clouds with several mountain peaks sticking out like icebergs over the sea. Before we move onto Paro Bhutan, take a look at this great rendition of VNKT from all angles.
In order to praise the great work from this developer, we need to first focus on its real-world counterpart and understand why this airport is so special. Once entering your initial approach fix, you can take your autopilot, auto throttle, flight director, ILS, VOR, and every advanced IFR instrument and throw it in the garbage. These are no good here. The only way to pull off this approach is by having good visibility and a keen understanding of the limitations of your aircraft. I highly recommend you read the PDF document that FSDG includes in the installation folder. They have done an amazing job in describing both procedures into Paro (the difficult runway 33 visual approach and the extremely difficult visual to runway 15). The only way to properly execute an approach into Paro is by having a detailed scenery which includes the intricate network of valleys, the stream of water that runs throughout the valley and leads to the airport from both directions, and the infamous temple that is used as a visual cue for the approach into runway 15. FSDG’s version of Paro offers all of these features plus many more making this approach a must for all devoted simmers.
I don’t want to turn a review into an instruction manual on how to land in paro. I highly recommend you read the FSDG documentation for that. What I will do is show you a series of screenshots that chronologically cover both approaches into Paro, starting with runway 33.
Runway 33 is fun. But nowhere near as fun as the infamous runway 15 approach. This approach requires you to overfly the field at 12,500 feet (5,000 feet AGL) and after slowing to your final approach speed, use a small valley to literally make a U-turn and line up with the stream facing the temple. Ignore all of your alerts, because airliners were not made for this and they let you know about it the entire time. If you are able to finish the initial turn 2,000 feet AGL above the stream with the temple at your 12 o’clock and a stable airplane, then get ready for the hardest part. You are now required to make an S-turn (sharp right immediately followed by sharp left) because there is a hill a few hundred feet from the threshold. Keep practicing this approach with the scenery installed and place a comment below with your results. You can also click here to see me perform this procedure in the sim. And let’s show some screenshots of the runway 15 approach powered by FSDG Paro and the beautiful landscape and autogen around the field.
I really hope this “review” introduced you to a new adventure or encouraged you to try out that scenery you bought a while back and forgot about it. I spent a long time flying from Paro to Paro until it got boring. When I first purchased the VNKT scenery I was hoping to find a decent airport to pair with my Paro scenery. I was very impressed with the quality of the airport and the surrounding city. As a closing note, I want to mention one of the factors that lead me to write this review. It took a while but I eventually managed to convince a few friends of mine to install both sceneries and join me on this short hop. I won’t mention any of their names, but AJ, Derek, and Prith have been simming for a long time but never actually flew into either airport. Needless to say, they loved the experience and are now quick to take me up on the offer. I immediately asked myself, how many simmers out there would really enjoy this route but are not aware of it? I guess the comments and popularity of this review will have the answer to my question.