It’s a quiet Monday morning. A new day dawns as the first sun rays gently illuminate the White! A chilling breeze blows into my face as I trudge through last night’s fresh snow. The crystal-clear atmosphere exposes a majestic view onto masses of ice quietly floating near the shore. What sounds like an excerpt from a classic adventurer novel actually is the level of immersion you can get with X Plane 11!
Every year around fall, I get this odd craving for ice and snow and this also applies for my personal flight sim adventures.
Using X-Plane exclusively, this can somewhat be a problem. Remarkably, stock X-Plane 11 scenery does not include those remote areas of the world where you’d expect ice and snow all year-round. Basically, that means no North and no South Pole. You won’t find any land masses, no ice whatsoever there, just an almost endless ocean.
As a side note, X-Plane also does not ship with native support for seasons yet. There are several freeware solutions available which add seasons to the sim (look for Xflyer’s “Winter Package”) but these usually require some “fiddling around” to at least some extent and, compared with other sims, only induce a much lower level of visual immersion.
That said, MaxxXP recently announced TerraMAXX, the first third-party payware product to promise an all-round carefree package for seasonal representation. TerraMAXX, however, has not been released yet and it remains to be seen if it will live up to its claims.
Back to our polar adventures, though, what other options do X-Plane pilots have? Where the stock simulator lacks, third-party developers stepped in and offer some exciting add-ons, both freeware and payware, that create the most compelling visual representation of ice and snow I have ever seen in any sim!
Let’s see what we have:
- Grand Arctic Scenery v2 by HSimulators (payware, available for $39.00)
- Antarctica4XPlane by maps2xplane (freeware)
- IcebergsXP by openVFR (payware, available for €14.95)
The Grand Arctic Scenery v2 was only recently released by HSimulators. It covers the complete arctic region, which does not exist in the stock scenery. That is more than 1 million square miles of missing scenery in one package. It also features 24 airports within this area, including infamous Thule Air Base. If you like to fly up north, this is what you need!
For the purpose of this article, though, we devote ourselves to Antarctica.
Antarctica4XPlane is currently available in two packages, covering massive areas of Antarctica. Part 1 covers the South Orkney Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. Part 2 features Victoria Land and the northern parts of the transantarctic mountain range.
A third available package features subantarctic Marion Island and Prince Edward Island in the Southern Indian Ocean. Admittedly, these packages do not nearly cover the whole Antarctic continent. However, the scenery coverage is truly massive and definitely big enough to keep you busy for a while. In our little adventure, this is also owed to IcebergsXP.
IcebergsXP is a new plug-in and the first X-Plane product by openVFR, a reputable German design team. This plug-in has some great features to offer.
One of these features is a fix for the repetitive patterns in X-Plane’s water. With IcebergsXP these patterns are history (and you don’t necessarily need to activate icebergs to apply this fix). However, the stand-out feature of the product is icebergs.
IcebergsXP either draws icebergs at their respective real-world positions or, if desired, generates them randomly on any water surface in the world. Basically, you have full control. Pack ice is currently under development and will be added with a future update.
If you add some of the outstanding freeware airfields/helipads available for Antarctica (e.g. by Paolo Grifantini) which are usually connected to a research facility, you’ll get one of the most fascinating experiences you can have in X-Plane. And thanks to IcebergsXP, the scenery never looks the same. Don’t trust me, though, see for yourself!
One thing I should add, currently you cannot land on the icebergs. This is somewhat disappointing for all heli pilots. However, the developer plans to add this feature in a future update, but there is no ETA for this feature available yet.
It should also be mentioned that I encountered frequent CTD’s (crashes to desktop) whenever I used the plug-in together with Ultimate Realism Pack by developer Predrag Drobac (which also relies on ReShade). I already contacted the developer about this problem and he agreed to look into it, but this can certainly take a while. Just bear that in mind when you plan to use IcebergsXP.
I hope this article inspired you to fly in an area of our planet you may have never visited before. It’s the beauty of our hobby that we are able to visit all of those exciting places of our planet where most of us will never have the chance to get anywhere near.
Our planet’s poles are certainly among those places. Thanks to our devoted developer community, you can now visit one of the most exciting and remote areas our planet has to offer. All we need now is penguins and polar bears. Who’s up for the challenge?