After my dwellings into the icy deserts of Antarctica, I found out about Aerosoft's Sahara Desert Fly-in and decided it would be a nice follow-up within the theme "places that want to hurt you bad but are beautiful to fly at". It's challenging to fly in Antarctica in real life and it sure it's channeling to fly in the Sahara as well. Which adds to the fun!
Aerosoft's scenery covers only a small portion of the Sahara, but it makes it quite more interesting and fun, especially for helicopter pilots. Franz Luftfahrt did a fine job adding some small bits to a scenery that, by itself, it's pretty much a helicopter playground already.
Aerosoft Sahara Desert Fly-in features
Sahara Desert Fly-in covers an area of about 400 square kilometers (about 150 square miles) in Mauritania, Africa, on the western edge of the Sahara desert. Franz describes it as being "designed for sim pilots who enjoy an uncomplicated and non-procedural VFR flight over highly detailed, interesting and challenging terrain at low altitude.". And he did just that. As he puts it, the scenery is filled with eye-candy and, in a small area, he added a lot of very interesting features and places to visit.
The scenery also comes with 3 missions, which adds interactivity to the scenery. The "Guided Tour" shows you around the area and it's a good idea to try it and get to know the location of all the great places to visit -- although you almost don't need it as there's always something in the horizon getting your attention and making you want to fly there and see what's happening.
There's also a great map in the manual that shows you the locations, which makes it easier to find everything. There are a few exceptions, though: a ship, oil rig and lighthouse which are not on the map but they are easy to find (again, more on that later). You can find that map at the beginning of this section and click it.
Aerosoft's products are always easy to install. This product does take a few more steps and the manual has an error which you should pay attention to.
After installing, you will have to add the scenery to FSX by yourself but the manual indicates you should look for the Franz Luftfahrt folder inside your FSX installation folder. This is incorrect. The folder is called Aerosoft and there you will find the Sahara_Desert_FlyIn folder, which is the one you need to add to your scenery library. This can be a stop point for some users, so beware.
Once you do that, you're good to go.
Open the Aerosoft Launcher and you will find the manual there in PDF format.
Just like Aerosoft's Antarctica X, the fact that you are flying on a desert doesn't mean there's not some interesting views. Yes, there's a lot of sand and dunes, but there are also gorgeous little things to see.
The airstrip where the missions start -- and where you will probably take-of from on a lot of adventures in this area, is filled with nice details, good looking buildings, a couple of very cool aircraft and a guy chilling on a chair.
At the NE corner of the scenery, there's The Eye of Sauron. Well, OK... It's not the Eye of Sauron. It's a power plant. It's a big, beautiful structure that you can see at a distance. I'd rather think of it as the Eye of Sauron, though.
There are a lot more different areas and places to visit that will offer you a very pleasant journey across this hot, arid area of the world: a salt mine, a city, a rocky canyon, a Cadillac ranch (weird, yes), among other areas very distinct from each other.
Fly The Desert
Coming back to missions, Fly the Desert is the name of the "free flight" mission that comes in the package and this is what makes the scenery shine even more. I thought I should mention this as you may miss a lot if you don't try it. I am not a big fan of missions so I tend to overlook them. The manual indicates that this mission was built specifically to add some fun stuff so I decided to take a look at it.
In this mission, you will find trains running along the tracks, helicopters flying in formation (and you will listen to their communications) as well as other cool stuff such as camels strolling along the dunes and a nasty, nasty sand storm.
And I mean nasty.
I saw it at a distance and decided to take a closer look. The manual indicates we should stay away from it but I reckoned it was safe. My mistake. I heard a scream -- which almost made me jump off my chair -- and I was left wondering what happened. Well, it turns out the person screaming was my virtual self. My engine stopped.
I lowered my collective (increasing it a bit after turning it all the way down to keep the RPM), monitored my speed to keep it around 60 knots and managed to land. Fortunately there were no buildings in front of me. Or pinnacles. Or camels.
You will also find other interesting areas such as shipwrecks in the middle of the desert (for real), a Bedouin settlement equipped with an air strip and some fuel, cities, construction sites and a weird place called Cadillac ranch where you can see a bunch of Cadillacs buried. Weird stuff! And fun!
The manual is very small, yet it does its job. Aside from the installation error described above, everything else is in place and you get a map with the location of all the stuff that's worth visiting, except, as I said previously, a ship, an oil rig and a light house, which are still easy to find as I will
Apart from all the other locations, which are worth visiting -- and there are a lot -- Franz also added a few toys for us helicopter pilots to play with which are not on the map as I mentioned before. To find these, you just need to head north from the offshore Wind Farm -- which is displayed on the map. It's not hard to spot them as you'll see the next ones as you reach each location. All these are landable and they have some nice animations that don't ruin your frame rate.
I had absolutely no visible impact on frame rate in any of the areas of the scenery. The small hiccups I had now and then have to do with my own system since I had the same issues without the scenery installed.
I have to talk about the sound. Wherever you go, there's ambient sound. Native music, flies, dogs barking, bugs, flames, the works. It adds so much to the immersion of the scenery. Absolutely stunning job.
Aerosoft's Sahara Desert Fly-in is a small, yet amazingly fun scenery for helicopter lovers. The areas are very well done, fun, immersive and interesting to watch. It's not an extensive scenery but it's very well done with a lot of attention to detail. A stunning job. Highly recommended.