Review: Future Game Shop KPAO - Palo Alto Airport for X-Plane

Last week, seemingly out of nowhere, Future Game Shop released their KPAO - Palo Alto Airport for X-Plane. Located on the southern end of the San Franisco Bay, Palo Alto is a regular spot for real world GA pilots in northern California.

PLEASE NOTE: This scenery is no longer available. We are letting this article up as a reference only.

Installation

Unlike most freeware, and some other payware sceneries for X-plane, this airport scenery uses an installation program instead of the typical X-Plane folder drop. This takes a little longer because the installer downloads the files to your computer after receiving a valid password. This is almost certainly driven by piracy concerns, which is understandable.

Buildings and Mesh

The airport is surrounded by nice high resolution satellite orthophotos used as the ground textures. One thing to understand is that like most freeware airport scenery, the orthophotos only cover the immediate area surrounding the airport.

Future Game Shop - KPAO - Palo Alto - Overview Future Game Shop - KPAO - Palo Alto - Overview

This includes the local golf course,

Future Game Shop - KPAO - Palo Alto - Golf course Future Game Shop - KPAO - Palo Alto - Golf course

commercial / industrial area

Future Game Shop - KPAO - Palo Alto - Industry Future Game Shop - KPAO - Palo Alto - Overview

and a water treatment plant.

Future Game Shop - KPAO - Palo Alto - Water treatment plant Future Game Shop - KPAO - Palo Alto - Water treatment plant

Lucky for us, X-plane doesn’t simulate the aroma of the last one! Future game shop also went through a lot of effort to make the vegetation of the area line up with the satellite imagery

This looks great when you’re low level really close to the airport, but leaves you with a sudden jolt when the scenery goes back to the default landscape. Using othrophotos in heavily populated areas is a little easier because the ground textures disappear into the auto generated buildings and other scenery. The default scenery that surrounds KPAO is very lightly populated in some area which makes it difficult to blend the scenery into its surroundings. Because of this you can see a very sharp line where the add-on scenery starts, and the default scenery begins.

Most of the buildings here look custom made which helps make this scenery stand out, less generic. A lot of these custom objects like the hangars, are used over again in various places on the field, but it’s still better than the most of the generic “lego brick” airports out there.

There are also lots of static objects other than airplanes and hangars sprinkled across the airport.

Future Game Shop - KPAO - Palo Alto - Static objects Future Game Shop - KPAO - Palo Alto - Static objects

I like this a lot because if you’ve ever been to any general aviation airport, you know there is much more there than just airplanes and hangars. This gives the KPAO scenery the look and feel of an actual living general aviation airport. A lot of general aviation airport designers tend to leave that stuff out. This is another case where the same set of objects is used over and over, but it goes to good effect.

The terrain mesh is relatively flat in this area in the real world, so there isn’t much to critique in that aspect. However, KPAO is located right next to the southern end of the San Francisco Bay, which is another area where the use of the orthophotos is difficult to blend into the default scenery.

Future Game Shop - KPAO - Palo Alto

Frame Rate impact

There is a good amount of detail here, but not so much that it drags down the performance of the sim, at least in my case. Individual results may vary, but I’m pretty sure this scenery will have minimal impact on most systems.

Our rating

Positives

  • Custom buildings
  • Orthophoto ground texturing
  • Nice detail of the immediate surrounding area

Negatives

  • Orthophotos don’t blend well with the surrounding default scenery
  • Nothing particularly interesting for helicopter pilots

Bottomline

    This would make a good cross country flight destination if you were flying from the San Francisco /Oakland area, or if you were looking for an airport to do some traffic pattern work this would be a good choice in scenery.

    This is a good rendition of Palo Alto, this is most apparent when you’re taxiing around the airport it’s self. But, unless you really like KPAO, this doesn’t really offer anything specifically interesting for helicopter guys. The around it doesn’t have any terrain that is particularly challenging, or any helipads that would really interest a helicopter focused sim pilot.

Installation 8
Mesh 10
Textures 9
Buildings 9
Visual impact and quality 7
Frame rate impact 9
Total score
8.3

More about this scenery

Location

Characteristics

Terrain type Urban
Altitude 2m / 7ft
Helipads No
Joe Hudson

About Joe Hudson

Joe Hudson started with MS flight simulator 3.0 and has kept flight simulation as a hobby until the present day. He earned his private and commercial rotorcraft certificates learning to fly in the Hughes/Schweitzer 300C. He then moved on to the MD500D, Eurocopter/Airbus AS-350, and Bell 206, before joining the United States Army. In the Army, he’s served as a UH-60A crew-chief/mechanic and is currently an Aviation Safety Specialist and Advanced Aircraft Qualification Course Instructor Pilot for the AH-64 series.

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