Review: ShortFinal KLAX - Los Angeles International HD for X-Plane

It’s rare that I do a review for scenery here on HeliSimmer, but it’s even more rare for me to do a review of a place I’m familiar with in real life (actually this is the first time!).

I Grew up in the Los Angeles area, and learned to fly here too. Anyone living in Southern California will find themselves at Los Angeles international Airport at some point in their life there. Picking someone up, dropping them off, or going on a trip yourself, people in So Cal always end up there.

LAX is also one of the busiest Airports in the world, which is why it was so intimidating the first time I called up LAX Tower as a very young, low time Commercial Helicopter pilot. KLAX was the first Class B Airspace I ever operated in. That day was a simple shoreline transition to the south towards Torrence, but it was still exhilarating, and a memory that is still vivid in my mind. Since that day, Class B airspace is a lot less intimidating to me, but LAX is still as busy.

There are a number of Freeware and Payware representations of LAX for X-plane. Since adopting X-plane as my primary simulator, I have explored all of them that I could find. This is what I found when I took a trip through the latest offering by Short Final Designs.

Installation

Installing this scenery is easy, just like any other X-plane scenery, just drop the folders in your Custom Scenery folder, and you’re done… Almost.

READ THE MANUAL!

You may have to adjust your scenery.ini file to ensure this scenery has the appropriate priority for display. I initially had a great deal of trouble getting it to cooperate with my othro4Xp tiles that I have covering all of Los Angeles. After some trial and error, I finally got the two to cooperate.

Short Final Designs have mentioned that there may be an Ortho tile patch for this scenery in the future.

Welcome to LAX!

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

LAX is nothing short of iconic, as far as airports go. Creating iconic areas can lead to scenery designers getting lazy. You Model the famous buildings, and leave the rest as generic, and most people would not know any better.

This is not the case with Short Final Designs rendition of LAX!

This scenery looks like it was built as if it were intended to be driven through, not flown over. Make no mistake: this is a compliment!

From the sky, we can look down and get the big picture, but lose some of the details, from the ground we get the small picture, but all the details. This scenery was built on details.

Lining the entrance to LAX are tall slender illuminated pillars. They are modeled in other renditions of LAX, but never to this level of detail

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

ShortFinal went through the pain of modeling the supporting structure, and each segment showing these landmarks as they actually are. They actually change color the way they’re supposed to at night.

If you keep going through the main entrance, you’ll see the iconic Theme Building. This is arguably the most recognized structure on any airport in the united states, perhaps the world and yet most people have absolutely no idea what it’s called.

It’s called the Theme Building, in case you missed it.

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

After that, you’ll see LAX tower, which is modeled in great detail. Like, an almost silly amount of detail. Look at the glass panes on the observation balcony!

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

The rest of the airport is, well… Look!

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

Apparently, there is some construction going on at LAX right now. These screen shots don’t do it justice, but there are animated construction vehicles hard at work building something new

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

They didn’t forget the area around the airport. The beach on the west side of the airport is what the shoreline transition through LAX’s airspace follows this is the very same transition I wrote about in the intro.

This transition is generally done at low altitude, less than 150ft. The picture below is of the last time I did the Shoreline transition.

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

ShortFinal did a good job adding the parking lots and the trees to the beaches, and if you compare the real-life picture above with the screen shot below, you’ll see that the mesh is about right, but for some reason the buildings were left out.

It’s a nitpicky thing to critique for sure, especially since it’s not actually on the airport, but they went through the touble to put the trees and the parking lots with cars. So, why not the buildings I wonder?

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

With all of these great details to be seen during the day, this scenery is simply Stunning to fly over at night!

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

The airport is a busy, bustling place that is full of activity, short of people walking around, carelessly throwing peoples luggage into the belly of large Airplanes, this really feels like a busy international airport. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any people here, you’ll find ground guides at almost every gate.

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

There are also some details that are really awesome from a historical and cultural standpoint. Short Final made it a point to add Hangar One, which I thought was really cool. In 1929 this was the first structure built at the airport that would become LAX.

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

The most important detail by far is something that every true Southern California native is familiar with. It’s often the first stop after flying in from out of state, or the last stop prior to departing on a trip.

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

If you are not from California, southern Nevada, New Mexico, and certain parts of Texas, you may not have ever heard of this burger chain. Nevertheless, let me assure you, it runs deep into the culture of Californians, it’s almost an institution in of itself.

I have personally eaten at the location depicted in this scenery 20 to 30 times or more over the years. It’s usually my first taste of home when I get back to California.

Mesh

One of the things that really made this airport stand out to me is the custom mesh that comes with it. If you take the 105 freeway to LAX like I do, you’ll take the off ramp to Sepulveda Boulevard were you’ll see another friendly welcome to LAX

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

From here you’ll drive into a tunnel that goes underneath both runway 25L and 25R. Short Final Designs, went through the extra effort of changing the mesh to show the entrance to those tunnels. The mesh also shows the roads that go under taxiway AA

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

If you use ortho scenery tiles like I do, you might run into some problems with levitating or sunken buildings.

The instruction manual included in the scenery warns as such. And like I mentioned in the installation section, you will have to edit your scenery.ini file to ensure that this scenery is shown in the right order. So, you can see everything.

Helicopters?

There are so many details, I wonder if this scenery is wasted on its target audience.

KLAX hasn’t been a hub for helicopter operations for quite a while now. Helicopters still operate here, but nothing like when LAX had its own heliport on top of parking garage 4. This heliport is long gone, and all of the efforts to revive it failed.

So, I wonder, are the tube-liner simmers who are no doubt going to buy this, really going to fully appreciate everything in this scenery? I doubt it. They land, taxi to their gate, back out, taxi and depart.

There is so much here right under their nose that they will never see due to the nature of their type of simming experience.

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

While we did not get the heliport back on top of parking structure #4, they did throw in the helipads located on top of the hotels near the Airport.

In reality, these helipads would be restricted for use by anyone other than Law Enforcement or Emergency Aircraft. Many years ago, the building code in Los Angeles required any structure over a certain height (I think it was 10 stories) to have a helipad on the Roof for emergencies.

I’m not sure, but I think this was due to the limits of the fire truck ladders. This requirement has since been rescinded, but you still see the vast majority of tall buildings in the Los Angeles sporting red and white helipads on top.

But, being a simulator, we can use these whenever we want! Who’s going to stop us? NOBODY! That’s who!

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

Frame Rates

Ok, so does all of these wonderful details come at a cost? Yes it does. Now to be fair, even the default “lego brick” X-plane LAX is a little tougher on the FPS than other airports. But there’s a lot to discuss on this topic. For reference, here are my computer specs:

  • Intel i7-4770K CPU
  • Nvidia GTX 980
  • 32GB RAM

Now this section is going to be broken down into two parts, 2D, and VR. Let’s start with 2D first.

2D

So, if you do your simulator flying on a monitor, you’re not going to have nearly as much trouble with this scenery. These are the settings I tested this scenery in with just my computer monitor

ShortFinal (MisterX) KLAX for X-Plane

With these settings, I was able to keep the FPS in the high 30s Low 40s over the center of the airport. when I bought the number of world objects down to medium, I maintained FPS in the mid 50s.

VR

OK, guys, have a seat, we need to talk.

Performance in VR isn’t stellar, but it is doable! Unless you have some sort of mega gaming machine you’re going to have to make some compromises to get this to run smoothly.

I found I got the best VR performance/visuals compromise with the World objects and Visual Effects set to Medium, Draw parked aircraft off, and no Ortho tiles. Adding Ortho tiles back in wasn’t a huge hit on performance, but I did notice a difference.

You might be able to squeak out a few extra FPS with a rendering tool or 3jFPS. Overall, expect to commit to reducing your settings when you operate out of this Scenery.

All of that being said, this LAX scenery produced better frame rates than the Funner Flight Los Angeles Scenery V2, that I also own.

Our rating

Positives

  • Custom mesh
  • Great textures
  • Detailed buildings, hangars, and terrain
  • Usable helipads
  • Well modeled historic and iconic buildings and landmarks
  • Superb night lighting

Negatives

  • Significant Frame Rate impact
  • Scenery.ini configuration can be tricky
  • Not yet fully compatible with Ortho tiles.

Bottomline

    This scenery is great, it can be pretty taxing on your computer, and your frame rates may suffer, but it is a great rendition of Los Angeles international Airport. in all honesty the screen shots don’t really convey just how much of an active environment Short Final Designs created with the care they took in creating this airport scenery.

    While there typically isn’t a whole lot to do for helicopters in LAX, the Helipads at the hotels give me more than enough reason to work this into my rotation of destinations. This is my first scenery from Short Final Designs, but it will not be my last

    P.S.: Yeah, I know short final is actually MisterX… Calm down!

Installation 8
Mesh 10
Textures 10
Buildings 10
Visual impact and quality 10
Frame rate impact 8
Total score
9.1
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Please note: the link above was either provided by the author of the product, the store that sent us the review copy or a personal choice of the article writer. It does not, in any way, indicate an endorsement of HeliSimmer.com to the website hereby linked.

More about this scenery

Location

Characteristics

Terrain type Urban
Altitude 38m / 125ft
Helipads Yes
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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