Jeff took a look at the Cincinnati International Airport scenery for X-Plane for Skyline. A nice scenery with some installation issues.
Cincinnati is one of the largest metropolitan cities (or Hubs in aviation lingo) located in the beautiful state of Ohio, smack-dab beneath the great lakes and a stone throw from many eastern-bound larger destinations.
Located at the confluence of the Licking and Ohio rivers, it quickly grew to be a venerable trading hub for commerce spreading east to west throughout the nineteenth century. Founded after the American Revolution, Cincinnati grew to be the sixth largest city in the region from 1840-1860 and was considered by most to be the first true, “American City”. For the culture-seeking folks, the city is known for its 19th-century architecture, including Findlay Market, which has food and craft vendors. To the north is the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
Skyline Simulations was founded back in 2013 with the goal to design high quality products that are able to provide maximum as possible experience of real flight environment with accurate and detailed modeled airports and aircraft’s.
Disclaimer: I’m not a big “international airport person”. Since most of my time flying is occupied sitting in the cockpit of a helicopter, our goal is to avoid the larger hubs whenever possible. Being that helicopters (usually) are not servicing international hubs and the large volume of traffic, we tend to avoid these area’s if at all possible. Additionally, I don’t do a lot of sim flying on the east coast. Nevertheless, I gave this scenery a fair shot and did the best I could.
The scenery itself is well executed with a meticulous attention to detail in and around the regions where most “heavy” sim pilots will be operating: The terminals. I was pleasantly surprised with the details included in and around the jetways. Marshalls’ stand at ready to direct traffic and there is sufficient luggage carts, servicing trucks, oil slicks and activity to really set the tone for the pilots that enjoy operating the heavy steel.
Additionally, the scenery extending out around the airport was also well done with copious amounts of servicing buildings, airport infrastructure, business districts and trees. This, for all intensive purposes, matches what the real Cincinnati airport looks like and from a ground perspective and sets a great tone while taxiing to and from the active runways.
Although, what I did find lacking in detail was general and business aviation ramps. Granted, that’s a small slice of operations that would normally operate to and from such a busy airport; that’s where a good portion of simulator pilots might start off if their using the airport as a hub to sight see or just have some enriching scenery.
There are static aircraft but the common servicing trucks, personal vehicles and fun nuances that can be found on these ramps (look at KPDX down by Flight Craft as an example) that really give a scenery an active life, were devoid.
The static objects
Long gone is the typical static object library that you might find in other simulators or parts of X Plane 11 with generic aircraft. With this scenery I was surprised and satisfied with the static objects that are littered from the terminal to the cargo ramp. Several variants of aircraft (multiple 737 models as an example) and servicing vehicles are beautifully modeled and placed in accurate and believable locations throughout the entire airport.
From that perspective, the static objects lend a real “life-like” feeling the operations aspects of the airport itself.
A feature I thought was very fun was the cargo ramp! There is a large portion of the sim community that really enjoy the cargo lifestyle. The weird hours, abnormal operating procedures and general feel of flying heavy aircraft but without the nuance of hauling passengers. I was pleased to see the cargo ramp and all the activity going on. Thousands of pallets, crates and servicing equipment is all meticulously hand-placed to match the underlying textures and would be a joy for any cargo pilot.
Sadly, there are bound to be some negatives to this scenery and sure enough, there were. Given that the primary audience here is helicopter-based, I will focus on the negatives from a helicopter pilots perspective.
A good portion of the simulation community have switched to using Ortho as a default means of providing scenery enhancement to their simulators. I’ve never been to partial to Ortho.
Given that most of my flying is VFR and low altitude, I never really liked the quality of Ortho down low or, didn’t wish to sacrifice frame rates for Ortho that was clear enough to really maintain the image quality I wanted.
In that instance, default ground textures were usually sufficient. Besides the fact, as a causal sim pilot, I really enjoy scenery and add-ons that are “plug and play” where I don’t have to do an extraneous amount of work to get features to operate correctly within the simulator.
KCVG is a good example of what I’m talking about. If you’re already an Ortho-savvy user, you probably will not experience the same issues I did. But I try to think of an add-on from the newest sim-user up to the veteran. This is a point of contention that would absolutely frustrate the newest users.
Ortho is included with this scenery but I had considerable trouble trying to install it. I even had an Ortho-savvy friend of mine attempt to get it to work but we still had numerous issues where parts of the Ortho wouldn’t load correctly or there was no autogen placed over the Ortho portions.
I’m sure had I queried Skyline about the issue, they would have been more than helpful in correcting it but as a pay ware add-on, I shouldn’t have to; I would expect it to be seamless from the install.
Additionally, the Ortho boundaries are erratic and separate at odd areas from the airport. I’m not sure if this is an issue with the Ortho Tiles and how they overlap with the airport textures or part of another issue (I admit my ignorance here) but it still left me with a disjointed feeling anytime I was higher than 500 feet and more than a mile from the central part of the airport. The integration of Ortho in this instance, did more to disrupt my flying experience than add to it.
I found several instances of where there were in-continuity and gaps in building textures. From a flying perspective, this were not too serious. Although, when sitting on the ground in an aircraft they were glaringly obvious (the Delta building is included as an example). As helicopter pilots, what good is beautiful scenery if there is no where for helicopter pilots to land?
One of the key features of flying on a simulator is we can attempt a landing on anything we see that can fit a set of skids or tires.
Sadly, none of the beautifully modeled buildings were landable (even though that Double Tree Hotel is screaming to be landed on!)
My only real quip here is grass. In my opinion, grass can be done correctly or incorrectly. Again, helicopter pilots spend a lot of time hovering around grassy area’s and if that isn’t done with enough care, then it looks pretty odd, giving the scenery a “theatrical” prop appearance.
KCVG is a great example of this where grass is situated next to the runways and taxi-ways, extends approximately five feet and then abruptly ends. This does more to disrupt the immersion of the simulator than lend to the scenery.
Installation was a bear, taking up more time than I actually needed to fly around the scenery and get a good review done. As per my previous statement, if I’m purchasing an add-on, I really expect the installation to be seamless.
Of course, this is a different story when installing freeware but payware really should be nearly hands-off for the customer. With the file size, integration of Ortho tiles and custom objects, installation was really a frustrating process.
And, even after two attempts, I still get a warning that parts of the scenery are not installed correctly and therefore, will not show up. I would have to say that the biggest deterrent to purchasing KCVG is that the install was frustrating and cumbersome.
It’s obvious that a lot of work and love went into replicating this airport and if you happen to be the sim pilot that enjoys flying larger aircraft and you know your way around Ortho scenery, this is a great product.
However, if you’re a pilot that prefers helicopters and the thought of diving into your X-Plane folder is a scary consideration, this may not be the best choice.
KCVG is, for the most part, well executed and beautiful to look at. There are plenty of details that give even a casual pilot much to look at and Skyline does a great job of tailoring those details to the airline folks.
Where to get the Cincinnati International Airport scenery for X-Plane
You can purchase it at the .org store.
Review: Skyline KCVG – Cincinnati International Airport for X-Plane
Beautiful airport textures
Lots of extra buildings and spaces around the airport
Detailed and accurate placement of 3D buildings around the airport
Texture gaps in the structures
Ortho integration is not ideal
The grass is a huge distraction and ruins operating in and around the runways
Installation is problematic and requires the buyer to do most of the work