Before we get started on the review lets listen to what the developers have to say about this release:
Welcome to KGPI Glacier Park International Airport
KGPI was built in 1942 as Flathead County Airport, from which its IATA and original FAA and ICAO codes were derived. In 1970 the airport was designated as an international airport and received its current name. Built for P3D v4, KGPI – Glacier Park International Airport includes a vast coverage area packed with unique, high quality content. Whether you’re on foot in avatar mode or just passing by, KGPI is packed full of HD content for you to explore.
So, with that subtle build up, let us see what lays in store.
Installation and Manual
The installation is handled through Turbulent Designs Airport product management tool, Turbulent Terminal. If you are a new Turbulent Designs product owner, you will need to grab this from their website and install. Once logged into your account you will see and be able to install the airport with a single click.
Turbulent Terminal serves as a single point of installation, update and management of the settings of the product. The first thing that struck me was the fact that Turbulent Sceneries are NOT installed directly into P3Dv4; instead they are installed into the Turbulent Terminal directory and referenced to the sim.
For me this is important as it means that the developers truly have paid attention to the SDK and taken full advantage of the fact that installing outside the core sim can free up valuable system resources, as well as making the (semi)frequent updates of P3D far less painful an experience.
During the installation it will also add in SODE if you do not have it installed already (it uses this to drive the jetways and some other animations around the airport).
Once installed there are quite a few options presented to cater for a wide range of simulation hardware. As this is exclusively for P3Dv4, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of options and definitely bodes well for the developer’s commitment to supporting all P3Dv4 users no matter their hardware.
The main one I want to highlight is the Airport ICAO. The airport and NAV database in Prepar3D is still the ancient one from 2005, and in that time the ICAO of Glacier Park has changed from KFCA to KGPI. This presents an interesting quandary. You have the option to update the ICAO to its current one (KGPI) however that will disable all AI traffic (default and 3rd Party) that utilize this airport in their routes.
If you still want to have your skies alive, set it to the old (KFCA) ICAO. Interestingly enough it will still add in the new ICAO, but the parking / apron / runways will be assigned to the old and only a Tower view will be selectable for the new ICAO.
The manual will give you some tips on getting the most out of your scenery, including mesh limitations and compatibility suggestions, as well as a little history on the airfield. It also includes current NAV charts and approach plates for the airport.
The team at Turbulent Designs have been known for their highly detailed scenery for several years, and I had high hopes for this scenery when it was sent to me for review.
For those who have read and seen my reviews, I look for the small attentions to detail that bring an environment to life. With Glacier Park I definitely found them! The detail of the scenery is encompassing of the airport and immediate surrounds as well as photoreal and custom autogen for over 100km2 of the surrounding mountain ranges; all delivered in multiple seasons.
Especially useful for helicopter and GA pilots is the attention to local landmarks and roads, all placed in correct positions to serve as excellent reference points for low altitude and visual operations.
Within the airport boundaries there is a plethora of detail has gone into recreating the airport as it appeared at the end of 2017. This includes very high quality custom buildings with accurate textures for just this field.
Mixed in with this is the miscellaneous detritus that can be found at airports globally, from baggage carts through the airport fire station, temporary road barriers and even actual street signs. Yes, the detail of this airport even includes the landside terminal areas and the passenger drop off and pick up areas.
Turbulent have also worked to leverage off the advances that have come with Prepar3Dv4 by taking advantage of new lighting and reflections models and processes and at night the results of the dynamic lighting are spectacular.
I do have to wonder though, if the effort to show off the capabilities of Prepar3Dv4 have got in the way. The taxiways are permanently wet and covered in puddles; yes, I know the dynamic reflections look awesome and its fantastic that you have added them in… but am I going to have a completely soaked taxiway and apron in the middle of high summer at noon. So, whilst I appreciate the effort and work, I wonder if its there just to say they put it in.
Editor's note: Turbulent designs has asked us to clarify this issue. Here is their description of the wet runway feature:
HD Dynamic dry/wet/snow groundpoly (SODE) – Fully dynamic ground poly that will visually change according to the season and/or weather condition.
Spring: Ground will appear dry
Summer: Ground will appear dry
Autumn: Ground will appear dry
Winter: Ground will appear wet with puddles
Hard Winter (Snow): Ground will appear wet and icy with streaks of snow and frost
There are plenty of parking spaces for GA and commuter aircraft (including one inside a hangar), plus two operational gates available (with the help of SODE). Helicopter pilots though, sadly you only have one start location; which given this airports popularity with helicopter tours and the spectacular scenery in the surrounding areas, is a bit of a shame.
The whole package, even with everything ramped up as high as I could take it performed flawlessly during daylight flights. My frames were a consistent 22-25, even when operating complex aircraft out of the airport. At night however, it is a different story.
Even using the default UH-60, the sim struggles with the amount of detail and the dynamic lighting changes (Editor's note: Turbulent designs indicated us that they don't use dynamic lighting changes but rather a "custom cubemap which has no impact on performance"). Although not down to a slideshow, it is definitely noticeable during helicopter operations.
Staying clear of the main apron and gates gives you the same or better performance as the daylight flights, but once you close on that area heavy with dynamic lighting, watch out. I don’t see it as an issue for fixed-wing operations, except the last few yards taxing to gate; but for helos it could be more of an issue.
This is another example of a very high detailed scenery from the team at Turbulent Designs. It showcases an airport that many of us would never think to fly too and gives it the attention to detail and the justice that the gateway to glacier country deserves. It also serves as quite the technology and capability demonstrator that showcases the expertise of the team and the possibilities of the Prepar3Dv4 platform.
With only the slight niggle of poor performance at night around the main apron, I really cannot fault this release. If you enjoy mountain flying or want an excuse to fly somewhere slightly off the beaten track this is the airport for you.