It’s one of the most dangerous approaches – Gilgit Airport. In FSX – City of Gilgit by MSK. A good scenery and an exciting place to fly a commercial jet.
Pros and cons
What I like in Gilgit?
- high quality runway and taxiway textures
- airport environment
- 3d grass and vegetation around the airport
What I do not like
- helipad design (it’s quality is lower)
- no aircraft stand in AFCAD
What could be improved
- additional buildings could be placed outside of the city
- night scenery should be designed for this (although it is not necessary)
Gilgit and Gilgit Airport (OPGT)
When I think about Gilgit war and climbing come to my mind. War – because when I first read about Gilgit – it was in a book covering Indo-Pakistani war. In 1947 and 1948 there was no airport yet, but the valley was a good place to drop supplies for troops fighting in nearby mountains. You will find a reference to this troops in the scenery (and in real world) – I will come to this later.
Climbing is probably a better association. And far more positive – that is for sure. Gilgit and Skardu located nearby are the main airports used by mountain climbing teams in Karakorum. If someone is planning on climbing K2 or Nanga Parbat – he (or she) will land in Gilgit. Road connection with Islamabad is terrible.
If you are interested in the number of inhabitants, exact area and thinks like that – just check Gilgit’s Wikipedia Page. I’ll just share a little curiosity – until not so long ago Gilgit routes were flown in Fokker F27 turboprops. The planes were old the route from Islamabad to Gilgid was flown visually. As you might guess – bad weather was a serious obstacle and cancellation rate reached 40% in stormy season. Also – old Fokkers did not cope well with high altitudes – so the passengers could look at the mountains beside the plane – not below as usually.
What to fly and where?
As I mentioned earlier – Fokker F27 was the primary civilian aircraft operated between Islamabad and Gilgit for years until a crash in 2006 caused it retirement. Currently ATR-72s are flown here by airlines and C-130s by Pakistani Air Force. When I browsed through available photos – I saw King Airs, military helicopters and business jets. The first aircraft ever to land in Gilgit was Dakota – a British version of the legendary DC3.
In my flights here I mostly use BAe 146 or Avro RJ. I did some flights in C-130 and DC-3. You can also see Puma helicopter on my screenshots. There are no screens showing Beechcraft Duke, but it’s one of this FSX aircraft that I like to use in places like this (especially the turbine Duke).
Where to fly from Gilgit? In real world – most flights connect Gilgit with Islamabad. In a simulator only your imagination limits you. I can recommend downloading freeware Lahore – it is a nice destination.
Purchase, installation, documents
You can buy the City of Gilgit in Simmarket for 20,91 EUR (VAT for EU residents included).
Installer works just like in most payware sceneries – focus on the “next” button. You need to add it manually to Scenery Library – it is located in Addon Scenery / FSX City of Gilgit.
Manual is three pages long. Only a third of each page contains text – airport description (from Wikipedia) and description of “functions”. Limitations are also explained. Actually – if you read Simmarket’s product description – you do not have to read the manual – it’s the same text. Just take a look inside this document to check the chart and airport diagram… or don’t. Skyvector will give you maps and I do not think you can get lost at this airport.
I am flying from Lahore (I installed a freeware airport). Thanks to good visibility I could dive into Gilgit river valley 30 miles (nautical) before airport and proceed at 10000 feet. Real passengers would surely enjoy the view. In FSX you will be amazed how good the photoscenery is – especially considering the contrast between Gilgit photoscenery and the terrible default scenery if Pakistan. MSK studio follows the best practices and the scenery tries to seamlessly blend in… to no avail. Sandy-yellow mountains of default FSX will never blend into rocky-gray photoscenery. It is not the developers fault. We just need some improvement for Pakistan and Asia.
I set my ADF to GT ndb (324kHz) but I do not expect any trouble in localizing the airport. But – better safe then sorry. Particularly in mountainous terrain. It would be pity if I turned into wrong valley.The first think you will notice from the distance is a well designed mesh and photoscenery. That is how mountains should look like! You will see glaciers near the summits and rocky slopes below. There is a river winding through the valley (As I fly my BAe 146 in direction of Gilgit I see Hunza* river that joins Gilgit river in vicinity of airport – this is a good reference point).
* – did you know that Hunza river valley is inhabited by people whose language is unrelated to any other in the entire world?!
I am approaching from the east and I intend to land on runway 07, so I need a place to safely turn back. In the meantime I watch the city passing below. Placement of houses is dense, but seems random. The same with trees. It is not the greatest problem here – it is not like the real Gilgit had been build along straight lines of streets crossing at right angles. But as I compare building positions to photo-background I notice that it’s a little off. In “ordinary” use you may not notice that as at this point you should be focused on your instruments and looking for a place to turn. So the randomness is not a problem.
But I am writing this text and my Jumbolino will not land by itself. It is not it’s fault – autoland is working, just not here. The only navaid you will find in this place is a single NDB for route navigation. There are no instrument procedures for this airport. I need to grab the yoke and land this plane!Tight turn ends well so I stick to the mountain side and fly the curvy final. Flaps – full. Gear – down. Speed-brakes – extended. This is a steep approach. Nothing I can do with that – mountain slope keeps me well above desired glide path. Fortunately BAe 146 is uniquely suited to flying steep approaches.
Airport description stresses that 737 should not attempt landing here. Now I know why. Airliner like BAe 146 is just as big as it can be to land here. ATR or other turboprop would be much better (but not as much fun).
With spoilers, speed-brake and full braking power I stop in two thirds of runway. Good. Let me just check brakes temperature and I will describe how nice is the scenery.
Well… it is not “nice” at all!!! They really should employ a gardener and cut the grass and bush that is one meter (3ft) high and extends to the edge of runway.Taxiing to terminal requires much more power on taxiway then on runway. It’s a little bug in this scenery – it has something to do with surface drag.
After shooting several approaches I can say that neither approach is impossible. You just get better and better and in the end it is quite easy to land a plane here. On approach to runway 29 you will notice an inscription on the mountain side. It reads “Defenders of North, GB Scouts” – in memory of troops fighting here.Let’s see how the other planes cope with Gilgit. C-130 is a real visitor here. I chose U.S. National Guard camo as the most similar to Pakistani Hercules.
If the airport felt confined in BAe 146 – it is even more so in C-130. I think that the tractor driver could have parked a little further from the runway. It does not look safe.C-130 is in fact similar to Jumbolino on approach although I would prefer having speed-brakes. I flown most approaches as tactical – descending 1800-2000 feet per minute. You can of course choose a more conservative (and safe) approach with slower descent speed and larger offset from runway heading. I flew Dakota (DC3) on much lower altitudes and I noticed how well MSK designed the river gorge and steep banks of Gilgit river. There are mistakes, but generally speaking – it is a job well done.
I noticed a small runway marked with H in the middle. It is located about 500m (1500ft) from the airport. After a low pass I knew that I will need a helicopter here. Small strip serves also as a parking and with a Black Hawk sitting on it I should not attempt landing in a plane.
On the next flight I chose Super Puma. Flight to this military camp was short. There are a few buildings there, several cars and a wreck of an airplane. Camp is surrounded by a small wall. Military presence is emphasized by an APC, howitzers and ammunition dumped on the ground. It looks weird – we have 122mm or 155mm guns and ammunition that looks like it was for a super heavy railway guns of some sort – like German WWII Schwerer Gustav or something similar. It’s terribly oversize.I don’t particularly like this helipad. There is no vegetation here. Runway texture looks like the default one and models are placed randomly. I can clearly see that the main airport was a priority one. This one looks like a typical freeware.
Background – mesh and photoscenery
Unfortunately I do not know what is the resolution of either. I can only assume that photoscenery resolution is 1m/px (maybe 60cm / px but I doubt it). It is almost impossible to guess mesh resolution when it is covered with phototexture (it looks much, much better than with default textures). If I were to guess – I would say it’s 19m, but it can be 10m or even 38m… (SRTM freeware mesh has a resolution of 76m).
It is a single season photoscenery. Usually I do not like edited photosceneries with snow drawn over a real photo and winter photos are extremely rare. So it is not a problem for me.
Buildings and trees are well placed even if they are randomly located inside the city. But noticing this requires a lot of attention. I overlook such problems during normal flight.
I like tree density. It is close to real. There are fewer houses then in real world. Housing seems denser close to the airport and sparse in a distance. There are places covered with photoscenery that lack autogen at all (near photoscenery edges).
Runway and taxiways are covered by high resolution textures. I like it!
Signs, decals and walls also look great although there are only a few signs. When I compared it to real world photos – it seem quite realistic.
Airport building looks good. There are small objects scattered around the terminal building – benches, barrels, etc. There is a ladder placed against the wall. I like things like this even if you should restrict your walks to airside. If you go to the back (or front) of the terminal you will see a lower attention to detail. But you will probably watch the airport from your aircraft’s position. So it is not a serious problem.
No significant performance loss even with LOD_RADIUS set to 8.5 in fsx.cfg.
Bugs, mistakes and some concerns
Author suggest to disable scenery shadows. I flown with scenery shadows turned on and noticed a little flickering. It was not a problem for me but you can always turn it off.
There are some comments on the web pointing to problems with mesh on helipad. These seem to be resolved.
Slight conflict happens between runway texture and background texture and there is a single flash of background as you are approaching. It is not a major cause of concern and I own payware sceneries that have bigger issues with background flickering.
There is no night lighting! Author informs that the airport is closed at night and no one flies here after sunset. Ok – he may have a point but I would like to see some city lights even if my landing is illegal.
There are no parking stands in FSX airport selector. It’s sad that I always need to place my aircraft on the runway threshold and slew it to terminal.
Volumetric grass slowly becomes a standard feature in airport sceneries (especially on small airports) but it is significantly better here than in average payware add-on. It is dense, high and looks really good. I like how grass is mixed with flowers, weeds and bush.
It is not something that most add-on makers can not influence easily but I consider add-ons located nearby as an additional advantage when rating a scenery. We need to fly somewhere – don’t we? In Pakistan you will find several (mediocre) payware airports and a few freeware (pleasant but don’t expect fireworks). You most certainly need Karakorum mesh and mountain peaks sceneries from Simviation.com. There is an untested (by me) add-on containing helipads in Karakorum – it may be something worth trying.
Summary (rating 4****)
It is a good scenery. Technically – it is a well designed add-on. I pointed to a few slips but this makes it equal to what I consider a market standard. And I want you to be well informed – so I point to features that you would probably overlook.
This is one of add-ons that I go back to frequently. I like to fly here and land after a challenging approach.
Quality to price ratio (quite good)
20 Euro is just a little higher to what I think this scenery should cost. MSK joins Simmarket sales frequently so if you wait for this scenery – you may buy it for 16 Euro (and then quality to price ratio will be good).
Product page: MSK – CITY OF GILGIT OPGT FSX
Add-ons I also showed in this review:
- Just Flight – DC-3 – Legends of Flight
- QualityWings Sim – BAe 146
- Nemeth Designs – Eurocopter AS332 L2 Superpuma
- Captain Sim C-130 – Hercules (przeczytaj recenzję
- Clouds and sky textures – REX Texture Direct 4
Scenery has been provided for review by MSK.