FTX Germany North – ORBX – review (5*)

Short summary – 5*****

It’s a VFR chart moved into the sim. I spent tens of hours flying over Northern Germany and navigating with real-world charts and checking obstacles (chimneys, wind turbines, masts, and towers), roads and canals. I found almost every that I’ve been looking for. Often I’ve been amazed by the level of detail – for example when I flew over a small shipyard and found out that the name printed on its halls matches the one I saw on google maps. It’s a very accurate rendition of Northern Germany. And it’s surprisingly rich in custom objects.

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Pros and cons

What do I like in FTX Germany North?

  • accurate models and placement of objects that can be used for navigation
  • number and quality of landmarks
  • texturing around roads (additional textures)
  • landclass fitting this particular part of the world
  • autogen placement
  • enhanced airports
  • free airports from ORBX

I don’t like…

Place for improvement?

  • performance could be a bit better

FTX Germany North – ORBX

It’s another regional scenery of ORBX’s. Germany North covers part of Germany north of Dusseldorf and Leipzig.

The scenery uses landclass, autogen and vector data, with small patches of photoscenery around a few landmarks and in a couple of cities.

Product features (via ORBX website):

  • Superb ground textures from local sources
  • Hand-placed landclass covers every square mile
  • Custom autogen textures and objects
  • FTX Global 3D night lighting effects
  • Accurate roads, rivers, lakes, alley trees
  • More than 90,000 individually placed and assigned powerline pylons
  • 386 airports have been upgraded
  • Custom models of hundreds of POIs, dams, lighthouses
  • Photoreal Cityscape Berlin “lite”
  • Photoreal mudflats, Hamburg port, Bremerhaven port, Duisburg Thyssenwerke, open pitmines
  • GEN mesh is compiled at 20-m grid spacing

To buy it – visit ORBX Direct store and then install it with FTX Central software.

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VFR chart comparison

It’s a small little landmark – a navigation light for maritime traffic. It can be as big as a lighthouse and as small as a buoy. But significant enough (especially at night) so the VFR chart shows it for reference in aerial navigation. I used this lights flying from Hamburg towards the sea and during my trips along the Baltic and North See coast.

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The actual number of lights in the scenery is higher than on the VFR chart which omits the lights in some areas (for example waterway lights in Hamburg are missing on the chart but the scenery includes at least some of them). On the first photo, there’s Butzfleth and a small lighthouse – Leuchtturm Juelssand. The second shows power lines crossing Elbe river – they are depicted on the VFR chart with three pylons (770ft).

But there’s more. ORBX moved wind farms, chimneys and masts into the simulator all over the Northern Germany. Even the shape of motorway junctions matches the tiny drawings on the chart so they can be used as a waypoint too.

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Berlin – an unguided tour

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I visited Berlin last January (2018) and with a fresh recollection of it’s geography I find myself at home when flying over ORBX’s Berlin. Tempelhof airport looks just like I remember it from my visit – large empty space with it’s huge historical terminal. I visited Tempelhof in winter – in summer it’s crowded with people enjoying this tree-less park (I miss them in the scenery when I fly in summer).

Flying north from the closed airport (no power prevents doing that in the sim – even in law-abiding Germany) I pass by the Gleisdreieck (where three rail lines surround a small residential district) and head for Potsdamer Platz with its distinctive buildings – brick Kollhoff Tower and the Sony Center. Further north lies the new administrative district with Chancellor Office and the Reichstag and east from there – Unter den Linden, Museuminsel (The Island of Museums) and the TV Tower at Alexanderplatz.

The third photo was taken over the Holocaust Memorial (grey blocks of concrete on the left side of my photo) with Tiergarten (park) and Reichstag in the background. Only when I fly drone-like close to the ground and buildings the textures seem blurred. They look well from the usual helicopter flight altitudes and they are perfect when watched from a plane.

ORBX modeled Berlin’s landmarks. If you are into museums – check out the Museuminsel with its antiquities exhibitions and the awful cathedral. Head for Potsdamer Platz to visit the business part fo Berlin and the yellow/gold walls of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Keep in mind that just thirty years ago Potsdamer Platz was divided by the Berlin Wall. It was just an empty space – a no-go zone for the Eastern Germans.

Fly low to see how prominent buildings help navigate around Berling. Twin blue domes atop the German and French Dom mark Gendarmenmarkt. Fehrnsehturm towers over Alexanderplatz and the Victory Column (Siegessäule) rises over trees of Tiergarten (a large park in the center of Berlin). Monuments of great victories share their space with places commemorating dark times in the history of Germany. Holocaust Memorial (actually the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe) is located close to the Brandenburg Gate. Siegessäule is adjacent to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church – with its tower left damaged as it was after allied bombing raid during the second world war. Far to the east stands the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park. Check it out before heading west – to the opposite side of the city where the Olympic Stadium is. Formerly the place of the 1936 Games, today the home field of Herta Berlin.

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Dambusters scenery

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Let me keep this historical theme just for a moment longer. In 1943 British had an idea of destroying Ruhr industrial capacity by flooding it with water from several reservoirs. During Operation Chastise 617th Squadron was sent to bomb several dams with bombs specially designed for this purpose. To be successful crews were supposed to fly their four-engine Lancasters 20 meters above the water at night, at high speed and along a precisely defined track.

It is hard to assess the effects of the raid. For the price of 53 crew members dead (out of 133) and six planes, only eleven small factories were flooded. Only around a hundred factories were damaged in any way. Of 1,5 or 2 thousand people who lost their lives on the ground, many (probably the majority) were prisoners of war and forced workers from occupied countries. British Bomber Command did not repeat the raid (mostly due to high losses and strengthened air defense over similar targets). An operation of this kind was conducted by the US during the war in Korea.

Due to the indiscriminate and destructive force of such attacks in 1977 any attacks on dams were forbidden by the Geneva Convention.

This is how the Mohne dam looked like after the bombing in May of 1943.

What else? I like this scenery, and I see now flaws

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I mostly flew over Germany with small planes – Cessna 182, Comanche, Spitfire and a couple of times in Twin Otter. From this perspective it’s vital that the scenery is detailed and looks good. And ORBX’s Germany fited my flying style well.

I like when a scenery is full of real world objects – custom landmarks, trees and buildings. This is why I usually prefer to fly over FTX rather than photosceneries which (usually) lack this accuracy in object placement. I hope ORBX will change that soon with their photoscenery based regions.

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Airports (enhanced)

Just like in any FTX region ORBX enhanced airports on the area the scenery covers. As always – the enhancement works best at small airports that were neglected by Microsoft (or LM) in the original scenery. With ORBX’s changes (couple of buildings, correct taxiways, some trees, objects, 3d grass) they were transformed into places that I can use for my flights without any additional sceneries. Large airports still require something better. They are enhanced but they require much more attention to look good – especially if someone uses them for Vatsim flying.

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Apart from the enhanced airports that are included in the scenery ORBX offers three airports for free – Barth, Rugen i Rinteln. Make sure to add them to your account in ORBX Direct Freeware.

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Performance

It is ok. With this level of details, I expected this scenery to be much heavier. It helped when I moved from FSX to P3D with its much better handling of autogen. FSX users may find that maxed out autogen settings make some parts of Germany very difficult for their PCs (but that is only due to the perfect autogen in the scenery – of it’s the price for the quality).

Summary – 5*****

It’s a VFR chart moved into the sim. I spent tens of hours flying over Northern Germany and navigating with real-world charts and checking obstacles (chimneys, wind turbines, masts, and towers), roads and canals. I found almost every that I’ve been looking for. Often I’ve been amazed by the level of detail – for example when I flew over a small shipyard and found out that the name printed on its halls matches the one I saw on google maps. It’s a very accurate rendition of Northern Germany. And it’s surprisingly rich in custom objects.

Add-ons used in this review:

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Summary
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FTX Germany North - ORBX
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