Pacific Northwest or PNW from ORBX’s North American scenery series. How good is it and how to get the most of this scenery?
Pros and cons
What I like in FTX Pacific Northwest?
- autogen – perfect placement and good density
- mesh (10m resolution)
- accurate coastlines, lakes and rives
- photoreal areas
- mountain peaks (mesh + photoscenery)
- three high quality airports/airfields for free
- Portland cityscape
- Seattle city
- additional airfields, seaplane bases and helipads
- AI Traffic
- large number of high quality payware airports available for this scenery
- freeware RTMM sceneries available
What I do not like in PNW?
- landclass (in some places)
- vector roads (in some places)
- autogen density (in some large cities)
What can be improved?
- large airports (although I should remember that this is not an airport scenery)
- upgraded airports
FTX Pacific Northwest by ORBX
What am I dealing with in this review? FTX Pacific Northwest scenery covers coastal areas of Washington and Oregon states in U.S. and the south-western corner of British Columbia in Canada including cities like Eugene, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver and the whole Vancouver Island.
It’s one of ORBX’s area sceneries that combine custom landclass, vector data and mesh. Additionally FTX sceneries include upgraded airports, new airfields and seaplane bases, photoreal areas in several cities, glaciers and mountains. This scenery also features fire towers and helipads.
I review FTX Pacific Northwest with all additional ORBX freeware products that can be downloaded and installed to improve the quality of this product.
ORBX FTX Pacific Nothwest page redirects to the FlightSimStore where PNW can be purchased for just 29,95 Australian Dollars – that makes 19 Euro or 22 U.S. Dollars at current rates (September 2015). The price is 10 dollars lower than in 2013 when I bought this scenery.
ORBX wrapper requires the order number, date and your email to run the installer. Then it is an automated process that will install FTX scenery into ORBX folder in your main FSX folder.
After installation you should download updated libraries (and FTX Central software) from ORBX website.
To activate the scenery – run FTX Central.
Press PDF button next to the scenery name in FTX Central (current version) to open the manual. Like with all FTX products – the manual will guide you through installation and configuration process. It also explains what is included in this scenery and how to get the most of it. If you have add-ons that cover the same area – read compatibility notes.
Apart from this PDF manual there is a very useful Google Earth .kmz file that shows the area covered by this scenery and all it’s features. You can download this file from ORBX website before you decide on buying this scenery – https://www.fullterrain.com/product/pnw.
This is a 5-star rating for airports of the area scenery. It should not be confused with a 5-star rating of a single airport scenery.
There are 4 kinds of airports in Pacific Northwest scenery.
First we have large airports like Seattle, Portland or Vancouver. Just like the default airports in FSX – they suck big time. That’s ok – this is not an airport scenery and nobody promised us KSEA in HD.
The second group is made of small airports, landing strips and seaplane bases. The quality among these vary. There are some awesome places with 3d grass and objects like hangars, buildings, radio or lights towers, cars and smaller items from ORBX libraries. There are also many basic airports (and especially – sea plane bases) where there is nothing but a runway (or “spawn” places in case of water runway). I should be said that there are such a basic places in real world so it is not necessarily a mistake.
There are also helipads next to the fire towers. Actually these are platforms made of wooden logs, not a proper helipads – so be aware and do not take a large and heavy helicopter there. I really enjoy looking for them – sometimes in a helicopter, more often in a plane when I am cruising just above mountain tops. In case you are lost – GPS will help you find this places.
The fourth kind consists of three freeware airports that ORBX gives for free on their Freeware page:
- KHQM Bowerman Airport
- 2S1 Vashon Island Airport
- 7WA3 West Wind Airport
Technically these airports are separate (freeware) products but I decided to include them in this review. Bowerman on the Pacific coast is a small airport with an asphalt runway and published IFR procedures. Smaller Vashon Municipal is located close to Seattle on an island in Puget Sound. It’s perfect for a sightseeing flight in Cessna 172. Remember to keep your chart at hand – airspace around Seattle is a complicated one. West Wind is a small private strip owned by Douglas Davis. Placed near Bellingham is a perfect place to take-off for a mountain flight – Mt. Baker (10800 ft.) is just 20 miles east.
Compared to ORBX’s payware add-on airports for this scenery – these three look just a little outdated. When compared to other payware sceneries available on the market they could easily compete with many of them.
Vector scenery (4****)
What I like most about ORBX FTX sceneries are the shorelines and rivers. It’s crucial to have good reference points on the ground when flying planes like Piper Cub and this scenery gives exactly what is expected when I compare my map with a peninsula or a small island I am flying over.
Roads are ok. I never got lost following them (I would be surprised if I did – high quality vector data for this region is easily available) but on the other hand… I do not like what I see when I am flying over highly populated regions – roads look messy when there are to many of them on a small area and they do not mix well with landclass textures in the background.
Tree density is nice but It’s not on the level of FTX Southern Alaska or FTX Scotland. Here I clearly see that this is an older scenery.
If you have not tried the new FTX sceneries – I can say that the autogen keeps the standard density of a good payware area sceneries of other developers. That is good… but not good enough. (one more note – for me forest density is one of the most important features in area sceneries).
Building autogen is correct and very close to what I desire. It’s perfect in small towns. Bit sparse in large cities (but Portland).
I’m in autogen-heaven… and then my FSX crashes because of OOM error. Ok – partly my fault – no system will be ok with extremely dense autogen settings (+autogen improving tweaks) and a city like this. With FSX settings adjusted correctly – this is a beautiful city to fly above in a helicopter or a slow plane.
My favorite flights were in a police or medevac helicopter – low over the river, barely above beautifully crafted bridges.
Portland Cityscape is (similarly to previously mentioned airports) a freeware add-on downloaded from ORBX Freeware page.
This scenery (like all FTX) uses a custom landclass – both LC placement and textures are designed for this scenery. The improvement over the default FSX is great. When compared to other FTX sceneries – it seems a little inferior. But I still like it.
Photoreal areas (5*****)
Seattle and several mountains are covered with aerial or satellite imagery. I rarely flown above Seattle. Trying to follow real rules I find it challenging for a small plane pilot because of complex airspace around Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Although KSEA is a decent airport I do not have much time to admire the view when approaching in an airliner.
What I like most is to fly above mountains that are covered with photoscenery – like Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and other prominent peaks of Cascade Range. I do not have technical information about the resolution of this photoscenery but it is sufficient to fly low above it in a small plane or a helicopter.
I did a test. Actually – I made a mistake. I was sure that FTX NA is activated and took off from one of small airports near Mt. Rainier. The default FSX scenery (+ freeware STRM mesh) looked ugly but nevertheless I tried to navigate around valleys connecting Packwood with Ranger Creek. And I got lost…
Then I restarted my FSX with FTX NA properly activated. Everything changed. I could easily name mountains, passes and valleys when I looked around. This scenery uses 10m mesh and it works well.
Scenery compatibility (5******)
I already described freeware ORBX airports and Portland Cityscape. There are also 22 ORBX payware airports for Pacific Northwest (you will find reviews of some of them in C-Aviation.net soon).
If bush flying is your thing – there are plenty small sceneries at Return to Misty Moorings. Free of charge.
Vancouver payware scenery was published by FSAddon.
If you need more space to fly – Pacific Fjords, Rockies and Northern California sceneries published by ORBX extend this scenery in every direction.
Flying over Pacific Northwest
I did most of my flights in small planes. The pleasure of flying a Cessna, Piper or Beechcraft at low altitude never fades with a scenery this good. But this is not all that the scenery has to offer.
Sometimes I fly military aircraft and this scenery is handling low-level high speed flights very well (that is an advantage of a landclass scenery over high resolution photoscenery). Take a look at sectional chart and find yourself a MOA to fly into and have a little fun. I recommend Chinook MOA south of Whidbey Island NAS (Naval Air Station) – that is an air base belonging to U.S. Navy – they fly F-18s, P-3s and EA-6s from Whidbey.
When I want to fly large airliners – I mostly use Seattle Tacoma airport for my Boeing 777. It’s not that nice as a payware airport but among PNW large airports – it’s the best. For smaller airliners (I fly Beech 1900 turboprop) – the small airports with paved runways seem best. Unfortunately – there is a gap in between Seattle and small airports – large airports are terrible (I hate Portland – although I flown from this airport several times to admire the city). As I said – this is area scenery, not an airport scenery.
5-stars. Same as Norway (soon to be translated and published)… but very different. Let me compare this scenery with FTX Norway or FTX Southern Alaska. It’s worse. And better.
If I had to review this scenery just as it is – with no additional sceneries installed – it would be rated 4****. It’s older then Alaska and Norway and it’s age already shows. But this 4 star rating would be useless for you. It’s about a product and I would like to rate the experience. Additional sceneries are clearly a part of this experience and I feel that a scenery that encourages people (and companies) to build upon deserves appreciation. That is why this is a 5-star scenery.
If you ask me – what to choose – Southern Alaska or Pacific Northwest? My answer will be – both. But if you have to make a choice – let me put it like this. If you have no other ORBX FTX scenery – go with PNW. It’s a cheaper and you will get an idea how ORBX payware airports may improve your experience. If you already know what FTX is about – make your choice based on the region that you prefer.
Quality to price – great
For 29.95 Australian Dollars (19 Euro) you get a large, high quality area scenery and 3 small airports. That’s not much for what they give.
Add-ons used in this review: