PAGS Gustavus – ORBX – review (5*)

442 inhabitants. And a far greater number of flights each year.  Gustavus – a small Alaskan town and its very nice scenery.

GUSTAVUS / GLACIER BAY

POPULATION 442

GUSTAVUS / GLACIER BAY POPULATION 442 – this is how a local airline describes a destination visited by its aircraft up to six times a day in summer (and three times a day in winter). Alaska Seaplanes flies airplanes carrying four to nine passengers.

They come to Gustavus to visit Glacier Bay National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with the surrounding parks on both sides of the American-Canadian border). The place charms with beautiful landscapes of glaciers and ice fields. It is also home to grizzly bears, caribou, and Yukon wild sheep.

The waters of the Glacier Bay (west of Gustavus) and the Icy Strait (south) attract tourists too. Travel agencies offer fishing trips and whale watching cruises.

For the lovers of active leisure, there are trekking routes. Water sports equipment rentals offer canoe trips that can be several hours or several days long.

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Gustavus Airport

Gustavus boasts a large airport where aircraft as big as a Boeing 737 can land (and they do Alaska Airlines arrives once a day during summer season). Both the size of the airport and the traffic do not match the size of the village – a cluster of houses scattered across the plain to the south of the Chilkat mountain range.

Gustavus has two asphalt runways (11/29 and 2/20). The narrower and shorter (3010 by 60 feet) runway 2/20 serves as a primary strip in winter while there are no 737s arriving. Those use the longer and wider (6720 by 150 feet) runway 11/29.

The t-shaped layout of the runways allows for into the wind landings in almost any conditions. Parking in the southern part of the airport accommodates planes of local airlines and charter flights, which may appear in the tourist’s peak season.

It is a non-towered airport with IFR procedures for departures (obstacle departure procedure) and approaches (RNAV and VOR / DME for runway 29).

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What to fly and where?

Alaska Seaplanes is not the only airline that visits this town. Ward Air and Air Excursions and several smaller companies from Juneau arrive regularly. Small piston cessnas (185, 172, 206, 207), DHC-2 Beavers are most common. Turboprop caravan, Pilatus PC-12, and Turbo Otters are also popular. Among the twin-engine machines, the most frequent visitors to Gustavus are Cessna 310 and Piper Navajo.

Private and business jets are less common but not an exception.

Of the large machines, only the 737 of Alaska Airlines performs regular flights. It has replaced the 727. 737 flies Juneau – Gustavus – Anchorage route.

Where to? Juneau – Gustavus route is by far the most popular, but there are flights to other Alaskan destination. Air taxis and charter flights connect Gustavus with airports in the USA that are within reach of aircraft performing them. There is no border control here so Canada is out of reach (in the real world – you can fly there in the sim).

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PAGS Gustavus Airport

Russ White created Gustavus Airport for ORBX. And this makes Gustavus interesting as on one hand, you can (and should) expect a beautiful scenery from this developer (from ORBX and especially from Russ White), on the other hand – the location suggests that we should not expect graphic fireworks here – it is a small airport in a remote location where construction costs are sky high. And that’s how it is – Gustavus is a well designed (in the sim) scenery of an… ugly airport. As in similar places in Alaska, where deliveries of building materials mean great difficulty and great expense, we find (in the scenery and in reality) only a few inconspicuous buildings and hangars.

However, the developer made sure that the airport’s surroundings were not as ugly as the airport itself. As befits a place frequented by so many, we find several general aviation aircraft parked and animated people walking around. Parking lot in front of the airport is full of cars, which also corresponds to reality (it’s fascinating that in such a small town, there are so many cars! – I checked it on Google Maps – the number is correct).

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Three-dimensional grass covers the airport. The user can turn it off for the winter or to limit the performance impact (on a low-end PC). The configuration tool can also hide people and static planes though I do not know what could be the reason for excluding one or the other. Airplanes do not interfere with parking (there is a lot of space here!), And the impact of these few or a dozen animated characters on computer performance should not be too great (on poor hardware this option saves resources).

Developer boasts about the surface textures and I noticed them and their quality – they are full of details and fit nicely to this place. Only in winter, I would like to see more snow – I do not believe the airport apron and runway are so clean when it is snowing. It’s Alaska! They close the main runway not to plow it! Besides, airport documents mention limited winter maintenance.

Lights (another element that the ORBX mentions in the scenery‘s description) are, very typical of Russ White’s scenery, carefully made. They caught my attention.

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Key Features (by ORBX)

  • Ground imagery at 30cm per pixel
  • Custom modeled high def airport
  • North coast of Pleasant Island
  • Large coverage of photoreal area
  • Gmax poly runway, aprons & lights
  • Ambient occlusion lit textures
  • Onsite photos taken by Orbx staff
  • 5 seasons color matched imagery
  • Coastline and Kenai river estuary
  • Expansive wetlands and forest
  • Custom modeled city buildings
  • HD ground textures around airport
  • TextureFlow optimized = great FPS
  • Uses latest 3D lighting tech
  • Full suite of Flow technology used
  • Perfect compliment to PAJN/PAEN
  • By Russ White

The surroundings of the airport

I like airports surrounded by a large photoscenery. Here, it is sufficient on the southern side, but could be a little more extensive towards the mainland (north of the airport). It‘s striking on the left traffic pattern to runway 11 that takes us close to the border of the photoscenery. Here I would like to see more of it when looking right (north). But there is an advantage to the small size – as for the area covered with photoscenery of 30cm / px resolution which is large (usually only the airport itself features this kind of resolution and they would satisfy me with 50cm or even 1m per pixel).

Photoscenery fits perfectly in the FTX Southern Alaska scenery, so there is no ordinary impression of “flying out of the scenery”.

Fly over the area southwest of the airport – you can see the effects of work on implementing the town in the scenery. Houses are in the right places and have the right shape. To the south of the town, adventurous pilots will find a marina from which cruise boats depart (on a calm day you can land a seaplane here). The proper seaplane harbor is located west of the town and the airport. This marina is already part of FTX SAK, not the scenery of Gustavus, but undoubtedly the coast improves its attractiveness of the whole package.

As often in the ORBX sceneries, I look with great admiration for dense forests, even more now when I use Prepar3d that allows me to set the autogen at the highest level.

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Instrument approaches

There are RNAV (GPS) and VOR / DME approaches for runway 29. The VOR approach, as is often the case in the USA is based on an outbound radial from navaid (in this case,  SSR – Sisters Island VOR). You can practice different techniques than what Europe makes us used to.

For the review purposes, I noticed that the instrument approaches lead me to the most attractive places in the scenery – to the mud plains or mudflats just below the approach to runway 29. Also – if the visibility is good, then in the background is enclosed by the ranges of high mountains topped with glacial peaks.

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Summary

Something makes me uniquely attracted to the Alaskan sceneries of the ORBX. They are raw. They are simple, to the on the fringe of being primitive. This is a huge challenge for a developer who has to prove that the primitive appearance of the scenery is an intentional effect, not a defect. I know here, and the author deserves credit for it. However, I need to worn any potential users – this is the scenery for those who are not disturbed by an empty and remote area where mosquitoes attack anyone who has violates their territory. People who expect eye candy architecture should take their search south. California maybe?

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Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Gustavus - ORBX
Author Rating
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