Skiathos X – 29 Palms & Aerosoft – review (5*)

Greek St. Maarten! Visit Skiathos. Feel the charm of a small Greek island. Aerosoft & 29Palms brought this holiday destination to FSX. 

Skiathos

Skiathos

Pros and cons

What I like in Skiathos X?

  • the best night lighting I have seen so far
  • high quality photoscenery
  • photoscenery again – perfect texturing of cliffs
  • nice airport
  • vegetation – grass and bushes around the airport
  • Greek atmosphere of the island
  • buildings on island
  • terrain profile at airport (ditches, bulges, etc.)
  • mesh

Cons

  • autogen – sparse trees
  • tree models at airport

What can be improved

  • terrain leveling for roads

Skiathos

Avro RJ after departure

Cessna 172 lost among trees

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Impressions

Grass, grass what a cool grass! Yes – I am a fan of vegetation in Flight Simulator sceneries. When I see a grass designed that well as on Skiathos I immediately like the scenery. Beside that – it is a Greek scenery and I love Greece. Not that this has any impact on my review… well – maybe slight. I just feel good in here. But this scenery does not need and external help. Back to the first impressions…

I am sitting in my Vans RV-7 light kit airplane. Kit airplane – this is a plane which you can buy in a kit and assembly yourself (ok – it may be a little more complicated but that is the general idea). It is a good plane for this airport – it is tiny and the airports is just as tiny. There are four stands (one is occupied by a small jet – static plane). It is really a huge problem to service airliners here during the high season – as the place is so small and the traffic high.

Vans @ Skiathos

In a good company

Runway

Behind me there is a grassy area… I have no doubts that the gardener is just resting and he will tend to it later… soon… someday… maybe next year. For now – it’s a thicket, not a lawn.

Looking around I can see meticulously modeled (or well textured) blast fences. They are indispensable on apron that as confined as the one here. If not for this fences – a 757 would blow away all the equipment, baggage carts and vehicles parked around it’s stand.

The airport is so small because it was built in the only place where a ground was level on a distance required for a runway. Unfortunately it was a small artificial isthmus between the old island and a smaller island nearby.

Just next to the stand where I parked my RV-7 the airport fire department has it’s base. Two fire engines are visible through the opened garage door. Just next to firehouse someone parked the tankers – large vehicles for the size of this airport but remember – 757s land here. They are thirsty.

Runway threshold

Greek St. Maarten

I will get to the terminal building later. Currently I am taxiing to runway guided by taxiway markings that remember better times – the line on a concrete surface is old and worn. 29Palms team did a good job here. The lamps on both sides of taxiway and runway are as good as the markings – simply exceptional.

The runway was build perpendicularly to the isthmus – it seems to connect the Aegean Sea on the both sides leaving just a narrow strip for the roads on each end. The beaches located on both ends of the runway earned this place the reputation of Greek St. Maarten. Just as on the Caribbean island tourists are watching planes passing just a few meters over their heads or are blown into the water by the blast of jet engines.

After departure – over the marina

A different plane, the same marina

Boats

I have no doubt that I am in Greece. This is the only country where there are that many boats (mostly fishing boats) anchored in every bay and harbor. When I was taxiing to the runway I could see several taken ashore and placed on scaffolding for repairs and overhaul. When I take off runway 20 I can see two ships at the wharf (Avantis and Skiathos). Then I pass over a small anchorage where motor boats and fishing boats were left by their owners. There is an important difference between this scenery and other sceneries I know – boats here look just as the boats in Greece. And the majority of them are small fishing boats. For some reason other scenery designers think that there is no difference between a sailing boat and a fishing boat. For me (I am a sailboat skipper) – there is.

Just a moment later the scenery reminds me of my holiday in Greece, where I was cruising between such islands. I see a Hellenic Seaways high speed ferry maneuvering close to the harbor. A second is already at the pier.

Look left

Leper colony

My flight around the island starts when I make a circle around the leprosarium. The small island that lies on the left side of the former narrows (where the airport is now) was used as a leper colony. Currently it is a woody peninsula with sparse housing. It’s northern end looks like a quary. I keep 500ft – the photoscenery is good enough to fly at this altitude and enjoy the view.

Just like St. Maarten

Just like St. Maarten

I am approaching runway 20. Starting here I will circle the whole island clockwise. This beach really looks like at St. Maarten. There are umbrellas and a shed (a bar? sunbed rental services office?) – just 30 or 60 meters from runway threshold.

Cliffs

More cliffs

and even more

Cliffs! The best I have seen in FSX!

An inhabited and mountainous coast of Skiathos stretches to the north east. Map suggests several tiny beaches in this area. Caves are another attraction… well maybe not for the pilot. Cliffs are what I am looking for in this part of the island. I have no idea how they did it but 29Palms team did something amazing. This are the only cliffs I saw that are nearly vertical and still – they are covered with a high quality textures with almost no stretching effect. This is also a good occasion to admire the quality of mesh.

The impression which cliffs made was soon strengthened by the contrast of cliffs on the island nearby – I covered it with a freeware photoscenery and the difference was huge. The same happened when I installed a freeware photoscenery of Everest – it looked good on moderately steep slopes but where the rock was nearly vertical – the texture was deformed.

I really appreciate the effect I can observe here.

I prefer denser forests

Forests…

Further along the way rocky cliffs turn to gentle hills covered with forest. It is marked with bright lines of roads. I do not particularly like the forests on this island. The tree density is sparse. They are very… FSX. Large patches of forest photoscenery are visible between the lone trees.

Towns

Towns

I compalined about trees but I can not say a bad word about towns in this scenery. The first thing – the houses are perfect. They are white but not postcard-clean-white like in a picture from Santorini. This is a different architecture – a gray tint in the white paint is clearly visible and the roofs are covered with brick-red tiles. It is how houses in this part of Greece look like. For bright white houses with blue roofs you should visit Cyclades and Santorini.

I flew over comparing the positions of houses with photoscenery image – they are well placed. The coverage is about 70-80%. Sometimes I can notice a place where the photoscenery suggests a house but there is no model in place, but usually the models match the background. It’s good. There are some better sceneries (Tuno or Sequim Valley – just to point to some which I reviewed) but it is still better then the average payware scenery.

Slopes

As I am at the topic of housing… there is a little imperfection in how some buildings are placed on steep slopes. It is noticeable (when flying low and slow) that some houses are placed on a very steep slopes – when in real world they stand on a flatten. Also the roads that climb slopes at unreal angles look unnatural. Do not treat this points like serious flaws. I just show what I would like to see improved.

RV-7 over Skiathos

Ferry pier

Skiathos – the town

I said I liked towns in Skiathos. This was about small towns. The main one is even better. It is difficult to get a great effect of photoscenery and autogen in a larger town without causing extensive performance drop but this was done here. Urban density is perfect, autogen positions are matching the background and the entire town looks very naturally. It’s convincing.

Pitts

Airport surroundings

The level of detail increases as I near the airport. There are more boats along shores, additional buildings – sheds, warehouses and alike. Stadium has a three dimensional stands (there is a name of a team or a stadium in Greek alphabet on the wall – I did not check what it says).

Beaching

Go sightseing

Similarly to airport surroundings the area by the sea has more details then the island interior. On popular beaches you will find motor boats, umbrellas, small huts… It convinced me to go sightseeing. Float-planes are not yet popular in Greece, but there are no limitations in FSX. I chose my Cessna 172N and went for several trips.

Avro @ Skiathos

Biz-jet – static plane

Impressions – the airport

I got carried away… I should write a little about the airport, shouldn’t I?

It is cramped. I know – I am repeating myself but this is actually the prevailing notion when I am at this airport. And I am not flying a 757 – I brought just a small Jumbolino (Avro RJ). The largest plane I landed here was C-130. And it was gigantic.

It hits me how much equipment litters the place. Litters = was placed carefully by the airport staff in place where it did not bother anyone at the moment. There are Olympic airways baggage carts and air stairs in number sufficient for simultaneous boarding of two 757s (considering the timetable – turnaround time is critical here).

Airport vehicles are animated – just as are the cars and buses on the other side of the terminal. I like this vehicles and especially – the nigh lighting. Just take a look at the lights in the bus. After Sumburgh and Twentynine Palms reviews I feel that 29Palms team perfected the use of 3d lights in their scenery. Great job!

Look at this lights!

Grass and runway lights

I am not fond of night in FSX. In my opinion even most payware sceneries look bad during the night. There are just some random spots of light and random spots of total darkness. Plus strange lights effects, unnatural halo around some lamps… it can be just awful.

It is different here. Again – look at Sumburgh and Twentynine Palms reviews – it was also different there. It seems that the night lighting was carefully planned and 29Palms avoided common mistakes. The lighting is very natural.

I always stress how much I like small details. This tiny features that change ordinary scenery into a virtual world that is not far from the real. It is thanks to a ladder on the side of control tower or the trash bin and a bench in front of the terminal that this scenery looks very realistic. I could point to many small things that make it better than others: flags, curbs (yes – there are 3d curbs), air conditioning installation. Even small details like megaphone hanged on a wall of the airport building is there!

Reservoir?

It looks messy

One more scenery feature that I really like – 3d terrain at airport. Usually FSX sceneries use airport flattens that cover the whole scenery. It’s different here – there is a ditch along the runway and something that looks like a draining system or a water reservoir – in between the apron and the runway (it’s 1 or 2 meters deep). How the terrains is modeled is clearly visible when looking from the runway threshold – the terrain slowly drops to sea level.

The view from the above

Front

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Skiathos – island and airport

I have no intention of copying Wikipedia

If you already know everything about Skiathos let me share some additional information. Greece is working (slowly, and with current situation – it will probably take even more time) on a network of seaplane bases that will connect it’s islands – just like in the Caribbean, Maldives, Canada or Alaska. Project is currently delayed but in a few years large bases will be build in Athens (Piraeus) and Salonika. Additionally island hubs will be created and over 100 small bases will appear to handle the traffic. Skiathos will have a small harbor and may also base amphibian planes. You can read about this idea here: http://www.hellenic-seaplanes.com/

Skiathos

Lamps

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What to fly and where to?

There are regular flights to Athens and Salonika. During holiday season charter airlines fly to Skiathos from all over Europe. If you plan to fly 737 or 757 – make sure you lower your AI traffic settings so that there is a space for you at this airport.

757 is the largest plane that landed here. Greek military lands C-130s here from time to time.

If you choose a smaller plane – only it’s range limits you.

I think that Hellenic Seaplanes initiative is interesting and can be a great inspiration for flights around Aegean Islands.

And there are helicopters! According to information about this airport – in holiday season helicopter traffic can be so high that this aircraft land beside the airport (instead of landing on it) to pick up passengers. You will find more information about helicopters in the scenery manual.

Small objects

Pitts

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Purchase, installation, documents

You can buy this scenery at Aerosoft’s store for 23,72 Euro ($26).  The price is slightly lower if you live outside European Union (no VAT tax).

Installation is no different than in other Aerosoft’s products – automatic installer requires your email address and individual product key.

configurator, manual and charts are included.

Configurator allows you to improve performance by turning several scenery features off. In my opinion this is a FPS-friendly scenery and I did all my flights at high settings.

Manual contains a detailed description of the airport and the scenery. There is even a real timetable included. I like the amount of information. Editing could be better – 150% line height would make it more readable.

My trips

Scenery – technical details

The scenery covers Greek island of Skiathos and small islands nearby. The total area is close to 100 square kilometers covered with a high resolution photoscenery (30-50cm/px).

The suggested mesh resolution for best results is 1m. Suggested texture resolution – 30cm. It was suggested to turn off scenery shadows – I did not notice any problems in this area.

I tested this scenery on my PC: i5 @ 4.0GHz + 8GB RAM + nVidia GTX 550Ti (later nVidia GTX 660Ti). I did not feel any adverse effect of this scenery with the exception of several flights in framerate heavy planes which lowered my FPS to the level of 22-26 (from the standard 30).

Approach

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Summary (5*****)

It’s a very good scenery! Lars Pinkenburg and Martin Pahnev made something extraordinary and I am looking forward to any other scenery they create.

I have to say that I like islands in FSX. A limited area bordered by the sea gives developers an opportunity to create the complete world – and that is what happened here. It can be really painful to depart Skiathos and go back to the default-FSX Greece.

Compared to it’s size – it draws me constantly and I spent hours flying over this place.

Duke

Pitts over my favorite cliff

Quality to price ratio (good)

It is a good price for a quality product.

Product page – Skiathos X

Add-ons you can see on my screenshots:

The product has been provided for review by Lars Pinkenburg – 29Palms and Aerosoft

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