St. Maarten – FlyTampa – review (5****)

Three unique airports – St. Maarten (TNCM), St. Barthelemy (TFFJ) and Saba (TNCS) in a FlyTampa scenery. It’s a classic. 

Air France 777 @ St. Maarten

Air France 777 @ St. Maarten

Pros and cons

What I like in St. Maarten Complete?

  • three unique airports
  • mesh
  • autogen
  • scenery buildings
  • airport surroundings
  • small objects at airports
  • small objects in the scenery of St. Maarten island

What I do not like?

  • photoscenery resolution
  • missing Coco island
  • lack of static planes

What can be improved?

  • St. Maarten performance
  • small scenery objects in Saba and St. Barthelemy

Maho beach

Princess Juliana International Airport (TNCM)

Although small when compared to other known airports in the world – it’s one of the most famous due to planes approaching unusually low over a beach. Standing in a jet blast of airliners taking off is also one of the tourist attractions in Sint Maarten island (Dutch for Saint Martin).

St. Maarten

What to fly and where?

If you fly airliners – TNCM is a popular destination for several American and European carriers flying routes to Paris, Amsterdam, Atlanta, New York, Toronto, Boston, Washington and many others. In some cases – airliners are restricted from taking off with full load due to short runway (it’s only 2300m / 7546ft long). 747 Jumbo Jets of Air France flew directly to St. Maarten from Paris but on their way back stopped for fuel and additional passengers in Santo Domingo (MDSD). Currently Air France flies Airbus A330/340 directly to Paris. KLM 747 make a stop in Curaçao (TNCC) on their way back – that is why you can observe unusually short take-offs of their 747s.

St. Maarten is a hub for Caribbean airlines that fly smaller planes (mostly turboprops and small jets) around Antilles.

Local airlines fly Caravans, Islanders and Twin Otters to islands nearby.

The airport is also popular among general aviation pilots and if you look closely at the pictures of the real airport – you will see many business jets parked here.

If you are flying small planes – the other airports of this scenery will surely be among your destinations.

St. Maarten

Gustaf III Airport (TFFJ)

Saint Barthélemy Airport is commonly known as one of the most dangerous airports in the world. Western approach (to runway 10) passes over a ridge forcing pilots to descent steeply just before the runway.

Read this short Wikipedia article for this airport.

Twin Otter @ TFFJ

What to fly and where?

Twin Otter is the most popular plane here. Caravans and Islanders are also common.

If you are looking for something bigger – DHC-7 was the biggest plane ever allowed in St. Barths.

Small GA planes are less popular due to difficult approach. Heavier piston planes without reversible propellers are unsuited for this airport because of long runway roll that may end on the beach or in the sea at the end of the runway.

Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport (TNCS)

Again – one of the most dangerous airports in the world. A small airstrip on the Saba island in the Caribbean. Being 396m (1299ft) long it is one of the shortest runways operated by airlines.

Comanche @ Saba

What to fly and where?

Where? To St. Maarten. What to fly? DHC-6s, Islanders, helicopters. According to Wiki – the largest aircraft that ever landed here was a DHC-7.

I am sure that you will bring other aircraft here and to TFFJ – just to try yourself…

FlyTampa Maarten Complete

I am reviewing Maarten Complete scenery by FlyTampa that is available in FlyTampa store for 28 Euro ($32 at current rates – September 2015). You can also buy Maarten without the additional airports for 22 Euro but I do not think it is a good deal. Who would like to save 3 Euro on TFFJ and another 3 on Saba?

St. Maarten

Purchase

FlyTampa uses BMT Micro Orders for their sales so do not worry if you are redirected away from FlyTampa website. Apart from that – the purchase is no different than in other stores. After the sale is processed the customer receives an email with his download links and product key.

Installation

Automatic. Requires a product key.

Documents

There is a 8-page manual that briefly describes each airport and answers common questions.

If you need charts and more detailed descriptions of TNCM and TFFJ – the manual provides links to charts at FlyTampa website.

Configurator

There is a standard configurator – similar to software used by other scenery developers. You can set the season and turn on/off scenery features like:

  • animated vehicles
  • static ships
  • visual effects
  • beech sandblast effect
  • 3d people
  • animated birds
  • 3d grass
  • animated windsocks

Turning this effects off (at least some of them) may help improve FSX performance.

Reviewer’s comments

It’s a difficult scenery to review. There are three unique airports that would normally be reviewed separately. As this is a single product – I will review them together. I will do my best to distinguish comments that refer to all three from these which concern only one of this airports.

I considered buying St. Maarten for a very, very long time. Actually it was one of the first sceneries that I considered… several years ago. For long I could not get around to buying it. I was quite satisfied with freeware sceneries of the Caribbean and I chose a different scenery each time I visited add-on stores. I finally got to it now and I feel that I should have bought it earlier.

St. Maarten (5*****)

It’s a holiday resort. Not just an airport near a resort – the TNCM is located right in between hotels, casinos and beaches. There is a famous Maho beach where people wait for approaching aircraft, Krakater beach stretches along the southern edge of runway. On the opposite side – there is a harbor, gas station and car rental office. All just a few meters behind the airport fence.

When I took-off runway 10 I overflew Cole Bay (largest town in Dutch part of St. Maarten) and Philipsburg (the capital of St. Maarten – with population just over a thousand people).

If I was to choose what makes the best impression here I would say:

  • airport scenery
  • hotels around airport
  • autogen
  • jetways (extraordinary quality and details)

What I do not like (and this impression was strengthened when I moved to St. Barths and Saba) is the photoscenery resolution. I’ll get back to this point later.

Jetways again…

Jetways

Blast fences

Autogen – vegetation (4*****)

Autogen in this scenery can be divided into three zones. Each will be rated differently with the first (closest to TNCM) is definitely a 6-star, the second (most of St. Maarten island and parts of St. Barths) is 4-star and there is a 2/3-star zone in some places on St. Maarten and St. Barths and on the entire island of Saba.

The 6-star zone looks superb – the trees grow dense and nicely fit the photoscenery background. In the second zone – the autogen density is normal (for FSX) – a little sparse for me. The third zone shows large patches of forest or bush photo-background between the trees.

It’s a mystery for me why there are such differences. It looks like the autogen was designed by several team members. Maybe it was improved around TNCM when the airport was updated. But this is just a speculation.

6-star zone

Autogen – buildings (5*****)

There is no division among urban autogen. Even on a small island of Saba the buildings look nice and are placed correctly. The towns on St. Maarten and St. Barths islands are simply superb.

Autogen

Photoscenery (3***)

If that was area photoscenery covering the whole country – I would be satisfied. Since this is a photoscenery surrounding three airports including two VFR-only – I feel that it’s resolution is too low. When compared to other “VFR-airports” it is just not clear enough – lacks details and sharpness.

Part of each island (approaches to each airport) is covered with a photoscenery of higher resolution. It is mostly visible in Saba and St. Barths. It’s a step in the right direction but it’s not enough if you fly a small plane around this islands.

When looked from a close distance (look at the bottom of this screen) – the resolution is too low

Flying low – general impressions (5*****)

After all my complaining about the resolution of photoscenery let me say that flying around this islands is a pleasure. The autogen, photo-background and scenery objects give the impression of flying over a tropical islands – just like they should. Boats and ships (there are 400 static boats and ships here!) only improve this impression.

Airport scenery (5*****)

St. Maarten – TNCM (5*****)

This airport has everything that I need. Buildings – like hangars, new terminal, control tower with radar and warehouses are modeled nicely. The textures could be (in places) sharper. Actually FlyTampa uses several texture quality levels here. It’s nice that the jetways and some buildings are very detailed. The terminal roof and walls could use a better images. The same applies to several small buildings in the middle of airport (between apron and runway).

Small objects are one of the strongest points of this airport. You will find blocks of concrete (for tying small planes down), warning cones, baggage carts, containers, barrels and blast fences. Airport vehicles are parked or move around the apron and parking – buses, tractors and supply trucks among them.

There are animated people walking around the airport. And actually – quite a lot of them.

If I have criticized the photoscenery earlier – I need to praise the quality of ground textures now. Runway, taxiways and aprons are outstanding.

Perfect jetways

TNCM

Animated people and small objects @ TNCM

St. Barths – TFFJ (5*****)

Most of what I wrote about TNCM could be repeated here. The major difference is the smaller number of tiny objects (I would expect that they will be more visible in a small airport like TFFJ than in TNCM). There are no animated people here.

On the other hand – buildings seem a little better then TNCM average.

Airport vegetation looks better – 3d grass is dense and well placed and there are bushes and shrubs.

TFFJ

TFFJ

Saba (4****)

If you take a small airport and give it the same attention (per square mile) that you give to an international airport… the result will be a little disappointing.

A can not say a bad word about Saba – ground textures are perfect, building is nice, two men are talking on apron, luggage is waiting on it’s cart for plane’s arrival. There is a parking lot where the road signs are visible… But something is missing. I am used to small airfields and I expected more details, more objects… something that would make it more real… And I can not find any volumetric grass here…

C172 approaching Saba

Saba

3d grass (3***)

Too little, too sparse. There is some 3d grass around this airports (apart from Saba). Unfortunately it looks like some experiments with volumetric grass instead of a final product. There are only several patches of grass around St. Maarten airport. Too little. And too sparse.

It looks much better in St. Barths. The grass is dense and grows where it should grow.

No grass for Saba. Congrats to their gardener.

Airport surroundings (6******)

I have a strange feeling that airport surroundings at St. Maarten and St. Barths received more attention then the airports on this islands. Surprisingly – it works!

Hotels next to TNCM

St. Maarten

No words can express how the hotels on both ends of Moho Beach and Gustavia in St. Barths were recreated in this scenery. I’m delighted. Just take a look at my screenshots.

On thing strikes me most – there are more tiny objects and animated people in the scenery around than on the airports. You will find sunbeds, garden chairs, benches, sunshades… – everything that you could expect on or next to a popular beach.

Maho beach

Maho beach

TFFJ – end of runway

TFFJ

Mesh (5*****)

St. Barths and Saba needed an excellent and precise mesh to recreate the real world difficulty of these airports. Cliffs in Saba and the steep slope leading to runway 10 in St. Barths show that the designers did their job well.

TFFJ approach

Minor inconveniences

In pros & cons I complained about two other details. The first are static planes. I often fly without AI traffic and I miss static planes at airports. Without AI traffic the airports look empty and unnatural.

The other thing I complained about is the island of Coco. Actually – the lack of this island. It’s a VFR reporting point on the southern approach to St. Barths and the fact that it is missing is a serious mistake.

Performance (4****)

St. Maarten causes some performance issues. I used it with all additional effects and options turned on and I observed a slight fps drops below my standard 30.

There was no fps drop at St. Barths and Saba.

In case your PC can not handle St. Maarten – turn off some visual effects in configurator.

Night @ TFFJ

TNCM

Summary (rating – 5*****)

For some time I could not decide whether I will rate it 5 or 4 stars. This scenery is magnificent. It’s really great. And it is a multi-airport scenery. On the other hand – it has several flaws. I can only assume that some of them are the result of St. Maarten being an old scenery that was updated later…

Considering everything that is important to me – it is a 5-star scenery. Not because it is an average of my ratings but because of the time I spend here and a pleasure I have from flying over this islands and airports.

Evening take-off

Quality to price ratio (very good)

Three airports for 28 Euro… it’s a good price. Very good if you consider the quality of each airport.

Takeoff or landing?

Product page – FlyTampa Maarten

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