250 sq km of desert, two runways, tumbleweeds everywhere and some magic that draws me here. Twentynine Palms by 29Palms. My first 6* scenery review.
Pros and cons
What I like in Twentynine Palms (KTNP)?
- high resolution photoscenery
- top quality models and texturing of airport buildings
- detailed mesh
- animated people
- static planes on apron (configurable)
- small items on apron and in hangars
- road traffic
- telephone lines
- airport equipment / infrastructure (lights, signs, windsock, etc.)
- runway, taxiway and apron textures
- hyperrealistic mountains
- … there is more…
What I do not like:
- …nothing here… maybe except some gestures mad by a man who walks on apron and talks on the phone… he is so theatrical…
What could be improved:
- still searching
Boring stuff – where to buy, how to install and configure (5*****)
I received the scenery for review straight from 29Palms store, where you can buy it for 15,95 Euro.
Clicking “yes” or “next” buttons in installer will get you through the process in no time. When it is finished you will find this scenery in your Scenery Library (no need to add it manually). The only thing different from other payware sceneries is manual uninstall process. Author explained that automatic uninstall may cause some problems and my experience confirms that (that is why I almost never uninstall FS add-ons). KTNP manual explains in detail how to do it if you wish.
Inside 29Palms folder (located in your main FSX folder) you should find two sub-folders called Configurator and User Documents. The latter contains product manual – PDF file describing the scenery, installer, uninstall process, configuration options and troubleshooting. Two charts are also included for RNAV/GPS and VOR approaches. There is no Airport Diagram for KTNP. I did not find any on the web. You will just have to look around.
Next to the configurator (described next) you will find an update tool! It is still rare that FSX add-on makers use software like this – I deeply appreciate it. Only a few publishers like A2A, PMDG and Aerosoft (for some of their products) use such tools. It makes keeping my many add-ons up to date much easier.
There is also a tool that will check if installed textures match current season. I do not use it. It is not that important if there are no winter (snowy) textures and the most visible difference is in the color or tone of sand.
Scenery configurator will be deeply appreciated by anyone who complains about static planes on apron. It will be useful for owners of low-end PCs who will use it to lower system load caused by this scenery. You can turn on or off the planes I mentioned, 3d grass and rocks, animated people. If 4096px textures are hard to handle for your GPU – you may chose 2048 or 1024 textures. If you don’t like animals – you can even turn the eagle off. Who would want to delete eagle?
Back to serious description – the most important features that you may want to turn off (if you need to gain a few frames per second) are – grass and rocks (you can turn it off or change placement density), animated people, road traffic and sand storm.
Configurator also allows you to change the background photoscenery so that it matches FSX default textures in every season, Megascenery, Blue Sky Scenery or ORBX FTX. Great to have a choice but I stick with the default colors. That is why you may notice a sharp line between this scenery and my Blue Sky free photoscenery around. It is my fault / my deliberate choice. I do not like Blue Sky colors that much and I prefer to have yellowish sand around airport instead of this magenta tinted that Blue Sky uses.
Twentynine Palms (KTNP)
Twenty nine palms. So few and they have to share them between two large airports and few smaller.
Jokes aside – Twentynine Palms town (twenty five thousand inhabitants – that gives one palm for a thousand people and there will be some left) is “picturesque” according to the county website. Author of this statement may not be impartial, but it does not matter – there is now way of checking that as the scenery does not reach into the town.
The main tourist attraction nearby is the Joshua Tree National Park with Mara Oasis which brings 150 thousand tourist each year – so if you are looking for reasons to visit KTNP – it is one.
Aviators came to Twentynine Palms in 1941 when U.S. Army (managing Air Force at that time) decided that the desert, mountains and flat valley create the perfect environment for glider training. By that time it was not some new idea to move soldiers in gliders – Germans did that a year earlier in Belgium (look for Eben Emael) and Norway, and again in 1941 in Yugoslavia and Greece (Crete). U.S. decided that it is necessary to start glider training of 126 pilots. With some help of Japanese this number has been increased to 6000 by the end of the year. Next time you watch “The Longest Day” or “A Bridge Too Far” please remember that U.S. glider pilots that you see were trained in places like Twentynine Palms. In 1943 they added powered aircraft training.
Currently there are two (relatively) large airports in Twentynine Palms – civilian and military. The former is covered by 29Palms’ scenery.
Basic information about airport. It has two non-intersecting runways in unusual T arrangement. Main runway (8/26) is 1686m (5531ft) long and 23 meters wide. There are instrumental approaches (RNAV/GPS and VOR) to 26. VASI lights (3 degrees) are located near both ends of runway.
Shorter and narrower 17/35 is 1157m by 15m (3795ft by 49ft).
I could not find any information about pavement classification but I am pretty sure that you should not land 747 here.
Where to and what to fly?
Where to? Los Angeles is located just 100 miles (*nautical – like all distances in this review) west from KTNP. San Diego – also 100 miles to south west. Phoenix requires 200 mile trip east and a journey to San Francisco is 400 mile long. You can reach all this destinations in general aviation plane like Comanche or Baron. Turbojets like King Air or Beech 1900 and business jets will fit great and allow you to fly wherever you want in Lower 48. If you are very sensitive to operations realism you may consider tankering Jet Fuel while flying to KTNP. I did not find any information about Jet-A availability here.
KTNP handles 10 thousand long distance flights annually.
There are also 7000 local flights each year. I chose Piper Cub, Cessna and Comanche. I also had some fun flying around Twentynine Palms in Albatros and in Mustang P-51. Apart from aerobatics over the airport I suggest you fly into Pinto Mountains south of the airport. Unfortunately I can not recommend any landing sites although you can try landing on a dried riverbed in tundra tires equipped Piper Cub.
Glider flight are still a large part of KTNP activities. I recommend Discus glider for this flights.
Military aircraft land or take-off from KTNP 500 times every year. I could not find any information about this flights but I am pretty sure that most of them are Marine helicopters from nearby base.
When thinking about routes to fly – check freeware Blue Sky photoscenery – you can greatly improve your longer VFR flights.
Photoscenery and mesh (6******)
Photoscenery resolution varies between 0,25m/px and 0,6m/px. Only a few products that I know of use more detailed photo-background and the top-level quality is visible everywhere in this scenery.
This excellent photoscenery covers terrain mesh that is even better. It is probably the best mountainous mesh I have ever flown over in FSX. You will be amazed by the details pronounced when you fly low over some narrow valley.
As always when scenery merges a good mesh and detailed photoscenery – effects of both intensify. It is so good here that I spend hours flying over this mountains and the only reason was – they looked good. It is just nice to dive into a canyon or a valley and watch it’s walls passing by.
6 stars. Actually it is somewhere between very good (in some places) and great (elsewhere). Trees, bush and tumbleweeds are placed meticulously and realistically. And it is dense! You will not find that many buildings here but if you see one – it will be placed where it should have been and it will look the part.
Airport buildings (5*****)
Airport buildings are on par with what users of ORBX airports are used to. Well designed models are covered with high resolution textures. Walls have some marked features – like corrugated steel pattern, lettering on decals is crisp and model details (like A/C unit you see below) are good enough for you to watch them from just few meters away. If you look at the picture below you may also notice that door and windows are three dimensional and you can clearly see how they are modeled.
Remember that you are on a small, local airport. There is no airport terminal building – just a small house with a porch, a few containers, sheds and a hangar where someone tried to hide a jet (clearly he failed). Open hangar door allow us to look inside – there is a flag on a wall, and a map, and some pictures together with cabinets and drums set next to the wall.
Small objects and stones (6******)
Small objects in sceneries are very important for me. They change unnatural empty space of FSX ground into something realistic. When I look around this scenery I find exactly what I expect. Ladders, aircraft stairs, crates, boxes, carts, warning poles, cones and many other small things that you would normally find in place like this. Also – you may notice bags and suitcases next to aircraft – just waiting to be loaded (or recently unloaded).
Equally important is how detailed are airport lights and signs in the scenery. Once again – this is absolutely top level. Look at this VASI lights and see electrical connection branching of into three small cables entering the back wall of the lamp – that is simply amazing. All runway and taxiway lights are as good as VASI – for example threshold light has a small warning decal that is easily readable.
There is an interesting feature next to the runways – tetrahedron. I do not think we have these in Europe. In my opinion – it is easier to guess the wind direction by looking at tetrahedron but it does not show the wind speed (you can read the wind speed from the position of windsock).
This airport is covered with rocks! Fortunately someone keeps them away from runways and taxiways but the ground around is cluttered with them. This is the third scenery where I have seen rocks and there are the most abundant here.
Cars and trucks (5*****)
It is not a big scenery but there is a road passing next to Twentynine Palms Airport. 29Palms added cars and trucks moving on this road. I have to admit that the cars are well chosen for this scenery – a hummer, a pick up truck. Exactly what you would expect in a desert. This are not just a default cars that you would find anywhere in FSX. 29Palms created advanced models so you can watch them as they pass just next to you.
People (animated) and a bird (6******)
Once again – top quality. Every man and woman in this scenery is animated. Some – only slightly like a man who is reading his newspaper. Other animations are much more advanced. Another man is walking around the parking lot and talking on his phone. He is also gesticulating passionately. You will also find a mechanic repairing a plane and a few other people walking around or doing maintenance.
One more animation attracted my attention. An eagle soars over KTNP. If you do not like birds and wildlife – you can turn it off in the configurator.
Sand storm!!! (6******)
Strong winds hit Twentynine Palms rising huge amounts of dust. Sand cloud grew bigger as it neared the airport and then came over obscuring vision and covering everything in yellow cloth… Yes – we have a sand storm in FSX. Just a simple model and animation – unfortunately independent from the wind direction, but still – have you ever seen something like this? If you care – you will postpone your flight. If you are on approach in Cessna Caravan – remember to turn your inertial separator on. In piston planes – make sure to close carburetor heat as it sucks unfiltered air into the engine.
System load – low or medium-low
On a top-end PC (at lease i5 @ 4GHz, GTX 550Ti, 8GB RAM) you should not see any noticeable performance loss. During my tests I had only seen fps drop while the aircraft was flying inside the sand storm cloud (not the wisest move, don’t you think?). Probably lower Anti-Aliasing settings or a GPU that handles AA better would solve this problem (I have not tested this cloud on my new GTX 660Ti).
If you struggle to get decent FPS – turn animated people off first. Then go for lower resolution textures (I use 4096 textures – you can go as low as 1024) – it will help if you have an old CPU or GPU. Then turn off grass and rocks – especially if you have low-end CPU.
I think that even on a weak PC this scenery will run well if you configure it correctly.
Twentynine Palms – summary (rating – 6******)
This is one of my “top 3” sceneries. I can not find any mistakes, flaws or bugs in this add-on and I am delighted with each and every part of it.
I have not flown in California since Flight Unlimited II (anyone remembers this sim?). This scenery changed that. I downloaded Blue Sky photoscenery for California and Arizona, got Phoenix and Marble Canyon airports to have more places to visit and I really enjoy flying here with Twentynine Palms as my main airport.
Even if you never thought about flying in California – you should give it a try.
Price to quality ration – crazy good
For just 16 Euro it is a bargain. Perion.
Watch my movie
Clouds and sky textures: