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Scenery Review: PACV - Merle K Smith - Cordova, Alaska XP12

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Scenery Review: PACV - Merle K Smith - Cordova, Alaska XP12


By Paul Mort



Hello, and welcome to my third review here at X-PlaneReviews. 

This time around, we’re heading off to Alaska, or more to the point, Merle K. (Mudhole) Smith Airport. If you enjoy remote airports, with a slight chilly factor thrown in (we’re talking about the weather, not the food) then you’re going to enjoy this X-Plane 12 scenery. 

With vast mountain ranges and glaciers to the north, and islands and the Gulf of Alaska to the east and south, there is plenty to see for the budding pilot. However, the weather can change in an instant, so if you do go exploring…make sure you plan ahead. The airport itself is named after Merle K. Smith, also known as "Mudhole" who was a bush pilot and who later became president of Cordova Airlines, which used the airport as a hub between 1934 and 1968. 


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Situated relatively close to the Gulf of Alaska and eleven miles from the city of Cordova, Merle K. Smith Airport has an elevation of fifty-four feet or sixteen meters. There are two runways on offer: 9/27 is 7,500 by 150 feet (2,286 x 46 m) with an asphalt surface and 16/34, which is 1,899 by 30 feet (579 x 9 m) and has a gravel surface. Alaskan Airlines is the only carrier at the airport, and due to the lack of road access, the airport represents the only means of connecting Cordova with the outside world (apart from the ferry). 


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The downloaded file from the X-Plane.org store weighed in at just under 270MB, which is relatively small for an airport scenery but once extracted, increased to a more respectable 633MB. There was no online registration or EXE file to run (something I always find tedious), it was just a case of copying the folder to my Custom Scenery directory in X-Plane 12. Being an airport scenery with no additional folders to add, there was no need to edit my scenery_packs.ini file. There was no documentation of any kind to be found in the package, which was something I was slightly disappointed by, even at this price point. 

Default Scenery
Prior to installing this scenery add-on, I was intrigued to see what the default airport looked like in X-Plane 12, and whilst it was passable in terms of general layout (taxiways, runways etc), it was missing many important buildings, not to mention, clutter and people.  


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With the add-on package installed from DC Scenery, things were improved greatly. When viewed from above, instead of the generic default textures we have become accustomed to, we are greeted with an ortho tile which covers the whole airport area. Compared to the default textures, the detail is night and day, which makes the supplied ortho stand out somewhat. It would have been great if the ortho covered a larger area and then was slowly blended into the default textures, but sadly this wasn’t the case. However, if you’re using your own ortho scenery of Alaska, then the ortho supplied with the package, should (in effect), blend in seamlessly with the one supplied.


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Moving to ground level, and the scenery maintains both its quality and clarity, with the runway textures employing some useful weathering effects, such as cracks and rubber marks. Quite often, runway textures can become repetitive if done badly, but this wasn’t the case here. Whilst there wasn’t a lot of variation in terms of textures used, what there was, worked well. 


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Progressing onwards, and there was an abundance of flora on offer, namely 3D bushes. I did notice a slight framerate drop here and there but considering my X-Plane system is on the low end, it’s to be expected. For those users with more capable systems, I don’t see this part of the scenery to be an issue.


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Just over 46% of Merle K. Smith Airport’s traffic is GA, and this is well represented by the large general aviation parking area as we head towards the main airport. The aircraft on display are generic static models, and whilst they do the job, it would have been nice to have seen aircraft which actually frequent the airport.  


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The main airport area is made up of numerous small buildings and hangars, including what can only be described as the main airport terminal. These are all well-modelled with some genuinely nice texturing included and really help set the scene.  The Alaskan Airlines and the Cordova Auto Rentals hut both deserve special mention, as they both look just like their real-life counterparts (weathering included).



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There is an abundance of airport clutter, such as pallets, cones, barrels etc, and something I was especially pleased to see…people! I can’t tell you how much of a difference this makes. Over the years I have reviewed numerous sceneries which have been excellent apart from one mitigating factor…the absence of people. Well, I'm glad to say that DC Scenery hasn’t fallen into that trap, so hats off to them for including these models. 


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Just outside of the airport there is what seems to be an industrial area, complete with silos and a few trucks. It’s not particularly well-modelled, and after viewing the same area in Google Maps, it seems to be more of a quarry/pit.  


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Night Lighting
X-Plane has always ruled supreme when it comes to night lighting, and Merle K. Smith Airport is no exception. The developers have carefully and thoughtfully added lighting effects to different areas of the airport, and it works exceptionally well…the runway lights reflecting off the runway are a prime example. 


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Winter World
With X-Plane 12, we now get (by default), the ability to experience winter textures, and oh boy, do they make a difference, especially for an Alaskan airport such as the one being reviewed here. Due to its location, the airport is quite often covered in snow, and whereas before we would have been stuck with summer textures (unless using a third-party mod), we are now able to set the scene in a far more realistic manner. 


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The whole area is transformed, and to be honest, the scenery looks completely different, but not in a negative way. Now the airport really does feel remote and cut off from the real world…this is the difference winter textures can make. 


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As mentioned earlier on in the review, the only part of the scenery which caused a noticeable slowdown on my computer system was the copious amounts of 3D grass lining the parameter of the runway. Away from there, performance was more than adequate, and that’s saying something considering the age of my PC. 


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Having spent a good deal of time exploring both Merle K. Smith Airport and the surrounding area, I must admit the experience was (on both counts), highly enjoyable. Yes, there were a few areas where I felt the airport scenery could have been improved, like the blending in of the ortho and adding some form of documentation, but overall, I think the developers have done an excellent job at recreating the scenery.  


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With the introduction of X-Plane 12, sceneries such as Merle K. Smith Airport can now make use of the superb weather effects on offer, and this is where the flying experience truly shines. Thanks to the excellent design work by DC Scenery and the creative minds at Laminar Research, we get to experience what an Alaskan winter is like, and how an airport as remote as Merle K. Smith really feels, especially when the weather closes in.  





Merle K Smith Airport by DC Scenery is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here:


Merle K Smith Airport

Priced at US$12.00


Scenery features:

  • X-Plane 12 ground effects
  • X-Plane 12 3D vegetation
  • Features a highly accurate recreation of Merle K. (Mudhole) Smith Airport
  • Highly detailed models and textures of airport terminal, hangars, buildings and other objects
  • High Detailed ground textures
  • PBR on all objects
  • Custom lights
  • Accurate taxiway, runway and apron
  • High level of airport detail
  • Compatible with Orthophotos



X-Plane 12 (not compatible with XP11)
Windows, Mac or Linux
4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended
Download Size: 282 MB
Current version: 1.0 September 24th 2022)


Review System Specifications:

Windows 10 64 Bit
Intel Core i5-3350p
CPU @ 3.10 GHz


Scenery Review by Paul Mort
27th October 2022
Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews

(Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed
without consent from the author as per copyright conditions) 




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