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Scenery Review : EGTR London Elstree Aerodrome by Pilot Plus


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Scenery Review : EGTR London Elstree Aerodrome by Pilot Plus

The name Elstree in north London is synonymous with film making (Not to be confused with Ealing (Studios) in west London), because since 1914, most of the British major film and television production has been created here. Actually there is only one studio in Elstree that was originally the larger site, but neighbouring Borehamwood is now grown into the larger major studio complex. Think Star Wars, Indiana Jones, 2001:A Space Odyssey, James Bond (Never Say Never Again) and your starting to get close to the scale of these minor productions that were created here, but "Elstree" is still the name of the industry based here, just ask any actor.

Pilot Plus has very quickly established a quality source of excellent scenery for X-Plane. Their first release in EGHI - Southampton and the second release of EGGD - Bristol reinforced the level of design and execution in quality with every release...  In other words it is very good.  

This new scenery for Elstree Aerodrome in north London is of a smaller scale than the first two releases and more of a study of place than a destination to create hub and route traffic. The airport is actually quite busy in terms of movements in the GA sphere but the bulk of activity is built up of flying schools and training. In fact there are Elstree a large number of operators here including: Elstree Helicopters, Air Academy, Flying Pig Helicopters (great name if you are a Pink Floyd fan), Chiltern Aviation, Flyers Flying School, Fly Elstree, Flight Training London, Lion Flying Group, MAK Aviation Flight School, Stars Fly, Heli-UK/Helicopter Services and no doubt the close position to the Film/ Television facilities will bring in more movements.

Aircraft Sales and Servicing, Maintenance are also very active at Elstree including: Air Interiors, Enigma Heating & Mechanical Services, Hadron Electrical, Harold Ripel Avionics, Kinetic Avionics, London Elstree Aviation and Mistral Aviation.

A historic note (I am a Formula One fan) is that on 29 November 1975, British Formula One champion and team owner Graham Hill was killed when his Piper PA-23 he was piloting crashed on approach to the airfield in foggy conditions at night, about 3 nm east of the runway. The other five occupants of the aircraft, Tony Brise and 4 others in the Embassy Hill team, were also killed. In reality Hill was a dumb fool in flying in that weather and was told so...  a waste.

First Impressions

To see EGTR - Elstree and get my bearings on it's position it was best to fly in, and a no better starting place was Pilot Plus's EGHI - Southampton on the English south central coast.

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It is not a long flight from the coast to north London at around 35minutes, but I got a telling off by the Air Traffic controllers for flying at 5,000ft across the approach paths to London Heathrow RWY09R and RWY09L. And then finding Elstree Aerodrome was a bit of a hunt and scan effort.

The Aerodrome is very well merged into the X-Plane default scenery and you can't tell where the boundaries are which I really like, and Pilot Plus is very good at doing this. As a visual marker is best to find the Heilfield Park Reservoir that is directly behind the airfield, The smaller Alderham Reservoir is located just behind Helifield Park and the angle between them gives you the best bearing on the 08/26 angled runway (651m - 2,136ft). Another visual clue is the main M1 London Motorway that crosses going north/south across the west of the RWY08 Threshold.

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On the circuit flypast you can see a motley set of Hangars, from a dominating very large old WW2 Bellman hangar and a few more post WW2 maintenance hangars and workshops. The area is also dotted with many farms and buildings that cover the whole full area of the scenery.

One of the trademarks of Pilot Plus's scenery is the use of trees and here at Elstree you are not disappointed. All the trees are manually placed and that gives you a densely packed wood that surrounds the sports playing fields and Elstree Golf Course. In fact all the hedgerows and tree lined lanes are all represented which gives you that English country feel to the whole are, in fact the area covered is quite large, but you don't know where the boundary actually is.

Once at a 8nm distance I flew the CT206H in a full 180º turn back towards EGTR and homed in on the runway, or sort of tried to.

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The start of the runway is hidden on the RWY26 approach path by the woodland area, so a bearing is hard from a distance at a lower approach altitude. So landing from the east is challenging and will test your skills. You could try a steeper approach path than this, but that means more speed and a heavy pitch upwards once past the trees to get the wheels down. My aim was to just to brush the trees and then drop down to the runway and it worked fine, but even then you still land slightly long down the runway. In passing over the approach will give you great views of the Aldenham Park Golf Course and playing fields with a set of school buildings going under you.

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Like a lot of trees then grass or wildflowers are in abundance as well and, and the area is overgrown and it is like a full bloom English summer.

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Turn off RWY26 to the right on to the taxiway and you come to a deadend!

The rest of the taxiway is gone or has been overgrown but is noted as taxiway C on the supplied chart, you can taxi down a rough grass track that has been worn away or turnaround and go back down the main asphalt runway to the entrance taxiway more east. There is another connection taxiway B to RWY08 at the other end but it is narrow even for a small GA or small jet, but thankfully solid.

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Taxi on to the main apron in front of the small manned tower and in looking around the place is a bit of a dump. There maybe a few operators running out of here but they don't contribute much to the upkeep of the airport, its old, worn, tired and there is junk everywhere. The airport is not very well maintained, but does feel like this sort of neglected airfield that dots the UK landscape. So the realism is very close to home.

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There is an animated Volvo that drives around from one part of the Aerodrome to the other, so be careful it doesn't drive into you.

Elstree Aerodrome Overview

London Elstree Aerodrome

IATA: none – ICAO: EGTR

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08/26 651m (2,136ft) Asphalt

Elevation AMSL 332 ft / 101 m

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The scenery is far larger than is noticeable at first glance as you think the aerodrome and its buildings are the main items only as part of the area. When in fact it is dotted with many farms, buildings and lots of objects that cover out a large area. The trees are again the focal point as what they hide in different areas, but divide up the landscape as well. At a distance the trees are very good, but close up you need your render settings on extreme  or a high setting. Here I am on "very high" and they are still quite blurry close up, but overall they are very good.

The underlying textures are very well maximised and matched into the surrounding X-Plane default scenery. You can't see the boundaries but there are areas that show they are there like the road and lanes are washed out and a few areas have flat buildings, One area to the south is quite noticeable but Pilot Plus notes it will be filled in with 3d buildings.

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Runway and taxiway textures are very good, if old and and areas have grass growing in the cracks. good detailing is the add on concrete turn at the end of RWY08. Ramps (if you could call it a ramp) and solid areas are mostly under maintenance, or going to be fixed...  or just surrounded by cones to avoid the holes.

Aerodrome Buildings

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The huge old WW2 Bellman hangar of G-Air Aviation dominates the scenery. In weathered and rusting metal the hangar is totally realistic. In front are the Ikaron Restaurant cafe,Pooleys Flight Equipment/ Flight Training London, and the Flyer Training office. A great visual feature is the puffing smoke coming out of the Ikaron cafe, but I doubt I would take the wife there on a romantic night out. Right thoughout this scenery the smaller item placement is really well done as the only things missing it seems are the throw away garbage cups on the ground, but the detailing is really well done and realistic.

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West is a set of low-rise buildings that house more of the Flight School offices like Flying Pig and Flight Training. There is also the Elstree project with Ma-Na's Yoga that is based here, which is an individual or group activity with breath awareness, stretching and relaxed preparation before flight, sounds like just what we need and more Karma in the air.

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East is the main aircraft Sales, Servicing and Maintenance hangars area, more like a builders yard than an aerodrome it is full of discarded items and like a typical English junkyard. The old blue buildings stand out and look perfectly worn and detailed, the rest with their rusting iron work and the roofs are great in detail. The larger one is run by VVB Aviation Services and the second by Helicopter Services Ltd. Third building looks like the Enigma Heating & Mechanical Services building and yard.

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From the ground stand point of view you are in the place and the environment. That is the ultimate goal of scenery is in you believe you in the actual presence of the place, and I would say that has been achieved here. Fencing and signage is first rate and so is the object placement. Refueling station is very good, if you can park your aircraft close enough to fill it up...

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London Aviation's demountable offices are very good.

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More East are buildings around the Aldenham Park Golf Course and the complex of buildings that makes up the Haberdasher's Aske's School for Boys.

Control Tower

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The aerodrome control tower is not the most high-tech building you can name, in fact it looks quite like a temporary tower put there and they haven't bothered to build a proper one or fix this one up. The tower view is slight off to the left and slightly too high, but the view of the runway and taxiways are excellent.

Nightlighting

Pilot Plus has always had a good grasp on how to do good lighting, and EGTR is again very good. You have to understand that there really is not much to work with here unlike an international airport, but clever work can create a very good scenario out of nothing.

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The runway lighting is very poor not that scenery is at fault but the actual runway lighting is average (no wonder poor Graham Hill couldn't find it in the fog) not much approach lighting and only two white flashing lights to signal the start of the runway itself is not great from a distance...  and don't forget those trees in the dark!

The laneways and roads are well lit, but because they are so well done it does tend to show up the bright areas on the scenery itself and the low wattage around it, so it tends to stand out from a distance and define the boundaries of the scenery itself.

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In the central area the lighting is first rate, with excellent drop down lighting on buildings and signage. There is enough lighting here to make it useble but not too much to overwhelm it, public areas are well lit and are excellent.

FrameRate

A few notes on frameRate here at EGTR - Elstree. As scenery the airport itself is not too bad, but it situated on one of the most dense tile meshes in X-Plane. Throw in Aerosoft's huge EGLL - Heathrow just over the way (2.47gb!), The now very good EGLC - London City by forbesie2k and Gatwick, London Buildings and enough autogen to fill your screen and you can see why your computer will start to cough and splutter. Worse is the angle from the runway towards the airport buildings at it puts you directly in line with the major autogen masses. So then add on top of all this a Carenado aircraft and your not getting much space above the teens or early twenties unless you have a powerhouse machine and the minimum requirements demand a heavy graphics card (1GB) and 4gb of RAM. I was still able to use Elstree but I was limited by the headroom minimums that were low to marginal. You can of course wind down a lot of the autogen and pull the weather in to gain framerate and I had to do that here as well.

Summary

EGTR - London Elstree Aerodrome is a lot more of a smaller scale than the first two airports in EGHI - Southampton and EGGD - Bristol for Pilot Plus. It is a different vibe here as well, in being very old and slightly neglected in that exWW2 period sort of way. You are restricted to GA aircraft and helicopters is is still highly usable for GA flight and refueling in the London area, I doubt I would bring my gleaming Jet here, but superstar actors demand a close to work arrival and more a departure after the lines are read, so it would be a land and go sort of mission.

In detail and quality EGTR is very good, even excellent. The underlaying textures can intrude and be a little washed out in areas but overall and certainly in the merging of the surrounding default mesh scenery it is perfect. Trees close up are blurry, in Southampton or Bristol it wasn't as noticeable as here as you are more closed in by the foliage, excellent overgrown grass and spring flowers as well fill out the visual drama.

Signage and night lighting is first rate and so is all the detailing in fences,farms, houses (if a few American style ones) and spread out over a larger area than you can see, 3d cars are plentiful and a few are well animated, but they can be blurry at a low resolution setting.

Buildings and textures are first rate and really well designed in quality, positioning and so are the objects and layout of...  discarded items. You will want a brush and a truck to want to go and clean the place up little for the next visiting American superstar actor (Sorry no dogs, Johnny Depp) as it does not represent really the best face of what the UK has to offer when visiting here. And in that it really sums it up in authenticity...  it is very good.

 

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The  EGTR London Elstree Aerodrome by Pilot Plus is available now from the New X-Plane.org Store : EGTR - London Elstree

Price is US$22.95

Features include:

Faithful Replica with HD detailed buildings
High Resolution ground imagery of area
Custom Night Lighting
Animations, POI's & Ground Traffic
Volumetric Grass
Pre-rendered 'worn' atmosphere

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Documents and Installation :

Include Manual (12 Pages) and Aerodrome chart (above)

Download: 81.80mb : Installed 259.80mb

if you wish to add the 3D static aircraft and people you can download the free extension from the x-plane.org download manager. http://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?app=downloads&showfile=28156  OpenSceneryX is required.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Technical Requirements:

X-Plane 10 - Windows, Mac or Linux - Multi-core processor @ 2.6 Ghz or faster, 4GB Ram - 3D video card with at least 1GB VRAM

Current version: 2.0 (last updated August 8th 2015)
______________________________________________________________________________

Scenery Review by Stephen Dutton

14th August 2015

Copyright©2015: X-Plane Reviews

Review System Specifications:

Computer System:     - 2.66 Ghz Intel Core i5 iMac 27” - 6 Gb 1067 Mhz DDR3 - ATI Radeon HD 4850 512mb

Software:     - Mac OS  Yosemite 10.10.4 - X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.36 (final)

Addons: - Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle - Bose Soundlink WiFi Speaker

Aircraft

CT206H - Stationair HD Series by Carenado US$29.95 available at the X-Plane.OrgStore

 

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