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Airport Review : SBRJ Santos Dumont Rio by Richard G Nunes & Nielsen Scenery

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Airport Review : SBRJ - Santos Dumont Rio de Janeiro by Richard G Nunes & Nielsen Scenery


To understand the location and layout of Brazil's oldest airport in Santos Dupont in central Rio de Janeiro is to delve back in to the interesting history of this iconic airport.


SBRJ - Santos Dumont was originally known as Calabouço Airport, and the history of the airport can be traced back to the early 1930s. Seaplanes, which at this period of time operated the majority of domestic and international flights, and used a terminal located at the Calabouço Point, an area known today as Praça Marechal Âncora. Take-off and landings were made using an area of Guanabara Bay then known as estirão do Caju (or the Caju water stretch). It was as a development of the terminal at Calabouço Point that Calabouço Airport was created. A new public terminal building for seaplanes was inaugurated on 29 October 1938. And it was a replacement for the original passenger terminal and was used by all airlines except Panair do Brasil and Pan American World Airways, which used their own facilities.


in order to handle a growing amount of land operations, land was reclaimed from the sea to create the first runway of the airport with a length of 1,300 feet (400 m). In 1936, the runway was extended to 2,300 feet (700 m) and on 30 November it received its first commercial flight, a VASP Junkers Ju 52 aircraft flying from São Paulo-Congonhas. The airport complex was inaugurated on 16 October 1936 and was named Santos Dumont Airport.

It was also in 1936 that the construction of a new passenger terminal began. It was a project led by the architects MMM Roberto (Marcelo, Milton and Mauricio Roberto Doria-Baptista) inspired in the famous Paris - Le Bourget Airport terminal. Its pioneering, modernist, architectural features created a Brazilian national landmark. It was only in 1947 that its construction was completed. This building continues to be used to the present day.


Adjoining the original seaplane terminal, Pan American World Airways and its Brazilian subsidiary Panair do Brasil constructed their own dedicated terminal for seaplanes and aircraft with landing gear. This terminal opened in 1937 featuring an architecture was inspired by the Pan American Seaplane Base and Terminal Building in Miami. It included a passenger terminal, offices and hangars. It remained the headquarters of Panair do Brasil until the airline was forced to cease its operations in 1965. It is now the headquarters of the Third Regional Air Command of the Brazilian Air Force.

Over the years, the airport's main operational runway has been extended several times, first to 2,300 feet (700 m), then to 3,000 feet (910 m), and finally 4,340 feet (1,320 m).


With the gradual shift of international operations to Galeão Airport, opened in 1952, Rio de Janeiro-Santos Dumont lost its place as an international hub, but for many years retained its position of a major hub for domestic traffic, particularly until 1960, when the capital of Brazil was moved to Brasília. The airport handles only part of Rio's short-to-medium haul domestic air traffic, and part of its general aviation and military operations.

In 26 May 2007, in time for the 2007 Pan American Games, a brand-new, modern extension of the original terminal was opened. This extension handles all departure operations, whilst the original terminal now handles all arrival operations. The new departures terminal increased the total capacity of the airport to 8.0 million passengers/year. (edited wikipedia)

Today Santo Dupont Airport is mostly all domestic operations and it is a hub for Azul Brazilian Airlines and the focus city for Gol Airlines.


First Impressions

Until a few years ago South America was one of the real waste lands of nothing for X-Plane scenery. There was a few flight simulator converted (badly) airports for Sao Paulo and few others were dotted around the fringes of this huge southern continent but otherwise it was all pretty dire. Rio de Janeiro which is Brazil's crown was pathetic in reality and considering the importance of the city to global air traffic that situation was in the not acceptable tick box of disapproval. That all changed a few years ago with the arrival of Richard G Nunes and his scope and desire to fix these glaringly obvious Brazilian issues. 


Richard's first scenery was an odd one in the release of SBDN - Presidente Prudente Airport which is situated in the central inner area of Brazil, and in no doubt that SBDN was only a learning curve scenery (but a good one at that) to create or achieve the scale of his next project in SBGL - Galeão Rio de Janeiro Intl in which he finally and firmly placed Rio de Janeiro and South America on the X-Plane map. This scenery in SBRJ - Santos Dupont is Richard's third project and again because of the scale of the scenery he has matched up with Marcelo Nielsen of Neilsen Flightsim Scenery to cover every aspect of this another significant Brazilian project.


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Both Galeão Rio de Janeiro Intl and Santos Dupont Airports are situated within Guanabara Bay which is one of the great harbours of the world. Like Sydney Harbour, Hong Kong Harbour and San Francisco bay you have unparalleled scenic views and unrivaled city approaches that are excellent visually and are usually very complex or are in the need of good piloting skills and airmanship. In this case SBRJ has both.


I am coming into SBRJ via the northern approach to RWY 20L (the wider of the two). Your best navigation approach is using two NDB's in first YLA - ILHA (freq 330) which is situated directly off the end of Galeão Rio de Janeiro Intl's RWY 28 to directly line up with PP- PAIOL (freq 415) that is positioned in front of RWY20L. Note the RWY20L ILS is slightly off center to the right of the centerline (If it wasn't hard enough in the first place) and takes you in at a slight angle and is not aligned for a clean approach. Approaching from the south is even more tricky into twisting into RWY's 02R and 02L but there is a comprehensive set of charts with the scenery that should be printed out and studied before any serious approaches. Most approaches are however from the north.


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Santos Dupont Airport is perched right out on the edge of Guanabara Bay and directly in front of downtown Rio, straight ahead in your windscreen is the famous Sugerloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar).


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The scenery is very extensive in its scope. Not only do you get the actual SBRJ airport, but also the Rio city skyline, a remodeled Sugerloaf Mountain with cable cars and the various islands that surround the airport that have buildings and port facilities to complete the entire visual aspect of the approach to the airport...  X-Plane fails you a little in the poor default autogen scenery that surrounds the airport and Rio in general, but I hope that visual impact will be improved with coming X-Plane v10.50 butter autogen and taller buildings.


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So the airport's visual approach is amazingly good with great views out of the aircraft's windows not only from the pilot's point of view but also to the right hand side seated passengers (on arrival). Prominent in your view is the museum of cultural history on the island of Ilha Fiscal, that is very...  let us say, different and the ilha das cobras Arsenal Naval Base that is situated just behind it.


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Here you need your eyes forward and not looking at the scenery, because landing on either RWY 20L or 20R (and from the opposite approach path) is that the runways are quite significant in their width, but are very economical in their length. RWY's 20L and 02R is slightly longer in 1,323m (4,341ft) than the parallel 20R/02L at 1,260m (4,200ft). So the length of the hard stuff is not your friend here.

So my aim is get those rear wheels on the runway with as little space as I can from when I pass over the well worn but very authentic red checker board approach patterns.


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That done and you are now faced with a full hard reverse thrust to slow the machine as quickly as possible and not end up dunking yourself and your passengers over the other end of the runway, so very slow and low approaches from both entry points is the name of the game. Boeing 737's and A320's are the maximum sized aircraft you can use at SBRJ, and even then you are watching your takeoff weight and speeds.


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A glance right will give you a comprehensive view of the scenery, there is a lot of airport in your windows, great and very varied you can't help but be impressed by the sheer volume of buildings and the feeling of having arrived at Rio's downtown classic airport.


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What also impresses is that in how many buildings and the many varied styles of buildings that can be built on this small out strip of reclaimed land. Not only the airports control tower and terminals, but maintenance hangars for TAM, the old seaplane terminals and even a shopping center. It is busy packed place.


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The original inspired Le Bourget Airport terminal is there with the control tower on the western end, but it is now covered with modern advertising and decoration, this is really well done.

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Like Richard's SBGL - Galeão this airport is also very buzzy and animated with a lot of vehicles (buses, trucks, baggage trucks and a circling helicopter) and walking people, detailing is overwhelming and extremely good. My stand is R9 and I park directly in front of the old terminal. There is a marshall to guide you in but I don't thing the ATR is set up for marginal's plugin so he stays unanimated.


Overall it was a complex but very fulfilling approach and arrival. Very, authentic from ground level and there is no doubt there is a lot of complex and detailed scenery surrounding you....  excellent stuff.


One note is because there is so many objects you have to be careful in any city view, the computer has to work hard to render them all, even with a quick machine. This is a very complex and detailed scenery.


Santos Dumont Airport

02R/20L1,323m (4,341ft) Asphalt
02L/20R 1,260m (4,200ft) Asphalt
Elevation AMSL 3 m / 11 ft

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There is no doubt it is a great combination to put both SBGL - Galeão and SBRJ Santos Dumont together as one scenery, but it does also put a huge amount of objects on one X-Plane tile. From above with the weak default autogen scenery does make the payware scenery standout a little, that as I mentioned will hopefully will be helped by the 10.50 update. Otherwise blending in this scenery is not an issue as SBRJ has water around three sides of the airport and the city buildings hide any transition from the payware to the X-Plane default terrain. So in this area the airport looks very good and perfectly positioned and very realistic in a visual sense. 


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There is a sort of landbased aircraft carrier feel to SBRJ, flat on one side to the high buildings on the other. The Brazilian Naval Academy (Escola Naval in Portuguese) is the Academy of the Brazilian Navy, located on Villegagnon Island and attached to the airport on the south-eastern side. These buildings and drill fields have been perfectly reproduced for the scenery.


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Downtown Rio is comprehensive as well with a few helipads dotted in there for use (positions are noted in the manual).


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North of the airport is located the Arsenal Technical School of Navy on the Ilha das Cobras, that we saw on out arrival. The Arsenal is the main maintenance center for the Brazilian Navy, involving the design, construction and maintenance of ships and submarines, with the cultural history museum in the foreground.


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Runways and Aprons


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SBRJ's hard working runways have been faithfully reproduced with loads of tire wear, faded paint and great worn markings, just perfect. The aprons are also well textured and very detailed right down to walkway linage and signs. There is a great spread of static aircraft right over the scenery with both the military and civilian aircraft placed with great care, notable as there is a lot of static but then not enough that it feels crowded and leaving you with nowhere to park, there is a lot of choice for various sizes of GA, Private jets, regional and heavy aircraft.


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Terminals and outer buildings

If you had read the history of Santo Dupont then you would understand the mixture of buildings that make up the airport. Once part land and part seaplane base the airport is covered with period buildings of each nature.


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The main original 1936 central terminal is a beautiful reproduction here, with the added joy of that built in 1930's style control tower. Sadly most of these control tower designs are disappearing today as the mass transportation needs have outgrown the architecture, only to replaced with strange odd tall looking pole sited birdnest lookouts. Surrounding the terminal there is great detail on both air and landside. Trees and shrubs are very well placed to cover over the flat ground textures, and you have excellent detail in the placement of vehicles and airport infrastructure. Micro detailing is the well set out poles and flags.


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Exceptional period detail and design the control tower is certainly a big focal point of the scenery, the contrast of the green to the terminal's white only highlights the building. As with any great scenery it is in the details that bring out the quality, here it is glass textures that are lifelike and realistic. Just so good.


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Tower view (T) is very good for both approaches, but looking down at the ramps areas will give you parts of the building in the outset platform and railings.


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The 2007 Pan American Games modern extension terminal is a clash of the new in front of the old, but it is well done in concept. This terminal is used for all departures and arrivals are processed through the original building. Notable here is the excellent glass oval extension that although it looks easy to create is in fact extremely hard to get those convex glass panels right and get it wrong and it looks fake, but that is not the case here as it is totally expertly done. Landside is excellent as well with again excellent reflective glass giving a quality feel to the building.


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The internal extension aspect is just as good, you can almost stand here at a gate here and see yourself watching the action on the runways....


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Notable is that your "runways always follow contours" setting is on with Richard's sceneries as if not then items will seriously float or not be aligned with the ground.


SBRJ Terminal New 3.jpgSBRJ Terminal New 8.jpg

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Sony product advertising is gaudy but colourful and very well done. Ramps are well covered with every aspect of equipment you need to service your aircraft. Gates 1 - 7 cover the airbridges.


South Cargo and TAM maintenance

The southern boundary comprises of the TAM Cargo and TAM maintenance areas and large hangar. There is another secondary large hangar for private jet storage and servicing. Highlight is the storage area foreground that is great detailing for airport services


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Cleverly the outward side of the hangars is the "Bossa Nova" shopping mall...


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Nicely adjoined to a large groyne that sets out into the bay. The shopping mall is well completed with great glass and textures, well worth a visit I would think.


North and Pan Am

From mid- center of the ramp to the north are various era hangars and administration buildings. The standout building here is the old Pam Am base that is now used by the lll Comando Aereo Regional military.


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Period detailing of buildings are very authentic, beautifully rendered as you feel you can slip back in time realise what the airport would have looked like in the early 50's.


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The style and original purpose of the buildings still remain even if the original occupants are now long gone. This lovely terminal cum hangar is now used by Lider Aviation and Ocean Air.


The Instituto De Cartografia Aeronáutica or Maps to you and me, have a large presence at Santos Dupont, run by the Brazilian Airforce it is an imposing set of buildings. Along side is the very well presented airport fire station.


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Most of the northern areas are dominated by the "lll Comando Aereo" base. This comprises of two main buildings in the base administration buildings.


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And the also once original Pan American terminal and maintenance building.


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The original seaplane ramp to the water is long gone and what is left is now a carpark....  but you can still relive such a great period of aviation history in that it was this building that was the other end of the Pan Am South American operations that were based in Miami USA.

Beautifully original the building is thankfully still living in all its glory, only mis-step here in the whole scenery is the quick filler X-Plane rendered buildings, and they look out of place in all the other quality work set out around them.


Sugerloaf Mountain

The iconic view of Rio de Janeiro is of Sugarloaf Mountain that is set at the entrance to Guanabara Bay. The mountain has here been re-rendered to get a more authentic shape than that of the clumsy X-Plane default version.


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Also added is the full mountain cable car system and change station complexes. It is animated as well so you can see the cars move between the station and they are easily visible from the Santos Dumont airport. What no "Christ the Redeemer" statue? In this scenery no, but Richard has already provided that icon in the SBGL Galeão scenery so will need to acquire that airport to get the full Rio experience.




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Lighting is overall excellent with lots of variation and it covers a big coverage of the scenery. Some buildings have just filled in block light FS style, but it is only noticeable in some areas and you can't expect complete specialized lighting on a scenery of this size.


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Runways are quite dark with out centre line green lights and so they are missing from the taxiways as well.


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It maybe authentic to the scenery, but you need aircraft with good lighting (taxi side lights are a must) to find your way around without going off the hard stuff.


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Lighting variations are good with the northern fuel depot in white and most of the ramps in a yellow glow, night glass textures are not as brilliant as the day, but still very good overall. Lighting under the terminal extension is attention to detail.


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Aprons are well lit and easy to work on in the dark around the aircraft.


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Landside is very good as well but the carparks are not overly lit, but the terminals are very good in detail with great drop lighting on the hangars.


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Lighting detail includes the sports courts (this is brazil) and the well lit Museum. Sugarloaf Mountain cable car stations are also well lit with the view of X-Plane's Rio from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain is quite extraordinary if you have the two Rio scenery packages installed. This visual set of assets is really great for nightime arrivals.


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Complex, highly detailed, authentic are the words that spring to mind when looking and using SBRJ Santos Dumont in Rio de Janeiro. It is a huge scenery and covers a large area of downtown Rio.


The historical aspect of Santos Dumont in the buildings have certainly been infused with the newer more modern aspects that make up this certainly exciting airport, huge amount a lot of detail in here that simply cannot be covered in any review. But I understand then that is why we desire great scenery.


Certainly to be used with the companion SBGL - Galeão airport as both installed will deliver a Rio scenery that is very complete.

Negatives are not the scenery itself but the sheer scale of it as it will need a certain amount of power to use it efficiently and the average Rio autogen provided by X-Plane that surrounds the package.


Priced under US$20, this is the value of scenery of the decade, the ratio to cents to objects provided is off the scale, great value for money.

As a destination Rio de Janeiro in South America for X-Plane has been transformed by these two sceneries in SBGL - Galeão and SBRJ - Santos Dumont  by Richard G Nunes and Marcelo Nielsen, certainly we are very thankful for that, but the best way to give your appreciation is to buy and use the work set out here...  You won't regret any moment of it.




X-Plane Store logo sm.jpg


Yes! SBRJ - Santos Dumont Rio de Janeiro by Richard G Nunes & Nielsen Scenery is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :


SBRJ - Rio - Santos Dumont


Price is US$19.95



X-Plane 10+ 
Windows, Mac or Linux
1Gb VRAM - 2Gb VRAM recommended
Current version: 1.2 (Last updated Feb 25, 2016)

SBRJ is a big scenery and it is also situated in a lot of adjoining autogen, so the above specifications are the minimum required. You can run this scenery on less but you will have to compromise on a lot of your render settings and special effects.


Ultra-High Resolution replica of Santos Dumont Airport, updated in 2016.
  • Custom runways, ramps and taxiways with ambient occlusion
  • Many Static objects
  • Animated vehicles, ships and barges.
  • 3D grass, true to Airport type.
  • Airport and surrounding areas
  • high-quality Mesh.
  • Partial rendering inside terminals
Superior lighting
  • HDR Effect, indoor lighting environment, Terminal and Jetways.
  • Night texture and HDR lighting
  • Textures personalized with ambient occlusion.
Fully animated airport
  • Animated Ground Service and aircraft traffic (default)
    • Ground Traffic by Marginal
  • Auto Gate with DGS and ramp Marshall
    • Autogate by Marginal
Tons of surrounding landmarks included in the package:
  • Sugar Loaf hill and Morro da Urca
  • Animated cable car (Bondinho)
  • Rio-Niteroi Bridge with vehicle traffic.
  • Ilha Fiscal (Fiscal Island)
  • Ilha das Enxadas (Hoe Island)
  • Ilha das Cobras (Snake Island)
  • Naval College.
  • Prana XV, the Ferry Station.
  • 3 Helipads SDHU SIJP and SNUO
  • Buildings Adjacent to heliports
SBRJ  Charts
  • 35 charts included





Installation and documents: Download is 552.30meg and the scenery is deposited in the "Custom Scenery" X-Plane folder at 1.21gb.

Notes: It is important that the scenery packages are installed in the right order...

SBRJ order.jpg


The "Mesh" has to be set below the main scenery "BR-SBRJ Santos Dumont v1.1" this is explained in the manual. And for the extensive animations to work, you will need Marginal's vehicle "CustomSBDatarefs004" and his AutoGate and SeaTraffic plugins... all links are provided in the manual to download.


There is a manual (7 pages) in English and Portuguese and information on the location of the various Heliports around the scenery.




A full set of 35 charts is included.


Review by Stephen Dutton
23rd April 2016
Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews

Review System Specifications:

Computer System: Windows  - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit - 8 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - GeForce GTX 980/SSE2 - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.45

Addons: Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose  Soundlink Mini

Plugins: JARDesign Ground Handling Deluxe plugin - US$14.95

Scenery or Aircraft

- ATR 72-500 by Aerosoft (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$32.05


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Guest Richard Nunes

Hello Stephen

Thank you for review, it was very good.

Just a correction.

In the pictures, I noticed that you used the old Mesh instead of Mesh accompanying the SBRJ scenario package.
This in the manual, and should be replaced by SBGL scenario of mesh that is compatible with both scenarios.

But that's all, the rest was very good, thank you.

The following images of the headwaters.










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