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Scenery Review : KABQ - Albuquerque International Sunport by ShortFinal Design

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Scenery Review : KABQ - Albuquerque International Sunport by ShortFinal Design

 

Welcome to New Mexico! Here is the next ShortFinal Design scenery after their excellent KSLC - Salt Lake City Intl from back in April 2017. As we now well know is that ShortFinal Design is also the great mister_x and it is his sceneries that has created some of the very best sceneries in X-Plane, we also found that KSLC was also his first scenery to be payware after a designer period of being a quality freeware developer.

 

And that makes KABQ - Albuquerque International Sunport a little interesting in because it is only a sniff away and 340nm east of one of mister_x's masterpieces in KPHX or Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport that was released as freeware. So what we have here is freeware against payware, and here it is more so than with KSLC. Is that fair to again compare the two? Yes I think so because there is a differential between the two, it also shows  how in a short time is that X-Plane in design is heavily moving forward and certainly as there are many similarities, but the differences are seriously noticeable here as well.

 

KABQ - Albuquerque first impression

In reality it is only a short hop East from Phoenix to Albuquerque in just over an hour's flying time (1h 5m to be exact) and my service is using the Boeing 757-200 by FlightFactor.

 

When starting up at KPHX one thing becomes apparent in that for all of that great detail with mister_x's KPHX it does now feel quite empty, and this is even with WorldTraffic3 running at full throttle... (a note in make sure you have installed the latest ground routes for KPHX for WT3).

 

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The airbidges are also static and the ramps have a lot of objects, but not as complex as I remembered them as there is in a few areas there are some very good static setups, but overall the layout is basic. There is no qualms however about the excellent taxi, runway textures and linage as these layouts are excellent.

 

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Departure is a long taxi to RWY 28 and then East via FORPE with the flightplan set for St John's (SJNB). The Arizona skyline is desert basin and surrounded by mountains, and the New Mexico Albuquerque vista is not at all that different.

 

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One important item to note is the Albuquerque elevation...  Phoenix is 1134ft AMSL, but Albuquerque is 5354ft AMSL and so you have to set your minimum approach altitude (arrowed below) at 12,000ft AMSL or you will find yourself flying into the ground.

 

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The runway layout at KABQ is to be studied as well. Most approaches are via RWY 08 or RWY 21, but if you use the RWY 26 approach and you find it is too tight to turn in (or around) with the mountainous barrier in the way...  A GA or light Turbo-Prop would be fine for RWY26, but for a jet of the B752 size it is just too tight and dangerous a turn with the FMS routing, departures are fine.

 

Even the RWY 21 approach is tight if you STAR in from the Northeast, as western approaches (and even then they can still be quite tight) are fine with usual KEKEE STAR approach but you will really need to study the RWY 21 approach pattern to get it perfect.

 

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Except for the very different KABQ runway layout, then Albuquerque does look similar to KPHX on the circuit. There are choices here in that you can install this SFD scenery directly as I have done here, and that is because I like any scenery to be well intergrated into the X-Plane default textures around the package and that works very well here. Or you can download a huge 3.3gb of NAIP imagery and 1/3 arc-second mesh to compliment the scenery and you will also need the all that computer power to run it all.

 

The RWY 21 approach is the best of them all, no ILS though as that aid is available only on RWY 08 and RWY 03. There are plenty of objects or buildings on the approach as you are passing over the Kirtland AFB that shares a lot of the area in the North-Eastern section of the airport.

 

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Your finals on the RWY 21 approach also crosses the main east-west RWY 08/26 layout and so you have to be very aware of any landings on this busy runway (WT3) and usually they are landing in from the west.

 

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Note the excellent reedy sun-dried grass that matches the landscape, it is very good close up and realistic in all the landing views. Great filled out cargo ramps and buildings are situated at the southern end of RWY 21 and along the very long taxiway F.

 

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All ground (gravel) and runway textures are excellent. With also lots of different tarmac (asphalt) textures and all have great runway wear and tear.

 

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Lineage and markings are first rate and the same as KPHX. The runway layout can be complex from say landing on RWY 21, as you have to first taxi taxiway F, then C (not to confuse easily with G?) to then cross two runways in 12/30 and 08/26 to get the central terminal area, again 08/26 can be busy and holds can take time and a queue can easily form up behind you..

 

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Guiding marshal's will bring you into the gate and the gates are animated to connect directly with your aircraft.

 

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As boarding bridges go, these here at KABQ are simply excellent in detailing...

 

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....  the airbridges are so supremely created, so much detail and with hard worked worn textures in they easily take your breath away, you are paying for detail, and you certainly get that here. The ramp and gate areas are excellent as well with well laid out and very numerous items of ramp equipment (many animated) and aircraft service vehicles. Running here is WT3 (xLife is fine as well) that supplies the aircraft and activity around KABQ. Ground routes are all completed and WT3 will run perfectly with the scenery in both ground route generation and the WT3 activity is excellent.

 

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First impressions, KABQ is certainly very good to excellent for realism and for the sheer detail that you get and yes even though KPHX's buildings and object count are both very good as is the excellent ground textures. But you really do certainly feel that significant difference in detailing and quality at the newer KABQ when you arrive. However KABQ STAR arrivals need study and FMS flightplans need to be set correctly except for RWY's 08 and 03 which are just straight in and clean approaches.

 

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KABQ - Albuquerque International Sunport

 

Albuquerque International Sunport
Albuquerque

IATA: ABQ - ICAO: KABQ - FAA LID: ABQ

 

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03/21 - 10,000ft (3,048m) Concrete

08/26 - 13,793ft (4,204m) Concrete

12/30 - 6,000ft (1,829m) Concrete

Elevation AMSL 5,355 ft /1,632 m

 

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Runway layout at KABQ is not the usual parallel runway and centre island layout that pervades most US based airports. It is dominated by the east-west 08/26 main runway with the smaller angled cross of 03/21 - 12/30 off the 06 threshold. If you look closely the older 35/17 runway is still there, but now convertedin to a taxiway in A4, B4 and E4. Most pilots noted that 35/17 was dangerous to use. No doubt is that this layout was designed around the Kirtland AFB. There was airline operations out of Albuquerque earlier than the original 1940 army airfield as it was first served by two private airports in Oxnard Field which opened in 1928, and also West Mesa Airport, also known as the TWA airport which opened in 1930.

 

As in 1935 it was suggested that the city build a new public airport using Works Progress Administration money. Having secured US$520,500 in funding, Governor Clyde Tingley broke ground for the project on February 28, 1937. Albuquerque Municipal Airport opened in 1939 with two paved runways, a Pueblo Style terminal building designed by Ernest Blumenthal, and a massive hangar designed to accommodate the new Boeing 307 operated by TWA. TWA became Trans World Airlines in 1946. Monarch Airlines came to Albuquerque in 1947 then merged with other carriers to become Frontier Airlines in 1950. The airport was renamed Albuquerque Sunport on April 17, 1963. This older terminal of 1939 has been restored and now houses offices of the Transportation Security Administration. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, and is situated behind a cargo facility.

 

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The Albuquerque Army Air Base, the precursor to today's Kirtland Air Force Base is still operational. The airport continues to share its runways with Kirtland AFB, which also handles rescue and firefighting operations. An Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) installation, the host unit is the 377th Air Base Wing (377 ABW). Flying units at Kirtland AFB consist of the 58th Special Operations Wing (58 SOW) of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) and the 150th Fighter Wing (150 FW), an Air Combat Command (ACC)-gained unit of the New Mexico Air National Guard and these facilities cover the North-east of the airport.

 

The present terminal was designed by William E. Burk Jr. It s built just east of the original terminal, and opened on November 12, 1965. At first the terminal had eight gates, four at the main building and another four at a small satellite building to the south connected by an underground tunnel. None of the gates back then had jetbridges.

 

The main terminal has since been expanded several times, first in 1971 when a west wing was added with a large gate and jetbridge able to handle new wide-body aircraft. TWA used this gate to introduce the Lockheed L-1011 to Albuquerque in 1974 with flights to Chicago. After airline deregulation was passed in 1978, a flood of new airlines came to ABQ. The west wing was expanded in 1980 with three more gates, all of which had jetbridges and were used extensively by TWA and many new carriers. Southwest Airlines started service on April 3, 1980 using the old gates 1 and 2 at the main terminal and installed three ground level jetbridges at these two gates.

From 1987 through 1989 the terminal was expanded and renovated. The satellite gate building was replaced with two concourses, A and B, giving the Sunport 19 new gates, all with jetbridges. Concourse A was further expanded in 1996 with four additional gates. The new above-ground connector link to the concourses was greatly expanded in 2005 to accommodate the need for additional security screening by the TSA after the September 11 attacks in 2001. The airport gained international status and was renamed the Albuquerque International Airport on September 27, 1971. The name was changed to Albuquerque International Sunport in 1994. These terminal facilities cover all the North- West section of the airport with cargo as noted in the South-West by the threshold of RWY03. Eclipse Aerospace was an American aircraft manufacturer based here as the manufacturer of the Eclipse 500 very light jet and its buildings are still prominent here... the company merged with Kestrel Aircraft, maker of the Kestrel K-350, to form One Aviation in April 2015.

 

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It is important to note that for this review I have the "runways follow terrain contours" feature switched ON. This is not the advice of ShortFinal Design as they would like their scenery to be flat. This of course creates the visual aspect of a few buildings being slightly misshapen and off the ground and not adjusting to the elevation changes. That is my choice, but the lovely elevation changes around the airport (for me) makes the scenery more realistic and better on the eye and fit into the X-Plane environment better.

 

There is not much visually in New Mexico as it has very desert based envions, I mean they tested nuclear bombs out here because of the open space and empty areas. But the Sandia Mountains that frame the city are very spectacular, certainly at dawn or twilight, and overall in the background it is a very visually appealing vista.

 

Terminal

The terminal complex has been added on to for decades and decades as noted above, but still retains its mesa Mexican feel. Currently it is still one terminal with 25 gates in four concourses, including a concourse for commuter airline gates.

 

Concourse A has 13 gates: A1 – A12, A14. Concourse B has 9 gates: B1, B3-B10 (Gate B2 was removed during the security hall expansion in 2005). Concourse E has 2 gates: E1 & E2.

Concourse C, originally known as the west wing, consisted of four gates (11, 12, 14, & 15). Gate 11 was closed when the terminal was expanded in 1989 and the remaining three gates were renumbered to C1, C2, & C3. TWA continued to use these gates for a few more years until gates C2 and C3 showed signs of structural failure and later had to be demolished. TWA moved to concourse B and the lobby area of gate C1 (the gate built in 1971) has mostly been converted to office space. The lower level of gate C1 houses U. S. Customs and is still used for occasional international arriving flights. The Sunport last saw regular international service in 2009 by Aeromexico Connect with flights to Chihuahua, Mexico. Concourse D was a ground-level commuter aircraft concourse that was used by Great Plains Airlines. It was closed in 2004 after Great Plains Airlines liquidated due to insolvency.

 

From a distance and on approach there doesn't seem to be much detail in this ShortFinal Design's take on ABQ. But get down to the ground level and that aspect is suddenly all very wrong. This is a very highly detailed scenery, but not to the absolute overfill of the airport. It is quite simply perfect or as good as you are really going to get in scenery reproductions.

 

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Close up building modeling is excellent in detail and texture reproduction, and outwardly there is a lot of similarities here with basic building construction and textures with KPHX, but then the detailing and quality is certainly a couple of levels above. All areas are highly filled out with ramp objects and as noted there is a lot of animated vehicle traffic as well. All building glass is reflective and realistic.

 

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Those airbridges will always make you smile evertime you focus on them, but to highlight the detailing you always look at the small stuff and not the big picture... here we highlight the terminals air-conditioning plants...

 

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...  nice aren't they, they are animated as well as the fans are working hard in the hot desert New Mexican sun to cool the terminal, great detail.

 

The animated trucks are working hard as well in going back and to, to the parcel facility west of the main terminal which is nicely detailed.

 

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Behind this cargo facility is the older 1939 terminal that has been well reproduced, but the Swissport tankers seemingly don't quite fit into the ABQ scene, but the Swissport services are actually correct in this global branded world with a contract as suppliers to the ABQ airport.

The areas behind the terminal in the landside zones are excellent as well. The highlight is the Sheraton Hotel which is perfect and so is the large carpark with efficient solar panels on the roof (great metalness), and their are hundreds of coloured shade carparking areas to keep your car cool.

 

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Detailing is breathtaking by SFD in the sheer amount of vehicles and items needed to fill in these areas. The famous welcome entry "Sunport" sign is well done. This is were your cash goes....  in the huge amounts of detailing that takes hours and hours to create, and you more than ever get your money's worth here.

 

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It is not just the sheer amount of objects you get, but the quality of the objects that are more important to make up the perfect visual scene.

 

There are a few Albuquerque city buildings included into the scenery, not many but they do create a nice horizon skyline in the distance.

 

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Kirtland Air Force Base

The former Army Air base is well reproduced, but feels a little empty compared to other areas around the scenery. I don't know if WT3 needs tuning to its military side to fill in aircraft, but still a few static aircraft here would certainly have helped in filling in the vast ramp areas.

 

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The base is extremely well modeled and with lots of detail, but the sheer openness also works against the areas.

 

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Modern and decades old hangars work together to create the full vista. The barracks behind and airbase infrastructure buildings are also fully covered and look great as noted on the RWY 21 approach as they fill out a large area to the Northeast.

 

Control Tower

 

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KABQ's control tower is the standard issue US airport in a tall concrete structure and is part of the Kirtland AFB. It is well modeled with excellent reflective glass for realism. Tower view is good on all runway approaches. You do get a little of the base of the tower and of the railings and aerials if you look straight up...   but for the visual following of the aircraft around the field it is fine.

 

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A couple of areas to the east are worth noting. Far northeast is the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center that has been created as has the Richard W. Lewis Advanced Laser Facility on the south threshold of RWY 26 east.

 

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Cargo and General Aviation

The Cargo ramps are southwest along RWY 03/21. Here is a medium size cargo facility with FedEx and UPS having a large presence.

 

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Detail is overwhelmingly excellent as is the space to park on the ramps, so ABQ is a really good cargo hub for your operations, most cargo connections are of course with Memphis.

 

In 2013 the aerial firefighting company, 10 Tanker Air Carrier, moved its headquarters to Albuquerque and currently have three DC-10 large air tankers based out of the Albuquerque International Sunport and they are well depicted here in the scenery...  note the excellent FedEx containers ready for shipping.

 

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As runway RWY 03/21 is a busy runway you get a lot of activity via WT3, so this is not a boring area and animated cargo trucks help out with the action as well.

 

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There is a small zone for General Aviation here, but not a significant setup with just a few storage hangars. Private Jet service is there but again not significant but with a nice large parking ramp.

 

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The area is really Aerospace Industrial with the old Eclipse Aerospace complex being the dominant company that has been perfectly recreated and is very realistic.

 

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There is a huge amount of complex buildings and aerospace infrastructure, all very well created with loads and loads of objects that totally fills out the all the southwest quadrant of different areas.

 

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All the buildings have that been there and recreated feel, but in detailed value then this KABQ is simply off the scale.

 

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The Fire Station is way out off field to southeast as is the fire training hulk behind the station.

 

Nightlighting

Lighting as with everything else here at KABQ is very good. First is the dusk lighting that shows off the great ground textures and their excellent X-Plane11 reflections...

 

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...   Main runway and taxiway lighting is first rate.

 

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The lighting has been crafted to light or zone certain areas and that is highlighted by the carpark lighting which is perfect as is the main terminal ramp areas.

 

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Lighting on the ramps is great and highly workable....

 

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But ramp lighting is only in selected areas... most of the Kirtland AFB is mostly in street lighting and some ramp lighting and like with the cargo areas and otherwise it is just regular the lighting around the industrial aerospace areas.

 

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Two lighting highlights is a nice Cutter General Aviation reception centre and a fully internally lit hangar which is great for late night private jet arrival and disembarking under the flood lights...

 

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Services

Connections are US wide but Seattle, Chicago and Salt Lake are popular, there is a big northern port seasonal winter business as well. Southwest dominates ABQ, but all US major carriers use the port.

 

  • Alaska Airlines - Seattle/Tacoma
  • Alaska Airlines operated by Horizon Air - Orange County, Portland (OR), San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle/Tacoma
  • Allegiant Air - Austin, Las Vegas
  • American Airlines  - Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth - Seasonal: Charlotte
  • American Eagle - Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Phoenix–Sky Harbor
  • Boutique Air - Alamosa (CO), Carlsbad (NM), Silver City
  • Delta Air Lines - Atlanta, Salt Lake City - Seasonal: Minneapolis/St. Paul
  • Delta Connection - Los Angeles, Salt Lake City
  • Frontier Airlines - Denver
  • JetBlue Airways - New York (JFK)
  • Southwest Airlines - Baltimore, Chicago–Midway, Dallas–Love, Denver, Houston–Hobby, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, San Diego, San Jose (CA) (begins April 8, 2018) - Seasonal: Austin, Orlando, Portland (OR)
  • United Airlines - Denver - Seasonal: Chicago–O'Hare, Houston–Intercontinental
  • United Express - Chicago–O'Hare, Denver, Houston–Intercontinental, Los Angeles, San Francisco

 

Routes

Surprisingly the shortest routes to Phoenix and Dallas Texas are the most popular from ABQ, but most routes are really hub connections (LAX, Dallas, Atlanta and Denver).

 

  1. Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Arizona - 317,000 : American, Southwest
  2. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas - 263,000 : American
  3. Denver, Colorado - 224,000 : Southwest, United, Frontier
  4. Los Angeles, California - 164,000 : Allegiant, American, Southwest, United
  5. Dallas–Love, Texas - 157,000 : Southwest
  6. Las Vegas, Nevada - 147,000 : Allegiant, Southwest
  7. Atlanta, Georgia - 136,000 : Delta
  8. Houston–Hobby, Texas - 110,000 : Southwest
  9. Chicago–Midway, Illinois - 94,000 : Southwest
  10. Oakland, California - 83,000 : Southwest

 

Cargo

Ameriflight from Dallas is the main cargo contractor into ABQ, the rest are the main parcel runners in FedEx and UPS

 

  • Ameriflight - Alamogordo, Carlsbad, Clovis, Farmington, Gallup, Grants, Hobbs, Las Cruces, Las Vegas (NM), Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Roswell, Silver City, Tucumcari, Sierra Vista (AZ)
  • FedEx Express - Lubbock, Memphis
  • FedEx Feeder operated by Empire Airlines - Durango, Farmington, Gallup
  • UPS Airlines - Dallas/Fort Worth, El Paso, Louisville, Ontario, Phoenix–Sky Harbor

 

Summary

As at the head of this review the main comparisons with this excellent KABQ are going to be with mister_x's own KPHX freeware scenery. Is that possible. Well yes it is and in reality it is not either.

 

PHX - Phoenix is a larger scale scenery than ABQ and it is highly detailed for it's size and the buildings and textures are also very similar. But there the comparisons really end, the main difference is that KABQ is ultra detailed compared with PHX, with the more minute and the overwhelming sheer volume of detailed objects. On approach ABQ looks quite average, but once on the ground it is anything but so. Some items like the airbridges are so well crafted and animated. Background Sandia Mountains vistas also add in a lot to the feel and look of the airport (In other words it is a nice place to be or fly into).

 

Unlike PHX then ABQ also comes loaded with features with mostly using the X-Plane11 dynamics for animation, textures and lighting, add in the well sorted ATC ground routes and WorldTraffic3 and you have a very active and dynamic airport.

 

Is there any negatives at ABQ? not much really. The Kirtland AFB is very well done but needed a few static items to fill out the ramps as it looks quite empty otherwise, and although there is some really great branded animated trucks (Southwest) and a few are European in Swissport which is correct but looks odd and documentation could be better... all nit picking... well yes really.

 

mister_x is one of X-Planes master scenery developers and really anything he releases is always going to go straight into the collection. ABQ is excellent for your network as well with great connections and usability, there is huge value in here as well that makes this Albuquerque International Sunport the full monty in every area...  his best release yet in scale?  Yes certainly in that it is a big "yes" from me.

 

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X-Plane Store logo sm.jpg

 

Yes! the KABQ - Albuquerque International Sunport by ShortFinal Design is Available now from the X-Plane.Org Store here :

Your Price is US$19.95

 

Features

 

Highly detailed airport
  • Highly accurate scenery for KABQ - Albuquerque International Sunport and Kirtland Air Force Base
  • Accurate models for all terminals, hangars, and other buildings, with baked Ambient Occlusion
  • Dynamic reflections on buildings (X-Plane 11 only)
  • Custom high resolution ground textures
  • HDR night lighting
Fully Animated Airport
  • Animated airport vehicles using the GroundTraffic plugin by Jonathan Harris (marginal)
  • Custom animated jetways and Docking Guidance System (DGS) (when using the AutoGate plugin)
  • Randomly placed static aircraft, can be easily toggled off in the X-Plane settings
 
High Resolution Mesh Textures surrounding the Airport
  • High resolution orthoimagery for the airport (15cm/px)
  • Stunning photoscenery covering the Albuquerque area with NAIP imagery and 1/3 arc-second mesh, made by forkboy2
  • Overlays based on HD Mesh V3 by alpilotx (used with permission)

 

Installation :  Download scenery file size is 640.50mb. With the full installation at 1.04gb in your custom scenery folder.
 
Scenery options include: downloadable 3.3gb of NAIP imagery and 1/3 arc-second mesh, and options for both X-Plane10 and X-Plane11 versions,

 

  • Ortho4XP Patch
  • X-Plane 10 Flat
  • X-Plane 10 Mesh
  • X-Plane 11 Flat
  • X-Plane 11 Mesh

 

There is a "readme" txt with the above options, but in reality more documentation is required on the what the options actually do and what the optional NAIP scenery installation is required.

 

Documentation

 

None, except for the above "readme"

No charts are supplied for KABQ

 

WT3 : WorldTraffic3 ground route conversion is excellent and activity is perfect...  a must have for this scenery!

 

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Review by Stephen Dutton

23rd November 2017

Copyright©2017: 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)

 

Review System Specifications:

Computer System: Windows  - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit - 16 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - GeForce GTX 980/SSE2 - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11.05

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

Plugins: Environment Engine by xEnviro US$69.90 : XPRealistic Pro v1.0.9  effects US$19.95 : WorldTraffic 3.0 Plugin - US$29.95

Scenery or Aircraft

- KPHX - Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport 1.1 by mister_x (X-Plane.org) - Free

- Boeing 757-200 Professional v3 by FlightFactor/Steptosky (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$64.95

 

Logo Header X-PlaneReviews 200px.jpg

 

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