Threshold Review: Pyreegue’s East Midlands Airport for MSFS
July 26, 2023
East Midlands Airport (EGNX) is an international airport in Leicestershire, England, serving the entire East Midlands region (Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, and Derbyshire) with a yearly average of 3 million passengers.
The airport was opened in 1943 as RAF Castle Donington, originally featuring three concrete runways and two hangars, working as a satellite airfield to RAF Wymeswold (14 km southeast of EMA). It housed two training units during its short three-year stint before its decommissioning in 1946.
After almost twenty years of abandonment, the former airfield was purchased by a group of local government agencies and heavily transformed to become a proper airport. It was then renamed East Midlands Airport - alluding to its region -and opened for passengers in April 1965.
The local authorities held on to the ownership until 1993, when they failed to raise funds for a much-needed expansion, leading to its privatization. It was purchased by the National Express Group for 24.3 million pounds and sold seven years later to the Manchester Airports Group after a decision to concentrate on buses and railways.
The airport has since been expanded with a new short-stay car park, an enlarged arrivals hall, and a new pier, making it easier for passengers to get to their airplanes.
Its privileged geographical position has transformed EMA into an important British cargo hub, housing DHL and UPS. It is the second busiest cargo airport in the country after London Heathrow.
Airline-wise, it's mostly an LCC airport, with the likes of Jet2.com (Alicante, Antalya, Faro, Fuerteventura, Funchal, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Málaga, Tenerife–South), TUI (Alicante, Hurghada, Lanzarote, Málaga, Sharm El Sheikh, Tenerife–South), and Ryanair (Alicante, Barcelona, Belfast–International, Bergamo, Berlin, Budapest, Cork, Dublin, Faro, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Knock, Kraków, Lanzarote, Limoges, Málaga, Malta, Riga, Rome–Ciampino, Rzeszów, Tenerife–South, Wrocław).
The scenery features an accurate rendition of the airport, with LiDAR scanned terrain, up-to-date satellite imagery, custom ground polygons with thousands of markings and weathering, 2023 layout, custom night lighting, ASTC/AI traffic integration, accurately replicated surroundings, animated Skylink buses, static airliners (optional), dynamic gate doors (requires GSX), and a custom GSX profile.
The scenery is distributed via Contrail, featuring a one-click install and easy configuration (turn on/off static aircraft, clutter, etc.).
As most of you know, I like to fly into the airports I review instead of loading right in. The flight of choice was TOM1EJ, the 2-hour return leg from Palma de Mallorca. After boarding 179 Brits returning from their much-appreciated western Mediterranean adventure - most loathing the next morning as they would have to trade the beach and the sun for their usual daily lives at the office -it was time to head into the unknown.
Little did the poor souls know, but I had been exclusively flying the A2A Comanche for the past week, meaning my muscle memory was heavily compromised, and god knows what could potentially happen during the landing. The near-tailstrike on take-off was a good sign that I was very rusty. I, unfortunately, have a hard time jumping back and forth between aircraft.
After an uneventful one hour and forty-something minutes of cruise, it was time to finally descend into Pyreguee's latest creation, the "East Midlands Simulator." The weather wasn't good, but fortunately, it was not a very low ceiling. After 3500 ft, I could see just about everything, which is good, given I can't possibly review a scenery I can't see because of fog. "Disable real weather!" one could say, but that wouldn't be very realistic nor respectful to this simulation of East Midlands.
Localizer captured, then glide-slope, and it was finally time to land and check out the scenery, or so I thought. But when it was time to finally cut the throttle and let the aircraft graciously touch down, the auto-throttle override did not work for some reason, and I only realized it hadn't done its job when it was much too late (too far down the runway), forcing a go-around. The lads were not too gutted about it, given it meant a few more minutes away from reality.
The second time's the charm! The override didn't work again (thanks, PMDG), but using flaps 40 did the trick, and the amount of energy arrested during the flare was just enough to make it touch the runway, even though it wasn't idling. Welcome to the East Midlands!
Upon vacating, I felt the line between simulation and reality significantly narrowed. The ground textures, the realistic sloped runway, the custom ground clutter, and the very transparent and lively terminal felt right from the get-go. A sight to behold!
Modeling / Texturing
After parking on Stand 14R, I was instantly taken aback by the sheer amount of detail inside the terminal, conveniently transparent: everything in there was properly modeled, with no compromises in terms of texture quality, meaning even the Microsoft Excel on the computer screen was nearly readable, which is impressive.
The interior work is out of this world, with detailed restaurants, bars, check-ins, lounges, queues, televisions, computers, etc. In true Pyreegue fashion, no inch of detail is left behind. It's all in there, somehow. It gets even more impressive with the community-made GSX Profile (available on flightsim.to), where the gate doors open and the passengers come in and out.
On that door note, I was checking out the airport entrance, and it interacted with the drone, opening as I got closer and closing as I got farther away. Wow!
The airside is equally impressive, with readable warning signs everywhere, proper stand signage on the wall, PBR texturing everywhere, and readable air conditioning units (you know, I love them!). It's hard not to feel like you are in the East Midlands.
And that level of quality appears to go on nearly endlessly as I waltzed through the airport with the drone camera: the clutter is beautiful and unique, meaning you don't ever see repeated patterns of baggage trucks, airline vans, stairs, and so on. You can tell they have been meticulously hand placed across the environment.
The ground texture work is superb, closely matching what can be seen on satellite imagery.
And you'd think it would stop there as it generally happens with most sceneries, but the landside is almost as detailed: even the bus stop is beautifully reproduced, with a little route map on the side wall, a trash can with a readable "keep your neighborhood clean," and, of course, the "bus stop" sign itself. "Why?" one could ask, and I bet Pyreegue would say: "Why not?".
It's by far the most impressive landside work I have seen. Everything is modeled with an outstanding level of detail, obviously not as high-quality as the main dish for performance reasons, but impressive enough nonetheless. Everything is there, from a BP gas station to the many transport companies around the airport and their respective trucks and trailers.
I even considered taking a screenshot of some of the trucks and uploading it to a Euro Truck Simulator Discord to see whether someone could tell it's not ETS 2, but I ended up not doing it, not because of anything in particular, just plain forgetfulness. I could fool many people because the trucks and trailers are incredibly detailed.
On that detail note, I noticed something while screenshotting some of the many vehicles around: the license plates appear to be unique! I have not found a single case where the license plates were identical. Insane! It's a small thing, but it does so much immersion-wise (it does ruin the immersion if you spot two vehicles with the same plate). However, it's not as much of a red flag as in real life. Identity theft is not a joke, after all.
They even went as far as modeling Donington Park Circuit - right below the approach path into runway 09 -with vehicles racing around. Assetto Corsa Competizione added Donington Park to their lineup for two years now with the presence of East Midlands Airport and airplanes casually appearing on short final when you are racing. Now, it's time for the opposite! The player on short final and virtual vehicles racing around. How cool is that!?
It truly is an East Midlands Airport Simulator, after all. Even though I have never been there in real life, I'm sure it will feel somewhat familiar once that day finally comes because Pyreegue encapsulates everything that makes EMA unique into a fine piece of work.
When you think it couldn't get more impressive, a jaw-dropping show starts after the sun goes away: the night lighting is one of the best in the market, perfectly matching the exquisite PBR work and yielding magnificent results. The external lighting is incredible, extending to the landside, with shiny parking lots, cargo terminals, service areas, etc. The way the lighting interacts with the environment is a sight to behold.
The interior lights up nicely, making spotting the many restaurants around the airport fairly easy. Burger King, Castle Rock, to name a few. You can easily read the product labels and menus if you zoom right in. How crazy is that?
The taxiway lights are super bright (in a realistic manner), making nocturnal taxiing fairly less daunting.
Flying into it with my 3080 set to only 70% of its power and 100 terrain LOD was too optimistic. Of course, it was not single-digit territory, but I saw it dip down to 20 during the first landing. Adjusting my TLOD to 70 and bringing the GPU power to 85% made things very smooth again, with minor dips when looking around because of the clutter loading in and out of view. Then again, one can turn off the clutter if need be.
It is slightly on the heavy side of things from my experience (with everything enabled, of course), but it's not unplayable or stuttery. I recommend a good GPU and CPU combo if you want to fly into this airport with MSFS on ultra and the airport's details enabled.
My 3700X is not powerful enough to cope properly with this amount of detail. I assume it would run perfectly without dips if I had a 5800X3D. But, as I said, it's not unplayable by any means. It could be smoother, especially when taxiing.
Pyreegue's East Midlands sets a new bar regarding overall quality, extracting the best theoretical visuals the simulator could produce, with details that go above and beyond what most scenery developers aim for, almost a true "virtualization" of the airport.
It's a standard fairly above anything else, easily placing them among the best scenery developers for Microsoft Flight Simulator. They have done it repeatedly with Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast Aldergrove, and now EMA.
Such detail comes at a cost, though, as mentioned in the performance section. But it's a little price to pay in exchange for an, in fact, very accurate rendition of the airport, with no compromises. Detail-wise, it's in a league of its own. It's a glimpse into what the future of scenery development for MSFS 2024 might look like. Let's put it that way.
For roughly $22.16, one can have their very own East Midlands Airport at home, and oh boy, does it pack a lot of detail in it. Detail? Yes. Do I recommend it? Absolutely. It's a no-brainer for LCC fans, with loads of Jet2.com, Ryanair, and TUI action.
A huge thank you to Pyreegue Development Company for providing us with a review copy!
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