Threshold Review: Orbx’s S43 Harvey Field and W16 Monroe Firstair

August 4, 2023
Copy Provided
Copy Provided


Harvey Field (S43) and Monroe Firstair (W16) are two general aviation airfields in Washington, five nautical miles apart and with immense historical importance to the Snohomish County area.

Harvey Airfield is a privately-owned, public-use airport in Snohomish, Washington, established in 1944 by Noble and Eldon Harvey and a friend (Wesley Loback) on their property, adding a restaurant, family shop, and an administration building three years later, after the uncertainties of the war were a thing of the past. 

Initially run by Eldon and Marjorie, his wife, and their three children (Donna, Marilyn, and Richard), the airfield's helm was given to Richard - their son -  in the early 1970s. 

Richard Harvey managed the airfield with his wife until he died in 1995 after a lengthy battle with cancer. His wife, Kandace Harvey, and their four children have been running the airfield ever since.

The airfield currently houses over 350 aircraft and many local businesses in its 590,000 square meters area, many of which can be seen in Orbx's rendition. One of these businesses is Skydive Snohomish, owned by Tyson Harvey (Richard's son), keeping a skydiving tradition around the airfield that has been living on since the early 1960s when the Seattle Skydivers (one of the oldest skydiving groups in the United States) embraced Harvey Field.

Monroe Firstair is a privately owned public-use airport whose history is not widely - or at least easily - available. Most of my research didn't lead to many clues about anything other than the fact it was last owned by Daryl Habich (1944-2022), a dentist who bought the airfield a few years after taking private flying lessons there in 1968 and now managed by Roger Habich, a Field Engineer at the University of Washington.

Daryl also built his home there and a dental office, which he had been renting after his retirement. The news article where this is mentioned dates back to 2009 when Daryl was 65 and looking to sell the airfield for 6 million dollars, with everything else included. 

One of the - questionable - sources I found at first said it was made in the 1930s by the Monroe Aircraft Corporation and then used for training by the military in the following decade. But I find it hard to believe that it could be accurate as I didn't find anything on the company itself or any information that would back the fact that this airport has existed for a hundred years.

Skyvectors' database says the airfield was activated in 1969, meaning there's a chance it was purchased by Daryl when it was still relatively new, thus being all there is to it in terms of history.


What is known so far is that a dentist owned it for many years, and it averaged 50 takeoffs and landings daily (as of 2009). I will update the review if I find concise information on the airfield's history. 

On a curious note, Monroe First Air sits right beside the Evergreen State Fairgrounds, which holds the famous Evergreen State Fair, a 12-day fair held yearly in late August - early September. The article where I found information on the airport's ownership mentions that (at least back in 2009) it was cheaper to fly into Monroe and pay the tie-down fee ($5) than drive to the fair because of the high parking fees.

Both S43 and W16 were originally released nearly 12 years ago in late 2011, making the add-on package a cult classic among general aviation simmers that happened to use Flight Simulator X and Prepar3d in the past. And it originated from an even older piece of work: Bob Bernstein's Harvey & Monroe for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004, released in 2005. It was Bob's first payware scenery after a year of freeware development for the platform, being well received by the community because of its incredible detail for the standards of the time.

Orbx's first Harvey & Monroe was developed by Andreas Hegi and Heiko Glatthorn, with consultancy from Bob Bernstein himself, featuring the latest technologies from the era, such as Orbx's PeopleFlow 2, high-resolution ground imagery, animated trains and race cars, seasonal color matched imagery, quickly becoming a commercial success and the first GA payware of many. 

The new package brings the classic back to life in Microsoft Flight Simulator by Andreas Hegi (one of the original developers), featuring photo-realistic UHD textures created from onsite photography, dynamic night lighting, PBR, and more.

First Impressions

As it couldn't be any different, I chose to fly into this airport from somewhere else, and it just so happened I was conveniently close to it with my Piper Comanche that I've been touring North America with, sitting around two hundred nautical miles away in Sisters, Oregon. With the walkaround and fueling out of the way, it was time to finally fly into the first of the two sceneries of this package: S43 Harvey Field. And, oh boy, was I up for a treat.

After nearly two hours of being thrown around by severe turbulence, I could finally spot Harvey Airfield's very characteristic hangars - with their vibrant red and white stripes - from afar and its sole asphalt runway that looked much shorter than it appeared to be. We only get a real sense of length face-to-face with it. It didn't look as scary on the Garmin GPS, I must say.

Not only is it very short, but - massive - trees are on the final approach path. These are not a big issue with a small airplane like a Cub or a 152, but they are a nightmare for a slippery Comanche with their massive wings and their inherent floating tendencies. All the speed I managed to arrest during final approach was regained on short final because of the aggressive glide path angle that I had to maintain if I had even a little hope of possibly making it to the runway threshold safely. 

The 65 or so hours I had logged by then on the Comanche did not prepare me for what was about to come: even though I had landed on a few short runways, all of them had a relatively unblocked approach path with no shenanigans required, while this one is a roller-coaster after you just about avoid clipping the top of the trees with your landing gear. 

So I decided to try something somewhat risky and cut the power entirely after clearing the little forest, just barely making it over the fence (a good 60 centimeters, give or take), and praying to arrest all that energy before the runway was over. While I did manage to arrest the speed, the short-field PTSD kicked in, and I felt the urge to slam it down, which I did. After a few bounces and a compressed spine, I made my airplane version of the walk of shame to the hangar, hoping nobody witnessed such an atrocious first attempt.

Little did I know that was just the beginning, and the worst was yet to come at Monroe First Air, but we shall save that for later.

My first impression was, "god, that's short." I needed a few minutes to mentally recover from the humongous intellectual effort of flying a slippery airplane into a steep descent towards a scarily short strip. After the shock, I could finally take in the beauty and detail of Harvey Airfield, an FS2004/FSX/P3D classic brought back to life.

The hangars I taxied in were all open, some with empty slots, but sadly not for my airplane. The wingspan was too large to make it through the gaps, so I had to park outside while programming in the information for W16, the next destination, only five nautical miles away.

Before departure, though, I took the drone camera for a spin around the environment to check the landside parts I couldn't possibly access with an airplane. That's where I noticed the first minor drawback: most buildings are made of high-resolution photos slapped in front of a 3D model, without actual doors, windows, parallax, or anything. While it is not a deal breaker per se, it's a nice-to-have in terms of added realism.

Thankfully, most of that is, in fact, limited to the landside, with most airside objects having a greater level of detail: aircraft hangars with clutter in and out (and space for your airplane), lots of wear and tear (including rust and corrosion), contributing to the old airfield vibe that one would expect from S43.

The many businesses there, like the restaurant, the flying school, and the skydiving company, are all present with their photo-realistically reproduced counterparts, without an actual window or door frame. The detail is great, though, with many banners with phone numbers, working hours, etc. One can easily feel transported to Snohomish. 

While runway 33R has trees on short final, 15L has power lines. One truly can't run away from a steep arrival, after all. Cheating with the "low and slow" technique won't work unless you are brave enough to fly between the power lines and the fence, a rather nonstandard and not FAA-approved move. Runway 33L/15R is mostly unobstructed, but it's just grass. One can also plan for runway 33L and then veer right after the trees (the path into 33L doesn't have any tall trees).

After a considerable amount of time spent checking the details out, it was time to visit Monroe First Air, a journey I initially thought would not take long because of how close together they are, as mentioned before. Little did I know, though, that W16 is way more challenging than S43, and that one was plenty tough.

For starters, the airfield only occupies 129,499 square meters, which is microscopic for aviation standards. Everything is cramped together like an airport sandwich: hangars to one side, house, and other facilities to the other, and then the airfield squeezed in the middle like a sad patch of pb&j. 

But it isn't the fact it's very narrow and cluttered or small, but the geography around it: approaching runway 25 is even steeper than S43's 33R because of the Evergreen State Fair and a little hill before it, meaning you don't have a usual approach path. You can't come down low because of the many Evergreen Fair buildings. 

I tried it once, twice, thrice, nothing. I found it impossible to safely arrest the speed before the threshold, always carrying more speed into the runway than I should and being forced to go around. After so many attempts, I realized I'd be there all day and still not manage even to touch the runway because I was too afraid of totaling the aircraft by trying anything bolder.

I don't think I'd ever have the courage to land on runway 25 in real life, nor the guts to attempt it, even if someone paid me a good fifty grand, at least not with a slippery plane. With a Cessna 152 or something like that, and even so, I'd still think twice.

I even wondered whether landing on 25 was allowed in real life, and it turns out it not only is permitted, but there are several videos online of people doing just that with ease, followed by many comments of how "it makes a man out of you." Maybe I'm not as good of a virtual pilot as I thought because I couldn't get it right no matter how hard I tried.

With my pride wrecked, I considered flying back to Harvey Field and calling it a day, but I thought of giving runway seven a go before that. The winds favored runway 25, but it was not a tailwind on seven, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to try. Not only did it not hurt, but I got it on the first try, nearly flawlessly. The trees on the approach path surprised me, though, as the actual photo of the airfield from 2022 doesn't show any tall trees where there were many in Microsoft Flight Simulator. 

Ecological troubles aside, I was finally parked in Monroe after so many failed attempts and stares from the locals. "Will this guy ever land this thing?". "I don't know, Bob. I bet you 5 dollars that he is gonna wreck this plane". That's what went through the NPCs' heads as I kept trying and trying at first.

W16 is equally detailed and suffers from the same problem: photoreal textures everywhere, which is a bit more evident as everything is cramped with nearly no areas unaccessible from the airside. Other than that, it's super neat, with good signage, readable advertisement boards on a fence near the 25 threshold that are just like the real thing, and a unique atmosphere overall.

It's a unique airfield in many ways, probably the only one in the world with a dental office. I have flown to many airports, and I can't say I have found many comparable in terms of overall difficulty. Its size makes it feel like a flyable backyard of sorts, which in a way, is not too far from the truth, given it was part of the owner's estate. 

Modeling / Texturing

As previously mentioned, the modeling is not of a very high standard, but it does not disappoint, either. It seems most of the models were taken straight from Prepar3d: buildings, static aircraft, static vehicles, hangars, and so on. While Microsoft Flight Simulator's advanced graphical capabilities make it look better than it looked back in 2011, some of it seems a bit dated from up close.

Some static vehicles, for example, have shadows from the original image that are always there, which can be immersion-breaking but not a major concern given that most of them are not on the airside anyway. The restaurant's parking lot uses actual static vehicles from the game with PBR and reflections, so there's that.

The texturing on the buildings, like the modeling, is a bit dated and could do with AI upscaling, but at least it's entirely legible, and there are lots of true-to-life placards scattered around, which is very neat. It adds to the overall experience of transporting yourself to a very busy - for its size - general aviation airfield.

The ground texturing is pretty detailed and up to the current standard, be it the taxiways, parking spots, or the runway itself. It looks good and perfectly matches the airfield's current layout.

The hangars look especially nice with the weathered textures (as real as it gets, given it's from onsite photography), truly giving that vibe of a cozy old airfield. They are all correctly numbered and positioned as per the real counterpart.

Overall, it looks very nostalgic. It feels like getting into a time machine back to simpler days when we didn't need an active - and fast - internet connection to fly, nor did we need terabytes upon terabytes of storage for our ever-growing list of airports. Instead, we had to put up with OOMs, low framerate, and aircraft tutorials recorded with an unregistered version of Hypercam and radio - from the 40s - quality.

Night lighting 

This is where the lack of actual windows and door frames becomes a slight compromise, making most buildings look unnaturally lit at night, as seen below.

The airside areas look mostly OK with a few exceptions: one of the hangar lights doesn't appear to interact with its wall, not casting any light on it. But most of them have a proper light cast, which looks a tad rough compared to the current standard but not too bad overall.

The runway is adequately lit, which is essential given it's a 24/7 airport (Harvey Field), much to my surprise. At first, I didn't even think I had to check it out because I assumed it only operated during daylight hours, but I was wrong.

I couldn't find whether W16 was also 24/7, but I checked it out just in case. The runway and the pilot's shop are lit, but everything else is in the dark. I assume that one might not be a 24/7 airport at all, but it does have a lit runway in case you feel like flying in there at night (good luck. It's hard during the daytime, let alone in the dark).


Flying into the Puget Sound area with my LOD set to 200 was not a great idea, causing frame drops even before getting close to the airports. It's not the scenery's fault but the fact that the area has many airports within such a small range, along with high-resolution photogrammetry. I had my frames dip into the mid-20s while taxiing around S43 and W16 with a 3700X and an RTX 3080 10 GB.

Dialing the LOD down to 100 fixed everything, and it has performed wonderfully ever since in both airfields. It's as optimized as possible, considering it's in Puget Sound, and at least two major airports are right around the corner. If the airfields were elsewhere, far from Seattle and high-quality photogrammetric areas, it would probably run without dips regardless of the LOD setting.


While it does look a bit dated when it comes down to modeling and texturing, the package can be picked up for roughly $16.29, roughing up around $8.14 each, which is not bad considering the amount of detail it packs in, even if it's not exactly a "next-gen" looking scenery.

After all, it does deliver a very accurate rendition of both airfields, even if the models are a bit old. Everything that should be there is in there: all the warning placards, signs near the taxiway, on the fencing, and so on, as per the real deal. 

And most of the hangars are open, meaning you can put your aircraft in there and pretend to be a Snohomish owner/operator while not paying any tie-down fees or worrying about noise abatement procedures, fuel, or anything.

For the price and its historical relevance, going back to Bob Bernstein's Harvey & Monroe from 2005 - whose payware roots almost entangle with Orbx's very own beginnings a year later, initially with Australian add-ons for FS 2004 and quickly growing up to become one of the most recognizable flight simulation companies in the market -, and their rendition from 2011, the first GA payware of many, the fact that it still looks so familiar isn't terrible. Not for eight dollars each, at least.

In Bob's words, "Harvey Field is a wonderful bubble of activity." It is hard to deny that: flying school, a skydiving company, and ballooning (you can realistically use your hot air balloon!). Conversely, Monroe is small, narrow, and a lot more challenging than it may seem at a glance.

Not only do I recommend it, but I also challenge you all to land on runway 25 at Monroe with a slippery plane. I couldn't do it myself and wondered whether it was a skill issue or an impossibility.

A huge thank you to Orbx for providing us with a review copy!

Follow us on our Socials !

Threshold encourages informed discussion and debate - though this can only happen if all commenters remain civil when voicing their opinions.