Threshold Review: Orbx’s Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport V2 for MSFS
December 24, 2023
Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport (LIEO) is a public airport serving Olbia, Italy, with a yearly average of 2.9 million passengers. It was completed in 1974, replacing Aeroporto di Olbia-Venafiorita (LIEV), inaugurated in the late 20s and deemed too small for the jet age, which justified the construction of a new airport.
Almost 30 years later, Costa Smeralda saw its first major revamp with the construction of a new passenger terminal, with 42,000 square meters, able to handle up to 4.5 million passengers yearly, designed by Willem Brouwer Architects and incorporated into the original terminal building from the late 1960s.
It’s visited on a seasonal basis (summer, primarily) by Aegean Airlines, Aer Lingus, AeroItalia, Air France, AirBaltic, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Condor, easyJet, Edelweiss Air, Eurowings, flydubai, Iberia, ITA Airways, Jet2.com, Lufthansa, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Scandinavian Airlines, Smartwings, Swiss, Transavia, Volotea, Vueling, and WizzAir.
Developed by Matteo Veneziani, one of their independent developers, Olbia Costa Smeralda V2 promises an entirely new - scratch-built -rendition of the airport, with new 4K textures, a terminal interior with 3D passengers, new GSE vehicles, new ground layout, high-resolution ground textures, local points of interest, a fully modeled rendition of the Olbia harbor, performance-friendly optimization, and new animated jetways with custom sounds.
The scenery is distributed via Orbx Direct, featuring a one-click install.
As a scenery reviewer who refuses to load in, a new review is always a new adventure, even more so when it’s an airport I’ve never been to before, whether in real life or through virtual means. Besides Cagliari, which I have been lucky to visit (virtually), most of Sardinia is new to me.
The flight of choice to venture into the charming old Sardinian town was a 54-minute leg from Milan Linate with Aeroitalia, a 17-month-old airline operating out of Ancona, Bergamo, Comiso, and Rome, with a fleet of eight 737s (a single 737-700 and seven 737-800s), two ATR 42-72s, and a Saab 340. The airframe of choice was 9H-GFP, one of their seven 738s, which also happens to be the oldest (24.3 years, almost as old as me!), and the first to join their Boeing fleet in August 2022, along with 9H-CRI (which I also used to fly in and out of Olbia later on). Golf Foxtrot Papa is so old it’s still rocking the infamous eyebrow windows, universally hated by pilots because it would let a lot of sunlight and heat in. It is suboptimal at best for an airplane that flies in and out of a very summery destination. While many people believe the 737NG had them for celestial navigation, its purpose was providing increased visibility during banked turns, which TCAS and many complaints obsoleted.
After taking a couple of mandatory cockpit screenshots showcasing the eyebrow windows and the ancient Honeywell MCP, it was finally time to prepare for my first of many journeys into Olbia, ensuring that the scenery was flown in from different weather conditions and time of day for the sake of gauging accurate performance figures.
One of my favorite parts is this ritual of accidentally discovering new airlines for the reviews. I can’t say I was familiar with Aeroitalia before, and it was a happy surprise. They have exciting routes, ancient airframes, and a nice livery. What else could you possibly want?
Take-off and cruise were uneventful, as expected. The ancient plane still had the energy of a ten-year-old on sugar during its fifteen-minute climb to flight level 290 toward Sardinia, then descended just like a soapy fish over the beautiful mountains of Corsica, the French island just on top of it. The crystal-clear skies allowed incredible cockpit shots over Monte Cinto, Corsica’s highest mountain. And then I found myself flying over Sardinian soil for the first time in ages, and probably for the first time in Microsoft Flight Simulator, at least as far as I remember, turning over the town of Tempio Pausania onto final for runway 05.
As I waltzed down the glideslope, I couldn’t help but take a moment to appreciate the Mediterranean beauty that was rendering before me. It’s genuinely very charming, like the books say, with vast countryside and speckles of farmhouses here and there. The Bing imagery does it proper justice, with no blemishes whatsoever, at least around the approach path, allowing for many wing shots.
Olbia unfolds like a tapestry woven by the hands of celestial artisans as I get closer and closer to the runway for the first time, with almost no need to concentrate too hard on flying the aircraft, as the winds were very calm despite its closeness to the Tyrrhenian Sea. A lucky day, perhaps.
After touching down with an elegance that only comes with time (heck, almost 25 years!), Golf Foxtrot Papa is finally down in Olbian soil for the first time. The airport is relatively small, making the taxi process very fast. It was not long until all the passengers were already standing, fetching the luggage off the overhead bin and preparing to deboard and enjoy a relatively chilly Sardinian afternoon.
It was time to dust off the drone and look around Matteo Veneziani’s newest work for Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Modeling / Texturing
While I don’t have the first version of Olbia to compare, the store page for it still exists, with many screenshots that were my baseline for comparison. Also developed by Matteo Veneziani, it doesn’t look all that different at first glance, but it only takes a proper look to realize how much has gone into this second version. For instance, it has a basic interior now, which the previous one did not. While it’s not necessarily a must-have per se, it’s an excellent addition and makes the airside experience even more immersive.
The ground textures were already good (at least by looking at the screenshots) in V1, but V2 brought an even better take at closing the gap between simulation and reality, with a satisfyingly dirty apron that we love to see, as they are not supposed to be immaculate in real life. Some of the markings, though, are a bit too faded, which can complicate things when you are taxiing into a stand at night without a tool like GSX that would make your parking spot as clear and obvious as possible. Aside from that, the texturing is a step forward from the previous version.
The ground clutter, mostly absent in V1, is abundant in V2, making it look like a relatively busy airport, as one would expect given its 2.9 million passenger/year average, which is impressive given the city only has 60,000 inhabitants. Color-coded trash cans, traffic cones, baggage carts, stairs, tractors, it’s all in there.
The control tower still doesn’t have an interior, not that it’s particularly an issue per se, but it would be nice. At least it does have nice night textures to make it look like there’s something in there.
The salt-resistant turquoise-green copper roof was visibly retouched compared to the first version, with a more accurate color palette that matches the real thing better. The round-shaped windowed thing on the roof does not follow the same consistency as the rest of the work, though, with a rough look overall. Granted, you can hardly see it from the airside, but still. It would be nice if it had actual windows like the rest of the main terminal.
The hangars look much better than V1, with very nice texturing and without the Air Italy logos this time (the airline, headquartered in Olbia, went under in 2020 after only two years of existence).
The static Canadair CL-415 from the Vigili del Fuoco has also seen significant improvement, with a higher-resolution model and PBR textures, almost looking like an actual in-game airplane rather than solely a static for composition.
The modeled Olbia Harbor makes for lovely wing shots when departing from runway five.
While V1 was still mostly based on the original Olbia developed for Prepar3d, albeit with high-resolution PBR textures and severely overhauled in comparison, it still looks pretty dated for current standards, which is something V2 tries to mitigate and succeeds to a great extent, with a thing or two that are a bit unimpressive but hardly detract from the overall quality of the work.
The night lighting is great, with old-school orange-y reflectors that give the terminal and its surroundings a lot of character. If anything, I wish the interior lights were brighter so we could see through the windows when it’s dark out. It’s perhaps a bit too dim, but it’s not a deal breaker per se.
The lighting on the PBR textured hangars is neat, with very realistic diffusion and propagation.
Taxiways, taxiway signs, and the runway are adequately lit, transforming night operations into an easy task.
My system: 32 GB RAM, Ryzen 7 3700X, Nvidia RTX 3080 10 GB, 2 TB SSD (non-NVMe).
Overall, it’s on the lighter side, with no stutters on approach or flare and no dramatic GPU usage leaps when looking toward the terminal, which is generally where the framerate tanks in case of lousy optimization, which is not the case here. The framerate is solid, even more so with the FSR 3.0 Frame Generation mod for the RTX 2xxx/3xxx cards.
For roughly $16.32 with the launch discount and $20.40 without (the launch discount ends in a week from now), the pricing is quite fair given the overall amount of detail packed in, making it the best rendition of Olbia available to date for Microsoft Flight Simulator. While it still has bits where it could have seen further improvements, such as the control tower and some of the landside part of the passenger terminal and its roof, it’s by no means a deal breaker.
Thanks to Orbx for providing us with a review copy!
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