Threshold Review: Fly X Simulations’ Teesside International Airport for MSFS
August 18, 2023
Teesside International Airport (EGNV), formerly Durham Tees Valley Airport, is an international airport in Darlington, England, serving the North East, South Durham, and Yorkshire with a yearly average of 200,000 passengers (as of 2022). It's categorized by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as a Public Use Aerodrome, allowing for the public transport of passengers and flight instruction.
It was built in 1941 as Royal Air Force Station Middleton St. George, or RAF Goosepool, as the locals would often refer to it. It was the northernmost Bomber Command airfield, housing the RAF and the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War 2.
In 1957, the RAF extended the runway to its current length of 2,291m and closed the station shortly after in 1964, selling it to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, which promptly converted it into a civilian airport, with its first commercial flight taking place in that same year with a Mercury Airlines flight to Manchester. Two years later, the international passenger terminal was opened by Princess Margaretha of Sweden.
Scheduled flights, with rare exceptions, predominantly dominated its first few years. While the destination list was often consistent, the airlines serving the airport constantly changed, with names like British Midland, BKS Air Transport, Dan-Air, Autair, and Channel Airways coming and going like the wind.
The 70s brought a decline in scheduled routes and a holiday flight boom, with Northeast Airlines, Aviaco, Spantax, and Aviogenex leading the way. The numbers were looking so good that the CAA predicted it would become the main airport for the North East of England, but Newcastle International Airport proved them wrong.
The 1980s brought the scheduled routes back to life with Casair Aviation Services, which originated as an air taxi operator in 1972 and eventually grew into an airline. They merged with Genair of Liverpool and Eastern Airways of Humberside under the Genair name in 1982, partnering up with British Caledonian to fly under the British Caledonian Commuter Services banner. The partnership did not work well; by 1984, Genair had collapsed, axing 11 of the 18 routes from Teesside.
The airport ignored how much Genair/Casair owed them in fees, allowing Casair to be entirely reborn and take over the service to Glasgow and Humberside, initially operated on behalf of Air Ecosse and then independently soon after.
Privatization came in 1987, with local authorities keeping their shares and the airport getting a new name: from Tees-Side Airport to Teesside International Airport. Three years later, the airport reached its millionth aircraft movement.
With the abolishment of the Cleveland County Council in 1996, the airport ownership was divided between local borough councils, all while the airport was experiencing substantial growth with the arrival of Airtours in 1994, greatly expanding the holiday charter business during summer. By the early 2000s, they were already seeking a strategic partner to assist with future development.
Peel Airports Ltd. was the strategic partner of choice, taking a 75% stake in the airport that would increase to 89% in a decade while tied to a 20 million pound investment over the first five years. Their first strategy was embracing the low-cost carrier era, bringing bmibaby with one aircraft, then two, eventually leading to the airport's heydays.
The airport was renamed in late 2004 to "Durham Tees Valley Airport," as requested by bmibaby, who felt strongly about the new name placing it better geographically for passengers unfamiliar with Teesside, as Durham was substantially more popular outside of the United Kingdom. The locals were unhappy, mainly because there was no such thing as Tees Valley or a valley to begin with.
Peel Airports then built a new access road, terminal front, and interior and stopped there after the expected numbers never came to fruition. While the plans initially comprehended the capacity of handling up to 3 million passengers annually, the numbers for 2006 needed to be looking better, and it didn't seem like it would grow to that extent, leading the administration to halt their plans for the time being.
To make matters worse, bmibaby left during the summer of 2006, which Peel Airports quickly replaced with Flyglobespan. Despite the initial shock of bmi's departure, the airport reached its traffic peak with 917,963 passengers, indicating a potentially bright future ahead. The crisis of 2007-2008 begged to differ, though.
Since the financial crisis, the numbers have gradually declined to 130,911 passengers in 2017. It was directly correlated to the fact many small airlines went under, and the airport failed to pursue new operators, with bigger carriers opting for more prominent regional hubs such as Newcastle and Leeds.
Despite the crisis and the ever-growing losses, they were still actively investing in the airport, with a terminal revamp in 2012 and a Master Plan for 2020 and beyond, which axed inclusive tour charter flights and caused a great deal of confusion with a housing estate that would reinvest 30 million pounds into the airport, resulting in heavy opposition from the public that misinterpreted the development as a deliberate attempt to run it down for closure.
A new investment plan was announced in 2017, with extensive renovations in the departures area and improved retail services under the new in-house "Xpress" brand. They have also introduced an in-house ground handling service for general aviation, cargo, and military aircraft.
A year later, the Mayor of the Tees Valley announced a 40 million pound agreement to buy Peel Airport's share in the airport, bringing the airport back into public ownership since it was sold in 2003. The deal was confirmed in 2019, and Stobart Aviation was chosen to run the airport.
The Mayor conducted a poll in late 2018 to consult the locals about renaming the airport back to Teesside International Airport, which was a resounding "yes!" from 93% of the 14,000 voters.
The takeover happened right when the airport was getting back on track, with a brand new terminal refurbishment, a new radar system, and a quickly ramping up passenger figure post-crisis, finally showing signs of recovery.
After troublesome first post-takeover years due to COVID, Teesside grew steadily again, benefitting from a new terminal refurbishment in December 2020 that added a second lounge, a cafe, and a bar, and the reopening of previously closed areas.
The airport has recently opened a new cargo handling facility, with a purpose-built 21,000 square feet hangar with security screening technology, handling, freight-forwarding, customs clearance, and storage. It's expected to take most of the load destined for Doncaster Sheffield Airport, which closed in late 2022.
It's served by BH Air, Eastern Airways, and TUI Airways on a seasonal basis and regularly by KLM, Loganair, and Ryanair.
The scenery features an accurate rendition of the airport, with a detailed replica of the terminal and its surroundings, PBR texturing, high-resolution textures, custom orthophoto for the airport and surroundings, and more.
The scenery is distributed by iniBuilds via iniManager with a one-click install after pointing the client to the community folder.
As usual with my scenery reviews, I like to fly into the airport instead of simply loading in and checking it out, making it feel as natural and realistic as possible. Even more so because I had never been to Teesside before (either virtually or in real life), the release couldn't have been more convenient, as I was virtually touring the United Kingdom with my Comanche down in Land's End Airport (EGHC), in Cornwall.
After a mostly uneventful yet somewhat turbulent two hours, I was finally on the approach path into runway 23, rocked back and forth by relatively strong winds. Even though most of the flight was over thick clouds, it cleared up right after the top of descent, conveniently showing me the way to the runway. A visual approach is always nice when you are supposed to review an airport, as you can't review what you can't see, can you? Well, I guess you can if it's edible.
The landing was nothing to write home about. Crosswind, eyes too busy scrutinizing the environment, massive lift-generating wings, the recipe for an ego-destroying touchdown. I took comfort in the fact I was the only one in the aircraft, so nobody else had to - virtually - suffer with me. There seems to be a pattern with my scenery reviews and rough landings, albeit not always. I swear I'm not that bad of a pilot; it's just plainly coincidental!
I vacated right in front of the passenger terminal with its four aircraft stands (a bit smaller than I had initially anticipated). It looked impressively detailed: see-through doors showing an impeccably modeled interior with impeccable texturing. So far, so good. But it was no place for a measly general aviation aeroplane, so I was off to the GA parking spot facing the - massive - FedEx cargo hangar.
Modeling / Texturing
Despite being a relatively small airport, the amount of detail packed is nothing short of extensive, with a fully modeled terminal interior, making use of high-resolution textures on mostly everything (you can even read what is on the computer's screen!), multiple monitors showing the - rather barren - departures/arrivals list, properly wrinkled banners (if you are familiar with my scenery reviews, you'll know how much I appreciate the wrinkles on banners), and an equally good ground texturing, easily matching the current standard that we come to expect from scenery developers.
They have successfully managed to convey the image of a tiny yet cozy airport, with a comfortable lounge, neatly lit, down to the smallest detail, such as surveillance cameras on the ceiling, smoke detectors, etc. Even the rooftop, which is often neglected by - some - scenery developers who slap a texture on it and call it a day, has fully 3D-modeled air conditioning units, air ducts, and more. And it also dynamically accumulates water in areas where it can't easily drain during rainy days. Adequately moist, as one would expect from Northern England.
The hangars are also very well reproduced, with a realistic amount of weathering, and equally well texturized. The Draken Europe hangar also accompanies their fleet of Falcons neatly parked in front of it (all with the same tail register, unfortunately).
Overall, the models around the airside and landside are impeccable, with no compromises on quality whatsoever, maintaining a nice consistency throughout the scenery. The only thing I felt was lacking was the ground clutter, mainly around the terminal. But maybe there is little clutter around a small airport, after all.
The passenger terminal is realistically lit, looking even more impressive with rain/moisture, adding that extra reflexiveness that makes you go: "Wow, we really came this far, didn't we?". You can tell they spent time tweaking the intensity to ensure the lighting was not too dim or too bright. I can't speak for Teesside as I haven't been there in real life, but it does match some airports I've been to. It's how the airport administration saves money these days with low-wattage interior lighting.
The external lighting is also good, with all the main stands adequately illuminated. Operating at night is no hassle, as the runway and taxiways are also bright enough.
Most of the hangars don't have any light on them, though, I can't confirm if it's like that in real life, but I assume it would be the case. It may close before nightfall or something like that. Or maybe they have entirely forgotten about them, which is always possible.
Overall, the night lighting does not disappoint; looking pretty good in combination with the PBR texturing. The wrinkly banners on the entrance never looked so good in the Microsoft Flight Simulator's virtual world.
Given its scale, bad performance figures would have been concerning, to say the very least. Fortunately, it runs just fine on my rig (32 GB of RAM, Ryzen 7 3700X, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 10 GB), with no perceivable dips in framerate or frametime when wandering around the airport with the drone camera or the airplane. It's pretty solid with the LOD slider up to 150.
I would be lying if I said I was familiar with the existence of Teesside International Airport before Fly X Simulations released it. It caught me off guard, as I liked to think I was a connoisseur. We live and learn, after all, as it turns out. It came off as a happy little surprise that I'm glad to have come across.
Fly X Simulations have excelled at recreating Teesside International, with industry-standard models and textures, a tremendous amount of interior detail, with no compromises on quality throughout the entire product, all while keeping performance at bay, which is very important these days.
For roughly $15.28, it's hard not to recommend it. While it's not a busy destination for airliners, the somewhat limited number of scheduled routes isn't shabby at all, taking you to Amsterdam, Alicante, Burgas, Corfu, Faro, Palma de Mallorca, among other popular holiday destinations, all while generally having calmer traffic online compared to more mainstream British airports. If airliners are not your cuppa, Teesside is GA-friendly as well, and its location makes trips somewhat equidistant, be it up in Scotland or down in Compton Abbas, making it a solid hub for exploring the UK.
A huge thank you to Fly X Simulations for providing us with a review copy!
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