Threshold Review: Drzewiecki Design’s Copernicus Airport Wrocław for MSFS
October 31, 2023
Copernicus Airport Wrocław (EPWR) is Poland's fifth busiest airport, serving the city of Wrocław with a yearly average of 2.8 million passengers annually. It's a civil-military airport, sharing its facilities with the Polish Air Force, US Air Force, NATO, and Heavy Airlift Wing.
Built in 1938 as a military airport for the Germans (Wrocław was part of Germany back then), it hosted the Luftkriegsschule Breslau-Schöngarten, a military aviation school for the Luftwaffe.
The post-war period had a brief period of Soviet operation until it was handed back to Poland and repurposed for civilian scheduled flights, which began in 1945, with services to Warsaw, Łódź, Poznań and Katowice.
Wrocław Airport was state-owned until the early 1990s when Port Lotniczy Wrocław S. A. was created and granted full ownership. International flights started in the same period, with a route to Frankfurt, Germany.
Airport upgrades - part of the new owner's commitment - started in the late 1990s, with a new international departures terminal in 1997 and a new domestic terminal a year later.
Further expansion happened in 2005, along with a name change: from Wrocław Airport to Copernicus Airport Wrocław, after the famous astronomer. The passenger terminal had been expanded to accommodate up to 750,000 passengers a year, and they soon had to increase the terminal's size again because the airport's yearly average had neared a million passengers by 2007.
In the mid-2000s, the administration contracted the architectural firm JSK to design a major expansion for the entire airport, including a larger terminal and apron, runway improvements, and more. The first stage opened six years later, bringing the passenger handling capabilities up to 3.5 million passengers a year.
The airport is one of the Polish hubs for Ryanair (Buzz), flying passengers all over Europe. Enter Air, European Air Charter, Eurowings, Finnair, KLM, LOT, Lufthansa, Swiss, and WizzAir also serve it.
Drzewiecki Design's rendition features custom ground textures, a performance-friendly design, custom-animated people and vehicles, modeled interiors, custom-animated jetways, high-quality static aircraft, city landmarks, and more.
The scenery is distributed through OrbxDirect, where users can automatically install the airport and enable/disable features for better performance.
As usual with my scenery reviews (except for the last one), I like to fly into the airport instead of loading in, and it backfired quite a bit this time around: GSX decided to ignore my setting of never replacing 3rd party jetways after I installed the last update. While it might not seem like a big problem at first glance, it often compromises the performance as it induces extra stuttering and lowers the average framerate, differing widely from how it would perform with the original jetways, as intended by the author. But I digress.
The route of choice was a relatively short morning route from Gdańsk, which felt quite right given that it was the last DD scenery I reviewed. It was quite a nice leg, from a very dark GDN to a dimly lit Wrocław, with many screenshots taken in between. It would have been utterly perfect if not for the pesky GSX jetways that gave me a very wrong first impression: not only do they lead to micro-stutters during the flare, but your framerate takes a nosedive. I vacated the runway with around 25 to 26 FPS, which felt odd given how smooth GDN ran, and both are similarly sized. "Damn, DD did step up their detail game this time around. My poor 3080 simply isn't enough anymore", I thought as I taxied my Ryanair 738 to the parking stand.
Fortunately, that brief despair was gone as soon as I noticed the familiar GSX jetway stealing the performance like an evil leech. It was a mixture of anger at GSX for reverting this change and relief that there was still hope for the scenery's performance. Surely enough, after deboarding, I quickly closed MSFS, ran the FSDT Installer tool, and the original jetways appeared at last. The frames were unsurprisingly much better.
That also meant a retest, given the previous scenario did not replicate how the scenery would naturally run under ideal conditions. A quick hop to East Midlands and back later, I could finally taste its intended optimization, with no stutters and solid 30 fps throughout (I lock my frames to keep temperatures at bay).
After the misunderstanding was sorted, it was time to finally have a proper look around the airport, which once again does not disappoint as far as detail is concerned, as generally expected from the author: great modeling, crisp textures, realistic clutter, good landside, accurate jetways, and a glassy terminal that does not look squeaky clean (just like in real life, of course).
Modeling / Texturing
DD did a great job replicating Wrocław's modern architecture, designed by JSK Architektci Sp.Z.o.o in 2011. Like GDN, it's mostly made of glass, which saves a lot of power during daytime, or so one would hope. The model is accurate, the proportions look correct, and the glass surface is a feast for the eyes: day or night, the way it reflects light is nothing short of impressive. The interior is nearly as good, with a few compromises here and there for performance reasons, but understandably so.
The detail and consistency are not limited to the terminal itself, with beautifully modeled hangars, car parking, fire department unit, military area, etc. The landside also gets a lot of attention, allowing for realistic external shots (the buildings in the background will be faithful to real life).
Ground texturing is entirely custom and true to its real-life counterpart, matching the charts and providing an immersive experience for online pilots (and offline pilots, too, of course!).
The - optional - static aircraft are realistically modeled and scattered everywhere, making it look hectic like one would expect an actual airport to be. You can even see static 3D passengers inside the jetways as they "board" the static planes! Naturally, you can disable the static planes and have an empty airport, more suitable for online flying or for squeezing out extra frames per second if you are on the lower end of the spectrum.
The night lighting is solid and very natural, outside and inside. The fact it's a fully transparent terminal also helps greatly, making for a beautiful screenshot-taking simulator.
The ground lights are quite proper, with a decently lit runway that doesn't require extra effort to see the touchdown markings and shiny taxiways that safely take you to the stand.
Test System: 32 GB RAM, Ryzen 7 3700X, Nvidia RTX 3080 10 GB, 1 TB SSD (non-NVMe).
It provides a solid, stutter-free experience with my power threshold at 75% (the weather has been rough around here, so I had to cut my GPU's wings). While at first, the GSX jetways had given me the wrong idea, I didn't have any issues at all after retesting with the original jetways. The figures are impressive, given all the detail, static aircraft, and multiple parked vehicles.
The GPU rarely spikes when panning around, meaning the LOD work is good, aiming to warrant a solid experience regardless of where your camera is pointed.
All in all, it's a solid performing scenery with everything taken into account.
Wrocław Airport is another solid piece of work by Drzewiecki Design, delivering consistency, performance, and immersion. It is easily the best rendition of EPWR currently available for Microsoft Flight Simulator, taking your Polish experience to the next level.
Retailing for roughly $17.04 on OrbxDirect, it's hard not to recommend it given all it offers without compromising the framerate. It's an entertaining hub for Ryanair and WizzAir ops, with many short and medium European routes.
A huge thank you to Drzewiecki Design for providing us with a review copy!
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