Threshold Review: Verticalsim Studios' Spokane International Airport (KGEG)

Copy Provided
By
Mike Cameron
October 8, 2019

Introduction

Spokane International Airport (IATA: GEG, ICAO: KGEG, FAA LID: GEG) is a commercial airport approximately 5 miles west of downtown Spokane, Washington.  It is the primary airport serving the Inland Northwest, which consist of 30 counties and includes areas such as Spokane and the Tri-Cities, both in Eastern Washington, and Coeur d’ Alene in North Idaho.  The airport’s code, GEG, is derived from its airfield’s namesake, Major Harold Geiger.

At first, Spokane’s new airport was a depression-era economic development project.  Spokane County eventually bought 2 square miles on the West Plains in 1938 for a “super-airport” to be known as Sunset Airport.  

On March 1, 1942, less than three months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Spokane Air Depot was activated.  The War Department liked Spokane’s weather and distance from the coast.  After several years of war service, the City of Spokane took ownership of the renamed Geiger Field in 1948.  Ownership not only came with responsibility to maintain and operate the field, but also the right to charge fees for its use. The name changed to Spokane International Airport after Air Canada started service to Calgary in 1960.

The city and county raised enough to qualify for one million in federal funds for a modern air terminal, which opened in May 1965 and Spokane International Airport entered the jet era.  Improvements since then include parking garages, expanded A and B concourses, the C concourse, a 271-foot tower and a rental car wing.  As of 2015, this airport ranks as the 70th busiest airport in the United States in terms of passenger enplanements, and the second busiest in Washington State (KSEA).  Six airlines serve Spokane International with non-stop service to 15 airports in 13 markets.

Installation

I received the review copy directly from the developer so your install procedure may be different.  A minor nitpick that I have at least with the review copy is that there was no documentation included, I had to download it from the product page.  I do not expect a massive document but at least a small installation document would have been nice, especially if you own TrueEarth Washington. I do not own the Orbx TrueEarth scenery, so installation is very easy, copy the unpacked scenery folder into the XP11 Custom Scenery main directory and start the simulator. If for some reason the scenery does not look right, exit the simulator, open the scenery.ini file and make sure that this scenery is at the top.

My Spokane International Ground Tour

Before starting my ground tour, I wanted to use the Scenery Animation Manager plugin because this scenery is compatible with this utility.  I loaded one of the XP11 airliners at a gate and this utility worked without issue.  The default setting is to automatically connect the jetway which it did and is the first picture below.  I unchecked this option which allowed me to disconnect the jetway from this aircraft.  If you fly these types of aircraft, this utility will add to your simulator experience.

For reviewing the ground objects and textures, I am first going to use the CAVOK weather preset for clear weather and calm winds. I will load the aircraft the aircraft at the various starting locations, compare it with an airport diagram on my iPad for accuracy and simulate walking around with XP11 Free Camera mode.

Starting at the South Maintenance ramp parking, the buildings here are placed accurately.  The ground textures are great looking but the buildings to me are not quite as impressive. For lack of a better description they look “blocky” or maybe generic is better word. I walk to runway 25 and get my first look at ramp and taxiway signage which are very readable which is what I would expect from premium scenery.  A quick change to the time of day reveals the late-night airport lighting, which does not disappoint. 

After crossing the runway are the South & North Pilot ramps and the Central General Aviation ramp. This scenery does not have static aircraft, which I miss, but I solve this by generating World Traffic 3 flight plans for KGEG. 

Another advantage for activating AI flight plans is the airport comes alive with aircraft sound effects of arriving and departing aircraft. From the height that I am capturing the screen grabs, the photoreal airport ground textures are not very good which is probably not an issue when flying into or out of the airport. I confirm this when overflying and landing at Spokane International.  It would have been nice if the photoreal textures were only part of the area surrounding the airport instead of on the airport grounds. 

North of the Central GA ramp is the East Air Cargo ramp and with the generated flight plans, there is a parked UPS aircraft.  The cargo warehouses and trucks in the distance look great which adds to the scenery quality.

According to the airport diagram, there are supposed to be a couple of hangars East of Runway 21 and they are missing from this scenery.  With premium aircraft scenery I expect all airport structures to be included, both major and minor.

A missing hangar.
World Traffic 3 A.I. at the ramp.

The quality of the airport structures is a mixed bag.  Major structures such as the terminal look great, but the airport tank farm looks very generic. I expect better texturing with premium scenery.  I would also like to see some signage (warning labels, company name, etc.), on the smaller tanks used for filling the fuel trucks. I have included a Google Earth image for comparison.

Tank Farm - real-world vs. Verticalsim Studios.

The next area is the West Cargo Ramp and the building & static object textures here are pretty good. I like that the cargo containers had clear and readable labeling.  I load the XP 737-800 at one of the one of the terminal jetways and as you would expect, texturing and features are very good here.  I like that that I can read the signage on the food truck in the distance.  I regenerate the WT3 flight plans at the maximum setting so that there are some real would airlines at the gates.

Even with these flights loaded, system performance is excellent.  The airport terminal night lighting is very impressive. The last stop on my tour is where the fire station is supposed to be. There is a great looking fire truck, but the fire station is not included which I consider a major omission for premium scenery of a major airport.  Now it is time to see what the airport looks like from the air.

Approaching Spokane Airport

Rather than using the X-Plane approach points, I am going to fly from Felts Field (KSFF), which is located east of the city.  I am going to use a GPS Approach for each of the runways to review how the scenery blends with the default scenery as well as approach and runway lighting. 

Approaching from the east the photo-scenery textures blends nicely with the default scenery and after comparing to a Google Earth image, the texturing is the correct color.  Approach and runway lighting are very impressive as well as seeing the entire airport lit up at night.  A minor nitpick that I have is that Verticalsim Studios used the old runway numbers of 07/25 instead of the current Runways 08/26.   X-Plane 11.30 uses the newer runway numbers for ground starts and approach setups, which is great.  

Runway 7/25 should be 8/26.

Conclusion

This is the only premium airport scenery that I have installed currently.  I own a couple of others, but they are not installed.  Honestly, with my X-Plane flying, I usually do not have a home airport that I fly in and out all the time, so the Gateway or airports included with the simulator look good enough for me.  If I am going to purchase premium scenery, I am going to want it in the region in which I live.  Verticalsim Studios Spokane International Airport (KGEG), satisfies that requirement.  I am going to start with the features that I liked and then report what I did not like. 

Overall, the building and static object details are very good.  I like that I can read the labeling on some of the static vehicles, this greatly adds to the realistic look. Airport lighting is excellent is all aspects.  If you like to fly the aircraft that would use a jetway system, it is nice that this scenery is compatible with the free SAM autogate system.  It is also compatible with World Traffic 3, which is great because with this installed, the airport comes alive with real world aircraft movements and sound effects of landing and departing aircraft.  Performance even with a high amount of traffic is very good on my system. 

Now for the issues that I have, the most serious is the missing airport buildings.  I can probably live with the missing hangars, but the missing fire station is unacceptable.  With premium scenery, I expect all airport buildings and structures to be included.  Less serious, is that some of airport structures are not textured very well and almost look like a generic scenery object rather than a reproduction created from a photo.  Lastly, no documentation is included, it would be nice to have a readme file with installation instructions. 

Even with the above issues can I still recommend the Verticalsim Studios KGEG scenery, the answer is probably.  If you are part of a virtual airline that includes this airport in your routes, for $15.00 USD you will have a nicely upgraded airport that will have operating jetways to add to your flight experience.  If you are like me and expect your premium airport scenery to include ALL airport structures and look reasonably close to the real-world counterpart, then you may or may not want this scenery. Even if they used a generic fire station, that would have been much better than nothing.  Hopefully, Verticalsim studios will update KGEG to include the fire station and the updated runway numbers, in addition to some of the other things touched on in this review.

I want to thank Verticalsim Studios for providing me with a review copy.  To learn more and to purchase KGEG, visit the product page located here.

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