Review: Aerosoft Svalbard4XPlane

Introduction

A few days before Christmas 2017 publisher Aerosoft released Svalbard4XPlane. By now you all probably know that I love snowy remote areas so I just had to review this scenery. Due to the sheer size of this scenery of about 61000km² (that’s about the size of Latvia) and a total of 5 airports and heliports this got a bit longer than I usually want my reviews to be (who wants to read a never ending review, eh?). However, I believe this scenery offers more than enough exciting features to keep you all reading until the end.

Before we start, as usual, find here a list of all the additional add-ons I used for this review:

The Scenery

Svalbard4Xplane is a custom base mesh scenery covering the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard (also known under its Dutch name “Spitsbergen”) in the Arctic Ocean, Svalbard4Xplane was developed by Maps2XPlane in cooperation with Stairport Sceneries and released by the German publisher Aerosoft.

Maps2XPlane, well known for their Antarctica4XPlane freeware scenery (see my guest comment over at HeliSimmer.com for a review of this outstanding freeware), are responsible for the actual base mesh of Svalbard4XPlane, which is claimed to feature “photo realistic generic ground textures”.

Staiport Sceneries (the developer behind various payware gems such as LSZH Zurich or EDDT Berlin Tegel) are responsible for the 3 airports and 2 heliports that ship with Svalbard4XPlane (including all nearby settlements).

Let’s see how Aerosoft advertises this scenery:

Svalbard is a highly realistic recreation of the Svalbard islands for XPlane 11. The Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean is situated about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. The islands range from 74° to 81° northern latitude, north of the Polar Circle. This area isn‘t covered by the XPlane default scenery. So the scenery package Svalbard not only fills this gap in the XPlane landcape but also includes all airports and heliports of this region: Svalbard lufthavn, Longyear (ENSB), Svea (ENSA), Ny Alesund (ENAS), Barentsburg (ENBA) and Pyramiden (ENPY).”

The official feature list reads as follows:

  • “Highly realistic recreation of the complete islands group of Svalbard with an area of about 61000km².
  • High resolution mesh with detailed coast lines and shapes of glaciers
  • Customized local terrain details where reasonable, a.e. in the surrounding of the airports
  • High detail models of all airport buildings and installations with customized objects
  • Photo realistic generic ground textures
  • Winter season included
  • Realistic night time effects
  • Compatible with World Traffic 3
  • Customized paintings of local airlines for several XPlane aircraft”

After the purchase of Svalbard4XPlane you need to download a 1.82 GB sized .zip file which takes about 3.43 GB of space on your hard drive or SSD after extraction. Let’s find out if your precious disk space is worthy of this scenery! 😉

The Airports

ENSB Svalbard Airport Longyear 

Svalbard lufthavn, Longyear as this airport is known under its original Norwegian name is the northernmost airport in the world with scheduled public flights. It is located 1.6 nautical miles (about 3km) northwest of Longyearbyen, which is the largest settlement of Svalbard. Longyearbyen is located in the Longyear Valley and on the shore of Adventfjorden or Advent Bay which makes for some very scenic approaches, especially if you arrive with a jetliner.

From ENGM Oslo-Gardermoen Svalbard is less than 3 hours away which makes this route a perfect afternoon flight over one of the most beautiful and scenic territories of our planet! Runway-wise Svalbard offers a single 2.483m (8.146ft) runway, which is perfect for your A320 or Boeing 737 (but also for 757/767 ops if you’re venturous), whatever you prefer. Lastly, there are operations from Svalbard to ENSA Svea Airport and ENAS Ny-Ålesund Airport, (both included in the scenery) using the Dornier Do 228. I’m looking at you, Carenado pilots! 😉

Enough with the marketing talks, let’s check this beauty out! Since Svalbard4Xplane features summer and winter textures (switchable using the JSGME Generic Mod Enabler), you’ll find screenshots for both seasons under each airport. To reduce the length of this review I added night lighting screenshots only to those airports that are of particular beauty or interest during night time.

Summer Textures

As you can see, there’s a lot of detail to discover here. This is no surprise though, as Stairport Sceneries proved multiple times already that they are capable of delivering nothing but the best quality to our platform. In particular the texture work both in summer and winter is simply astounding. Check it out for yourself, though!

Winter Textures
Night Lighting

After switching to night time I was blown away. Personally I believe this is among the best night lighting I’ve seen in X-Plane thus far. If you own Skymaxx Pro v4, tune in some snowy weather and this is what you’ll get! Isn’t this lovely? In a long time I didn’t experience such a scenic and immersive approach in the sim so I’m particularly grateful for what the developers achieved here! Great stuff, indeed!

ENSA Svea Airport

Svea flyplass as it’s called in Norwegian is a private airport serving the Sveagruva, which basically means Swedish Mine, a mining settlement southeast of Svalbard. Svea is the third largest settlement after Longyearbyen and Barentsburg (also covered in this scenery). As I already mentioned above flights with the Dornier Do 228 are operated frequently to Svea, which features a short 800m (2.625ft) gravel runway.

Again, there’s nothing to complain about here. Awesome texture work!

Summer Textures
Winter Textures

ENAS Ny-Ålesund Airport

The second airport served by the Dornier Do 228 fleet is Ny-Ålesund flyplass, Hamnerabben. By now you probably understand that this is the original Norwegian name. I somehow feel like a Viking when saying these Norwegian words so definitely expect more Norwegian in this review! 😉 Anway, Ny-Ålesund is yet another private airport serving the research facilities of Ny-Ålesund featuring a single 808m (2.651ft) long gravel runway.

Before you check out the screenshots, have a look at the giant radio telescope located next to the runway. This is part of Kongsfjord Telemetry Station which was used as a satellite ground station back in the sixties and seventies. I’ll get back to this later in the Night Lighting section.

Summer Textures
Winter Textures
Night Lighting

As mentioned above, ENAS Ny-Ålesund is the site of Kongsfjord Telemetry Station. I mention this because the radio telescope has a minor but yet fun feature that I really liked. See the angle of that station during daylight and night time. It’s different! The station changes its angle depending on the current time. This might be a minor detail but it’s always nice when an airport looks just a bit different each time you approach it. It just adds to the immersion. Well done!

The Heliports

Svalbard4XPlane not only features 3 very detailed airports and airfields, but also 2 very detailed heliports and their nearby settlements. Even if you don’t fancy rotorcraft, you should check these out as these are rather unique and definitely worth a fly-over. Find out why!

ENBA Barentsburg Heliport

Barentsburg helikopterhavn is a heliport serving the mining facilities of Barentsburg, which are privately owned by a Russian mining company. Nothing too spectacular to find here, yet this is another high quality settlement featured in this scenery. See for yourself!

Summer Textures
Winter Textures

ENPY Pyramiden Heliport

Pyramiden is another mining town owned by a Russian mining company (it’s actually the same as the one that owns Barentsburg). ENPY Heliport serves that town.

In case you wonder why there are so many Russian settlements on Svalbard, this is a result of the Svalbard Treaty of 1920. This Treaty recognizes the sovereignty of Norway over Svalbard, which didn’t belong to a country before that. However, the signatories (including Russia) were given equal rights to engage in commercial activities on the archipelago.

This remarkable settlement features some very unique sights you wouldn’t expect on a Norwegian archipelago, which definitely adds to the variety of this huge scenery!

Summer Textures
Winter Textures

Up In The Air

This is where it gets interesting. I fired up my beloved VSKYLABS Tecnam P2006T (just perfect for this environment) to explore the wide land of Svalbard. Now Aerosoft claims that Svalbard4XPlane features “photo realistic generic ground textures”. And yes, personally I believe what you see on these screenshots almost looks like ortho scenery, it certainly counts as “photo realistic generic ground textures” to me. As a flight sim enthusiast I might be a tad biased, though. I just want any scenery to look great and I often find myself being overly enthusiastic about a certain feature only to find out a week later that it wasn’t that great at all.

However, to put the scenery to the ultimate test I forced my fiancée (who doesn’t give a crap about flight sim or gaming in general) to watch me flying. Even she thought this was ortho scenery! I don’t know in which world you’re living in but in my personal reality this is a pretty flattering compliment for any developer when my fiancée likes what she sees on the screen. And let me tell you, she did!

As usual, judge for yourself! See these screenshots taken in various areas of Svalbard!

My Verdict

Svalbard4Xplane is something totally new on the market. A custom base mesh of this size and visual quality was unseen or even considered impossible before. In my personal opinion Svalbard4Xplane even surpasses the great HD Mesh v4. Even though the latter is “just freeware” it’s certainly considered the gold standard in X-Plane generic base mesh scenery. Well, not any longer. Svalbard4Xplane is among the best large scale mesh scenery ever created for the platform and I can only hope that this is just the beginning. I even wonder if Maps2XPlane will use his skills and techniques to bring this visual level to a global scale. We’ll see.

That said, the mesh is only one part of this scenery. Only with its overlay with all its detailed airports, airfields, heliports and settlements, all passionately crafted by Stairport Sceneries utilizing the best available design techniques, Svalbard4Xplane really comes to life! And a beautiful life it is.

The unusual cooperation between a mesh designer and a studio specialized in airport scenery proved to be a great success for both the developers and, as a result, us the customers! Let’s hope to see more of this cooperation in the future! Now if you still wonder if Svalbard4Xplane is worth its price tag of €37.77 excl. VAT (about $45), yes it is! Svalbard4Xplane is a no-brainer for GA and jetliner ops and worth every penny!

Grab Svalbard4Xplane directly from Aerosoft here.

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