It’s a beautiful morning. I am standing on Maho Beach (that famous beach in the approach path of runway 10 of TNCM Princess Juliana International Airport) on the beautiful island of Sint Maarten and I’m about the get ready to start my review flight to Nimbus Simulation’s TFFJ Aéroport Rémy de Haenen / St. Barths. That said, welcome to this review!
Sint Maarten is only a stone’s throw away from the French island Saint-Barthélemy, better known as St. Barths, so we are going to do a ferry flight today. For this purpose we are using a Cirrus SR20 by vFlyteAir (see our review of this magnificent aircraft here). The weather is beautiful and since we can actually see St. Barths from Sint Maarten, we skip the flight plan and do a VFR flight. So I hop into my aircraft, start the engine and off we go.
Seconds after we took of from Sint Maarten we do a right turn, directly heading to St. Barths. As we get closer to the island, one thing stands out immediately. There is no orthophoto. Nothing. And this is a payware product. Have you ever seen a payware airport without orthographic imagery lately? Well I haven’t! To my surprise (and yes, this was a real surprise to me), it turns out that you don’t actually need an orthophoto to create a believable and beautiful environment in X-Plane 11. Don’t believe me? See for yourself (click on a thumbnail to view each image in full resolution).
After only some minutes mid-air we already make our descent to St. Barths. Before we actually try to fly the spectacular approach, we are flying some circles over the island to get a feel of the scenery. At this time I want to point out that I used ReShade for this flight. Stock X-Plane sometimes doesn’t look as colorful and dreamy as you would expect it to look on a sunny day in the Caribbean so I thought ReShade would complement this scenery nicely, which it did. For the weather I used SkyMaxx Pro 4.6, which I love for low and slow VFR flights.
As you can see, the island looks fabulous. All textures are crisp and clear and there is a lot of detail to discover in every part of the island. Clearly a lot of love went into this product and this does not only apply to the airport itself, but rather the whole island. A spectacular and never-before-seen feature are the shorelines. Nimbus Simulation actually changed the mesh there (below sea level) and put an almost transparent texture on top of these areas (at sea level) to give the impression of crystal clear water shores. Stunning! There is some texture flickering in these areas, which is visible from some extreme angles. However I did not really notice this flickering in normal flight operation (or in other words, almost no flickering from the VC). I contacted the developer about this issue. He did confirm it but he also said that he did not find a solution to this issue yet. However, I believe this is a minor problem only and the outcome is worth some minor flickering if you ask me personally.
Time to discover the island. I was blown away by all the detail. Just look at these screenshots. People are enjoying their holiday on the numerous beaches of St. Barths. The eastern side of the island is strewn with custom 3D modeled driftwood. Villages and harbors look like on a picture postcard. And the rocks and trees are just beautiful. Remember, there is no orthophoto in place, this is all 100% custom made. I actually took a look at stock St. Barths at this moment since I didn’t believe that there could be that much difference without an orthophoto. I was shocked how ugly the stock simulator was in comparison to Nimbus’ St. Barths.
But enough with the looks for now, what about the approach? St. Barths offers a beautiful and challenging approach, especially if you approach from the West. Let me tell you, it is not a piece of cake. I tried this approach over and over but even after some hours, I still almost had to wet my pants each time I tried to land my aircraft. It is challenging! But it is also plain fun! And definitely not getting boring! Have a look at this video on YouTube of a guy flying that approach in real life and you’ll get an idea how thrilling this approach is!
As in every scenery review we are taking a look at the night lighting now. Or actually, I want to know how everything looks in dusk. After all, this is a tiny island and there are not a lot of light sources around so the night lighting may be technically good, but boring nonetheless. If we change the time to evening hours though, we are in paradise! See these screenshots, how can anybody not just love this? I know that a big part of these looks is owed to the X-Plane 11 lighting engine and ReShade. But does this really matter? We do have a scenery here that looks perfect in this light and offers a believable and truly magnificent representation of a Caribbean island!
My verdict is pretty clear. Nimbus Simulation’s TFFJ Aéroport Rémy de Haenen / St. Barths is a beautiful and (if you complement it with ReShade, which you should) possibly mind-blowing product and you will love it! There are some minor issues, most prominently the texture flickering, but this shouldn’t hold you off from experiencing one of the most iconic and challenging approaches our hobby has to offer. It is well worth the asking price and definitely recommended! Nimbus Simulation’s TFFJ Aéroport Rémy de Haenen / St. Barths is available for $22.95 at the x-plane.org store.