Welcome to Bristol Airport. This regional airport in the south west of the UK is home to airlines such as easyJet, TUI, Ryaniar, Aer Lingus and many more.
Installing the scenery is easily done. You can either buy the airport directly from the developer at Pilot Plus’ website or through Orbx Central. If you download directly, then you will use the Pilot Plus installer, which takes just a few moments. Using OrbxDirect is easier, but neither method is difficult.
If we start by taking a look at the airport as a whole, we’ll see that Pilot Plus has done a fantastic job at blending the environment with the default scenery of the simulator itself. It is worth noting that Pilot Plus has made the airport inline with the current airport layout, including some of the construction work that is ongoing at the old terminal building. In addition to having the airport seamlessly integrate with the default scenery, Pilot Plus has included precise 1m mesh, which means the runway is sloped accurately. This is a step beyond what was seen in previous versions of this airport from this development team on other platforms.
As mentioned earlier, I have travelled through Bristol all of my life. To see it recreated in this level of detail is really amazing. Taking a trip through the terminal building, we can see that all the shops, cafes and check-in desks have been included. Banners advertising certain routes and airlines have been included, while the easyJet bag drop zone has been branded really nice. Shops such as WH Smiths, M&S and Soho coffee have been modelled to an impressive level of detail. Continuing through the terminal, we can see that the security lanes have been included, along with a great rendition of the main terminal building. There are a few big shops missing, but that is only noticeable to those who frequent the airport a whole lot. Plus, this is a flight simulator so that’s hardly a big issue for anyone looking to add the airport to their UK collection.
There are also some 3D animated characters who are awaiting their flight. Whilst those 3D models are nice, there’s too few of them to make an impact on the atmosphere in the airport area. Another slight disappointment is that these 3D models were excluded from being out on the apron in some capacity and we’re instead reliant on the default ground marshallers.
In the past, I have been somewhat critical of Pilot Plus’ use of texturing on the exterior modelling. This time, I’m pleased to report that I’m left highly impressed with how the metallic sheets look on the outer building structure. On the main terminal area, we can clearly see dirt, grime and weathering, along with bolts which are holding up the structure. The Bristol Airport sign also looks great and isn’t just a flat texture, giving it a bit of life. Vents and other minor details are also present on the structures giving the appearance of a true to life rendition of the building. I also really love the use of transparent and PBR glass. There’s a really nice shining effect as the sun hits the glass and thanks to the impressive interior modelling, you can actually look into the departure gates. Having seen the airport from this perspective many times in the past, I can confidently say that Pilot Plus has nailed this.
Speaking of glass, Pilot Plus has included some really cool technology that sees rain actually hit the glass in a realistic manner. You can see the water hitting the windows and running down the side of it – all relative to the amount of rain falling from the sky at the time. This effect is amplified further at night when the dynamic lighting is hitting the terminal. It’s extremely well done and is next-level stuff in my opinion.
The night lighting itself at Bristol Airport is also gorgeous. Dynamic lighting has been used appropriately to light up the apron by stands 1 – 3, whilst the remote stands have less lighting as per real-life. Furthermore, stands 13 – 15 use warmer-colored flood lights in real life which Pilot Plus has replicated here. These smaller details really separate this product from other regional airports. I also want to say how great the whole airport looks at night when it’s raining. The way the PBR ground textures work to reflect light is stunning. It reflects dynamic lighting from the taxiway/runway navigation lights as well as from the static aircraft.
Throughout the airport, Pilot Plus has also taken great care to include plenty of clutter that helps to bring the airport to life. Appropriate pieces of equipment are scattered throughout, including logos and branding from the likes of Swissport, BP and Cobus. It’s all pleasant to look at, even if just static. Airport flood lights are also well placed, as are the baggage carts and other pieces of equipment that serve the airport’s many airlines. In addition, there are a handful of static aircraft which are detailed and well modelled. There was no obvious way to deactivate those models in the airport so you do lose some parking stands.
Although Bristol Airport has a big focus on commercial passenger operations, there’s also a decent sized general aviation and corporate jet section to the airport. Again, Pilot Plus has done a good job here at making the hangars and other buildings in this area of the airport. It’s just a shame that none of the hangars are open to park your jets in after a long day of flying.
Beyond the airport, Pilot Plus has modelled areas such as Silver Zone car parking, the newly built multi-story car park and also the Hampton by Hilton Hotel. The modelling looks great, even close up.
As for performance, I have no complaints. Whilst there may have been fears that the level of detail on the interior modelling would have a negative impact on performance, my experience has been smooth. Pilot Plus have used optimisation techniques to ensure that the level of detail on the screen remains high, whilst anything not in view has no impact on performance.
When it comes to the price, I think £14.49 is a fair price for an airport that serves plenty of destinations and in a key location in the UK. The level of detail and quality on offer justifies that price. In fact, it’s cheaper than UK2000 Scenery’s Bristol Airport, which, frankly, just lacks many of the features and details seen here.
The bottom line is that Pilot Plus’ Bristol Airport is a highly impressive, highly immersive and hugely detailed rendition of the regional airport. I was really amazed at the detailed interior modelling and use of technology to help create an immersive environment. Whilst not every technique was pulled off in the best way, the overall package is one that exceeds other attempts at this airport, making it one of the best regional airports for Microsoft Flight Simulator to date.
- Brilliant use of dynamic rain and night lighting
- Wonderfully detailed interior modelling with little impact on performance
- Modelling and texture work is really well done
- No ability to remove static aircraft
- Too little use of the animated 3D people models throughout the airport