KJFK is a very large international airport and is situated in the borough of Queens, about 12 miles southeast of lower Manhattan. It was originally named Idlewild Airport until 1963 when it was named after the 35th US president, Mr. John F. Kennedy.
Over 90 major airlines operate out of KJFK and is the hub for JetBlue Airways and also serves as a major gateway hub internationally for American Airlines and Delta Airlines. Other big names in the past includes Eastern, Pan Am, TWA, and Gemini to name a few.
(Information obtained from Wikipedia)
Next to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, KJFK is one of the airports that fascinates me the most! So when the opportunity presented itself, I had to look at what Blueprint Simulations produced for their payware version of this majestic airport. The subject of this review is the FSX version. Let’s have a look!
Installation and documentation
After purchasing the airport from Blueprint Simulations’ website, you can download the installer, which is a 43.1 MB file. Downloading was quick and painless. Remember that you have to be FS specific here when buying - the two different versions have different installers; they are not contained in the same download!
After downloading, you proceed to install the airport. You initially don’t get an instructional ReadMe file with the package either. But then again, there is nothing serious about it - you double click the installer, you select “yes” when asked whether you want to run it, and you are off!
That will take you to the setup wizard. This will require you to enter your name and enter your registration key. Once that is entered, it will take you to the EULA (End-User Licence Agreement). You then select “Next” after accepting the terms and conditions contained in the EULA.
Next you will be taken to a page with some VERY IMPORTANT installation information - read it carefully! This will save you from hunting around for scenery that is not properly initiated into the scenery library. The instructions tell you in no uncertain terms that YOU have to initialize the scenery into the library after starting FSX/FS9, since the installer makes no modifications to your FS installation.
Once you click on next, it will ask you to enter your installation path, you select it and it will take you to the next options screen. Here you will have to select whether you wish to install static vehicles (which are labeled as frame rate killers!), and you will have to decided whether or not to include airline gate assignments, which will put the proper real-world airline banners at the gate positions. I will discuss the performance impact a little later.
Once you have done all this, you may proceed to install the scenery. Installation takes less than a minute and once that is done you may proceed to open the .pdf file about the scenery that comes with the package directly from the installer, or you may elect to do so later.
Once you run FSX, head to the library and follow the instructions in the user guide. This means you should:
- Elect to Add an area to your scenery;
- Select the Blueprint Simulations folder;
- Then select the KJFK folder;
- Make sure that it appears above ANY KJFK or New York area scenery that you may have installed, or the scenery will not work correctly!
- Select OK and restart FSX
For those of you running Windows 7 and FSX, you may encounter some difficulty in following this procedure and you can head over to their website’s FAQ section that deals with the issue. Just follow the link in the instructional manual on how to resolve the issue.
Basically, you follow the steps outlined above to select the KJFK folder, then right click once inside the empty area below the three folders inside the KJFK folder, which will add the scenery folder to your database. This is not something directly related to the scenery but to the Windows 7 /FSX combination and I never quite knew how to resolve it. So this has given me the general answer I was looking for.
The manual is contained in your FS9/FSX\Blueprint Simulations\KJFK\Docs folder. You will also find your End User Licence Agreement as a separate .pdf file.
The user guide is a 30 page long document and deals with the following aspects:
- Airport description;
- The scenery itself;
- Scenery features;
- Software compatibility;
- Hardware requirements;
- Installation instructions;
- Airport diagram and IFR charts;
- Parking spot configuration and all gate assignments;
- Real life flight plans;
- Technical support;
- Scenery fixes and upgrades; and
I found the guide to be well written, user friendly and although very much to the point, it answers all your questions quite well without having to consult any outside advice, although as per usual, should you get stuck with anything, you can contact Blueprint Simulations’ technical department for assistance.
You are warned in the user guide that the scenery package is made up of photo real textures, which will have a performance hit on your system. Suffice to say that you should head this warning, but more on that a little later!
The airport is designed as it looked in early 2012 and also to the highest degree possible, in 3D. What should be elevated is elevated and what should be flat is flat, which is nice considering that the default airports in FSX/FS9 are rather 2D and don’t go to the effort of “building” bridges across road etc.
The airport runways and taxiways are all properly laid out as this aerial shot shows quite graphically:
aerial view of KJFK - all the runways and taxiways are properly laid out
The manual also notes that there are additional signs and lettering in some places to assist in ground movement.
default KJFK scenery
Terminal 6 has been excluded as it was being demolished at the time the scenery was being designed. Terminal 8 was not yet finished and is artistically designed to look the way it will do when it is completed.
Terminal 4, concourse B, is also not currently modeled but the developers indicate that they will do so as soon as it becomes possible.
So for those of you who actually know the layout of the airport, it is a real treat, as it will look exactly like it should. Not being a New Yorker myself, I cannot comment on this, but having compared internet photos with the scenery, I have to concur. It is indeed very realistically modeled to the current setup.
The developers also indicate that smaller issues, which the non-New Yorkers amongst us will not even be aware of, like the 2 degree offset to the West on the localizer for runway 22R is modeled. It caught me a bit when running through the ILS approaches, since I was not aware of this, and it does make a bit of a difference!
Another very nice inclusion is the flight plans. They generally work very well, since they are 2012, but if you are going to fly online, always check with the controllers first. They link you to most of the major hubs you fly into from KJFK and gives you a bit of insight into where most of the major airlines come from and go to. It adds to the already very good documentation that comes with the package.
Some features of the scenery
Generally, I was very impressed with the scenery! There is a lot of eye candy all over the place and the scenery really does deliver that 3D feel the developers promise. If you want to see just how much of a difference there is from the default scenery to the Blueprint Simulations scenery, here are a few screenshots:
Now, compare it to the following shots - just look at the detail here!
Blueprint Simulations KJFK scenery - notice the difference?
One of the best features of the airport, which is modeled in detail for me, is the Air Train. I have it included in the screenshots above. Another very impressive feature visually, is the fact that the navigation aids are properly placed. If you fly around the airport, you will find that the beacons have all been placed in the right areas and they look a lot better than any of the default stuff in FS!
Another very nice feature, is the 3D look and feel of the approach lighting system on the airport. It looks especially good at night.
a look at the approach lighting system - go lower and you will see the antennas etc!
Also, have a look at the lighting at the gates during night time, also looks delicious. It is indeed very photo real.
Night lighting inside KJFK - just wonderful!
One of the other nice features about this package is the extra signs that have been inwww.avsim.com/pages/0812/KJFK/13.jpgcluded for simulation purposes. Although you should have no difficulties at all by using charts to find your way around the airport, it can make things easier to find, especially when flying online and having to follow proper taxiing instructions. 10/10 for that initiative by the developers!
The seamless integration with FSX default scenery
In the manual you will also find a proper list of real world gates and parking positions; which ones are used for what aircraft size and type and also which airline(s) uses these gates. The gate positions in FSX correspond to these, so if the user guide says that you will find a BA gate at a certain terminal, you will find it in the scenery complete with a proper gate label and proper GPS coordinates to match.
A word about the gate positions in FSX - let us use an example given in the manual. I am flying a British Airways 747-400. I would then use Terminal 7 gate 3. Now to find this gate in FSX, you will find it listed as gate 703, which consists of the terminal number first, then the gate position. You will find that your 747 fits into the gate position very neatly and that you have your little BA logo on the passenger boarding chute.
You can also find all the various maintenance ramps and cargo ramps in the area, all properly modeled.
I flew all of the ILS approaches as published, both in a light aircraft and the heavier variety and they all work the way they are supposed to. No vices to report there!
One of the features that really impressed me was the seamless integration with the default scenery outside the airport. I use default NY scenery and from the screenshots it can be seen that the transition is pretty much invisible, so that is a great plus as far as I am concerned. A lot of scenery that I have used in the past distinguishes too graphically between default and add-on scenery and it can be a little irritating.
So as far as the look and feel of the scenery is concerned, it is a beautiful rendition of a majestic airport and will no doubt add to your FSX experience. I loved flying in and out in daytime, at night time, and in good and bad weather.
Now the obvious question here is this - what penalty do I pay in terms of performance for having this much eye candy? The answer is quite a bit! I really would suggest using the recommended system before installing and running this software.
However, I also have to say that I use a Q9550 2.83GHz Core2Quad CPU, a 480GTX GeForce card with 768 MB RAM and 6 GB RAM. It is by no means a monster system by today’s standard, yet I use my scenery settings at very dense and my autogen scenery at dense. When flying online and using my 737 NGX or my 747 Queen of the Skies, I will still get around 14-18 fps on the ground, and taxiing and the take off may be a little jittery, but it’s far from unenjoyable!
When using default FSX aircraft, I easily surpass 30 fps on the ground with no jitters while taxiing and turning, or when taking off.
When dropping my display settings to little less dense scenery and autogen scenery, I get a slight improvement, but not enough to warrant the drop - only around 3 fps or so. I also have to mention that I use the internal frame rate counter in FSX.
When approaching the airport, turning the aircraft induces a bit of a stutter as well, but when on final and landing the aircraft, the performance for me was generally quite smooth. You also have to bear in mind that the faster you travel, the less your frame rate will be around the airport - general FSX knowledge that one!
I also found that including or excluding any of the static vehicles or gate assignments made very little difference for me in the way of performance either way. In fact, I couldn’t pick up any drop or increase by enabling and disabling them, having uninstalled and re-installed the package and including or excluding these features.
You will be able to use it quite well on a system like mine with default aircraft or with a bit of stuttering and a slightly lower frame rate when using add-ons, but how little you are content with (or not as the case may be), is up to you and as I said, the experience is far from being unenjoyable!
If you are a perfectionist however, one who wants great frame rates at maximum settings with all the eye candy and using top notch add-on aircraft, do yourself a favour and use the recommended system! Enough said.
The package is well designed and well supported by the necessary documentation. The package does what it promises to do, that is to add a photo real quality airport for KJFK.
Despite the bit of a performance penalty that you pay for that, it is well worth it! I found no vices when using the scenery, not in installing or running it.
So the next question is - is it worth the $ 25.00 that you would pay for it? The answer is an absolute YES! If you love the airport or are familiar with it, you will feel right at home here.
This a home run from Blueprint Simulations and although I experienced a bit of a drop in performance on my older system, I will not use the default scenery ever again now that I can fly into KJFK in style!
What I Like About Blueprint Simulations KJFK
- The user guide is well written, use friendly and tells you everything you need to know and more!
- The seamless integration with the default scenery
- The little nuances that are KJFK, for example the 2 degree offset on Rwy 22R
- The attention to detail in the visual design of the airport, for example the perfectly placed navigation aids
- The excellent 3D look and design of the airport
- The authenticity of real terminals and airline gate assignments
- Massively impressive photo real lighting at night
- The little extra signs making life on the ground easier
- The overall photo real design of the airport
- The price
What I Don't Like About Blueprint Simulations KJFK