Wellington – not just an airport!

I like to divide a working day into different jobs, just to keep from getting bogged down in some of the more boring bits, so I tend to alternate between the airport and the city. Wellington city involves a lot of autogen placement, which can be tedious, but it does start to show results quickly.

Work on the city at the moment is divided between autogen and adding to the 3D models. The Real NZ Wellington Intl and City included a handful of actual buildings, but I plan to increase this as much as I can in Real NZ NZWN.

Wellington is a lot different from what I'm used to here in Christchurch, houses are just crammed everywhere, and I hope to reproduce this, using the ability to localise the building textures to some extent.




The seven-year development cycle

Airports are never finished.

I cannot count the number of emails from people asking me when I'm going to update their local airport to include the runway extensions, new layout, new buildings etc, and I normally give the same answer -- never. A Real NZ or Godzone airport is always going to be a snapshot in time,  and although it might make sense to expect an update for every major change at the real airport -- or even minor change -- it won't happen. Mainly because it would be an ongoing process with no time for anything else.

However there does come a time when the actual airport and the simulator technology itself both change to the point that an update is worthwhile, and that is why I'm redoing Wellington. It's been seven years since I was putting the finishing touches to Real NZ Wellington. The actual airport hasn't changed as much as many others, but the compactness of Wellington airport makes minor changes very noticeable. The new terminal -- the Rock -- is one such change. Also, seven years ago the southern runway extension was being built, basically just a hole in the ground where the road tunnel was half finished, so I modelled it that way. I really only model what I see, I have no imagination at all, and I don't have the skills to build something that I can't  see and photograph.

The old Real NZ Wellington was certainly a product of its time -- the 2.5 metre per pixel aerial image was good for FS2004, but in FSX it just couldn't compete with today's high resolution airport aerials. The coverage was its strength, flying slow around the Wellington area has always been fun, especially with the high res mesh which comes with Vector Land Class. But on the ground, it did turn to soup up close.  There was no such thing as usable Google imagery for Wellington back then, so measurements were partly guesswork, and the low-res background wasn't always clear enough to show what was where -- I did put a few things in the wrong place, simply because I had to guess based on my own photographs taken from a helicopter.


Here's a comparison between the old and the new scenery.

Notice the difference? That dirt loop in the top image is a pathway on the golf course, but you really needed to use your imagination to see it... Now you could just about play golf there, if you wanted. The elevation mesh is also a big change -- back in those days, the mesh didn't resolve small details like the hill in the foreground.

So in this case the resources available now make it the ideal time to build a new Airport for FSX. Now today there's this news -- $300M runway extension for Wellington -- taking maybe seven years to complete. So I may be back in another seven years, who knows what sort of simulator we'll have then -- although that's another issue, which I'll cover later:)