The Original Manchester Airport for X-Plane 11
It’s interesting to see that Orbx is expanding its product range for X-Plane 11, which taps into a massive potential customer base.
This latest release reinforces its commitment to the platform because it depicts an airport that is currently only available for X-Plane.
The airport in question is Manchester City (EGCB) Airport, also known by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as Manchester/ Barton or Barton Aerodrome. While it’s classed as an airport, it is in fact an airfield, with grass being the only covering for its four runways. So it’s primarily a (very popular) GA airport that also caters for helicopters and a few small commercial operators.
About the real Manchester City Airport
The airport is situated 5nm west of Manchester and was the first purpose-built municipal airport in the UK. Its physical location is in the Bartonupon- Irwell area of Eccles in the City of Salford, Greater Manchester, conveniently adjacent to three major motorways: the M60, M62 and M61.
Building of the airport began in 1928 and was completed in 1930, when the first passenger charter flight took off. Then in spring 1933 a large hangar and control tower were erected.
The tower is believed to be the oldest in Europe that is still being used for its original purpose and is now protected for posterity by its Grade II listed building status.
Ultimately Barton has changed very little over the years; a factor that has made it an ideal backdrop for a great number of films and TV programmes. In 2015 the airfield cafe was refurbished and renamed Runway 26 to encourage more non-flying visitors and better cater for resident and visiting pilots.
The airport is currently a major centre for flight training, with at least eight facilities operating there at the moment. At the last count there were more than 160 aircraft operating out of the airport; being responsible for something like 60,000 take-offs and landings per year.
Although Manchester has a full international airport, (EGCC) situated just south west of the city, in its inimitable way, Orbx decided to employ the services of Tony Wroblewski to recreate the much smaller Manchester- Barton Airport. This allows far more realism to be added than is generally possible in a major airport; although I must admit that my review of Orbx Innsbruck would tend to refute that last statement. However, it’s generally the smaller airports that they concentrate on.
With a smaller airport, particularly one like Barton, you get that feeling of a friendly, home-built community, where like-minded people gather to pass their leisure time in a relaxed atmosphere. In contrast, the larger international airports are all about commercial efficiency, essentially getting people from A to B as quickly as possible.
In order to reproduce Barton in such detail, Tony Wroblewski visited the airport and took his own reference photographs, which allowed him to include objects that some designers leave out such as the piles of steelwork and breeze-blocks, shown lying on the ground in preparation for a new building, or the highly detailed depiction of the old (yet now derelict) terminal building that was once a farm building belonging to Foxhill Farm.
To see just how much work has gone into this building alone, you need to look even closer. Then you’ll see the wooden trusses showing through the missing roof tiles and the boarded-up windows. There are weeds and grass growing through the wire mesh safety barriers and the brickwork is stained at ground level where the ground water has been absorbed into the bricks. It really is a superbly detailed 3D model with crisp authentic textures and a fine example of what can be achieved if you take the time to do so.
As you wander around exploring the airport you’ll see many more of these unique features, including the Manchester coat of arms on the hangar wall, people relaxing in the Runway 26 restaurant and the realistic stained textures on the concrete panels that make up the roadways around the airport.
This same level of detail has been applied to the rest of the buildings and ground textures throughout, so if you ever fly into Barton for real, I’m sure you’ll get that déjà vu feeling… it’s that good.
In true Orbx fashion the modelling of Barton extends beyond the airport perimeter, so as you explore the scenery you’ll see a number of local landmarks. For example, if you takeoff from Runway 11 you’ll pass directly over the AJ Bell Rugby Stadium, which is literally at the end of the runway. If you continue on that runway heading, the next landmark to look out for is the Trafford Sports Dome, home of the Manchester Giants basketball team. Right behind that is the difficult-to-miss bright blue building belonging to the Chill Factore, which houses the UK’s longest indoor real snow slope.
Alternatively, if you turn right and track along Liverpool Road for about half a mile travelling southwest, you’ll find the new Great Bear Port distribution centre and behind that there’s a huge Makro retail/wholesale warehouse; directly across the road is the Boysnope Golf Club.
All these and much more are included in the scenery, so a low and slow aircraft is the best choice to make sure you don’t miss anything.
X-Plane 11. FTX Central v3. Microsoft.NET Framework 4.5. Microsoft Windows, Vista or Windows 7, 8, 10. Processor: 2.4GHz (or higher) RAM: 2GB (4GB recommended). Video card: 1GB DirectX 9 compatible (2GB or more recommended).
Flying in to Barton
There are plenty of airports situated around Manchester, well within the 50-mile radius, from which I usually make my first visit. Basically I want to see what’s around the area and make a sort of blind first approach to the new airport.
As it happens, I already have a very nice version of Leeds Bradford installed, which is roughly 35 miles to the northeast, so I chose that as my departure. Incidentally, it’s a freeware airport from one of our many freeware contributors who goes by the cryptic name of tdg, so if you want to download it yourself, the file name is EGNM xp11 tdg.zip and it’s available from Xplane.org.
I took off from Runway 14 and turned on to a heading of 230, which initially routes straight over the city of Bradford. This was fairly easy to identify because X-Plane 11 now depicts all the major towns, roads and water features, so it’s easier to pick out any planned waypoints. It’s also an important addition, if not essential for accurate VFR flying.
The route initially passed over the town of Halifax, just before crossing the Pennines. I was able to identify the Withens Clough Reservoir, near Cragg Vale, then on to Blackstone Edge, White Holm and Warland Reservoirs glinting in the sunshine. Once across the Pennines I saw Hollingworth Country Park Lake, before passing between the towns of Rochdale and Oldham. At this point I was roughly tracking along the M62, as I flew over Junction 18 of the M60 near Prestwich. This large interchange joins the M60 with the M62 (Manchester Ring Road), very close to yet another Reservoir, Heaton Park. There’s a lot of water in the north of England! Then with seven miles to run I reduced power to begin my descent into Barton. By this time my windscreen was completely full of Manchester itself but I still had to find Barton. If you’ve ever flown in sunny yet slightly hazy conditions, you’ll know that spotting a field is difficult enough when you know where it is, rather more so when you don’t. However, it eventually came into sight, so I turned a few degrees to port so I could get lined up with Runway 26L. I have to admit that the landing was a little on the long side, yet as it was within the boundaries of the field, I’m adopting my old instructor’s motto: “If you can walk away, it’s a good landing.”
Even with the close proximity of Manchester itself, there is very little performance hit with Barton installed. In fact, if you can fly comfortably in the standard X-Plane 11 scenery, you shouldn’t have any problems with Manchester City Barton installed.
I am a self-confessed admirer of Orbx products because I believe them to be excellent additions to our simulated worlds, whatever flavour of flight simulation you fly with. This is not the biggest airport in its catalogue and the price reflects that, nevertheless it’s packed with unique details and is a true mirror to what you would find if you actually went there.
As I mentioned earlier (unlike some airport depictions) the scenery doesn’t suddenly end at the airport perimeter. So if you like flying VFR, particularly to some of the smaller GA airports, Manchester Barton is a worthwhile addition to your collection.
By Joe Lavery
PC Pilot Verdict
At a glance: This product allows X-Plane pilots to experience the deinitive rendition of Manchester City Airport.
Developers: Orbx Simulations
Price: Download via Orbx FTX Central £18.27
3D Modelling: Excellent
Documentation: Very good
Performance: No appreciable drop in frame rates
PC Pilot Score: 95