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Cielosim Palo Alto, KPAO

Cielosim? Palo Alto? I was aware of both names, but it took me a while till I knew where to put them. Cielosim are the creators of the well received Enhancer series, i.e. Airport Enhancer HDX, Instant Enhancer and Flight Enhancer, as well as the ATC Live Chatter add-on. Palo Alto marks a new milestone for Cielosim, as it is their entry to the full scale scenery add-on market. It is their first scenery ever and so much can be said in advance – it is a great one!
Palo Alto lies in the heart of Silicon Valley and is or was the home of most of the important IT outfits of our time, like Google, PayPal, Facebook, VMware, to name just a few. Palo Alto is located in the south western tip of the San Francisco Bay area, some 22 NM south of KSFO.
In the direct neighborhood are the Moffet Federal Airfield (Home of the NASA Ames Research Center) and San Jose International Airport, a combination that promises a crowded AI sky and makes for some interesting approaches during rush hours.

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Cielsosim’s Palo Alto is available for download at all major download shops. The install package is 127 MB in size and includes a triple installer that will let you choose whether you want to install into FSX, FSX SE or P3D 2.x. If you are a user of the FTX Northern California area the included readme file will contain important information on how to make Palo Alto fully compatible to FTX NCA. Don’t be afraid, only three files from the FTX folder and one Cielosim file need to renamed to .OFF – that’s all.

Selecting KPAO for the first time in the sim, you will be astouned by the vast number of parking positions to choose from. This is not an error, the real life Palo Alto is crowded by literaly hundreds of GA planes. But these parking positions are also a downside of the product. It comes with a variety of static planes and parked cars on the apron (which corresponds to actual photos), but these parking positions were not disabled in the AFCAD file, so that you might end up standing in another Cessna or SUV. AI traffic – I use currently MyTraffic6 – also had the gift of selecting exactly the positions that were blocked already.  I hope we will see a patch for this (minor) problem, it should be easy to solve for Cielosim.

After loading the scenery the first impression is very good. Palo Alto airport does not have many buildings in reality, but Cielosim recreated them in very nicely detailed and textured 3D models. The scenery does impress all the more with the ground textures. A large area around the airport is covered by 2048px HD ground textures, bringing the southern bay area and the airport’s neighborhood to life. Be it the shores or be it the adjacent golf course, everything looks really crisp and most importantly it all blends seamlessly into FTX NCA, a great example of how it should be done.

My personal highlights are the ground textures of the airport itself. In my opinion the best looking 3D buildings won’t help, if the apron, taxiway and runway textures just look to sterile and artificial. Cielosim did a phantastic job in this respect. The ground looks worn and used and gives a very real impression when taxiing from the runway to the parking position.
Add to this the attention to detail, with small details distributed all over the airport, like Dixie toilets, parked cars, waste bins, vending machines or surveillance cameras. Further add the nice 3D grass and animated birds and you get the feeling of a living airport.

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Performance and compatibility

Adhering to the steps recommended in the readme file, there are no compatibility issues with FTX Northern California, Cielosim’s KPAO blends perfectly into the bay area without any visible seams. The only minor issue was the double seizure of parking positions by the scenery’s own static planes and 3rd party AI traffic, but this did not affect the experience negatively.
Performance was an issue on my system initially. The San Francisco Bay area is prone for low framerates and heavy VAS usage. Especially sitting on runway 31 Flightbeam’s KSFO and Aerosoft’s US Cities X: San Francisco take their toll, dropping the fps to below 15 and giving an initial VAS usage of more than 70%. I found a good tipp on the internet for the bay area, recommending to disable the file “FTX_NCA_objects_SRA_marinas_ships_docks_PLC.bgl”, this boosted my fps up and beyond my locked 30 fps.

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Who is it for?

With a runway length of just 2443 feet Palo Alto is an airfield for smaller general aviation aircraft only. So if you are looking for a new home for your Carenado, Alabeo or A2A Cessnas and Pipers, this one is one is for you. If you want to enjoy the bay area without the need using heavy sceneries like KSFO than it is definitely yours as well. I enjoyed testing this scenery will return to Palo Alto for sure.

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What to expect from a studios first scenery of a small airport with hardly any buildings? “Not much” was my first thought, till I actually flew my first pattern at Cielosim’s Palo Alto airport. The models are nice, the textures are great, the performance is good. With Orbx taking care of the northern bay area with their airports, Cielosim has published a more than welcome nice little marvel in the south. I really wish to see more from this studio in the future!

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Review by Carsten Gurk