As the nose rises above the trees, a vast landscape of beautiful marshes and beachfront properties comes into view. Wow! Even the tiny specs of water inland are reflective and realistic. You’re sure this isn’t real?

Over the years flight simulation has seen vast growth to it’s capabilities, technology and features in an attempt to make us feel like we’re in the cockpit. Most of this growth was thought up by the head honchos over at Microsoft, always looking to further their hold on us simmers. It’s funny, though, because I can’t help but look back at the many addons I’ve purchased over the years and simply laugh at the idea that Microsoft even made this sim.

Developers are what keep this hobby interesting and vibrant. All different genres are available to us. Scenery, aircraft, utilities and graphics, are but few. Competition is healthy and this has created exponential growth over the last 5 years.

With the unwelcomed and often opposed dawn of FSX there are those developers who have dared to face the unwilling public to further the evolutionary path of flight simulation. Bill Womack, developer of this review’s Plum Island, is one of these developers.

Now let’s face the music here. FSX is an incredible new platform, and, offers a tremendous amount of potential. Potential is something developers thrive on.  After having flown around Plum Island looking at Bill’s creation, it has become clear to me that we have taken yet another step forward.

I’m not going to kid myself and act like this is the first product to really make me feel like FSX is the next best thing. No. There are several incredible addons out there, a few from each genre, that have sparked this feeling in me.

After having flown around Plum Island looking at Bill’s creation, it has become clear to me that we have taken yet another step forward.

Bill has done something different though. He has brought the soul of general aviation to our desktop computers. What does this mean? Well, let me attempt to explain.

Flying general aviation for me is a bit poetic at times. Yes, there is a lot of work to be done and it is always a serious business to stay ahead of the aircraft, but there are times where everything just stops. The passengers in the plane go quiet, apart from the occasional gasp, and the air seems to let the plane flow and dance through it’s waves.

I know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not the engine that stopped. Rather, it’s the sunset on a cool morning in the mountains. Colors you’ve never seen before. Clouds formations so large it seems impossible. Full circle rainbows on top of the layer of clouds.

The hustle and bustle of aviation will stifle this feeling. It’s only every so often it’s felt. In the hundreds of hours I’ve flown, I can only think of a handful of times when this was the case.

Bill Womack’s Plum Island does something very different to me than most other sceneries I’ve flown in. It’s certainly the first small airfield in FSX, or FS9 for that matter, I’ve felt really enveloped in. Having not flown in any of Bill’s other FSX and 2004 sceneries, I can’t speak for them.

When I get a new scenery, I generally get it installed, check for updates, and gingerly load up the flight, making sure everything is set before I hit “Fly Now!” (How I hate changing settings once in the sim!). After the sim is done loading, I get everything set up in the aircraft for the flight ahead.

Of course, with a new scenery, I jump outside the plane, checking all the details. Are the runways still default or are they custom? How do the buildings look? How does the scenery blend in with it’s surroundings? How’s the performance? All normal questions in my head, and things I investigate with a Sherlock Holmes-esque enthusiasm.

I immediately found myself totally ‘sucked in’ to this scenery. There were details I’d never seen before. Birds flying around, perfectly readable signs at the FBO, cars driving by on nicely paved road, just to name a few.

I then get the airplane off the ground, fly around a bit, trim it up, look around some more. Usually it’s good stuff! I’d say most sceneries get a B, on a grading scale.

How did all this play out with Plum Island?

I immediately found myself totally ‘sucked in’ to this scenery. There were details I’d never seen before. Birds flying around, perfectly readable signs at the FBO, cars driving by on nicely paved road, just to name a few. Then there is the increasingly popular grass around the edges of some of bumpy pavement, nothing new to FS, only this stuff doesn’t look out of place! The cracks in the pavement look real. The trees look natural. Wait a minute, is this real?! Snap out of it! I’ve got a review to do…

Time to get to the air and check out the rest of the area!

The strip itself is relatively small, so unless you’re absolutely sure the plane can take off in time, ya’ better put in some flaps! Sea level shouldn’t be such an issue, as our performance will be much better. Ah, what the heck. Throw some in. Better safe than sorry!

Throttle forward. Systems all green. Airspeed alive…….. rotate… As the nose rises above the trees, a vast landscape of beautiful marshes and beachfront properties comes into view. Wow! Even the tiny specs of water inland are reflective and realistic. You’re sure this isn’t real?

This is where I realize that I am in the ‘zone’. Think of it what you want, but this is closest to real flying that I have ever been in FS. The drone of the engine in front of me, the environment around me so pristine. I can’t help but sniff the air for unusual smells (engine burning), or listen for any abnormalities in the engine, or look at the engine gauges to make sure everything is running properly.

...this makes me feel like I’m closer to the real thing. This makes me feel like I’m actually flying in Massachusetts.

This isn’t something I usually do! This scenery feels so real to me that my pilot instincts start kicking in. In other situations, I could care less what the engine is going. It’s fake. I can’t ruin it! This is the first time I’ve done something like that in flight sim, for the mere fact that my surroundings take me to a place that is much closer to real than I have ever been.

This is why I claimed that Bill brought the ‘soul’ out of flight simulation. There are very few things in FS that surprise me anymore. But this makes me feel like I’m closer to the real thing. This makes me feel like I’m actually flying in Massachusetts.

I consider myself a perfectionist, and it takes a lot to impress me. I only fly payware aircraft and I find myself so incredible bored in a default area that I can’t really stand to fly for much more than a half hour in flight simulation. Flying large jets is a bit different for me. I generally spend maybe 45 minutes in all touching things around the aircraft, and the rest of the time it’s on autopilot, in cruise, landing itself, etc. So. General aviation in flight simulation doesn’t get me all riled up.

Well, those days are gone! If the whole world was a scenery like this, I’d be planning out my long journey around the virtual world right now rather than writing this review. But alas, there are not enough Bill Womacks in the world to make that happen, so… I’ll take a rain check.

For those of you that are not following my chatter at all, and you’re totally lost, maybe you’re the type of person that does better with the nitty-gritty details of this scenery.  This next part is for you techies out there.

Apart from what I have shared so far about the details of the airport and the area surrounding, I can simply say a great attention to detail was used in making this product. You know you’ve bought a good product when you’ve flown around for a good hour and you still can’t find something wrong with it!

    Product Details

  • Assuming you’ve already taken the leap and have bought this great scenery, you’ll find installation is straightforward. There are no surprises here, and no options that I need to explain. Again, I suggest reading the concise PDF provided.
  • The beaches are modeled incredibly. The houses are in place and the beaches themselves have variety, meaning they are not flat. There are actually little bumps along the way. Little mounds, if you will, that lead up to the overlooking houses.  Believe me, I know. I landed on the beach in a Beaver, only to find out I better hit full throttle and pull up before I hit the mound of sand in front of me! Yikes!
  • The water areas in the wildlife refuge, also modeled, are quite impressive. With FSX came awesome new water that personally, I love. Bill has really taken advantage of this with every last puddle of water modeled, so when the sun is at just the right angle, you can see the sun glinting off all those little spots. Quite a sight!
  • There isn’t much more to say about the airport. This really is a place that you will feel totally at home in, and you’ll ask yourself, ‘can it get any better than this?’ The details are astounding, really. From every little sealant-filled crack in the runway, to the fences, to the wood FBO building.  It’s something you’ll have to see to believe. Yes, the screenshots start to do a justice, but it’s nothing compared to actually ‘being there’.
  • I wanted to see what the boundary area of this scenery was like so I headed west. I kept headed west, and kept heading west, until I was absolutely sure this scenery had already ended.  Well, at least in my sim, I couldn’t tell where Plum Island left off and FSX enhanced textures began. Now, some of you critics out there would say that’s bad if Plum Island looks like FSX! Keep in mind I use many of the top enhancements to scenery and environment, all of which Bill recommends in the PDF that will be on your desktop when you buy this. So there you go! I did the work for you. No point trying to find where it ends. I couldn’t!
  • Winter and non-winter texture sets are included, which is very nice. You can find these details by reading the Plum Island pdf on the desktop after install. Not only does this document hold valid information regarding the install, but it also has great insight from Bill as to why he did this scenery. It’s a great read! One issue I did face when flying around was the presence of winter textures on the ground in November (technically, this is autumn in this location). This has since been fixed with a patch available here. You’ll need this, otherwise, the neighbors to Plum Island will be asking how you got snow inside the fence line.  Talk about the twilight zone!

Apart from that, there really isn’t much else to say. Sceneries, unlike any other genre, have the capability of really drawing us into them, or really turning us off. They won’t get the technical attention in a review that an aircraft would, because in all fairness I’m not going to check every last tree in the area, or every last little texture and compare it with Google Maps.

I found Bill’s naming of the product quite fitting! Yes, it’s appropriately named Plum Island, after it’s real world counterpart, but there’s also the text you’ll see around the title that reads ‘100 Dollar Burger’.

What does this mean? Well, generally this means that the pilot and a buddy get up early on a Saturday to slice the skies. They’re in search of somewhere to go, and it doesn't matter where, as long as there’s food at the other end of the journey. If there’s anything a pilot needs, it’s sleep, nautical miles left behind, and good eats.

You could probably make a TV commercial with Bill’s scenery. “100LL Avgas to fill up the Cessna 185, 100 dollars. Quart of oil, 6 dollars. Hamburger with fries at a local joint in Newburyport, MA, 10 dollars. Another fine Bill Womack scenery for FSX... priceless."

Speaking of Mastercard, you should pull out whatever plastic you have and grab this addon now.
You won’t regret it!

For more information on Plum Island, and to download the installer, visit the product page at the FSAddon web site or simMarket.

If you'd like to comment on this review, please use our forum to do so.

All images are Copyright © screenshotartist.co.uk

Chris Palmer is a real world FAA licensed PPL pilot with an added Instrument Rating. Currently flying a 2008 G36 Bonanza around the USA as a part time job, Chris’ main work is done within the FS Community. As the owner of Angle of Attack Productions, he is consistently focused on assisting other simmers in their progression from buying the sim they need to mastering the best addons. Having started with Flight Simulation around the same time FS-ACOF came out, Chris gained a unique perspective as he concurrently did training in the real world. Having been through a University, private and corporate training, Chris has a mixed history and a true-to-life perspective between FS and the real world.

Nick Churchill has been providing images for marketing purposes of Flight Simulator products for several years and claims that staring at a virtual cockpit for too long can make you go blind.

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