Minute Man and Plum Island Review

Introduction

The latest release from Bill Womack's IBlueYonder stable is the re-introduction of the "100 Dollar Burger" series. For those unfamiliar with the 100 Dollar Burger concept it is a GA pilot's term for flying a short distance, usually less than a couple of hours, to an airfield with a restaurant, having a meal and returning home. i.e. any excuse for a flight! This series introduces small airfields with plenty of home town character. Plum Island is a rework of iBY's very popular airfield, updated with the latest scenery building techniques for P3D V3 and V4, which includes 3D grass, new objects, static ai aircraft, and new ground polys. Minute Man Field is a brand new product inspired by the airfield's 100 Dollar Burger feel, with features new to flight sim such as pilot operated runway lighting and animated hangar doors which have not been seen in the sim for quite some time.           

Location

Plum Island lies along the far northern coast of the state of Massachusetts, it's a stretch of sand that's home to a small community. At the far western end of the scenery is Newburyport, a seaport town, and wedged between Newburyport to the west, and the marshes to the east is the, tiny Plum Island Airfield.

Minute Man Field is located 36 nm inland from Plum Island on a heading of 251 magnetic, and sits just north of a town called Stow, also in Massachusetts.

Features

The key product features listed by the developer are:

Large areas of photo terrain around each airport in full 5-seasons;
Detailed modelling based on hundreds of reference photos;
Full autogen houses and vegetation;
Enhanced airport ground polys in Prepar3D v.3 & 4;
Static aircraft commonly seen on the ramp;
Custom dynamic, animated windsocks;
Seasonal vegetation models, driven by the SODE;
Interactive T-hangars at 6B6 with proximity triggered opening doors;
Pilot-controlled lighting at 6B6, just like the real thing; and
All models optimized for high performance.

Technical Requirements

No technical requirements are published by iBY except that this product requires one of the flight simulators listed above in the title in order to work, and support is limited to those versions.

Availability and Installation

100 Dollar Burger: Minute Man and Plum Island is available from the IBlueYonder website linked below as a 'download only' product. It is priced at US$19.95, or the equivalent on currency cross rates. The download file size is around 2.06GB (2.19GB installed) and a key code is issued via email and required during installation. Also, the installation will install or update your version of SODE (SimObject Display Engine) which is used to dynamically change models based on season, and animations such as the windsock. Finally, the installer will install Arno Gerretsen's Autogen Configuration Merger program which is a tool to merge autogen configuration files of addon sceneries into the global autogen configuration files of your flight simulator.

Although there seems to be a lot going on the installation process is easy and intuitive it is all automatic so should not need any expertise or input on your behalf other than clicking a few buttons.
Once installed, there is a control panel available from your Windows start menu which will allow you to set the visibility of static objects, birds and custom GA traffic depending on your location.

Scenery Coverage

With both sceneries a considerable amount if extra countryside is included. The changes in the two areas can be compared below by sliding your mouse or finger over the images below:

Level of Detail

Both areas have an underlying photoscenery layer at 60cm resolution overall and 30cm for the detailed airport areas. I found the photoscenery unnaturally bright with a blue tinge in the surrounding areas, especially the residential districts with a hard baked effect in clear conditions (it was better when overcast). I switched off the HDR setting in my lighting options and the views were vastly improved. However, the brightness of the photoscenery tended to engulf the autogen placed upon it.

6B6 Minute Man Airfield

With an average of 70 aircraft operations a day and with a formal runway and taxiway layout, Minute Man is much bigger than its Plum Island buddy. Officially, Minute Man has two runways as well. Runway 12/30 is 1600ft long of a turf and gravel construction. This runway is marked as disused and has tons of concrete blocks cutting off access from the taxiway. The main asphalt runway 3/21 is 2770 feet long with a centre lines on a well worn base. There is plenty of hard standing parking bays for GA aircraft, which are cut into the grass running from the taxiways.

There are two large T-hangars with many individual garages, both hangars have one door which will automatically open thanks to custom proximity sensors Bill has built in to the scenery. Accompanying the T-hangars are the North Hangar and the South Hangar both with an individual design. The South Hangar has a couple of blister hangars beside it offering covered parking so there is plenty of places to rest your aircraft.

The main public building houses "Nancy's Café" where you enter via a paved entrance surrounded with some very attractive plants. Also landside are many places to park with more eye candy by way of low walled planted areas with shrubs and trees, it all looks very attractive. There are many areas of low level vegetation airside too with yellow and white flowers along with 3D grass. We have a couple of the iBY trademark windsocks which react to the ambient weather in a very convincing way.

From the comparison shots above, you will see that Minute Man is in a more rural loaction so there is not so much empahsis on the building type autogen, this makes the blend with the underlying photoscenery a much better fit than with Plum Island.

2B2 Plum Island Aerodrome

This is a tiny airfield however, it hosts two runways, a grass surfaced 2300 ft runway 14/32, which at 100ft wide feels like you're taking off from a field, and a 2105ft asphalt runway with a 300 displaced threshold, and about another 300ft of disused runway which has many objects parked on it, such as a boat on a trailer, caterpillar tracked digger, and a Winnebago. The distinction of where the split in the runway is, is a 4ft high wooden fence. The shortening of the runway must have been made to dissuade pilots to use it as touch and goes are not allowed.

The rest of the runway has been well used so cracks are visible throughout its length and a virtually scrubbed off legend of "Plum Island" still remains. Also on the airfield is an FBO, fuel station and a blister type hangar for aircraft maintenance. There are some great filler objects such as a glider, many static aircraft and your very own portaloo!

To the south and east of the airfield are the marshes, waterways, sand dunes, and beaches. This is very much a place of natural beauty so has much to admire. The main town of Newburyport is represented, the autogen buildings in the town are plausable examples of buildings in this region rather than an attempt to accurately model the town.  Also included is a custom model of Gillis bridge which connects Newburyport with the town of Salisbury.

Night Lighting

Plum Island is only open 0900 - 1600 so there is no lighting and the FBO remains unlit at night. 6B6 has some baked in downlighting on the North Hangar and various other buildings. Nancy's Café windows has night window textures as does the Aero Care office. Overall though, the place is in darkness. One really cool feature which I have never seen before in the sim, is pilot controlled runway lighting. With 3 clicks of the PTT on 122.80 the lights on runway 3/21 will fire up and show the target for 15 minutes. I remember seeing reference to this feature before and certainly in conversations had by Bill about how difficult it is/was to implement. This is a fantastic addition.

Seasonal Variation

This scenery comes with full 5 seasons texturing on the photo scenery layer and the vegetation will change colour too. In hard winter there are some green trees present on the photoscenery, but this is understandable given that the source images were (probably) taken in the summer. Bill has done a great job in adding white flecks to tone down the green and doesn't affect my enjoyment.

Quality of Objects

General - Bill's custom objects are some of the, if not the, best in the industry, the clarity of the objects is phenomenal and adds so much to the enjoyment of just being there. 
Buildings – There are many very detailed buildings all unique with very high quality texturing and detailing. Things like air conditioners, fuse boxes and switches are all featured and look so real you don't give them a second look, but you should, these are great places to explore.
Objects – With both airfields, as I have noted above, there are loads of static objects from cars to aircraft, tractors, fuel farms, VASI (Minute Man), post boxes, tables, chairs, and a lot more. I couldn't find fault in any of these items, this is the benchmark of scenery design..

Outtakes

There were very few texture problems encountered and certainly the photoscenery comments above are just a matter of personal preference. However, I did come across a couple of texture problems and an intermittant problem with the windsock in high winds which caused the sock to redraw several times. This happened an a few occasions but I couldn't replicate it to order. Also there was sloping water on the banks of the lakes behind Minute Man, reversed textures on the Baron 58 and watermasking issues at Newburyport causing pontoons to appear sunken.

Sounds

Both airfields benefit from a number of ambient sounds, you will hear distant traffic, muffled talking, dogs barking, and a persistent woodpecker The sound effects are of a high quality and blend well into the background. I didn't get to hear the crickets at night which Bill mentions in the user manual, although I did find the sound file.

Performance

More and more with Prepar3D v4.x, performance is becoming less of an issue for me, and this scenery is no different. My experience here with very high graphics settings and dense autogen still gives me plenty of fluidity even when changing views and panning around the scenery. I feel sure that even if you are constrained by a 32bit flight simulatior then you will still get a very acceptible performance.

Documentation

There is a user manual included which is accessible from the control panel. This gives you an insight into the 100 Dollar Burger ethos along with background info on the two airfields and their surroundings. There are recommended scenery settings included and information about other 3rd party programs used in this scenery, such as SODE, and Arno's Autogen Configuration Merger program. Finally, there is a link to their forums should you need to ask for help. In a previous review I mentioned that there wasn't enough detailed user documentation but I feel with these airfields what is supplied is quite adequate.

Value for Money

US$19.95 buys you two airfields with plenty of surrounding scenery from a top developer. In my books that's a good deal and keeps both the developer, and the customer happy.

Review Computer Specifications

The specifications of the computer on which the review was conducted are as follows:

Intel i9, 7900X CPU, 10 Core, 4.3GHz;
Asus Prime X299 Deluxe;
MSI NVidia GTX1080Ti Gaming X, 11GB;
32GB Corsair Vengeance, 3200MHz, DDR4;
Windows 10, (64bit); and
Lockheed Martin P3D Version 4.1.7.22841.

Additional Major Add-ons. ASP4 (Active Sky for Prepar3D v4), FS Global Ultimate Next Gen Mesh, Orbx FTX Global BASE, Orbx FTX Global VECTOR, Orbx FTX Global openLC series, Orbx FTX region series, Orbx FTX airport series, Turbulent Designs TerraFlora Trees, and PTA2 shaders.

Please note, the screnshots above include updated custom trees so may not reflect what you see in the sim as standard with this scenery.

Conclusion

Although the airfields featured here are tiny or small at best, they are full of character, and the quality of scenery design is peerless. If you are a 100 Dollar Burger pilot, then adding this scenery to your portfolio is a no brainer. If you just like to appreciate good scenery design, and like flying VFR in this area a lot, then again, it is still well worth getting.


Verdict and Scores

Verdict

Another top quality product from Bill Womack and the studios of iBlueYonder and a great addition to my ever growing list of GA airfields worth visiting.

Scores

For
Against
Category
Score/10
Quality of objects. Harsh photoscenery. Scenery Coverage 10
High performance. A few minor texture issues. Level of Detail 9.0
Pilot controlled lighting. Quality of Buildings 10
Documentation 8.5
Performance 10
    Value for Money 9.0

Overall Score

iBlueYonder's 100 Dollar Burger: Minute Man and Plum island is awarded an overall Mutley's Hangar score of 9.4/10,
with a "Highly Recommended" and a Mutley's Hangar Silver Award.