Take-off: Turbat International Airport (Pakistan) – ICAO: OPTU
No METAR available in the vicinity, TAF of nearby airport:
031530Z 0412/0512 26010KT 6000 NSC FM041600 VRB03KT 5000 HZ NSC TEMPO 0500/0504 23005KT 4000 HZ NSC FM050600 26010KT 6000 NSC
Landing: Ormara Airport (Pakistan) – ICAO: OPOR
No METAR or TAF available in the vicinity
It’s a short flight this time, to the closest airport to the southeast of our departing airport, at the coastline, named Ormara Airport. During this flight, we tested out FreeMeshX, which I first mentioned in our last flight, because we wanted to try out if we could do something about the flat, boring and dull desert landscape that we see on these long flights above sandy grounds.
Yesterday, we already downloaded certain parts of FreeMeshX, starting with the continent Asia. Can you guess why? Yes, because we’re flying in Asia right now. Grade A+! 😀 It wasn’t a small download with a total of 13GB and the Torrent download speeds were unfortunately not that good, so I mixed up with the HTTP downloads of MediaFire, to get things downloaded faster.
So how do we install FreeMeshX for Flight Simulator X? There’s no installer and the filenames seem probably a bit weird to some. I’m a programmer and “über computer nerd”, so I can’t compare myself to “normal people”, but for those who don’t know how to process these download files: we need 7Zip to open and extract these files (because they’re compressed archives which are used to shrink download sizes). When you open the first file ending with “7z.001”, it will automatically fetch the other files with the same prefixed file name (and increasing number). Make sure you download all files of a certain continent before opening and make sure they are located in the same folder.
When extracted, you should end up with a “scenery” folder and a bunch of “.bgl” files in it. We need to move this “scenery” folder to the “Addon Scenery” folder in the Flight Simulator X install path. If you like add-on scenery in general and are planning to download other scenery, you should probably put the “scenery” folder with your FreeMeshX “.bgl” files in a parent folder with a meaningful name, to keep things separated nicely. Otherwise you will end up with loads of “.bgl” files in your “scenery” folder, not knowing which files represent which add-on scenery, and that can be difficult if you ever want to uninstall an add-on scenery. So, to cut things short, I ended up creating a folder “FreeMeshX_Asia”, with one child folder “scenery” where all the FreeMeshX Asia “.bgl” files would be located. Then I copied the folder “FreeMeshX_Asia” to the “Addon Scenery” folder, which can be found in the Flight Simulator X install path (which should be something like “C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\FSX” if you got the “Steam Edition”). It doesn’t matter what kind of tree structure or how many child folders you have in the “Addon Scenery” folder (go berserk if you want). FSX does one thing for add-on scenery: it searches for the predefined folder names “scenery” (and “texture”) with the necessary files in, so you need to make sure that you always have those folder names inside your own tree structure within the “Addon Scenery” folder.
Get some extra disk space
As a side note, I also did some configuration to free up some disk space. My FSX folder is getting quite big and oversized (61,3 GB!). Steam installs all programs/games in the same path as the Steam install path, and it got quite big with all the different add-ons, like FTX Orbx, REX, … Because my main disk drive (drive letter C:), with Windows installed on it, is a fast SSD disk (256 GB), I have a second larger data HDD hard drive (drive letter D:) with a size of 1 TB (= 1024 GB). I thought it would be a good idea to make sure that some FSX data would be located on the secondary HDD drive, so I searched for a solution and it appeared to be quite easy to get this arranged. What you need to do is open a command prompt (or command line) in Windows (preferably with administrator right), navigate to the folder of choice (with “cd parent_folder_name”) and type in the following command:
mklink /J “folder_name” “D:\path_to_data”
This will create a “virtual” folder named folder_name inside folder parent_folder_name (where you executed the command), which links to path_to_data. Easy huh? You can easily create multiple links inside the FSX folder to keep large chunks of data on another hard drive. Keep in mind that this can affect the reading speed a bit, because HDD is not as fast as SSD (in case you got these two types of drives), but I haven’t really experienced much delay in texture or scenery loading speeds.
I ended up creating a subfolder “OtherDisk” inside the “Addon scenery” folder, which links to a location on my other hard drive, where I can put all my add-on scenery from now on, without having to worry about disk space, but you can also create a link for the big Orbx folder and move it to another drive if you like.
Now that we are all set up, we start FSX and take our plane up in the air. As said, it’s just a short flight, mainly focused on testing FreeMeshX, but we still want to move east, so we do an IFR flight to Ormara Airport (OPOR). The take-off is from runway 26 and the weather is quite okay. We stay in a pattern around the airport, enter the downwind leg, but leave it to go southeast. We climb up to 7000 feet, as instructed by ATC. Once at cruising altitude, it’s time to get mesh!
Ok, so we got our mesh data files, we did something about disk space, so how do we get this detailed mesh data loaded? Normally, it should load automatically if it’s inside your “Addon Scenery” folder. If that’s not the case, don’t worry, you can do as follows. When in flight, go to “World > Scenery library” (or when not in a flight, go to “Settings > Scenery library”. Then click the “Add area” button and navigate to the FreeMeshX folder that you created (in my case “FreeMeshX_Asia”, on my secondary drive). Now it’s get a bit tricky for “Steam Edition” users, because there’s a small bug in FSX. You need to select the FreeMeshX folder (not the child folder name “scenery”), click “OK” and then click inside the white space (where the files and directories are normally located). Then the window should disappear and the new scenery will be processed and loaded.
Note for FTX users: if you got the add-on FTX vector installed, make sure to run “FTX Vector Configurator” to correct the airport elevation (in the tab “Airport Elevation Corrections”, and don’t forget to push “Apply” after running the auto-configuration), because otherwise you will have to land on some weird airport runways.
You can play around with the priority (order) of the scenery. Nine Two Productions advises to put it before ORBX regions and after your stock scenery, but it’s up to you, so you can experiment a bit with this to see what gives you the best results.
If you did all that correctly, then you should immediately see differences in the terrain. If you’re not seeing it, you did something wrong, I didn’t explain it well… or you’re flying over exceptionally flat terrain or water 😀
And if you don’t understand my explanation, you can always try this tutorial.
To illustrate the difference with and without FreeMeshX, I made some before/after screenshots for comparison:
As you can see, the difference is very well noticeable! No desert will ever be the same again! 😀 I really wish that I had discovered this earlier. In my opinion, even when you’re just a moderate flight sim lover, you should also install this mesh data. The improved realistic terrain makes the sim experience more immersive. It’s not yet perfect, therefore the desert textures should get an upgrade to have a bit more variation, but at least we got some realistic altitude variation in the terrain now. Having crossed Saudi Arabia already, I wonder how the terrain would have looked there with FreeMeshX… probably a lot better and less boring. For me, this is a keeper, the other regions are already downloading and I’m never going to fly without this mesh data add-on again.
So enough playing around with the new mesh data, we still need to land our beloved FSX World Tour plane. After take-off, still 85 nm out, we got assigned to runway 24 by air traffic control. It’s a runway without PAPI or VASI lights, no visual approach path indicator, therefore we will need our best judgement to avoid crashing nose first into ground. After our last landing, I wanted to make sure that I slowed down early enough to avoid dangerous maneuvers during approach. We still ended up landing some distance behind the optimal touchdown zone and a little off center, but the runway was long enough, so no problems. Doing bad landings is frustrating, but I realize that these landings are always a good learning experience. I learn more with a bad landing than a good landing and it makes me step up my game. I’m going back to the study books and tutorials to get some tips on doing visual landings without help of visual approach indicators or automated landing procedures.
Next time we should be able to get to India, or at least get very close to the border between Pakistan and India, depending on available flight time. I’m looking forward to it!