The Road to Rio
by Anthony Vallillo, Senior Captain of a major
U.S. airline (17 January 2005)
Flying is fun for a million or more reasons � the physical
pleasure of handling a responsive machine in a dynamic environment,
the intellectual challenge of procedures and techniques mastered and
put to use, the satisfaction of getting from point A to point B
faster and more efficiently � these are but a few. But perhaps the
most wonderful thing about flying is simply the view from the
window! Seen from above, old things become new and the world assumes
a different and oft times even more beautiful perspective.
About to buzz
The Rio de
Janiero area from 20,000 feet.
Ryan STA flying
beneath the cable car to Sugarloaf.
The view from the window varies considerably, of course,
depending upon where you happen to be. And no doubt many would agree
that there are places in the world that are more alluring than
others, by land or by air. I suspect that most of us would prefer
flying over, say, Yosemite for an hour or two, to flying over the
amber waves of grain in Kansas for that same length of time. This is
not to say that Kansas lacks either beauty or subtlety, but rather
that the passing scene in the Sierra Nevada is dramatic and
landing in Rio Harbor - Pan Am Clipper.
to Rio Harbor.
to Rio Harbor.
In the real world, of course, there is a price to be paid for
aerially viewing the more spectacular terrains of the world; namely,
that these areas often feature a paucity of places where the
airplane can be returned to earth in one piece, should the need
suddenly arise! This problem vanishes, of course, in the virtual
world of flight simulation, and the scenery designers have taken
advantage of our inclination to fly over visually spectacular areas
with some truly exceptional offerings of late.
to Rio Harbor.
to Rio Harbor.
In the world of places where human beings have chosen to settle
in large numbers, two of the most visually impressive are the Hong
Kong area of China, and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. A few years ago, a
company called Flight Soft upped the ante in scenery design for MSFS
with a tour-de-force rendering of
Hong Kong, a rendering so detailed and realistic that they
coined a new term for it � video realistic scenery. The term is not
inappropriate � in many respects this product came very close to a
movie view out the window! It was well received in the FS community,
and remains a benchmark in the saga of MSFS scenery development.
The view in
FS2004 with Fly to Rio installed.
The real world
view. Photo from
Casting their sights about, the people at Flight Soft took aim on
Rio. Capital of Brazil until the building of Brasilia in the 1960�s,
Rio is without doubt one of the world's most beautiful cities. It
sits on a bay surrounded by mountains of wondrous shape, and is
adorned, on its seacoast, by some of the world's premiere beaches.
This area boasts, among its many attractions, some of the world�s
most beautiful women sporting some of the world�s skimpiest bathing
suits! This is just about the only feature of Rio that is not
accurately depicted in Flight Soft�s Rio de Janeiro Video Real
In the course of my flying career, I have had the opportunity to
fly into Rio just once. When I checked out on the 767, I eventually
bid a month of South America flying and got to put pins in the map
for both Rio and Sao Paolo. Sadly, the Rio part of the trip was the
shortest � just a 6 hour layover that allowed only for a ride from
the airport to the hotel on the beach, a brief sojourn along the
water, and the ride back. From time to time, we had trips that had
longer layovers in Rio; but -- and more�s the pity -- I never bid
them. Now the opportunity is lost, perhaps forever, as we no longer
fly to Rio from New York, at least not on the 767!
Rio boasts some of the world�s most recognizable landmarks, among
which are the famous Sugarloaf mountain, and the statue of Christ
the Redeemer, perched high on top of a neighboring peak. These, and
the famous beaches, give the city a visual identity that is
instantly recognizable. Any product that purports to provide video
realism in this area has its work cut out for it!
Looking up at
the famous Christ statue in Fly to Rio.
The real world
view. Photo from
The default scenery for Rio is one of the more detailed areas in
FS 2004. The Microsoft scenery is pleasing to look at, and presents
a general simulacrum of the bay and its environs. But a great deal
is missing, not least of which is the Christ statue, together with
the Jockey Club, an accurate rendition of Sugarloaf, and a really
detailed rendering of the International Airport. All of these
shortcomings are corrected in the Flight Soft package!
scenery with Fly to Rio installed - the Jockey Club clearly
Installation is automatic, and went off without a hitch. The
package includes a great many flights, so you can start off either
on an approach to the airport or in-flight near a famous landmark.
There are also several of Flight Soft�s signature DC-10 aircraft in
this package, which will be familiar to anyone who has any of their
earlier releases, almost all of which are oriented around the famous
tri-jet. I have reviewed the airplane itself for Flight Soft several
years ago, so my opinion of it (excellent!) is already on the
record. Suffice to say that it has lost nothing in the translation
to FS2004, and is a very good simulation of a large passenger
airplane in terms of handling. It makes great landings, too!
Another view of
the default scenery.
Same scene with
Fly to Rio.
Since I had flown into Rio before, on the approach to runway 10,
I decided to get my first look at the new scenery by flying this
approach, which is conveniently included as a flight. Sure enough,
as I proceeded toward the airport things certainly looked familiar!
Once again, we have a scenery package that is good enough to provide
a really useful introduction to an area even for professional pilots
seeking airport and area familiarization. Approaching the runway,
things looked almost exactly like the pictures we have in our
manuals � detailed color photos used for study prior to flying
there. Of course, the airport itself is extremely well modeled, even
the odd-looking tall light towers along the edges of the ramps.
After a touchdown as smooth as the actual landing I made there in a
767, I decided to change gears and do some purely visual flying.
Mountain in default scenery.
Same view, with
Fly to Rio scenery - much more accurate shape and size.
This is where this product shines � it provides a superb visual
experience. It doesn�t matter what kind of airplane you choose to
fly; indeed, a hang glider off the top of Sugarloaf would be a real
thrill! Everywhere you look you see details that closely match
photos of the real world. The terrain is accurate in shape and size.
The overhead photography used as an underlay for the 3D scenery is
quite colorful and visually stunning, especially at altitudes above
around 1000 feet. Again and again, as I compared the view out the
window with some photos of Rio that I downloaded from a tourism
website, I was impressed by the attention to detail and the reality
of this �virtual reality�!
The scenery depicts the Rio of today, with modern high-rise
buildings alongside colorful clusters of smaller houses (often of
tin construction in the real Rio) clinging to the sides of
mountains, as well as huddled into the valleys and arroyos.
Notwithstanding this modern view, I couldn�t help recalling an even
more glamorous time in Rio aviation � the Pan Am flying boat era.
Pan Am reached Rio via the shoreline route in late 1930, as a result
of its acquisition of the New York Rio and Buenos Aires Airline
(NYRBA). The flights, affordable by only a few, were nonetheless
among the most romantic trips available in those days. From Miami,
the Clippers island-hopped down the Windward Islands to Port of
Spain, Trinidad. From there they hugged the Atlantic coast to
Paramaribo, Belem, Natal and Rio before continuing onward to
Montevideo and Buenos Aires.
Among my other FS2004 acquisitions has been an exceptional
Golden Hawaii, which includes, in addition to some great period
scenery, a Pan Am Sikorsky S-43 Clipper. This twin-engine airplane
is typical of the smaller ships that were used in the Caribbean and
South America, where stage lengths were shorter and the need for
extremely long range was not a factor. So, with all apologies to
Flight Soft (!), I switched from the DC-10 to the amphibian for some
old time virtual airline flying. Approaching Rio from the north
along the coast, the view is incredible, and you can get a sense of
what the early Clipper pilots got to see!
Having made a successful water landing in the bay, I switched
mounts yet again, this time to a Ryan STA for some local
sightseeing. Taking off from Santos Dumont airport, I flew around
Sugarloaf, and on over to Ipanema and Copacabana. Buzzing the
beaches at low altitude, I was almost sorry that Flight Soft has not
found a way to include the girls on the beach! Of course, in the
Clipper and STA days, the girls would not be wearing the thong
bikinis they wear today! Oh well!
Girls or no girls, this package has to be reckoned one of the best
efforts yet at detailed scenery of a naturally spectacular area. I
highly recommend it, and having been there myself, I can vouch for
its authenticity. Fly every one of the included flights to get an
intimate look at this beautiful area. See if you can land on the
track at the Jockey Club! You will be impressed by the many details
Flight Soft has included. One thing you will certainly not be is
bored! Enjoy, and happy landings!