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Flight Adventure: Canberra – Australia’s Capital City

The Twin Otter is exploring the cityscape of Canberra – join our flight.

Canberra is located in the Australian Capital Territory, surrounded by New South Wales. The city is 150 kilometers inland and 571 meters above the Pacific Ocean. Located on the ancient lands of the Indigenous Ngunnawal people, Canberra’s name is thought to mean ‘meeting place’, derived from the Aboriginal word Kamberra. Today the city is home to around 380,000 people who enjoy the modern city, set within extensive parks and gardens.

As always a general note that I am using an i7-2700 Gaming-PC with 64-bit, 3,50 GHz and 16 GB Ram,  furthermore two SSDs and a AMD Radeon HD 7970 with 1 GB support my Twin Otter homecockpit. As mentioned in previous flight adventures I am putting all sliders to the right in the FSX configuration menu. Here is a link where you can check the add-on software that I am using on my main computer.

Orbx Canberra CityScape (01)Orbx Canberra CityScape (02)
The AU Canberra comes with a 17 page user manual which not only explains the set up process but also gives configuration recommendations. The manual also includes a scenery coverage map as well as an autogen density slider graph explaining how to get a good balance between visuals and performance with the Canberra CityScape scenery. I would have loved to see a small background on the region as well as (a map of) POIs that are included in the product.

As mentioned in my previous flight adventures on the purchasing process, downloading the 1,7 GB FTX AU Canberra software from the server might take some time but the self-explaining installation itself is quite easy – please note an online validation is mandatory during the setup process. The product will work without FTX AU Blue but will have some limitations such as the blending of the photoreal into the surrounding terrain with exactly matching ground textures. Therefore I recommend installing a copy of AU Blue as well.

Before I go into detail I am showing comparison screenshots between Default FSX and Orbx Cityscape Canberra. In addition I usually compare the Orbx scenery with Google Earth to see if there are any differences.

Orbx Canberra CityScape (03)Orbx Canberra CityScape (04)
Needless to say that the left hand picture is the FSX Default Scenery whereas the right one is Orbx Canberra CityScape. Simmers will immediately notice the richer ground textures as well as mesh present in parts of the area – and honestly this is what low flyers are looking for.

Orbx Canberra CityScape (05)Orbx Canberra CityScape (06)
Moving towards the city, again a nice comparison between default and FTX near the Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve. The default wetlands look pretty dried out and uninhabited whereas in the right picture you can almost feel the moisture and the 77 species of water birds that have been recorded in this area. Neither the Royal Military College at Duntroon nor Russel with its office buildings in the middle of the picture are present in the default version.

Orbx Canberra CityScape (07)Orbx Canberra CityScape (08)
Climbing a bit higher and looking at both shots I admire the lush greens in the lowlands and the shape of the Black Mountain virtually sticking out of the scenery. The artificial lake Lake Burley Griffin is perfectly integrated in the region. The lake was completed in 1963 after the Molonglo River was dammed. Though swimming in the lake is uncommon, it is used for a wide variety of other activities, such as rowing, fishing, and sailing. Looking at the right screenshot it almost feels like a real picture.

Orbx Canberra CityScape (09)Orbx Canberra CityScape (10)
During sunset the default part looks empty and dark but on the right we can almost feel the night life in the city with its nice illuminations and existing colors.

Orbx announced that Canberra CityScape features about 180 square miles of 60 cm photoreal completely annotated with the largest variety of trees and buildings. A project that has taken over 3 years, the developer Maurizio Giorgi has been meticulous, annotating it tree by tree, building by building. Which means that I will now dig deeper into the scenery to take a look at the major POIs that I have found on the Australian Capital Tourism website.

Orbx Canberra CityScape (11)Orbx Canberra CityScape (12)
As we are flying over Lake Burley Griffin we spot the Captain James Cook Memorial in front of us. The memorial comprises of the water jet in the lake and the nearby terrestrial globe. The jet by the way sends three tonnes of water into the air at 260 kph. Just past the Commonwealth Park we reach the City Hill with buildings such as the Civic Library, the Theather Center or the Law Court. From above we can clearly see that Canberra is a planned city. The inner-city area was originally designed by Walter Burley Griffin, a major 20th-century American architect. The buildings itself have been nicely modeled and by comparing with Google Earth they all look alike and have been placed exactly into the environment.

Orbx Canberra CityScape (13)Orbx Canberra CityScape (14)
Some turns above the inner-city and we see the City Hill with the Vernon Circle and the London Circuit from another angle. Comparing the Orbx scenery with Google Earth you will hardly see a difference – which means developer Maurizio Giorgi has been meticulous in hand placing every tree and building. The National Museum of Australia illustrated in the second picture is difficult to model in my opinion; due to its shape with edges and corners it looks a bit unreal as we come close. But even in Google Earth the 3D shot looks abnormal.

Orbx Canberra CityScape (15)Orbx Canberra CityScape (16)
Parliament House is the meeting facility of the Parliament of Australia and is built into Capital Hill, including the forecourt and main entrance. The National Carillon in the next picture, situated on Aspen Island, was a gift from the British government to the people of Australia to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the National Capital. The Parliament House sticks out of the scenery but I assume that it was hard to model looking at its design from picture that I have seen; whereas the island and the Kings Park next to it actually look nicer in the virtual world than in Google Earth.

Orbx Canberra CityScape (17)Orbx Canberra CityScape (18)
Speaking about the performance while flying low and slow over the cityscape. As you know I am usually putting all sliders to the right while reviewing and by doing so with this add-on I experienced an average of 20+ FPS. At first I recommend following the instructions in the user manual as you will see more FPS with a Gaming-PC using the Orbx set-ups than me putting everything to the far right. Secondly obey the settings as I have noticed a very large Scrivener Dam which I did not find in the real world. I contacted Maurizio and he found out that due to the resolution mesh not set to 5 meter, as the scenery requires, I ran into this issue.

Orbx Canberra CityScape (19)Orbx Canberra CityScape (20)
Using hundreds of hi-res aerial pictures of the buildings and POIs Maurizio perfectly recreated a large number of them within his scenery. Taking a look at the road traffic you will immediately notice that the cars are driving on the „wrong side“ of the road. Very well done in my opinion except for some cars driving off track on major highways where I found them speeding along in the nearby forest. Again it is a huge area that has been created for simmers and I can see the developer thoroughly and patiently placing item by item into the scenery.

Orbx Canberra CityScape (21)Orbx Canberra CityScape (22)
We have seen the sunset but how about the night scenery? For the first glance we can see that different colors for the lights have been used but I also noticed some effects on the performance. This is mainly caused by the fact that old and classic light poles were used in the night scenery. Canberra at night is also very nice for high flyer looking down from 30.000 feet above, but I have to admit not my favorite time of the day. An important side note: I have not used the FTX Night icon which would enable the old light poles – so basically as shown in the picture above (without light poles) is what you get without tweaking. Additionally I recommend using the FTX Day icon during the day which disables the light poles during the day and increases your performances.

As small note on the four seasons in this add-on: First please bear in mind that the seasons are inverted compared to Europe, secondly and more important the climate of Australia. FTX has released three different seasons for Canberra CityScape which is summer, winter and spring – but of course you won’t find snow or hard winter at all.

A tweak for experienced users only: If you are experiencing blurries on the photoreal, Maurizio has recommended to set the parameter LOD_radius to 6 in your FSX.cfg, it’s in C:\Documents and Settings\….\Microsoft\FSX under the [TERRAIN] section. You can open and edit the file with the notepad but remember when making changes in the FSX control panel, this value won’t be mantained and rewritten by FSX, so you have to change it again for the next flight. If you keep the FPS limiter between 17 and 25 FPS allows you to avoid some blurries – nevertheless I am always putting the slider to „unlimited“.


I have never been to Canberra but while dealing with the add-on and collecting information from the internet I really fell in love with this exceptional city. In my opinion Orbx should have made a kmz file with all the POIs that they have modeled for people like me who have never been in Canberra before – I have addressed this to Maurizio and hopefully we will see this in the near future. The three years of hard work paid off; I salute to Maurizio who created a large area as real as possible, with all different trees, houses respecting their roof real colors, accurate residential and commercial areas and major POIs. In order to get familiar with the area I recommend a video made by John Dow, who is to my knowledge a Canberra resident and also provided source of information to Maurizio for his Canberra CityScape project.

The add-on FTX AU Canberra CityScape can be purchased at the FlightSim Store for currently AUD 32,95. It is designed to work with and without the AU YSCB Canberra Airport which is also available for AUD 24,95 at the online shop. Please note that the airport has not been tested along with this review but deserves a separate review – kindly check the ASN website for upcoming reviews.

The used Twin Otter Extended has now been fully released and can be purchased at the Aerosoft Shop – a great bird to fly and perfect for Orbx add-ons. We ask simmers to check the Aerosoft website and forum for more details.

Please note that some text fragments have been taken from the manual and the Australian Capital Tourism website. The source of information for this flight adventure was Wikipedia, Google Earth and the internet.