Wrangell lands on Flight Simulator map in new add-on

Want to fly in and out of Wrangell but don't feel like dealing with TSA, long lines and checking baggage? Now you can from the comfort of your home cockpit (aka, couch).

Northern Sky Studio, a software developer based in Kharkiv, Ukraine, recently released a Wrangell expansion pack for the popular Microsoft Flight Simulator, and it's just like being here.

Flight Simulator, like many long-running video games, had humble origins. Rather than the hyper-realistic detail of modern games, the simulator was mainly big green or blue blocks representing sky and land. Forty years after it was first introduced, the game gives easy-chair pilots views of mountains, oceans and current weather conditions all across the globe.

Oleh Shevchenko, the CEO of Northern Sky Studio, said he and his team are big fans of Alaska and Hawaii and have been developing the add-on packs for many of each state's airports.

"Wrangell is one of my favorite airports in Alaska," Schevchenko said in an email. "Wrangell was my second work for the flight sim community. It was created a long time ago, I guess 2015-2016 for X-plane 10. And now we recreate it in high quality for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, even with the (Wrangell) terminal."

His team used photos of Wrangell from social media and they also work with people, such as the Juneau-based Tlingit artist Crystal Kaakeey√°a Rose Demientieff Worl, throughout Alaska to source their reference materials.

"Unfortunately, we could not personally visit all these airports, but we really wanted to," Schevchenko said. "I hope someday we can visit them. I greatly admire the beauty of Alaska."

Northern Sky Studio has also created add-ons for Kenai Municipal Airport, Ketchikan, Talkeetna, Seward, Yakutat, Juneau and Petersburg. Sitka is on their to-do list. Much of that depends on the war in Ukraine, Shevchenko said, as he and others might get called up to serve in the military soon.

Wrangell's add-on took the team roughly three months to complete, which Schevchenko said was longer than normal, but due to the war in Ukraine they've had to move their operation out of Kharkiv to a safer location, which slowed their work.

Brian Herman, owner of Canoe Lagoon Oysters, started using the program about 11 years ago, and his son, Aleksandr, 18, began using it around 10 years ago.

"The graphics back then were not very good," Herman said. "We didn't have a computer at the time that had a graphics card that could even run it back then. We had to turn the graphics way down."

His son has used the program in the past to help him practice flying, using the same plane Herman owned, and eventually getting his private pilot's license.

"He would do it to familiarize himself with what he should be looking for in the terrain," Herman said. "It's pretty amazing how accurate the stuff is, especially for the terrain."

The modern version can also sync to each flight paths' time of day and current weather conditions. Even though Aleksandr had to take the program off his computer because it ate up so much memory, he's still pursuing a commercial pilot's license.

Brian Ashton, a Wrangell-based pilot, uses the current version of Flight Simulator with virtual reality goggles and full immersion. He's used the program since Version 4 was released in 1989. He added another Wrangell update "advertised on the Flight Simulator software and it was not so good," he said. "I normally don't do the visual upgrades because I'm using the software for keeping my instrument skills up, which isn't enhanced by the visuals."

The Wrangell airport add-on is currently available through simmarket.com for $14. Shevchenko said they hope to get the add-on included on the official Flight Simulator website in the near future.


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