If I call Lugano an „Airportino“, I do by no means imply to belittle this important airport in Southern Switzerland. Lugano, small as it is in comparison with large airports like nearby Milan Malpensa, has made aviation history both locally and abroad. The population of the Swiss sunshine canton of Ticino (Tessin) were understandably proud to get their very own scheduled services, originally started by Crossair. When that carrier brought a real-life four engine airliner into Lugano, it got quickly dubbed “Jumbolino”, as in “the little Jumbo”. It was followed shortly after by the Saab 2000, known for its speed, which was called the “Concordino” accordingly. Since then the BAE 146 and its successors have been known by the name of Jumbolino around Europe and sometimes even elsewhere in the world and the “-ino” ending has been used to describe small but cute businesses, airplanes and other aviation related venues.
Lugano and its airport are quite well known by their own right, Lugano as a city of Southern flair and luxury, its airport for its complex but scenic approach and departure procedures. In the 1980’s an ILS system with a 6.65° glideslope got installed, which means a twice as steep approach than the normal 3° used in the flat lands. It was a technical and operational breakthrough for the time and Crossair used the approach very successfully for many years. It was only in the first years of the 21st century in the purges after the Swissair/Crossair grounding and re-launch when this operation was determined to be unsafe by the new powers that followed a more pragmatic approach to aviation. Since then, a complex circling procedure needs to be observed in order to get into Lugano. For those who have flown and worked there for years, this development was very disappointing, as the new procedure is more demanding than the old straight in procedure was.
Lugano has been interesting for flight simulation for this very reason since it appeared first in FS 4. Not only is this airport quite difficult to approach to and depart from, it also offers quite interesting and scenic views of the picturesque landscape. In combination with Flylogic’s Switzerland Pro X the scenery offers a wonderful addition to the already spectacular photographic scenery. Without Switzerland Pro it also fits quite well into the default scenery of Flight Simulator X if necessary. Approaching from the North via the Ceneri Pass or via the lake of Lugano, the scenery offers breathtaking sights for the enterprising simulator pilot.
The award winning Flylogic Team headed by Alex Brander of Mailsoft, Switzerland, has been very active for many years in bringing Switzerland and its many airports to life. Switzerland Professional has set the standard for many years for flights in the alpine country. While the larger airports of Switzerland have now been manufactured by other developers, Flylogic has been true to its goal to providing a complete environment of Switzerland to simpilots all around the world by producing the smaller airports of the country in high quality. Lugano X has been programmed by several of the team’s regulars like Michael Röthlisberger and Fabian Bröckling, supported by a team of photographers, writers and Alex Brander himself as coordinator and publisher. Oliver Pabst’s AES lite provides AI Traffic and other animations to the scenery.
The Manual by Marc Läderach has been translated into English by Richard Donaldson and is available in four languages in total. Approach charts are available on the CD-ROM in PDF format, professionally set up and licensed from the Swiss vACC Team.
In order to arrive at Lugano in style, I decided to fly there. Departing Zürich in disgusting weather using the Carenado Mooney 201, which is closest to my own Mooney M20C, it is a short IFR trip across the Alps. In order to avoid a close encounter of the fatal kind with the Swiss mountains, it is necessary to climb to above 14’000 ft AMSL or the respective Flight Level, which changes with air pressure. The normal IFR routing will follow an ALBIX departure, thereafter following airways via URNAS and CANNE to PINIK, the initial approach fix for Lugano. If the weather were nice, I would have headed South via the legendary San Gottardo Pass and the Leventina valley, Bellinzona and Magadino, before turning left over the Ceneri Pass into Lugano. However, today there was no way to do that. Flying along at FL140 I could spot the mountain tops through holes in the clouds, yet there was no way to descend before breaking out of the heavy overcast until almost abeam the airport. I got my first view of the airport on my left and started a steep descent outbound, turning back visually over the Lago die Lugano onto the long final abeam Ponte Tresa. This short flight gave a good example of how demanding the territory can be.
My first impression of the airport during the approach and landing is excellent. The whole environment has been developed in quite some detail. This is vital with small airports like this, as sometimes the buildings and terrain features around it are more prominent than the actual airport buildings. In the case of Lugano X, these prominent features have been captured very well indeed. Both in the West, where the hotel and airport buildings have been replicated with great attention to detail, as well as in the East, where a row of trees along the river and the industrial estate behind that row have been included in the scenery as well. It’s very good news that the team did not stop at the airport fence here but went beyond it where necessary.
As most of the scenery including ground textures are photorealistic, it is very hard up to impossible to determine where the airport scenery stops and Switzerland Pro takes over. Without Switzerland Pro, the scenery borders are more noticeable but nevertheless very well done.
The airport itself has been replicated with the usual excellent attention to detail for which this team is well known for. Buildings, tarmac and objects are mostly photorealistic but have been professionally reworked. There is nothing to complain about, it’s simply lovely.
AI Traffic, courtesy off AES LITE by Oliver Pabst is implemented to good effect. Many of the regular visitors at Lugano are present, most prominently Darwin Airlines with their Saab 2000 fleet.
For me, Lugano X is a perfect addon to Switzerland Pro X as well as a very nice airport to add to a normal FSX. For people who wish to explore the full beauty of Switzerland however, SwitzerlandPro X is very recommendable. Nevertheless, even if you do not own it, Lugano X will provide you with a most interesting airport to fly to.
Simulator: MS Flight Simulator X
Available from: www.mailsoft.ch
Price: Approx US $ 25 (30 Swiss Francs)