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Flightbeam KSFO HD (KSFO) Review - iFlySimX News
12 OCT

Flightbeam KSFO HD (KSFO) Review

Flightbeam KSFO HD (KSFO) Review

In the flight simulation community, it takes time for people like myself to really trust a developer to deliver a high quality add-on for our much beloved hobby. Usually, it takes multiple releases before we receive a product that matches and often exceeds our expectations, and even then, we’re cautious to see what will come next. Not only that, but when a company, who comprises of a single person, announces large scale airports as their first, second, third and FORTH project, we all ask the question “will this actually be any good?”

Of course, there’s one developer out there who, on their first product release, surprised the whole community. This sole developer, is of course, Mir from FlightBeam. Although now his team has expanded, we’ve been treated to multiple large airports all of which improve each and every time. It’s a no-brainer for many in the community – as soon as a FlightBeam product is released, it’s going to be good. Even when San Francisco V1 was released, there was a lot of praise for this new developer. Eventually we saw an update for KSFO, and then brand new products in the form of Pheonix and Denver. During the development of Denver, there was a blank space on FlightBeam’s website, causing everyone to guess and form conspiracy theories over what it could possibly be.

As we all know, that space was to be a brand new version of FlightBeam’s first project, San Francisco. This wasn’t a remake, a release or simply buffing up some of the texturing. No, this was a brand new project, built from the ground-up, implementing all the techniques from his past projects and creating new ones. Excitement levels for KSFO HD were through the roof, development time was longer than expected, but for both Mir and us, the community, was the toil and wait worth it?

I think the most important question to ask here, is, “why should I buy this if I have the original”? A fair question to ask, especially when it’s effectively the same airport, in the same location, in the same part of the world. In a world where this hobby is expensive, it’ll probably take a lot of convincing, but let me pose a question back: “Does a product that improves performance, update to today’s airport layout and standards and offers vastly improved lighting and texturing techniques not interest you enough to invest?”

For me, those 3 things are the key areas of focus for any simmer, and to cut a long story short, KSFO HD does all of those things with absolute finesse.

Performance for everyone is really important in a world of today’s simulator. In a world full of AI traffic, HD textures, complex aircraft and whole regions of hand crafted scenery, developers really have their work cut out for them to make sure everything goes swimmingly. Developers are always questioning how much detail to go into, whether that be texturing or modelling. VAS usage is such a major roadblock for many, but FlightBeam have done the impossible and have found an excellent balance between it all. This isn’t to say turn AI traffic to 100%, pull all the sliders to the right and you’ll be fine – but it’s about compromise. FlightBeam have done their job and made the scenery as efficient as possible, now it’s your turn to fly into KSFO HD with modest settings – especially if you’re planning Heathrow to San Fran.

Along with VAS usage, the next big deal breaker for many simmers is the hit on frames. On my first approach into KSFO HD, I was strangely surprised to see a hit on my frames. Have a look at my profile, and you can see I have a beefy machine, with some rather high settings. Surprised, I tried another approach, turning down the settings and the same strange stuttering happened about 5 miles from touchdown. This certainly didn’t interrupt my enjoyment of the scenery – in fact, it makes the overall quality better as it helps to reduce VAS usage massively. As for the frames themselves, there’s very little different in performance compared to the original KSFO. This may seem ludicrous to think that a further optimised product doesn’t improve on this aspect of performance; however, the higher level of detail is what impresses me.

As for the detail itself, this is of course where FlightBeam have always excelled compared to the rest.

There’s no mistaken that KSFO HD is FlightBeam’s most detailed scenery yet. I’m someone who appreciates the smaller things in life, and as a result, I often look for the smaller quirks of something to really see the attention to detail. As usual I’m not disappointed. There’s minute detail within each texture of the product. Jet bridges are completely modelled inside and out. Ventilation and electrical cabling dangle from the bottom of the bridge, the glass has the appearance of wear and tear and even the rubber contact points have signs of damage on them. The terminals themselves really exceed my expectations. The insides are modelled, really giving the pilot a sense of waiting for the passengers board at the airport.

When you start the pushback sequence, this is when this airport really breathes life. Dirt in the ground textures and volumetric grass add vastly to the immersion of the scenery. As you taxi around, you will notice that airport signage is clear and crisp, all correct and adhered to. This is the most up-to-date San Francisco you will find on the market.

Some of my best moments in simming have been flying over the Golden Gate bridge, and FlightBeam have captured the realism of San Francisco airport almost perfectly. Turning onto the parallel runway, staring into the mountains is breath taking. Rocketing down the runway in a Triple 7, with the wings almost over the water feels extremely realistic. I’ve never been so immersed into the sim as I have been with KSFO HD.

One of my favourite features of San Francisco is the ability to land parallel to another approaching aircraft. It sends my TCAS into a tizzy, but the challenge of keeping adequate separation, whilst maintain the ‘path is what simming is all about. Thankfully KSFO HD just adds to that feeling of really being there.

I have spent a great deal of time looking at each nook and cranny of the airport to find something I didn’t like, but found it nigh on impossible. Knowing that night lighting is often completed last by developers, I kind of hoped that maybe FlightBeam had overlooked something. Obviously this just isn’t the case, and I argue that actually, the night lighting is much better than how the airport looks during the day.

Floodlights light up the ground in wonderful fashion, and the excellent lighting engine of Prepar3d v3 really helps with forming realistic shadows. You can see the lighting differences contrasting compared to the new and old terminals, which adds to the polish of the product. One lighting texture doesn’t fit all, so to speak, really showcasing to other developers that this is how it’s done.





I initially was a little saddened to hear that FlightBeam was revisiting KSFO again. I really wanted them to bring a new airport to the Flight Sim world. I knew that whatever they did, it would be good, but I never imagined that KSFO HD would be THIS good. Nor did I think that the differences between the old and the new would be that different. For me, San Francisco represents the new standard of scenery quality for our universe. A true testament to the hardwork and dedication from Mir and the team, but now that the bar has been raised yet again, can FlightBeam really exceed again? We shall see when they release Frankfurt and Minneapolis.

Who’s up for a parallel approach?

+Fantastic performance and optimisation
+Excellent texturing and modelling
-Some stuttering during initial load
-Nothing else!
  • Flightbeam
  • Flightbeam
  • £21.47
  • /
  • $29.99
  • /
  • €28.99Pr
Prepar3d v3
Flightbeam KSFO HD
Aerosoft A320
Active Sky Next







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San Francisco Intl
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