[Reviewed By D'Andre Newman]

A Return To The Beginning

When ever spending time at a FlightBeam airport, I find that I am almost always reminded of FlyTampa. The boys of FD in my book invented and defined the threshold of quality scenery. Back then, not even Cloud9 had mads it's impact on the community. I'm going all the way back to that very first rendition of Tampa. But indeed, soon thereafter, Cloud9 had emerged along with a number of new third party developers. But back then, the quality between good freeware and good payware was a bit blurred. But as FlyTampa continued along the road to their mighty success, no matter how good other developers got, FT was always still touted as the best especially when combining visuals with performance. In those days, no one gave a shit about memory and to think, there was once a day when it cost massive amounts of money just to run FS2002 and 2004 at fairly decent settings. It all seems so long ago.

Now for developers, it's important that you always have a least 2 new projects in development at any given time and that as a developer, you are always developing somwething new. Something another developer has come across yet. Theat said, I imagine it can't be easy to go back and recreate something you have already created comp;letely from scratch whan you could be delivering something new.  But as developers continue developing peojects, their skills increase, they learn and invent new m,ethods and technologies and befor eyou know it, whammo! You have managed to make your own scenery obslete now opening up the floodgates for other developers to sweep in under your feet and recreate it instead. 

Back in the day, there were not nearly as many different developmebnt entities as ther're are today. So this was not a problem back then. Today, this is a really big deal and I am not sure who started it, but at some point nearly all developers began going back and recreating their old airports and sceneries. When FlyTampa first announced they would be redoing tampa, it made perfect sense. That first version was nearly a decade old and given the name FlyTampa, you gotta do it right? I imagine this started the "rebooted" frenzy anong the development community because it's happening everywhere now. 

All things considered, who would have imagined FlightBeam as a fairly new team would already go back and recreate SFO. It still feels new for me and yet, I am reminded it's been about 4 years since that v1 was released. Now as it pertains to developers keeping former works up to date to keep other potential devs from prowling this is where FlyTampa really, really droped the ball. I think we all were hoping FT would head back and recreate SFO and SAN respectively. But as a developer, you can't spend too much time recreating old projects or you will never release anything new. After FlightBeam had released SFO, both Taxi2Gate and LatinVFR had begun sniffing around KSAN and before I knew it, I had emails from both devs staking claim to the airport having both completed more than 45% of their separate SAN projects. Both were concerned FlyTampa might be quietly working on a new San Diego behind the scenes. What they had't considered was eachother. After some deal brkering, T2G backed out and set sail for Orlando leaving LVFR to bat cleanup. Both these devs knew FlightBeam was a new force to be reconed with. A new force based in California. At any moment, Mir could have turned his eyes south. And he did. Just a little further to the east.

Now here is the issue of any developer going in and recreating an airport left behind from the likes of FlyTampa. You had better make sure it's damn good. Mir as a newly emerging force in the flight simulation community was making a bold move by deciding on SFO a legendary FT destination. But one can only wait so long for the boys George and Martin to return. Again, T2G along with half a dozen other developers had set eyes on Seattle including LatinVFR. It seems T2G has won this round. Luckly for FlyTampa, there is nothing else left behind  for anyone to reproduce. 

Nevertheless, if Mir was going to be taken seriously, he had to be damn sure what he was bringing to the table would be up to par with expectations. What he eventually delivered, even to this day, remains a kickass work of art. FlightBeam was born and the rest is history... or rather in the present. 

But it seemed that even after highly successful releases of both SFO and PHX the community they're were quite a few naysayers not fully accept FlightBeam as a leading development team.

This usually comes with complaints about price regardless if the price is competetive with similar sceneries of scsale and quality. With Pheonix, there was a sizable debate on ADX about price from people who had yet to purchase a FlightBeam scenery. After Dulles came out, they all shut up.  

But with Denver, this was the defining moment with FlightBeam. The flagship if you will. Here we had another instance of an airport left behind by another developer and it was FlightBeam on the prowl.  Now if you have not read my review of Denver, I recommend you do so before going any further as I am about to start referencing content from that review. You may do so by clicking the image at right. With SFO, FlightBeam had made clear they were a team to watch. With PHX they show us how quickly they were able to innovate and imprpove. With Dulles, they showed us they could make any airport look absolutely buautiful. But with Denver... With Denver they showed us they were worthy of being the absolute best what had me feeling a bit at odd's with myself.  

The issue was, Denver was so good, it rocketed to my #1 on my all time favorite mega airports scenery list. The other conundrum was wether FlightBeam has beaten out FlyTampa as my favorite developer. I felt this was the case but simply refused to admit it to myself. But then FT released Toronto and pretty much had both airports and developers running neck and neck in my brain. Once you throw Sydney into the fire then things get really complicated. All I had to do was wait for SFOv2 to try and bannance things out. Now that it's here... shit... 

I should also state that it was Budapest followed by Dubai that Denver had beaten on my top ten favorite airports list. If only LHSimulations could release airports as often as FlightBeam and FlyTampa, they would be serious asskickers in this industry. FSDT used to rank pretty high, their Zurich scenery now 8 years old just rounds out my top ten. After seeing Houston, I am not sure if they will be able to make a comeback. FSDT unlike FlightBeam, FlyTampa, and Taxi2Gate has serious performance chugging sceneries. It doesn't matter how good a scenery looks if the performance is bad. Taxi2Gate is increasingly upping their game as well and ranks super highly on my lists. Seattle was simply mindblowing and so will Munich and Charles de Gualle.  Drzewiecki finally delivered an incredible Warsaw airport, but the glass textures on the terminal or lack therof is troubling it's position on my list.

As for who my fav development team is, between DEN, SFO, SYD, and YYZ, FlightBeam and FlyTampa are playing a serious tug of war and I think it's starting to cause me brain damage. I guess it's stupid to have a favorite developer and scenery but this is my OCD. It's a means to make sense of my life. I have to estlablish all my favorite things: Food, car, color, you name it. To like two seperate development teams and sceneries equally is a concept I think I need to embrace because at the rate and pace of FB vs FT is going, this will never end. So lets take a step back and at least try to establish if SFO tops DEN and where it will rank on my top ten. 

As a bit of a throwback in the Denver review, I decided to start off from SFO as contrast from the first FB scenery  to the most recent. It makes perfect sense me to to return to the beginning... That is, return to a new beginning. It should be very exciting to see the contrast between Denver and the new SFO. Our 787 is ready to go, the Golden Gate is open, California Here We Come! 

After a smooth flight out of Denver, the sun begin to set. I could feel the winding down of the GENX's as we began our decent. As the aircraft banked right, I could see the lights of Silicon Valley starting to illuminate. A bit further was San Jose Airport, it's approach lights starting to come online. I wondered if another developer would come along and enhance this airport again. The version from ImagineSim has indeed shown it's age. From my seat, I could tell were now in the pattern for the 28R final approach. The beautiful colors of the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge began to pass benith. I always love entering the bay from the south. Orbx did a magnificent job recreating this area for FTX NCA. A few more moments and the fading colors were now black. Now much longer now. My long wait for FlightBeam's SFO was reaching it's end. Just as the sun dissappreared into the horizon we touched down.

The flight attandant came on the PA: "Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of United we welcome you to San Francisco. The current time is six-forty-seven pm. Temperature is seventy-three degrees. We know you have many options and we thank you for choosing United." 

Looking out the window I saw the large United maintience hangar but I could take time to admire the texture work, we reached our turnoff and begin taxi to terminal 3. As the international terminal came into view, I could easily see into the building. The texture work immaculate. Before I knew it, we were on stand the the seat-belt sign extinguished.

On May 7, 1927, a new airport, Mills Field Municipal Airport of San Francisco, opened to the excitement of those living in the San Francisco area. The 150 acres for the airport was purchased from the estate of D.O. Mills. The remaining part of the land became the town of Millbrae. San Francisco International airport has a long and interesting history.  On June 9, 1931, the name was changed to San Francisco airport and six months later the administration of the quickly growing airport was placed under the Public Utilities Commission. On November 17,1932, the citizens of San Francisco approved a $260,000 bond to develop the airport. The airport grew rapidly because the military was based at nearby Oakland Airport during World War II.

Initially, there was concern about the growth of this airport, but that was solved with the reclamation of 350 acres of coastal wetlands in tideland. The airport quickly continued to grow when in November, 1935, the airport’s runway C was extended from 1,900 feet to 3,000 feet.

Pan American chose the San Francisco Airport as its location to do the first regularly scheduled trans-oceanic air service. The flight took off from the San Francisco airport and 59 hours later, after four stops, it landed in Manila, Philippines. The plane was so heavy that when it took off from the airport it had to fly under the cables of the East Bay Bridge that had not been completed yet. The plane, China Clipper, became instantly famous and set off a rage of new toys, beer and food all with the name China Clipper.

On July 29, 1959, the first jet bridge in the United States was installed at San Francisco International Airport. The jet bridge was seen as a real advancement because passengers could keep dry in all weather and terminal security was greatly enhanced.

Today, the San Francisco Airport serves almost 41 million travelers each year on 43 airlines. Of those, almost three of four are headed to other locations within the United States. Travelers can reach 74 cities within the United States on non-stop flights. Travelers can also reach an additional 42 cities with one stop. The top domestic location when flying out of San Francisco Airport is Los Angeles, followed by New York, Chicago, Hawaii and Baltimore. San Francisco Airport serves over 9,000,000 international travelers of those, 45 percent are headed to Asia or the Middle East, 27 percent are headed to Europe, 14 percent are headed to Canada, 8 percent are headed to Mexico or the Caribbean and four percent are headed to Australia on 28 international carriers with 646 weekly flights.

The top international destination is Canada followed very closely by China. Other important international destinations include Japan, United Kingdom, Germany and Mexico. The largest airline at San Francisco airport, controlling 44 percent of the travel market, is United Airlines.  Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Virgin America and American Airlines each control eight percent of the market share. Several unique things about the airport: In Terminal 2, visitors are able to feast on a unique variety of local cuisine that is much better than the average airport food. The Yoga Room is also the only yoga room in the world located inside an airport. It is a great place to relax and stretch before or after a long day of traveling.

Water hydration stations for the refilling of water bottles also await visitors. The hydration stations are located post-security in Terminal 3 in the Hub food court, Terminal 2 near Gates 51 and 58, and in the International Terminal Boarding Area A near Gate A1. San Francisco airport officials say they are excited to participate in this program as a way to encourage visitors to conserve natural resources. The aquariums, located on the ticket level of Terminal 1 at the San Francisco Airport, allow all visitors to learn about three distinct aquatic communities. Children enjoy playing on the equipment provided by the airport. Look for these areas near boarding gate 87A in terminal 3 and near boarding gate 54A in Terminal 2.

From January to May 2012, the San Francisco International Airport was ranked 21st in the world for number of passengers served. During that period, they served 17,065,736 passengers. That puts them just behind McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada, who served 17,156,487 passengers. It placed them just ahead of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona, who served 16,956,367. The busiest airport in the United States and the world is Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, that served 38,206,174 passengers.

Airports look to Skytrax to rate them against each other. Earlier in 2012, the expert travelers at Skytrax rated San Francisco International Airport as the second best airport in the United States. Topping the list was the airport at Cincinnati, Ohio. Both airports are listed among the top 40 airports in the world. In addition, Skytrax rated the staff at San Francisco International Airport the best in North America. Terminal 2 at the airport was named the first LEED gold airport in the United States. The terminal was given this award because the terminal is 15 percent more energy efficient that required by building codes. The plumbing installed in the terminal is 40 percent more efficient than standard fixtures. All water in the facility’s restrooms is reclaimed. All vendors must use recycled materials. The beautiful skylights and huge windows help to reduce the terminal’s electric usage.

The travelers who read Travel and Leisure rated the San Francisco International Airport as the fifth best in the United States. In making their choice, travelers said they love the ease of the public transportation. They also loved the speed of the baggage handling. They also express appreciation for the free Wi-Fi. Travel Weekly also gave San Francisco Airport top marks. It gave the airport top marks in its efforts to be environmentally friendly. The organization also gave the airport top marks for its social media program. The readers of Frequent Business Traveler have also named San Francisco Airport as the best airport in the Americas. The readers said they particularly loved the large number of stores and the great staff at the airport.

Through the San Francisco Arts Commission, more than 65 permanent works by noted local, national and international artists are on display in the terminals. In particular, the International Terminal contains 17 permanent, museum-quality works that were commissioned for the site with $10 million in funds raised in accordance with the City and County of San Francisco's public art ordinance. These large-scale, architecturally integrated works, ranging from wall murals to light sculptures, mosaics to terrazzo, create distinct and inventive environmental spaces-within-a-space.

In addition, the International Terminal houses the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum. Tucked in one corner of the Main Hall, and with virtually the same footprint as San Francisco's original 1937 air terminal, this restful spot provides a sanctuary for aviation buffs transiting through SFO or for anyone interested in the history of commercial aviation. Along with changing exhibits of aviation art and artifacts, the museum houses a collection of more than 6,000 volumes and scholarly works regarding the history of air transportation and SFO.

I decided to begin our little adventure to the airport from the Highway 101. The same highway that is known as the Hollywood freeway in Los Angeles and the same highway that is the Golden Gate Bridge. I was quite impressed to see all overpasses modeled including street signs and the car rental terminal reachable from the animated AirTrain.

Some of the artwork mentioned above is also present in the scenery along with detailed parking lots and service roads. Even the roads that run directly below the international terminal flow through hollow tunnels just in case someone like me should dare get on one's knees and craw under there. The lighting work is second to none. 

International Terminal By Night

As always, this review is broken down into sections. I typically tend to go well beyond the 15 screenshot 2 paragraph reviews I find on many sites so in an effort to keep you from getting lost in all my words and screenshots, you can simply read the review by section and takeoff / return whenever you like. Let's start with the international terminal and make our way counter clockwise before making our way out to the airfield.

The SFO International Terminal is composed of Boarding Areas A and G. The terminal was designed by Craig W. Hartman of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and opened in December 2000 to replace the International Departures section of Terminal 2. It is the largest international terminal in North America, and is the largest building in the world built on base isolators to protect against earthquakes. 

Food service focuses on quick service versions of leading San Francisco Bay Area restaurants, following other SFO terminals. Planners attempted to make the airport a destination in and of itself and not just for travelers who are passing through. The international terminal is a common use facility with all gates and all ticketing areas shared among the international airlines. All international arrivals and departures are handled here (except flights from cities with customs preclearance). The International Terminal also contains the airport's BART station, adjacent to the garage leading to Boarding Area G. The SFO Medical Clinic is located next to the security screening area of Boarding Area A.

All the gates in this terminal have at least two jetway bridges except gates A2 and A10, which have only one. Gates A1, A3, and A11 can accommodate two aircraft. Six of the gates are designed for the Airbus A380, making SFO one of the first airports in the world with such gates when it was built in 2000. Gates A9 (9A, 9B, 9C) and G101 (101A, 101B, 101C) have three jetways for boarding. Four other gates have two jetways fitted for A380 service.

International Terminal By Day

Singapore Airlines once operated the A380 from SFO and currently uses the Boeing 777-300ER for their service to Singapore-Changi. The airport had to build the terminal on top of the main access road, at enormous expense, completing the continuous ring of terminals. The terminal required its own set of ramps to connect it with Highway 101.

For the most part, airlines are divided between the boarding areas based on alliance. All international Star Alliance carriers aside from Air Canada (some flights), Avianca El Salvador, and Asiana Airlines are assigned to Boarding Area G (gates G91, G92–G92A, G93–G98, G99–G99A, G100, G101–G101A, G102), as is Aer Lingus, which also operates out of Boarding Area G. All of United's international flights, plus select domestic flights, also board and deplane at Boarding Area G. When all gates in an airlines' designated international boarding area are full, the passengers will board or deplane from the opposite international boarding area.

SkyTeam, Oneworld and non-allied international carriers except Aer Lingus board and deplane at Boarding Area A (gates A1–A10, A11–A11A, A12). Asiana Airlines, Avianca El Salvador, Air Canada (some flights) are the only Star Alliance carriers that use Boarding Area A. Boarding Area A is also used for some domestic carriers, including Alaska Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Sun Country Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines. Air Canada, Aer Lingus, Etihad Airways, and WestJet are international air carriers operating from airports with U.S. Customs preclearance, allowing arriving passengers to skip the wait at customs and immigration when they arrive at SFO, and exit the airport from the departure level.

The two main designations for the International Terminal are "I", and "INTL" (abbreviations for "International"). Oftentimes travel itineraries will say "T-I", and this has led to instances where passengers misinterpret the "I" as Terminal 1, especially since both Boarding Area A and Boarding Area G are used for a limited number of domestic flights.

As opposed to running through the airport during the day and returning at night, I decided to do things differently with this review and show them side by side. 

Terminal 2, formerly known as the "Central Terminal," opened in 1954 as the main airport terminal. After a drastic rebuilding designed by Gensler, it replaced Rotunda A as SFO's international terminal in 1983[57][58] and was closed for indefinite renovation when the current international terminal opened in 2000. Its only concourse is Boarding Area D that has 14 gates (gates 50, 51A, 51B, 52, 53, 54A, 54B, 55, 56A, 56B, 57, 58A, 58B, 59). The control tower and most operations offices were (and still are) located on the upper levels, and the departure and arrival areas served as walkways between Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.

On May 12, 2008, a $383 million renovation project was announced that included a new control tower, the use of green materials, and a seismic retrofit.[59] The newly renovated terminal also designed by Gensler features permanent art installations from Janet Echelman, Kendall Buster,Norie Sato, Charles Sowers, and Walter Kitundu.[57][60] Terminal 2 set accolades by being the first U.S. airport to achieve LEED Gold status.[61] The terminal reopened on April 14, 2011, with Virgin America and American Airlines sharing the new 14-gate common-use facility.[62] Terminal 2 also hosts an Admirals Club.