ATC Simulator

snap2_1Approach with caution.

ATC Simulator is probably the hardest hardcore simulation you’ll play, an unsurprising fact considering the real job isn’t a walk in the park either. That is its greatest strength and its most serious weakness. It assumes that you have the time, patience, and desire to meet it on its own terms. It makes no concessions; it won’t hold your hand; it takes no prisoners. And it almost dares you to have any fun.

It places you in front of a radar screen in a TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach CONtrol) station. You begin by selecting a major U.S. airports (called “sectors” in the parlance of the trade). You can choose from three levels of responsibility: Approach Controller, Departure Controller, or a hellishly challenging combination of both. All aircraft types, flight numbers, and schedules are real, as are the variations of surrounding terrain from one hub to another. Each scenario comprises a one-hour block of time, from 0600 to 2300, your choice.

Aerosoft has recreated the look and layout of a TRACON control panel with the utmost fidelity. Cut down the lights, adjust your speech-recognition headset, and you’ll experience a very convincing illusion. That’s assuming you can get the speech-recognition system to work, which is useful bit not necessary to use (you can type in commands, which isn’t all that fun).

Indeed, unless you’re actually training to be an Air Traffic Controller, the spartan rigors of ATCS’s design actually make the program seem colder than it needs to be. There is no feedback to make things interesting; no bad weather, no sudden wind shear dangers, no mechanical emergencies, no UFOs. Perhaps this ‘game’ might be more worthwhile if it gave you a monthly paycheck for ‘playing’ it, but since it doesn’t it feels more like an unpaid job than software meant to entertain players.

System Requirements: 300 MHz, 64 MB RAM, WinXP

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