Aerostudios has released the latest build of their ATCsimulator to the market. Since 2001, Aerostudios has been a pioneer in air traffic control simulation for the home PC and its newest release seems to be untouchable with regard to realism. In fact, Aerostudios has said that this is the closest you will ever get to the real thing from the comfort of your home. The following are excerpts from the ATCsimulator website which highlights various features of the product.
What is the game (simulation) objective?
“ATCsimulator 2 allows you to take on the role of an Approach or Departure controller at your choice of over 120 Terminal Radar Approach Control facilities of the United States National Airspace System (NAS), or TRACONs as they are more commonly called. Your goal is to allow for the "safe and expeditious" flow of air traffic.
It is your job to assist the pilots arriving at airports inside your airspace boundaries by lining them up for an approach (preparing for a landing). It is also your job to assist pilots departing your airspace by handing them over to the Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) controller at the appropriate time or fix location.”
“ATCsimulator®2 was modeled after the ARTS-IIIa radar equipment used at the MMAC in Oklahoma City, Radar Training Facility. All of the dials and switches are simulated with photorealistic quality, and perform all of the functions of their real-life counterpart. Whenever possible, the keyboard functions of the ARTS-IIIa terminal are accessed in the same manner as in real life. There are no fancy shortcuts or Windows GUI interfaces (that do not exist on real ARTS-IIIa equipment) as is found on other so-called simulations...you use the keyboard using the same keystrokes as Real controllers. And by the way, legacy radarscopes are round, not square.
Other game simulations available for the PC present their software using the entire screen, instead of simulating the actual look and feel of the real equipment. We strive to keep the simulation as true-to-life as possible, allowing for you to experience what real controllers "experience" on a daily basis.”
Installation of ATCsimulator 2 was quite simple. The tricky part comes with the registration and I would strongly suggest that you read the instructions for doing so carefully. Failure to do so will result in a failed registration.
This product is well protected and registrations can only work with one computer installation. This simply means that if you install ATCsimulator on another computer, you will have to get another registration number from the developer. While all of these steps may seem time consuming one can appreciate the fact that this is a top notch piece of software and it really doesn’t deserve to be abused by online piracy.
For those of you using Windows Vista and Windows 7, you may encounter various errors while installing this program. These errors have all been addressed by the developer and he is provided all of the necessary details on how to solve them. If more problems persist you are more than welcome to visit the Aerostudios website to search for a possible solution to your problem.
Before we conclude our introduction, it’s always nice to hear a few thoughts from the developers themselves on their product and what their objectives are in producing these high quality products. The following is a brief interview with Brad Davis who is the mastermind behind this product.
What lead you to create this complex ATCsimulation?
“I was a big fan of TRACON back in the 1980s, but felt it was too gamey. After working on a contract for the FAA in the 1990s, and seeing the software being used and the amount of money they were spending for it, I thought I could build a better “mousetrap”. The idea for ATCsimulator was born.
I noticed that you have gone to great lengths to ensure that your product is protected with a very thorough registration process. In fact, it is perhaps the most thorough registration process I have come across. Any reason why?
“Anyone who has an interest in ATC, and/or had an interest in a career, but never got the opportunity and are most likely now too old. ATCsimulator2 is used at a number of universities all over the U.S. I have an academic program where I provide the software to select schools, free of charge, and they in turn market to the students and I sell to the students at a discount.”
“I am currently working on a number of things. I am fixing to release “Airline Sharks” fairly soon. It’s strictly a 3D version of my original board game; inspired by Monopoly. It’s a departure (pardon the pun) from my serious work(s), a more light-hearted approach (pardon this pun too! LOL) to gaming. But this game is an airport/ATC themed game of finance.”
Can we expect further updates to the ATCsimulator 2? If so, what other features can we expect to see?
“It is about time to release some data updates for flight plans. I have some other ideas in mind to work with another product I am creating. But I’ll hold off on commenting on that at this time.”
This product is as real as it gets and every command required for the operation of this simulator corresponds to each real world command that a real world ATC would use in controlling aircraft. Getting started wasn’t very difficult but I strongly recommend reading the manual which can be found on the ATC2 CD.
The manual is over 130 pages long and I recommend that you take the time required to read this manual or you will be lost if you are new to this. The manual covers everything you need to know ranging from overall setup, commands and procedural information.”
The very first time I started using the program I started off at an airport I was fairly familiar with not taking into consideration the immense workload that would follow. I started off at JFK which was a nightmare with the large volume of traffic on arrival. It started off ok with only 1 or 2 aircraft coming in on approach; however after 10 minutes I soon wondered what on earth I have gotten myself into!
After about 5 minutes of intense typing instructions to various aircraft on approach, I thought it was time to test out the Speech Recognition features of this product. Added to that, I also realized that for beginners it is perhaps best to start off and an airport with a low volume of arrival or departure traffic until you get the hang of things.
You will also benefit by keeping the quick reference guide that comes in your CD case handy at all times, until you get used to most of the typed commands.
Setting up the speech recognition feature of this product took quite some time due to the fact that external programs have to be used. Support for these external programs is not provided by Aerostudios but you can obtain a wealth of information on troubleshooting through their forums where you will find many helpful topics and individuals who are willing to help.
After setting up the speech recognition, the work load was greatly reduced but not as much as I would have anticipated. Due to my “accent” many of the words were not recognized fully and I eventually had to resort to typing again. If this proves to be your experience you might find the MACROS feature which allows you to assume Altitude, Heading and Speed to an aircraft with the push of one button.
Other features that can be used to reduce workload until you feel confident enough to handle airports like LAX and ORD at peak hours are the various filters that come with this program. With these filters, you can filter how many aircraft, airports or runways you would like to control at any given time.
Another feature that I found very useful is the information window which provides details on airports, aircraft, holding patterns and exits. You will find this extremely crucial to the ATC experience using this software. Some of you may be wondering at this point whether or not this software is able to network with MSFS (Microsoft Flight Simulator)?
To settle your minds on this matter the answer is yes, however ATC2 only works with FS98 to FS2004. Whether or not ATC2 will be made compatible with FSX is yet to be seen but it seems to be on the list of upgrades and projects being worked on at the moment by Aerostudios.
I haven’t had the opportunity to test this networking feature but the manual provides detailed information on how this feature works. A previous review of this product back in 2005 touched a bit on this feature.
While on the subject of networking, one of the best features of this product is the ability to control LIVE TRAFFIC! Yes you heard me, live traffic. This is made possible with the integration of both ATC2 and Flight Explorer which feeds live aircraft information to your simulator thus providing a true to life ATC experience. If you want to review how well you did, you can easily record and playback your experience with the scenario player.
Overall, I found my first 2 weeks of using this product to be very intriguing and educational. I have always understood the pilot’s perspective but now I am humbled to see just how hard real world Air Traffic Controllers are working to keep our skies safe.
I have always had an interest in Air Traffic Control and I was quite pleased to see this simulator which is dedicated to this profession.
It is important to note that this product is not a lame “easy to use” version of an ATC simulator. This is a very complex simulation that deserves the highest praise. It’s almost surprising that something so realistic is available to just about anyone for $60.00.
One of the features of this product that I found very practical is the ability to progress as an Air Traffic Controller based on your entry level performance which is graded at the end of each scenario. At the end each scenario, a report is published which highlights errors made and it directs you to references that discuss how these errors can be avoided.
Other references are listed within the manual that will be a great asset to your overall knowledge of the world of ATC. What happens if you allow two aircraft to collide? Well just as in the real world, you will be “fired” so to speak in that your profile will be deleted and you will have to start over again as a trainee.
How does this compare to MSFS? Well to be frank, they are similar but very different and I must admit that on a day when I just don’t feel like flying, I can honestly see myself making full use of this software. It takes some time to get use to and to get acquainted with ATC procedures but the effort put into learning them is well worth it. While flying in MSFS can be fun, there are honestly some very dull moments.
ATC2 however, is jammed packed with action that keeps you on the edge of your seat. This is a product worthy of an Avsim Gold Star and I strongly recommend this to anyone who is interested in ATC or to you aspiring Air Traffic Controllers out there. This produce will definitely give you an advantage!
Summary / Closing Remarks
For a video demonstration of ATCsimulator 2 visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMNIN-NlBbw
What I Like About ATC 2
What I Don't Like About ATC 2
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