Flight simulator add-ons. (add-on software for Microsoft's Flight Simulator) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Clayton Walnum
While several companies produce add-on software for Microsoft's Flight Simulator, none is quite as prolific as Mallard. Recently, Mallard has released many new packages, including Air Traffic Controller (ATC) and; Pilot's Power Tools (PPT).
ATC (originally called Tracon) is an impressive simulation that drops you into the seat of an air traffic controller, where it's up to you to get all aircraft in your sector safely to their destinations. To make the simulation as lifelike as possible, ATC's display includes a realistic-looking radar panel, complete with a continually circling radar sweep that updates critical data on the aircraft in your sector. In addition, menus across the to let you configure the simulation to your taste and skill.
As planes approach your sector, their flight plans appear in a pending queue to the right of the radar display. How you handle a flight depends on its flight plan. If a plane is just overflying your area en route to another location, you need do little more than keep it a safe distance from other flights and hand it off to the next controller. Takeoffs, on the other hand, must wait on the ground until you release them.
Landings are the real challenge in ATC. You must guide the plane into the airport at the proper altitude and angle for its final approach. As if this weren't difficult enough, you frequently have several planes landing at the same airport, one after another. To add to the realism, digitized radio voices represent your commands and the pilots' replies. ATC, which includes both a DOS version and a Windows version featuring much-improved graphics, offers a gripping and educational simulation.
If you've lost control of the dozens, or even hundreds, of files comprising the many scenery disks and other add-on modules you use with Flight Simulator, you might want to try Mallard's Pilot's Power Tools. Using PPT, you can use PKZIP to compress most files you need for Flight Simulator into related archives, allowing you not only to save huge amounts of disk space but also to organize files into directories and related ZIP files. Most of the tools included in PPT manipulate these compressed files.
You might, for example, want to have a directory containing all the files, in ZIP format, from a specific scenery package. Then, to use the scenery, you simply select PPT's Copy Selected ZIPS & Run FS option and tell PPT the file types you need for that current Flight Simulator session. PPT does all the dirty work, uncompressing the files into your Flight Simulator Directory and running Flight Simulator in the mode you've selected. After the Flight Simulator session, PPT deletes the files it copied, and, if necessary, updates your ZIP file with whatever files you may have changed during the session.
Also included in this package is Mallard's Flight Planner. There are also utilities to analyze and edit Aircraft & Scenery Designer files, convert Flight Planner files into adventures for Mallard's Aircraft & Adventure Factory (AAF), and cross-reference various elements of an AAF adventure, plus even more. Pilot's Power Tools offers serious fliers precise and convenient control over their Flight Simulator sessions. Mallard Software (800) WEB-FEET Air Traffic Controller--$59.95 Circle Reader Service Number 443