The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith
MNEMONIC IT'S MNOT
Although the interface in A.T.P. has virtually none of the same commands as Flight Simulator, the results tend to be pretty much the same. For example, to step through the different aircraft views in Flight Simulator, you press the "S" key. In A.T.P., you press the "Shift" and "Caps Lock" keys. In Flight Simulator, to reposition the perspective of the chase plane, you access the command by pressing the "Alt" and "V" keys; in A.T.P., pressing "F4" and "1" keys has exactly the same effect. The big difference is that while some of the Flight Simulator commands are mnemonic ("L" for Landing gear), almost none of the A.T.P. commands are (would you believe the bracket keys "[" and "]" lower and raise the gear?). And while Flight Simulator has "only" about 125 commands, A.T.P. has more than 160.
Both sims are deep into the arcana of flying, although with Flight Simulator you can have fun with puddle jumpers like the Cessna Skylane and the Sopwith Camel. A.T.P. is—literally and figuratively—all business. Getting a 747 into the air is no picnic, and once airborne, you don't just hotfoot it over the horizon, you get into the pattern and do what Air Traffic Control tells you to do, after which you are vectored—by radar or radio nav-aids—to your destination. The hard part comes at the end of the journey: getting into the landing pattern and setting your "heavy" down on the proper runway.
A.T.P. does have two lovely features guaranteed to put a smile on your face. One: like the "Autopilot" mode in Falcon that will fly the entire mission for you, A.T.P. has "Jack," the automatic pilot who does everything but turn on the Fasten Seatbelts sign. In the copilot mode, you may sit at Jack's elbow while he pulls away from the gate, taxis out to the runway, requests permission to take off, gets airborne, handles all the navigation and communications chores, sets the aircraft gently down on the tarmac, and delivers you safely to your crew quarters. Feel free to intervene…at your peril…any time.
The other feature is "Roger," the Air Traffic Controller, which, if you've got a SoundBlaster sound card, is a completely authentic-sounding cacophony of digitized voices which talks you through the assignment. (The male voice of the ATC is actually that of stunt pilot and SubLogic CEO Stu Moment.) The fact that it's as unintelligible as the public address system of the New York City subway system only adds to the illusion, although SubLogic's programmers missed the little puffs of squelch noise that terminate each real-world transmission.
Needless to say, any program of this ambitious complexity must come armed with a mountain of documentation, and A.T.P. doesn't disappoint. In addition to a couple of very handsome color maps, you get 251 densely packed pages of instructions. Even the "Quick Reference" key runs to a dozen pages.
Not easy, but definitely worth the effort.