PC Pilot

The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith


Fortunately, Flight Simulator has a new "Land Me" feature. If you're near a big-city airport, you hit the "X" key and a Phantom Instructor takes over, telling you what he's doing on a ticker tape that moves across the lower part of the screen. Then you try it. (This is infinitely preferable to going to the "Sim" menu and choosing the "No-Crash" option—you don't learn anything from bouncing off the ground or caroming off buildings.)

For a painless introduction to landings—or at least a feel for the body language involved—try the prepackaged landing available as "Simple Landing Practice" from the "Quick Practice" menu. Here you work with the stick and throttle to keep the plane gently descending and the speed slowing dropping. You don't have to steer left or right or touch any other controls—the gear and flaps are already down. When you hear the squeak of the tires hitting the runway, push forward on the stick and apply the wheel brakes.

Congratulations, you've landed.

When you screw up—and you will—there's "Instant Replay." You get fifty seconds (the default is twenty) from every conceivable angle (you can switch your perspective from the cockpit to that of the control tower or a chase plane), with slo-mo and endless loop, if desired. This feature suffers from an exceptionally ham-fisted interface; most other sims use the VCR metaphor to better effect, with buttons for "Play," "Stop," "Rewind," "Fast Forward," and "Jog/Search" and other actions. Not here.

In the training modes, there are not only videotapes to analyze your performance, there are also graphs and charts that show speed, altitude, direction, descent rate, and just how hard you bounced when you hit the runway.

Nonetheless, use "Instant Replay" to figure out what went wrong. You can also use "Instant Replay" to sneak back to where you were just before everything went haywire and switch back to normal flight nanoseconds before you would have augered in. Apply full throttle and full flaps, and you just might pull through. Sort of like cheating the hangman….

Unfortunately, you can't save your best "Instant Replay" to disk. You can, however, record to disk in the "Video Recorder" mode, which allows you ample time to demonstrate your skill (or lack thereof) at flying through the Arc de Triomphe, say. But you cannot edit "Video Recorder" files; thus the results depend somewhat on serendipity. Or retakes. You can erase your mistakes, however.

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