However exciting it may be, flying is, for most of us, limited to seat 10B on a 20-year-
At a cost of £5,000, give or take a grand, learning to fly even the smallest fixed-
This is, perhaps, why flight sims on home computers are so popular. The Amiga has already seen its fair share though, with the exception of ProFlight they are little more than shoot-'em-ups based on fast military jets.
Serious fliers have really been limited to trips in a single-
German software house Thalion have rolled out what can only be described as the best yet in Amiga simulation. Written by a Luftwaffe pilot, A320 Airbus puts you in the left-hand seat of a modern fly-by-
Just like the guy that flew you to Corfu, it starts with a visit to flight briefing. A simple flight plan must be filled with details of the route, number of passengers (PAX), fuel weight and freight. The latest weather and the destination is printed.
During flight, the weather can deteriorate and the odd emergency means that you need to have a diversion airport planned. This happens mainly at the higher levels of the simulations.
Unlike other sims, the view is only from the Captain's side of the plane and you only use the left side of the instrument panel and windscreen. The view can be moved about though, so you can look to the left or right of the plane.
There isn't an option to look diagonally across out of the First Officer's window which seems a little strange. With it being an airliner, there is no need for a rear view.
Control is split between the keyboard and mouse or joystick. The mouse appeared to give the best results but it's probably one of those things that's down to an individual's choice. The keyboard commands are easy to remember and well placed.
The medium-sized airliner has one engine on each wing. They have to be started separately and once the power has stopped at 17 per cent they are increased together to get the plane rolling forward.
It starts with the place sitting on the nearest taxiway to the runway threshold, and so it's simply a case of turning on to the strip and straightening up on to the centreline before banging the power up for take off.
Once the speed has reached about 150 knots you should be able to get airborne. Lift the gear and you're on your way. It's as simple as that - nearly.
Finding the destination demands the use of genuine Jeppesen navigation charts, which are supplied in the box. Radio frequencies for beacons along the route must be entered into the navigation system and should be overflown.
With no instructions from air traffic control. They are a necessity unless the plane is to be flown around in circuits at one aerodrome. Actually, this isn't too much of a bad idea until you get the hand of things.
They say what goes up must come down and so once overhead the airfield you have to prepare to get the plane safely onto the ground. The instrument landing system, known simply as ILS, is an important piece of equipment for this bit of the flight.
Used for guiding aircraft towards the runway they, like beacons, transmit on certain frequencies. These can be found with other approach details in the 240-page manual and are, again, the same as those used by commercial pilots.
Two bars should appear on a dial on the right-hand side of the instrument panel. A perfect approach has these crossing at their centre and if they are not central, they'll indicate which direction to head in to get on course.
All the normal landing procedures have to be carried out. Control the speed using throttle, brakes and flaps and don't forget to lower the landing gear. If the undercarriage is lowered, three red lights on the panel will turn to green - if they don't you better start praying.
As the runway nears, a little light in the cockpit flashes to show that you've overflow the outer market - a beacon four miles from touch-down. Closer still you'll pass the inner marker.
Providing the landing goes as planned the engines are put into reverse thrust to help cut the plane's speed and the jet should be then be taxied off the runway. IT sounds easy but it's not.
Help is available through the autopilot. The A320 will be flown automatically at the correct height, power and direction and can even land itself. This is especially useful if the runway is covered in low cloud or fog.
None of the program's features appears to have been bunged in as an afterthought. Even the clouds have been thought about, flickering between different shades of grey before the aircraft pops out on the other side.
All major airfields from Southern Europe to Bodo in Norway are available and rivers and towns appear in the correct places. So, for example, if you lift from Frankfurt Main, within a minute or two you'll be flying over the Rhine. In addition to runway lights, every airfield has almost complete approach lighting. The exception is VASi lights which are used by pilots making visual landings to show whether the approach is above or below the correct path.
The only other niggle is that the runway markings are not included, but this is a minor complaint and does little to spoil the simulation. Maybe they can be added in future versions.
The question "What else can you do other than fly around?" was asked more than once in the office. The answer is: not a lot. While it has plenty of interesting features, A320 is not intended as a action-packed game. This is one for those wanting to see what flying is really like.
As an indication of its realism, A320 Airbus has already been endorsed by Airbus Industries as the most realistic simulator for home computers, and Thalion are being supported by Lufthansa, who will supply pilots wings to people who progress from trainee to Captain on the simulator.
Upgrades to the program are already on the cards and will be available for a small price as each is released. Jeppesen have agreed to sell updates to charts at trade price.
At the end of the day, smooth graphics, realistic flying and good effects make this the Amiga simulator which others are going to be judged against.