A320 Airbus USA Edition logo USA EDITION

The plane now departing on Runway 49 is full to the brim of lager louts and anaemic totty. Join us in the cockpit to see if we make it.

The very mention of A320 Airbus sends a shiver down the spine and the mind rolling back to the days of the package holiday.

Arriving at the airport some three days before your two-in-the-morning, cheap-rate flight is due for takeoff, you queue with a herd of other revellers all mooing with excitement over the prospect of sun and fun on the Costa.

After waiting some three hours in a fly-infested baggage check-in behind the enormous Mrs Mankey, her three jammy-faced sprogs, her sombrero and her 13 suitcases which are full to the brim of mosquito repellent and diarrhoea cures, you finally hand your bags in.

Once you have collected your tickets, the caring ground-crew cattle prod you towards the departure lounge where you get up camp for the remainder of the time. Living on a diet of insipid coffee and stale sandwiches, you count the hours until your flight is called.

As the time counts down an air of expectancy fills the room. With only 30 minutes till boarding an announcement booms over the tannoy telling you that due to Spanish air traffic control the flight has been delayed a further two months.

Finally however, it is time to board. After the mad rush, 200 sweaty carcasses are settled in their seats anticipating their stale food, copious amounts of lager and a good opportunity to goose and verbally abuse the hostesses.

Fortunately, Airbus has very little to do with the passengers on domestic flights. Instead it concerns itself with the serious business of safely commuting people from airport to airport in the United States at the helm of a state-of-the-art modern airliner.

Unlike many flight sims (especially military ones) designers Thalion have concentrated on making A320 as realistic as possible. In fact, on opening the box one finds a host of technical manuals and a complete set of charts.

On first glance this may seem daunting to many, so a training mode has been implemented which gives you the opportunity to select your own weather and destinations.

In full flight mode the met office supply weather and cloud ceiling, then it is up to you to decide the amount of fuel and the number of passengers you wish to carry. These are not irrelevant questions either, because they affect the way your Airbus will handle.

Once this has been decided it is into the cockpit and time for take off. To get off the ground you must follow the correct procedure, as everything about A320 is laid out like the real thing and must be implemented at the right time.

Once in the air, unless it is a very short across town flight you must use your trusty charts and beacon system - this could take some time.

The beacons help you to navigate by sending out a signal which lets you determine how far you are from your next point of reference.

This process is repeated until it is time to for landing. This time you must use more hi-tech wizardry, in the shape of the ILS - Instrument Landing System.

This works on the similar basis to the beacons, except it tells you whether you are too low, too high or left or right of the runway. When you have completed your flight (tangled wreckage or intact) the computer works out a performance rating. This is based on such things as speed, heading and remaining feel.

As you get more proficient and progress in rank, so the flights get more complicated and difficult. For example, less facilities from the auto-pilot are available and no automatic ILS are allowed.

A320 has been designed with realism in mind, so fancy graphics and gimmicks are out of the hold doors. For example, towns are only displayed as grey patches.

The main differences between its older brother European Airbus are on improved control system, better sound and slightly enhanced graphics.

Even though Airbus will take a lot of mastering and patience it can get rather tedious on long haul flights. But it does succeed in providing gamers with a truly realistic simulation.

So if you have had your beady eye on the look for an accurate sim, Thalion's A320 is definitely the one for you.

A320 Airbus USA Edition logo USA EDITION

Let's face it, jet flight is duller than a wombat's butt. You get a giddy feeling in your stomach for about 30 seconds, then it is hours of utter tedium until you get another giddy feeling in your stomach and then plane lands. In between you get a few packets of peanuts, a plastic cup full of weak lager and a baby's shrill cry in your earhole all the way to Crete. Jet travel sucks.

You would have thought that those dashing captains of jet aircraft had a slightly more interesting time of it than the punters, but having played A320 Airbus I can report that flying the aircraft is drearier than travelling in it. A320 Airbus is what happens when lots of people with clipboards and pens in their top pockets decide to program a flight simulator.

The real thing
What we have here is a 'proper' flight simulator. Everything about the game is designed to look and feel like the real thing. Before you can fly you have got to file a flight plan and then there is the process of setting up your plane for flight, before finally you get to trundle your jet out on the runway ready for lift off.

The Airbus was designed to be one of the safest aeroplanes around. To this end, the vast of majority of functions are carried out by the on-board computers. All you need to do is tap in your destination on the flight computer and start the engines. Everything else is taken care of, which leaves you plenty of time to flog imitation Rolexes and boxes of 200 fags.

Graphically all you get to see is a precise cockpit representation and lots of fields or sea beneath you. Occasionally a dial will move a bit (a cause for much celebration), but other than that all that happens is your engines automatically adjust their revs, the plane automatically adjusts its course and you automatically adjust your chair before falling into deep sleep.

The controls appear a bit confusing initially, but that is partly to do with the technical terminology. Basically, if you can get used to games like Gunship, then you will have no problems getting to grips with this. The main 'fun' bit comes from picking destinations to be bored between.

The game comes with two enormous books chock full of approach charts. These terribly interesting diagrams indicate radio frequencies, approach coordinates and the like. Give the game a couple of hours and you will soon be able to flit all over the eastern or western sea boards of the United States looking at interesting fields and bits of sea.

It is not that A320 is a bad game, it is just that unless you are, like incredibly, incredibly into all things with wings (and we are not talking sanitary towels here) then you are better off doing something interesting like creosoting the fence, brass rubbing or cataloguing your collection of early formica kitchen furniture. Definitely only worth checking out if you are a seriously obsessed flyboy or girl.
Commander Hutch B.O.R.E.D.

Der Realo der Lüfte

A320 Airbus USA Edition logo USA EDITION

Anderthalb Jahre nach dem Jungfernflug hat Thalions Passagiermaschine nun den Sprung über den großen Teich gewagt - als kleinen Vielflieger-Bonus bekam der Airbus dazu gleich ein paar neue Instrumente spendiert.

Dieses völlig eigenständige Programm begnügt sich mit einer Disk, bringt aber dank des umfangreichen Karten- und sonstigen Begleitmaterials mindestens so viel Gewicht auf die Waage wie der europäische Vorflieger.

Die literarische Unterstützung kann man auch gut gebrauchen, schließlich umfassen die beiden getrennt anwählbaren Szenarien den gesamten Nordosten der USA und die Westküste von der kanadischen Grenze bis hinunter nach New Mexiko - das sind alleine schon über 240 Flughäfen! Wer allerdings glaubt, daß er hier aus der Luft die Cowboys beim Almabetrieb beobachten kann, der hat (wieder) auf den falschen Flieger gesetzt...

Während die Start- und Landebahnen noch exakt der Realität nachgebildet sind, erscheinen selbst die größeren Städte nur als triste graue Flecken in der ansonsten herzlich detaillosen Landschaft. Lediglich nachts sind diese Flecken mit einem Punkteraster überzogen, das den Eindruck eines urbanen Lichtermeeres vermitteln soll.

Auch tempomäßig holt die Grafik keinen Piloten aus der Kantine, akustisch wartet nach der Intromusik à la Pink Floyd nur noch das heisere Triebwerksrauschen im Cockpi. So weit, so beschieden, doch gibt es auch viel Erfreuliches zu vermelden:

Ein zusätzliches Display zeigt nun die "True Air Speed" an, also die tatsächliche Geschwindigkeit über Grund. Außerdem wird man neuerdings ständig über die Lage der Wolkendecke auf dem laufenden gehalten, und der frisch hinzugekommene Zeitraffermodus beschleunigt die Reise doch erheblich. Die Navigationsgeräte werden per Maus bedient, der Steuerknüppel mit dem Freudenknüppel, und die Tastatur ist ebenfalls nicht zu knapp belegt.

So praktisch die erweiterten Flughilfen auch sein mögen, die Beherrschung des schweren Stahlvogels ist dadurch nicht einfacher geworden. Ohne Autopilot pendelt das gute Stück um die Querachse, nimmt also die Nase ständig rauf und runter, was nur sehr schwer unter Kontrolle zu bringen ist. Der Aufstieg in höhere Rangstufen, wo manbei den Qualifikations- und Prüfungsflügen auf den Digi-Chauffeur verzichten muß, wird damit zur echten Herausforderung.

Bei aller Hochachtung vor dem hier gebotenen Realismus, ein wenig mehr Action hätte der Geschichte nicht geschadet. Selbst die altehrwürdigen Lufthansa-Schulungssimulatoren verfügen über eingebaute Notfall-Szenarien wie Triebwerkausfall und Vogelschwarmangriff - aber selbst normaler Luftverkehr hätte die Sache schon interessanter gemacht.

Vor allem, da das Programm (entgegen der Aussage im Handbuch) sowieso nur mit einem Megabyte läuft, warum also nicht gleich eine "vollwertige" 1-MB-Version mit mehr Grafik und netten Zusatzfeatures? In seiner jetzigen Form werden wohl wieder nur angehende Lufthänse so richtig auf den diffizilen Digi-Airbus fliegen... (mw)

A320 Airbus USA Edition logo USA EDITION

An airline pilot needs nerves of steel and eagle eyesight. Unfortunately no one at CU Amiga has those qualities, so here is Tony 'Shakes' Dillon, our very own action man.

For years, one of the mainstays of the PC software circuit has been Microsoft Flight Simulator. Everyone from business executives down to the lowest home user must have spent at least one happy afternoon circling the Golden Gate bridge. In recent incarnations, you have been able to design your own craft, and an extensive library of scenery disks means that you can now fly over every major city in the world. This is a theory that, in the past five years, has proven true within the confines of the PC world.

On the Amiga, though, it has been a completely different kettle of fish. Owners of Commodore's little marvel are generally a trigger happy lot, and the mundane process of getting a plane in the air and keeping it there in all weather conditions has long been superseded by the idea of getting a plane in the air and then using heavy armaments to blow other planes out of the sky.

One exception to this rule, though, is Thalion's Airbus 320 sim. It seems that, finally, people want more out of their aircraft than just going behind enemy lines. It is quite simple really - most people have, at some point, wanted to fly a plane, and maybe even scale to the heady heights of an airline captain. With that in mind it is surprising that a 'game' like this has not been made available before.

In fact, Airbus 320 was such a success that Thalion have found it worthy of a sequel. Well, not exactly a sequel, more a continuation. This time, rather than flying around the pitifully small area of the world known as Europe, you can tackle both coasts of the US. Not the ground in between, mind, just the two coastlines. But then, what do you expect from one disk?

Essentially A320 is a simulation of flying a passenger aircraft between the two airports of your choice. That is it. No missions, no sorties, nothing. You are not even told which airports to fly between. Just choose the two you would like to, and away you go. The aim is not to learn to fly, it is to learn to fly well.

Anyone who has ever flown will tell you that the secret to being a good pilot is navigation, and navigation is what this is all about. From the hundreds of maps and plans included in the packaging down to the myriad number of ways of telling where you are, learning navigational skills is the only way to get any pleasure out of this game.

A complex array of on-board computers, mixed with thousands of small simulated radio beacons, mean that most of the time you will be flying by your instruments. Generally, there is not much to look at out of the window.

Flying a plane is a lot more complicated than most games would have you believe. Not this one. There is a warning light and a control for every bit of metal that moves, and most that do not, so you are going to spend a long time just figuring out how to keep this thing in the air. A word of warning.

Before trying out the demonstration flight in the Pilot's Manual, read the Amiga key instructions in the Reference Manual. At one point, the instructions tell you to use the '+' and '-' keys to change course. Pressing them turns off both engines - not very useful, especially when it takes them ages to warm up again. There is no military thrust in this game, lady.

There is also very little in the way of scenery. There are no beaches in California, for a start, and cities are represented by no more than a pale green blob on a flat, dark green 'ground'. If you were wondering how Thalion managed to fit two enormous areas (West Coast USA and North East Coast USA) on a single disk, then wonder no more. Who would have thought that the US was so, well, barren.

Unlike most flight sims these days, you only have three views from the craft - front, left and right, all from the cockpit. You can have the side views if you are patient, as the polygon view of the outside world updates very slowly indeed, even on the A1200. To show you what I mean, picture changing view from the front to the left. The bitmap overlay of the cockpit changes almost instantly, but the view takes about a third of a second. What this means is that, if you change views quickly enough, you can look all round your plane without the outside view changing at all!

This is a true simulation of a modern aircraft, fitted with all mod cons bar the fluffy dice. Like all modern aircraft, it can cover quite large distances, and these distances can take quite a while to cover. A lot of that time is spent flying in a straight line or preset arc, with the actions carried out by the on-board autopilot. After careful searching through the manuals, I finally found a key that accelerated time, but that was not enough to stop boredom setting in.

Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, there is not that much for a pilot to do except sit and read the paper - something faithfully recreated in this game. A flight goes something like this: Start on the runway, program the co-ordinates into the Navigation computer and take off. Switch on the autopilot and wait. When the plane comes in to land, switch off the autopilot and apply the brakes. This whole process can take over half an hour, and you are in control for about four minutes.

There lies the real problem with this sim. It is probably all very exciting when you are actually up in the air with 60 people trusting you to keep them up there, but sitting in front of a monitor typing in co-ordinates as a means of flight is not my kind of excitement.

Essentially, the only real challenge this product has is that of learning a strenuously overcomplicated navigation system - a far cry from many simulators, where you can just call a map and travel in a generally northeast direction until you spot the runway.

Microsoft Flight Simulator incorporates all of this, as well as letting you fly smaller, lighter, faster craft and design your own. In developing a game with Lufthansa Airlines, Thalion have limited themselves to a very tedious product indeed. Definitely not worth the £30 they are asking.


Life as an airline pilot is not all champagne and romance, you know. You just would not believe how long it takes to get your Captain's badge. Here is a quick rundown of what happens:

  • Exhaustive mental and physical tests are undertaken.
  • On passing, a two-year training period begins, incorporating theory and flight itself.
  • Then training begins to become a second officer on a passenger craft.
  • After around12 years, the second officer is promoted through first officer to captain, clocking in over 5000 hours of flight in the meantime.

Just do not ask why they are called the Twenty Minuters.


When you pick up the box of A320, you know you are going to get value for money. The thing weights a ton! Open it up, and you will see why. There are two detailed manuals - one seems to apply to PC only and one gives the co-ordinates of all the airports in the game; there is also a large poster of the box artwork, the game disk and two massively thick pads of over 300 approach charts for the bases in the game. If that does not show you how realistic this game is, then I do not know what will.