ATC 4.0 in Review – You Gotta Keep’em Separated

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Ever wondered what the most stressful job in the world feels like? ATC 4.0 introduces iPhone gamers to the world of Air Traffic Control. The role of a enroute air traffic controller consists of sitting in dark radar rooms monitoring the flow of traffic, they issue instructions to follow headings, warn pilots of conflicting traffic, and clear aircraft for arrivals and departures. At times, it may feel like a video game….or does it?

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Cloudy skies keep aircraft hidden.

ATC 4.0 boasts an impressive 49 levels leaving the player well occupied with the challenge. The first levels are relatively straightforward: The screen has 4 destinations (A,B,C,D) which aircraft must be guided to. You must ensure that a conflict (i.e. two airplanes occupying the same space at the same time – crash!) does not occur. If you don’t pay attention to a plane, it will continue to fly off your screen till it becomes “lost”. If either a plane becomes lost, or a collision occurs, game is over.

atc40_2The next levels get progressively more challenging. With the addition of an airport in the higher levels, you not only have to handle enroute aircraft, but also arrivals and departures. Arrival aircraft are much harder to handle than enroute or departures where direct waypoints can be issued. Arrivals must be aligned with the runway, thus involve more waypoints, and more attention. Do not become too fixated on one aircraft; otherwise you’ll be surprised by a collision somewhere on your screen. An aural alarm warns you of impending conflicts and “lost” aircraft. Aircraft types range from general aviation private planes to airliners, as well as high speed fighters.

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Conflict! This is what you don't wanna see!

Additional scenarios later on make the game more interesting and challenging. Computer failures will make the waypoints unreliable. Hurricane force winds blow aircraft off-course. Presidential visits will create restricted “no-fly” zones on your screen. Night and deteriorating weather will hamper your visibility. Aircraft on fire must land before they crash. And so on…

While ATC 4.0 is a fun game, its control could use some tweaks. When issuing vectors to aircraft, it is easy to issue the wrong vector due to accidently selecting or deselecting an aircraft. In tense moments such as trying to resolve a possible collision, this wastes valuable time. One feature that would be nice to have would be the ability to keep planes at certain altitude so that you can use vertical separation – you know, like in real life. Another feature I’d like to see in a future version would be the ability to tell individual aircraft to speed up or slow down – in the current version you can only control the speed for all planes at once (in realty this only speeds up or slows down game-play).

ATC 4.0 is absolutely a great addition to any iPhone. It’s enough to keep you occupied while you wait for your flight. While it’s definitely not meant as a realistic simulation by any means, you’ll learn to appreciate the challenges air traffic controllers face (As a pilot myself, I certainly do!).

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App Summary
Title:ATC 4.0 (v 1.0)Developer:C3 Software
Price:$2.99App Size:4.0 MB
  • Challenging scenarios
  • Allows you to save your progress
  • Enough levels to keep you hooked
  • Controls are a little too sensitive

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