Monthly Archives: January 2010

Coffee with Radar

This may be a little off-topic from my air traffic control simulations, but a comedy break is always a good thing. This is a brilliant Rick Moranis moment from the movie, “Space Balls”. There is nothing like a good cup of coffee while watching radar!

Realism in Air Traffic Control Simulations

One thing that I have come to realize after building more than five air traffic control simulations: You cannot simulate the real thing on a 19″ screen. There, I said it. My air traffic control simulation weighs in at an impressive 997×738 pixels, which is as large as I can make it while still serving the lowest common denominator. 20% of my customers are still running on a screen resolution of 1024×768, which makes it a tight fit. Any larger, and you wind up with the dreaded scroll bars.

It amazes me how developers of similar ATC simulations insist on giving you a ‘radar scope’, which in my opinion wastes valuable screen real estate. I wouldn’t dare waste screen space on a pretty radar dashboard with all of the switches and dials for brightness and contrast, not to mention the old-fashioned round radar scope. I’m pretty sure that’s only in the movies. I highly doubt John Cusack would be expected to push tin on a screen the size and shape of a small pizza.

A typical computer screen is simply not big enough to display an 80 mile-wide sector. With such an enormous range, you can’t vector airplanes. The details are too darn small. Since I can’t change your monitor into a 35-inch monstrosity, my simulation zooms you in on the action with its’ relatively small sector. It is only 40 nautical miles from edge-to-edge. Things happen pretty fast in a small sector like this one, and there is very little wiggle room when you get backed into a corner.

One more brag point before I finish: This simulation obeys the laws of air density. You must understand that in the real world (and in this simulation) a pilot’s airspeed under-reads at higher altitudes. So if a you assign a pilot at 10,000 feet a speed of 210 knots, you will observe a groundspeed of about 250 knots. At sea level, there is no error. It’s a simple concept, but it does require some getting used to. In my opinion, it’s not a realistic simulation without this principle.

Air Traffic Control Radar Simulation

I have received a number of emails lately, regarding my air traffic control radar simulation. Some of these emails are from real-world air traffic controllers who would like to see even more advanced features, such as auto-overs and amended missed approaches. Others are from buyers who are struggling just to get a handle on the simulation. One thing that I have tried to be upfront about is that this is not a game. It’s a sim. There is no ‘score’, there is no dramatic music and there are no ‘levels’. This air traffic control simulation was designed to be as real as possible, right down to the pilot voices that you hear.

I am encouraging users to first try my radar game, called Air Traffic Controller. Air Traffic Controller is basically a light version of the sim, and just about anyone should be able to grasp the concepts pretty quickly. This sim is a natural next-step, and that is why I am selling both of these apps together as a combo.

I have put together a 20-minute video demonstration of the ATC simulator in action. It was originally intended to be a tutorial video, but with all of the action and pilot voices, the video became rather busy once I laid my voice down over top of it all. So the video is simply 20 minutes of me clicking away at my keyboard, doing my best to bring heavies down safely at Orange Island International, a fictitious airport located 50 nautical miles south of Maui, Hawaii. The adjacent control sectors are appropriately named after obscure Hawaiian locations, such as Miko sector to the south, and Kapaa sector to the east.
Be sure to maximize this video for best resolution!

You may have wondered about the tiny price tag of $5.95. This application offers just one sector. We plan to offer a ‘full version’ of this application next year, with 4 different sectors and a variety of additional features, and should sell for about $30.