David and Robin Minnick
Requirements: Commodore 64 or 128 (in
64 mode), or an Atari 400/800, XL, or XE with at least 48K RAM. Disk
drive and joystick also required. The Commodore version was reviewed.
It's 10:53 a.m.
You're in the midst of your second shift as an air
traffic controller. Six flights await your clearance for takeoff. Five
more are waiting to land. Compounding your headache are a thunder-storm
approaching from the west and the Concorde approaching from the east.
Suddenly you hear, "This is United 101. Emergency!
Eight minutes fuel!" The Concorde moves at eight miles every minute.
Within two minutes the planes will be at a point of intersection.
Unless United 101 gets on the ground fast, lives will be lost.
Your palms begin to sweat.
"United 101. Turn left, heading 90 degrees. Descend
to 3,000 feet. Air France 314. Hold right at VDR at 5000 feet."
Oh no! you
think, staring at the screen. I
forgot Delta 626 coming in at the same altitude!
The conflict buzzer sounds.
Your spouse looks up from the couch. "Could you
please turn that thing down?"
It's Just A Simulation
This is Kennedy Approach, an
air traffic control simulation from Micro Prose. It puts you in the
seat of an air traffic controller in one of five U.S. cities. Each
airport presents you with skill levels ranging from 1 (Atlanta-a
challenging beginning) to 5 (New York City-no margin for error).
Approach, you work a shift of approximately ten minutes
realtime, longer at the higher levels. At the end of your shift, your
performance is evaluated and you're promoted, given a bonus, or fired.
Additional options let you continue your career, see an instant replay,
save your shift to resume playing later, or return to the main screen.
It's only a simulation, a game, you tell yourself
between shifts-but the sweat on your palms when you play Kennedy Approach is quite real.
Keyboard or joystick controls are used to establish
contact with a plane. Then the joystick is used to change its heading
and/or altitude. A push of the fire button prompts an exchange of
dialog between you and the pilot. Probably the most delightful feature
of the program is the use of digitized voices for this exchange. This
is software-driven speech synthesis from Electronics Speech Systems.
The dialogs have the quality of genuine "black box" air traffic
Keeping the friendly skies friendly
frenzied job in Kennedy
air traffic control simulation (Commo-
dore 64 version).
The graphics overall are very good, particularly the
thunderstorms, but a few effects require getting used to. The one
representing a plane's location is somewhat confusing, and it's
difficult at first to decipher the display of flight plans. Both these
problems are conquered by familiarity.
Some Minor Quirks
There are a few quirks in Kennedy
Approach. Planes start to wrap around the screen, a sight which
can be disconcerting to the newly hired controller. Routing flights
into a holding pattern is a lipbiting maneuver, as this requires you to
press the fire button at the right moment while commands are
sequentially displayed in the command line. This is the most difficult
task in the program, and it seems that it could be accomplished more
Another oversight is that Kennedy Approach lacks a disk
directory function for selecting which shift to retrieve.
The instruction manual is superb in providing
information about the air traffic control aspects of the simulation.
This technical information allows even the beginner to feel familiar
with the new environment. One small flaw, though: At one point the
manual directs you to a nonexistent Section VI, leaving you to your
ingenuity and experience to discover how to instruct the pilot to climb
to the desired altitude at takeoff. (This is corrected in later
editions of the manual. Users with early manuals should refer to B-3
instead of Section VI.)
Despite these small problems - they're the only ones
we found and are minor compared to the whole package-Kennedy Approach is a fascinating,
well-designed simulation for someone who wants to get a taste of what
air traffic controllers do all day (and night). More simulation than
game, it still elicits game-type responses. If you judge a game by how
it affects your psyche, by how excited you get, and by how nervous it
makes you, Kennedy Approach
gets a clammy hands rating of 9 out of a possible 10.
Micro Prose Software
120 Lakefront Drive
Hunt Valley, MD 21030