By Mike Singer
Anyone with even a passing interest in air traffic control who sees the new Tower Controller feature in FSX multiplayer loves it. Its functionality is not as deep as aVatsim or IVAO client like ASRC, VRC, or IvAc, but it wasn’t intended to be. I designed much of the feature, and for a first stab at giving users a new role to take on in Flight Simulator, I think we succeeded. Whenever I demo it to people, their eyes light up as they imagine all the possibilities.
Then, they invariably all ask the same question:
“Can I get in the tower in Free Flight and just watch the AI aircraft?”
Officially, no. We originally had a “Tower Observer” role, but realized that users would expect a very rich experience that we couldn’t deliver on given other priorities. Such a feature would be dependent on AI traffic for there to be anything to see, and AI traffic could be turned off. It would be dependent on the user or auto-tune functionality tuning to the right frequency for there to be anything to hear. And it would need a simpler interface than what’s in the multiplayer tower. Additionally, we guessed that once users saw it they might want to actually control the AI traffic. We knew we couldn’t deliver on all this, so we decided to cut the Observer feature and just focus on a multiplayer tower experience for FSX.
Unofficially, yes! All that said, here’s the good news. There’s a simple method that enables you to sit in the virtual control tower at an airport in Free Flight and listen to the AI controllers do their things and watch all the action out the window and on the radar. It’s unsupported functionality, but it does work in the Deluxe version of FSX, which includes the Tower Controller feature in multiplayer. (Thanks to some folks on the Avsim forums for figuring this out!)
To use the tower cab in Free Fight (if you have FSX Deluxe):
- On the left side of the main Flight Simulator screen, click Multiplayer.
- Sign in (either a Gamespy session or a LAN session will work) and click theSign In
- Click the Host a Session
- Click Next.
- On the Session Conditions screen, in the “Select Role” drop-down list, select “Air Traffic Controller.”
- Change the location, weather, time, and/or season as desired.
- Click the Save Flight
- Enter a Title (e.g. “Seattle Tower”) and an optional description, and click OK.
- Click the Back button multiple times to back out of multiplayer.
- On the left side of the main Flight Simulator screen, click Free Flight.
- Go to Free Flight, click the Load Flight button, and load the flight you just saved.
Voila, you’ll be in the tower just like in multiplayer, but in Free Flight! You’ll have to create a flight from the Multiplayer screens like this every time you want to go to a new airport (since just changing location once your in the tower puts the tower on the ground at the new location). Better yet, go into Multiplayer as per the above instructions and save a bunch of “in the tower” flight files at all your favorite locations.
Whenever you want to observe from a tower, all you’ll have to do is load one of your saved flight files. Note that you can load one of these flights from the main Free Flight screen, or via the Flights menu in the sim itself.
Once in the tower, you can tune the radios, listen in to the AI controllers and pilots, and watch the action out the window and on the radar display. For details about using the Tower Control features, see the “Acting As a Tower Controller” article in the Multiplayer section of the Learning Center.
Be sure to crank up the traffic sliders on the Traffic tab of the Display Settingsscreen so you have something to see and hear:
- On the Options menu, point to Settings, and then click Display.
- Click the Traffic
There you have it. Now you can hang out in the control tower at your favorite airport for hours. It’s pretty cool, especially with Real-world weather and the AI traffic cranked all the way up if your machine can handle it.
I’ll warn you though: it’s addicting!