Microsoft's Newest Flight Simulator
For many wannabes it's the next best thing, but the same goes for many instrument pilots looking to keep their skills up. It's almost three years since Microsoft Flight Simulator's Century of Flight 2004 edition let you trade places with Orville and Wilbur in the original Wright Flyer. The latest flight simulator isn't quite so radical, but it does add the chance to fly a Grumman Goose, De Havilland Beaver, a Maule on Skis, a Cosmos Trike Ultralight, and a DG808 sailplane with a tow plane. Flight Simulator X -- pronounced as "Ex," not "ten," even though it is the tenth version -- made its biggest advances in realism and multiplayer modes. The FSX world is much higher resolution and contains dynamic objects you'd better watch out for. Other airplanes, ground vehicles, and even birds might cross your path. Of course, if you're flying one of the many G1000-equipped aircraft you might forget to look at the virtual outside. The new multiplayer mode lets two pilots in the same room, or over the Internet, share a cockpit. Flight Simulator has always had the option for approach and en route controllers, but now it offers tower controllers, complete with the view from the tower cab. All this visual grandeur comes at a processor price. In an interesting bit of spin, Microsoft is saying that the requirements for a multi-gigahertz processor and a super video card to get full utility out of FSX is a feature, not a problem. It means that when you purchase that Vista-enabled supermachine in two years, there will still be something new for you in this copy of Flight Simulator.