Mac flight enthusiasts finally have an affordable general-aviation (GA) simulator to call their own, thanks to Fly 1.0, from Terminal Reality and Gathering of Developers. And, mostly, Fly succeeds remarkably well for a first effort. Its realism and beautifully rendered skies make for fun flights, although harsh hardware requirements and bugs result in some turbulence.
All the critical elements of general-aviation flight are in Fly, from planning to en route air-traffic control to touchdown. The Flight Planner lets you select departure and arrival airports from more than 9,000 facilities worldwide; add or delete way points; and load fuel, passengers, and baggage.
You have five aircraft at your disposal, including the venerable Cessna 172 and the Hawker 800XP business-class jet. Fly’s 3-D cockpits incorporate almost all the working controls found in a real aircraft. Thankfully, Fly provides keyboard shortcuts for many controls, so you don’t always have to reach for the mouse.
Although you can fly all over the world, detailed scenery is provided only for Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, and New York. In other areas, some major landmarks, including the Grand Canyon, are barely recognizable. Even within the five detailed areas, ground featuresapart from airports and scattered buildingstend to look blurry below a few thousand feet.
Fly beautifully renders a sunset over Los Angeles.
Fortunately, Fly’s sky effects, which include 3-D clouds, haze, lens flare, and precipitation, are stunning enough to make you overlook the terrain. And you can fly through real-world weather conditions by importing weather data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Web site
As you might expect, all this realism demands a lot of computing horsepower. A complete Fly installation gobbles up 1.6GB, and the application requires a
of 70MB of RAM. On a blue Power Mac G3/400 with a stock ATI Rage 128 video card, frame rates usually hovered in the high teens or twenties. Users with slower CPUs and older video cards report performance ranging from abysmal to acceptable.
Fly’s initial release is also marred by bugs, which run the gamut from annoying to serious; patches should be available by the time you read this. Fly’s extensible architecture provides encouragement for the future. The flight-sim community has already begun to produce promising add-ons.