Prior to the closure of the ACES studio in 2009, Microsoft successfully tempted eager flight simulation fans for decades with revolutionary new editions of the popular software every 2 years or so. Every new release provided something new; MSFS 4.0 (developed in 1989) detached the two dimensional stigma of the series by introducing dynamic scenery for the first time, whilst MSFS 98 (1997) featured the first ever helicopter (Bell 206 Jetranger) within the simulator.
It was not until the release of MSFS 2002, however, that any form of Air Traffic Control (ATC) facility was developed. In fact, MSFS 2002 also featured the first ever Artificial Intelligence (AI) aircraft within the series; it was now possible to fight over takeoff clearances, race for parking spots and purposefully incur the wrath of ATC by cruising just a few centimetres away from another aircraft!
Despite the hype, Microsoft’s ATC system came as a disappointment for serious pilots and realism-craving simmers. SIDs and STARs were virtually non-existent, it was impossible to accurately report emergency situations and ATC would often become confused; it was not uncommon to see frequent runway collisions, neither was it unusual to have ATC simply “forget” about you and leave you to fly straight into a mountain in IMC-rated conditions.
Indeed, even the final release of MSFS (FSX) did not show any significant improvement. The execution of the MSFS series in 2009 seemed to seal the fate for ATC fanatics; they were left with a rather unrealistic, basic system that did not cater for their needs. Their luck, however, was about to change...
VoxATC is an air traffic control extension product for
Microsoft’s FSX. The software provides such a significant revamp
of ATC facilities that the term “extension” may be a little
inaccurate; absolutely all of the sub-standard default systems
have been removed, and replaced with modern, up-to-date air
traffic control service that is suitable for both VFR and IFR
Unique in its nature, VoxATC has been specifically designed with PPL (Private Pilot’s Licence) and IMC training pilots (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) in mind. One of the program’s lead developers, Bob Sidwick, is an experienced pilot who has held an instrument rating for many years; proving that the software is indeed as realistic as possible.
The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) regularly reviews and adjusts ATC procedures as appropriate. In 2009, a major overhaul of ATC services took place (mainly due to a RAF ATC incident). This changed a large proportion of ATC calls; whilst some new ATSOCAS Services (Air Traffic Services Outside Controlled Airspace; services that are used predominantly on VFR cross-country flights) were also introduced. This meant that FSX’s already outdated ATC system seemed even more out of place, and so PPL pilots used MSFS as a training aid would have been severely confused.
Luckily, VoxATC has been developed in close contact with the latest version of the Radiotelephony Manual CAP413 published by the CAA; meaning that anything practiced using VoxATC is current and appropriate.
The most outstanding feature of VoxATC, one that allows it to be placed in a totally different league to any other ATC program, is that of voice recognition. The word “Vox” itself hints that one’s voice may be involved, and the software does not disappoint. Every single plausible ATC phrase can be spoken into a microphone and then interpreted by the software, followed by an appropriate reply from the program’s air traffic controller(s).
Should you be unable to acknowledge a takeoff clearance properly, or unable to accurately recall the current QNH, the program will instantaneously criticise your unsuitable phraseology – features that no other ATC software system can provide.
VoxATC also provides custom AI aircraft which are controlled using the software. These AI aircraft are much more intelligent and realistic than the default AI models, and operate totally separately from any of FSX’s own AI aircraft. The ability to generate and control its own traffic allows VoxATC to qualify as a “2 in 1” product; both a traffic program AND a groundbreaking new ATC system are provided with each purchase!
Software Features and Purchase Information
VoxATC 6 can be purchased from RC Simulations' shop for £44.99. This will provide you with a registration key which can be entered and activated internally within the program. It is important to note that the actual software download is free (with a 7 day trial); and that the registration key is entered into this “free download”.
A boxed version of VoxATC is also available upon special request from RC Simulations, and can also be purchased from Flighstore.co.uk for £84.95.
Upon face value, £44.99 may seem very expensive for FSX software. It is very important to consider, however, that you are essentially purchasing a traffic program AND a realistic ATC system in one. The overall cost therefore will actually be significantly lower than if purchasing a traffic expansion and an ATC program separately.
Since VoxATC is professional ATC software, designed to replicate real-world procedures with maximum realism, it does not “go light” on features. The software boasts the following features:
|• Totally voice-recognition powered ATC system; air traffic control listen to what you say and will recognise any mistakes you may make|
|• All procedures/calls are developed using CAP413; the official CAA Radiotelephony manual|
|• A completely new traffic system; VoxATC adds its own traffic separate to that of FSX's default traffic, which follow any instructions given by air traffic controllers|
|• Extensive coverage of all VFR/IFR procedures; VoxATC can be used as a real-world training aid|
|• “Strict” air traffic control; incorrect read back of a clearance or a failure to follow taxi instructions will result in interrogation by ATC|
|• Configurable ATC voices; both speed and “voice type” (ie choosing from multiple peoples' voices) can be configured|
|• Extra programs (provided with VoxATC) allow for things such as runway numbers and taxiway markings to be updated; allowing the ATC experience to be as up-to-date and current as possible|
RCSimulations has also been able to provide a £20.00 discount to owners of the previous version of VoxATC (VoxATC 5). To obtain this discount, the registration code for Version 5 should be entered when ordering VoxATC 6.
Getting Started – Installation
and Set Up
VoxATC's installation process is painfully simple. After running the executable file provided with the download (or on the CD), simply follow the on-screen instructions. At a certain point in the installation, the registration key, found within the CD case (or within purchase information if a download) will be requested; entering this in will “activate” VoxATC.
Once installed, the most vital step to getting started with VoxATC is to configure Windows Speech Recognition. This is because VoxATC relies upon speech recognition to understand and interpret voice inputs from the user. The first step is to go your operating system's speech recognition control panel. This is a similar but visually different interface depending on whether you are running Windows XP, Vista or Windows-7. This review is written from a perspective of someone using Windows-7.
From the start menu, type “speech” into the program search bar. There will be an option named “Change text to speech settings”. Clicking on this option will bring up an interface like this:
The above screen shots shows the exact settings that should be
used when configuring VoxATC. The most important aspects have
been labelled; the number “1” represents the microphone options,
whilst number “2” shows that the language should be set to
English (either UK or US English). The “configure microphone”
button (labelled as “1”), if clicked, will bring up an
interactive wizard that enables voice recognition to understand
your voice. This wizard should be followed as carefully as
possible in order to get the best voice recognition.
The “audio input” button allows the user to choose which microphone they are using as the input source. This may seem rather self explanatory, however, for someone like myself, who has 6 different microphone inputs going into one PC, it is paramount that this is configured correctly.
Personally, I am using a Saitek Pro Flight Headset with my FSX setup. I find that headset microphones are best for voice recognition purposes, however you may use other microphones provided that they process audio at a suitable enough quality.
Once the Windows speech recognition system has been correctly set up, the next step is to run the VoxATC indexing tool. The indexing tool provides VoxATC with an up-to-date overview of all the airports, runways and taxiways; therefore allowing for the correct operation of ATC. For example, the default Heathrow (EGLL) airport will be different to Aerosoft's Mega Heathrow airport (ie a few taxiways and parking spots will be displaced); and so it is very important that VoxATC has a “map” of the “correct” Heathrow airport, to prevent itself from telling you to taxi into a building!
The run the indexing tool, simply start the executable file named “VoxATC Indexer” located in the VoxATC folder. Starting the program will immediately begin the process (which takes around 5 minutes, depending on the amount of add-ons installed). Please note, ALL scenery add-ons must be installed prior to indexing. Should you want to install a new add-on, you will need to re-run the indexer to allow it to keep up-to-date with FSX's scenery library.
Now that the scenery library has been indexed by VoxATC, the final step is to install the “VoxATC Panel” into your FSX aircraft. The “VoxATC Panel” is a pop-up instrument panel (accessible through the “alt” menu like all other instrument panels), and is the actual ATC window for VoxATC.
To install the VoxATC Panel, simply start the program named “Panel Setup” in the VoxATC folder. From here, tick all of the aircraft you wish to install the panel into, and then hit “install”. It is important to note than you can only use VoxATC with an aircraft that has the VoxATC panel installed into it.
That's all! Once all of the above steps have been completed, one is ready to start FSX and begin using VoxATC.
Once one has started FSX, the first step, after loading a flight of course, is to open up the VoxATC panel. This can by done by pressing “alt”, clicking “view”, and then selecting the “VoxATC Panel” through the “instrument panel” drop down menu.
This will bring up a window, similar in visual appearance to the FSX ATC window.
The green “enable” button in the top left corner will activate
VoxATC. Once clicked, the program will frequently blurt out the
word “test” for about 5 seconds as it initialises itself. The
self-initialisation process is complete when one hears the words
“VoxATC Version 6.0”.
After VoxATC has started, the user will be asked to tune to a specific frequency. This is usually the frequency of the airport in which the aircraft is situated; for example, starting a flight at Netherthorpe (EGNF) will prompt a message of “Tune to frequency 123.275”.
After the appropriate frequency has been selected, it is time to make your first call with VoxATC! In accordance with real-world procedure, the pilot establishes communications with ATC through what is known as a “radio check”. The radio check assesses numerous things; firstly, if ATC can hear you, secondly, if you can hear them, and thirdly, how readable each party's transmission is. The conversation will usually run thus, assuming one's call-sign is G-PHLY, and assuming one is contacting Netherthorpe Radio:
Aircraft: Netherthorpe Radio G-PHLY request radio check 123.275
Netherthorpe Radio:G-PHLY readability 5 on 123.275
Aircraft: Readability 5 also G-PHLY
Call-signs such as “G-PHLY” are pronounced like “Golf-Papa-Hotel-Lima-Yankee”. This is because, in aviation, the phonetic alphabet is used instead of just ordinary letters, to allow pilots to distinguish between similar sounding characters (for example, “D” could sound like “E” or “C” over a poor quality radio). Furthermore, the phrase “Netherthorpe Radio” means that we are communicating with an A/G Radio Station; a specific type of ATC information service (see section below).
Although it will have become obvious by this stage, it is important to note that all transmissions are written, in text form, on screen. This is useful if you cannot remember the exact phraseology for a specific request, as both what you should say and what ATC have said will appear within the VoxATC window. This feature also ensures that you use the correct phraseology; VoxATC builds good habits from the start!
Since there are many different ATC services and different flight categories (VFR and IFR), the following sections of the review have been divided into each individual service to allow for a more detailed review of VoxATC's features.
Please note, some technical terms used in the following few sections may be difficult to understand; likewise, the structure of some sentences may come across as rather chiastic (inverted grammar). I have done my best to explain complicated areas of ATC as best as possible; I apologise if some parts are still difficult to decipher!
VFR Flights – ATSOCAS Services
VFR, standing for Visual Flight Rules, are a group of rules that a pilot can elect to fly by if the weather is above the required minima. As the name suggests, VFR fight is entirely “visual”, and a pilot can only elect to fly VFR if the weather is good enough; more specifically:
• The Pilot must have at least 8km visibility distance (imagine a circle with a radius of 8km, with the aircraft at the centre. This is
the “circle of visibility”)
• The Pilot must be in sight with the ground at all times
• The Aircraft must be clear from cloud; a distance of 1000ft vertically, and 1,500ft horizontally
• The Pilot cannot enter Class A airspace under any circumstances
Please note that the above conditions are just rough guidelines. There are other factors, such as whether the pilot is flying in controlled airspace, or whether the pilot is above 10,000ft (FL100). For most general aviation VFR flight, however, the above minima are suitable.
An example of such a VFR flight would be taking a Cessna 150 out for a cross country flight between two small aerodromes. Should the weather be good enough, the pilot will be able to perform his flight under VFR.
VoxATC offers nearly all of the services you’d expect on a standard real-life VFR flight (and some you wouldn’t!). The services covered in this section are the “ATSOCAS” services, or the “Air Traffic Services Outside Controlled Airspace”. These services should only be used outside controlled airspace (usually the airspace between two airfields if flying in a relatively sparse area).
The ATSOCAS services are a set of four different types of ATC service, designed to maintain “the safe and efficient conduct of flight” (the latter quote is something that you will see repeated frequently throughout the CAP413 document). A pilot will almost always use some sort of ATSOCAS service on a VFR flight, since they are easy to access and useful for safe flight. The four categories are as follows:
• The Basic Service
• The Traffic Service
• The Procedural Service
• The Deconfliction Service
Although it would be a waste of time to lament on the exact details of each service, the following should give you a rough idea of what each service does.
The Basic Service – This is, as the name suggests, a “basic” information service. Basically (if you’ll pardon the pun), ATC will pass you any relevant information useful for your flight (ie, if you’re flying near a gliding site, ATC might give you some information on the activities taking place there). There is no form of radar surveillance or ATC commands involved with the basic service.
The Traffic Service – Designed as a “step up” from the basic service, the traffic service offers the same useful information as a basic service, whilst also providing radar assistance in the form of traffic alerts. This means, in a nutshell, that ATC are able to accurately report on the traffic surrounding you using their radar equipment.
No mandatory instructions are issued, however ATC may issue headings or altitudes for “sequencing or positioning”.
The Deconfliction Service – The most “thorough” service. ATC use radar to track your flight and other traffic around you, and will provide instructions for you if they believe that you will collide with another aircraft. The services provided in the basic and traffic services are also included, however the difference is that the air traffic controller will issue you with headings or altitudes to prevent a collision.
The Procedural Service – Essentially, the procedural service is the same as the deconfliction service, however it is conducted without the use of radar. The air traffic controller relies upon pilot reports so that he/she can plot the position of aircraft in the area, and will issue the pilot with heading/altitude advice if he believes there is a potential collision.
VoxATC provides the user with a fully fledged basic, traffic and deconfliction service. Unfortunately, there is no procedural service included with VoxATC, however, in retrospect; the service is rarely used on a day-to-day basis in real life.
All of the ATSOCAS services provided with VoxATC are fantastic. The phraseology is, as expected, spot on, and VoxATC will require the repetition of certain elements of your message to ATC should you miss something out. For example, a standard request for a basic service would be as follows (for an aircraft with call sign G-PHLY to Waddington Radar):
Aircraft: Waddington Radar
Departed Airfield X
Destination Airfield Z
Current Position Overhead Y
(Extra Information, eg: “VFR”, “2 POB” (Persons on Board), etc)
Request Basic Service
The most impressive aspect of requesting these services is that VoxATC lists them in a very specific order (as annotated above). The application of this very precise word order is fantastic, as it is the exact order that flight instructors tell students to make their ATC calls. This further proves how VoxATC can be used alongside real-world ATC training.
Once a basic service has been requested, ATC will usually respond; passing a squawk code along with a confirmation that the aircraft is “under watch” (NOTE: since these are ATSOCAS (outside controlled airspace) services, you are not under the “control” of ATC). Once again, should you read something back incorrectly or do something wrong, ATC will repeat the erroneous read back and require you to correct yourself. EG (following on straight after the above conversation with ATC):
ATC: G-LY, Waddington Radar, squawk 7082, basic service
Aircraft: Squawk 7088, basic service, G-LY
ATC: G-LY, squawk 7082
Aircraft: Squawk 7082, G-LY
It is also important to note that once ATC has abbreviated the aircraft’s callsign (ie “G-PHLY” has been shortened to “G-LY”), the pilot may also abbreviate the callsign. It’s the little details like this that you simply cannot get with FSX’s default ATC; and it’s the little details that count in the Radiotelephony exam!
VFR Flights – Operations at Aerodromes
Whilst in-flight services are very important, it is during the taxi, takeoff and landing stages whereby both the pilot and ATC’s workload is the highest. VoxATC has replicated all of the real-world airport procedures; something that, yet again, students can use to practice from.
Initial contact with an aerodrome's ATC is the radio check (see
above). Once communication has been established, the user may
select from several different options which should suit all VFR
flight. These options are:
• 0) Request Taxi for local flight
• 1) Request Taxi for circuit
• 2) Radio Check
Even though the radio check will have already been completed, the user can choose to repeat the check; changing microphones or headphones may merit a new check, for example.
The first option, taxi for a local flight, is the option most
people will choose if they are intending to perform a simple,
routine flight that leaves the airport's airspace and then
either returns to it or lands elsewhere.
Pressing “0” on the keyboard will prompt the user to say:
Aircraft: XXX Ground YYY request taxi for local
(Where XXX = Station Name, and YYY = Aircraft's Callsign)
Once the request has been made, the ground ATC unit will instruct the user to taxi to a specific runway, and will provide any relevant airfield information (usually the airport's QNH and runway in use).
After receiving an instruction to taxi to the runway; the user should do so. Unlike default FSX, there is no “progressive taxi” option; you must find the holding point using real-world charts yourself! This is yet another good habit that VoxATC builds up in its customers; in real-life there is no magical yellow arrow that points to the holding point!
Unfortunately, I encountered a problem after receiving a taxi command. Usually, one is handed off to the “Tower” frequency before one reaches the holding point. Sometimes, however, I found that VoxATC just forgot about me. The VoxATC communication window simply said “taxi to holding point”, and even after I did just that, still nothing happened.
After an email to VoxATC's support, I received a swift reply
which resolved the issue. The trick was to open the “VoxATC
menu” by pressing the “0” key; this provided me with
an option to say the magical words “ready for departure”. Once I
said the phrase “ready for departure”, I was given an
instruction to transfer to the tower frequency.
Interestingly, this “issue” allowed me to discover another one of VoxATC's little details. The phrase “ready for departure” is one of the most important tuition points for RT students in the UK. The CAA have gone to enormous lengths to ensure that the word “takeoff” is not used until an aircraft has been cleared to do so by ATC; the phrase “ready for departure” tells ATC that an aircraft is requesting a takeoff clearance.
So what? I hear you ask. Simply put, there is no such phrase as
“request takeoff clearance”. Using such words in an RT exam will
result in an instant fail (as it is a very, very important “pass
point”), since you are essentially breaking the rules listed in
the CAP413 document. Fortunately however, the VoxATC software
itself will not accept the phrase “request takeoff clearance” as
a substitute for “ready for departure”; more good habits!
It has to be noted however that "Ready for takeoff " is a permissible phrase as far as the FAA is concerned. Feedback from a commercial pilot in the USA confirms "Yes... once you've done your runup and taxied up to the hold line short of the runway... you call Tower and say "Cherokee 1205Tango runway 10 ready for takeoff" It's the proper procedure call to make.
Presently, VoxATC requires pressures to be read back in “millibars”. As of 2012, the CAA has changed this so that the SI unit “Pascals” (or more specifically, Hectopascals) should be used. This change is going to be added to an up-coming release, however, one millibar is equal to one Hectopascal – hardly the most difficult unit conversion!
Instrument Flight Rules, commonly abbreviated to IFR, are the conditions under which pilots fly by when the weather is too poor for visual flight. Most commercial “airline” traffic is IFR (even when the weather is “good”), which allows them to fly through Class A airspace; airspace that is restricted to all non-IFR traffic.
VoxATC features all of the IFR ATC procedures used in real-life daily flying. This means that VoxATC is extremely useful when conducting an international flight in the PMDG737 or Level-D767, since you can practice “heavy” procedures to whatever level of detail you wish.
The vast majority of simulator jet pilots prefer to do their online flying with VatSim or IVAO, since this offers the most realistic IFR experience. There are, however, restrictions to both networks, since air traffic controllers are not online all of the time, which means that departure, arrival or even en-route ATC is not always available.
VoxATC fills this gap by offering a realistic IFR environment available any day of the week.
Creating and “Filing” a Flight Plan
Whilst not compulsory under VFR conditions, a flight plan is one of the most important aspects of IFR flight. The flight plan is air traffic control’s “guide” for your flight, and tells them who you are, where you are from, where you’re going, and what type of aircraft you’re flying... The list goes on.
In order to issue you with instructions and headings that will actually get you to your destination, ATC must obviously first know some basic details (see above). For this very reason, VoxATC allows the user to create and “file” a flight plan for IFR flight, by which air traffic control will issue the user with vectors and instructions.
Filing a flight plan is very simple. All one needs to do is create a FSX flight plan file (.pln), and then save it to a local folder. This flight plan should include all way-points and altitudes that are to be used during the flight. Personally, I recommend creating such a flight plan using the excellent freeware “Plan-G” software, or a similar flight planning program.
To fly IFR, one should have their IFR flight plan loaded prior to pressing the “Initialise” button on the VoxATC window. If this is done correctly, VoxATC will recognise that you intend to fly IFR and will operate the flight accordingly.
Once a flight plan has been successfully loaded, you are ready to fly IFR!
SIDs and STARs
Whilst there are many differences between IFR and VFR flight using VoxATC, only the fundamental differences will be covered here in detail. SIDs and STARs are one of these major differences.
“SIDs” (Standard Instrument Departures) and “STARs” (Standard Terminal Arrival Route) are a set of prepublished “directions” for aircraft to follow when they are operating near an airport.
In order to keep traffic flow neat and efficient, aircraft approaching Heathrow (for example) do not simply line up with the runway and land. They must follow a “STAR”. The following image shows the “Ockham” STAR to Heathrow.
If you're wondering why the STAR is called “Ockham”, it is
because it uses the OCK VOR station (Ockham VOR) for
positioning; if you look closely, you can see that OCK is the
first VOR within the STAR.
SIDs are exactly the same; however they are published directions for an aircraft to follow after takeoff from an airport.
SIDs and STARs are a fundamental part of IFR flight, wherever you are in the world. As a result, VoxATC caters for extensive use of SIDs and STARs.
The SID/STAR database is constantly updated in the real-world, and this data is available for FS2004/FSX users from a site called “Navigraph”. Unfortunately, these updates cost money and so users that wish to remain up-to-date must pay real money outside of their purchase of VoxATC. This is, however, beyond the control of the VoxATC developers, since they do not own Navigraph.
Thankfully, VoxATC includes a reasonable SID/STAR database as standard. This database is the exact same one that is used in the Level-D767's FMC software, so if you own the Level-D767 add-on, you will be familiar with the amount of SIDs/STARs included with VoxATC.
When you are approaching an airport with an IFR flight plan filed, VoxATC will (amongst passing you other instructions) issue you with a STAR to follow. The STAR issued depends upon which direction you are approaching the airport from (clearly, it's a waste of time to execute an Eastern arrival if you are arriving from the West).
The level of immersiveness provided by an ATC system that offers SIDs and STARs is something that one simply cannot experience with default FSX ATC.
The In-Flight Menu
Whilst VoxATC is intellegent, it cannot, of course, predict exactly what you want to say. For example, if you're enroute towards East Midlands, happily receiving a basic service, and you experience an engine failure, you'll want to access a menu that allows you to make the infamous “Mayday” call. VoxATC cannot, of course, predict that you will have an engine failure, so it is up to the user to have the “in-flight menu” at hand.
The in-flight menu is a selection of various calls that can be made to air traffic control. Usually, VoxATC will provide suggestions for the user in terms of what to do; for example, when flying en-route, VFR, towards Gamston airport, the VoxATC window might just say “continue flight” or something similar; clearly not very useful if you want to make a Mayday call!
As a result, users can access the in-flight menu by pressing “0” whilst en-route. This brings up a plethora of various calls that can be made, including, but not limited to, Mayday (Distress call), Pan-Pan (Urgency call), a position fix (ask ATC to confirm your position), and so on. Real-world pilots will be comfortable with using the in-flight menu, and it provides a great training aid for student pilots; Mayday/Pan-Pan calls and position fixes are often tested in the Radiotelephony practical examination.
Although many paragraphs have been written regarding the services one can receive through VoxATC, the actual feature list is endless. Almost every single possible call one can think of is covered somewhere along the line, each coded with its own unique voice recognition parameters that won't activate unless one says the correct words.
As previously mentioned, VoxATC is not just an ATC program. In addition to providing everything you'll ever need, a complete traffic system independent to that of FSX's traffic is provided with the product.
Thankfully, VoxATC's traffic is as intelligent as you. They will follow any procedure/instruction given to them by ATC, and they behave exactly like real world traffic; that is, even when flying out in the countryside seemingly by oneself, there will always be some cheeky Cessna or misbehaving Mooney that pops out of nowhere, only for ATC to save the day by advising the user of the rouge aircraft's presence.
Likewise, should the user wonder too close to another aircraft, ATC will “inform” the traffic that the user is nearby, and may ask them to confirm a sighting of the traffic (in the exact same way that a user would acknowledge traffic information).
Whilst VoxATC's traffic system is brilliant, presently, one must ensure that all FSX traffic is disabled. This is because VoxATC's traffic listens to VoxATC; whilst default traffic will listen to default ATC. Likewise, frequent collisions between the two are imminent unless the latter is disabled.
VoxATC6 will normally use whatever third party programs are available such as Traffic X, My Traffic X and Ultimate Traffic via a bridge program. Although VoxATC 6 generates its own traffic, it does use the aircraft and liveries from the third party add-ons.
VoxATC's traffic is truly “intelligent”. As previously mentioned, all AI aircraft will follow any instructions given to them by ATC, which means that aircraft approaching Heathrow, for example, will be arranged in the real world “stacks” when flying towards the airport. This makes IFR procedural flying very realistic, and when coupled with an in-depth aircraft simulation (for example, the Level-D767), the level of immersiveness is somewhat impressive.
VoxATC includes a few impressive features that allow the user to customize the experience to their liking. The “voice configuration” program, located in VoxATC's installation folder, allows users to change the voices of various ATC units, and the voice of their first officer. American and British accents are available for both males and females, and so the “monotonous” nature of FSX's default ATC is somewhat displaced (since almost all default ATC controllers sound like they are part of the same family!).
There is also a “runway updater” program; also located in the installation folder. Since the earth's magnetic field slowly changes over time, runway headings become inaccurate every few years or so. As a result, airports like to keep on top of this issue and will rename their runway numbers when the heading has drifted suitably. For example, Essex airport was forced to change the runway named “23/05” to “22/04” in 2009, since the earth's magnetic field had drifted by 10 degrees east.
VoxATC's runway updater is the software equivalent of airport management. Using the latest AIRAC cycle (these are available as payware updates from Navigraph's site, see the “SIDs/STARs” section above), VoxATC is able to rename applicable runways for a more realistic experience.
Also included is a “central taxiway lights removal” program. This program, as the name suggests, will remove the green central taxiway lights from whatever airport you want. Personally however, I have chosen to keep my green taxiway lights; I would feel somewhat lonely without them.
An in-depth 80 page PDF manual is provided free of charge with each purchase.
This manual easily guides a user through the basics, and contains a mixture of tutorials and information. This is great news, since most manuals these days are composed entirely of a single tutorial, or just contain random stacks of information. VoxATC's documentation will educate a user through its tutorials, whilst at the same time provide a reference for future use should you forget anything.
Bob Sidwick, owner of RC Simulations, has confirmed that VoxATC6 is about to get a major update which has taken around 6 months to develop, this will be free to existing users. A vast amount of work has be done to improve the logic of runway crossings and behaviour of AI aircraft, to implement the change from change milibars to hectopascals and much more besides.
VoxATC is a product that vastly improves an area of FSX that is often overlooked. Whether one is simply looking for a more realistic flying experience, or seeking a supplement to their real-world training, this software ticks all of the boxes.
The product's strict tendency to keep perfectly in line with real world law ensures that it is suitable for all enthusiasts; real-world die hards and amateur FSX users will all find something to keep themselves occupied with when there's nobody on VatSim or IVAO.
The simply excellent traffic engine supplied with VoxATC immerses the user in a busy traffic environment buzzing with activity. Furthermore, the “intelligence” of the AI provided by VoxATC ensures that you won't have anybody doing what they're not supposed to do.
• Excellent realism – Real world procedures to a “T”
• Accurate voice recognition; will not accept false ATC read-backs
• IFR and VFR services completely covered
• Traffic system is excellent
• Occasional continuity problems with ground movements
Mutley's Hangar score of 10/10 and the Mutley's
Hangar Award for Excellence!
Review machine Spec: Core i7 920 OC @ 3.8 Ghz | 6Gb Tri-Channel DDR3 Ram |GTX285 Graphics |Windows 7 64bit Home Premium