Best ATC-style game yet: Approach Control

Approach Control screenshot.PNG

When a flight delay gets long, I give in to my guilty pleasure: playing air traffic control-like games on my iPhone. Flight Control and Airline Conqueror are good, mindless fun to distract me, but after a few minutes I always find myself wishing they were more real.

The two games, and others like them, take into account different speeds, but little more; they’re like aviation meets connect the dots.

With the new game Approach Control (“APP Control”), I’ve now met my match. It is the best ATC-style game yet.

The iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad game displays, like real ATC, an airport’s runways in green against a black background (don’t download the game for snazzy graphics and muzak). The objective is to direct aircraft to their assigned runways and direct departing aircraft to their assigned departure point on the edge of the screen.

By clicking on a flight (a square–no airplane icons here) you can control heading, speed, and altitude.

Aircraft entering your screen, “airspace”, are descending down to 3,000 feet. You have to direct them to the runway (with the “direct” option, see screen shot above, you can automatically direct the flight to the runway or departure point) and make sure they reach 3,000 feet by the time they start their final approach.

Departing aircraft are cleared up to 3,000 feet, but most have to be at a higher altitude by their departure point (if an aircraft is too high or low, you lose points). Check “Flightplan Altitude” for that appropriate figure. You will also need to adjust speed and heading/direction.

Amongst all of this, you have to keep aircraft apart from each other. You’re permitted a minimum separation of 2.9. If you go under that, the game ends. Thankfully, you can adjust the game’s difficulty.

My only complaint is you cannot zoom in. Since the game incorporates altitude, it would be nice to touch the screen and adjust an overflying aircraft without your finger press bringing up the other aircraft’s settings. Also, I’ve lost the game a few times because two aircraft got close to each other and I could not adjust their flightpaths before they got even closer.

(I like how the game leaves you with a guilt-free conscious: you lose when you break minimum separation, not when aircraft collide like in Flight Control and Airline Conqueror.)

No, the game is not perfect: Continental flight 68 approaching LHR’s 27R at 5600 feet is listed as being operated by a Boeing 737. But the aircraft type and flight number is only a detail that does not affect game play.

Approach Control has a free “lite” version that lets you select between JFK and LHR, while the full and paid version gives you more airports. The lite version is nice as it (so far) does not limit game time or display pesky ads.

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10 Responses to Best ATC-style game yet: Approach Control

  1. Guilherme 16 January, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    Can’t find this game anywhere, not even on Google. Are you sure about the name?

  2. Will Horton 16 January, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    It’s an iOS game so you can only get it from iTunes. Try looking under “APP Control”.

  3. Ozmin 16 January, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    I can’t find this game too in iTunes…

  4. Will Horton 16 January, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    Hmm. I’m definitely seeing it in iTunes (US version) under “APP Control”.

  5. Vincent Lambercy 16 January, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    Hi Will,

    thanks a lot for your kind words. I’m happy that you like the game. I promise the next version will contain other aircraft types, with their respective performance. Wait for having a C150 on a 4 miles approach with a B747 behind ;)

    I confirm the only limitation in the Lite version is that you can play two airports only.

    Please shoot me a mail at the address I put in your form and I’ll be happy to send you more info about the updates I plan and a code for the full version.

  6. Dave 18 January, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

    Looks like a fun game! I used to play Tracon (?) back in the 90s on my PC.

    You may find my Airplane Quiz for iPhone game interesting, but probably far too easy! Take a look here:


  7. Will Horton 25 January, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    Hey thanks for visiting our site Vincent! Next update sounds good. I’ll send you a message.

  8. Andrew 8 February, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    Flight Control is way more fun and less buggy

    Found a lot of glitches in this game not worth the 2 bucks


  9. Vincent Lambercy 11 September, 2011 at 9:58 am #

    The new version will be available soon, with many improvements including a voice saying the clearances you give to the aircraft, support for landscape and portrait orientations on iPhone and iPad.

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