Infinite Flight for the iPad is a flight simulator/game for iOS that offers several different kinds of aircraft and airport locations. While seemingly impressive, it has some serious problems compared to its competition.
30,000 ft. View
Flight simulators on the iPad create a difficult proposition for the developer. While a full-blown simulator on the Mac may include a semi-professional joystick, multiple monitors, real physical rudder pedals and actual, operable instruments on screen, the migration to an iPad or other iOS device is tricky. (This review will refer to the iPad version.)
The developer is limited to the hand-held motions of the iPad to substitute for pitch and roll, on screen touch controls, and a head-up display (HUD). By its very design and the limitations of the iPad, this more or less casts the simulator into the realm of a game. And right there the issues becomes the playability and pleasure of the game — as a quasi-simulator.
Landing in San Francisco (Cessna 172)
For example, while the graphics and terrain might be amazing, the difficult part is the coupling of the aircraft’s flight dynamics to the movement of the iPad to enter control inputs. If the coupling adheres too severely to the actual flight dynamics or introduces too much time lag, sacrificing reasonable control inputs from the iPad, the flight becomes unstable.
I believe this is what’s happened to the Infinite Flight simulator. The developer, while constrained by the game-like nature of the iPad app, hasn’t translated the flight dynamics into a pleasing and controllable experience.
Watching from afar is cool, but compromises good control.
By way of contrast, there are two recent flight simulator/games, reviewed here, that do an extraordinary job of achieving the proper balance of flight dynamics and controllability on an iPad. “F18 Carrier Landing (iOS) is a Boatload of Fun.” and “F-Sim Space Shuttle for iOS: A Superb Flight Simulator.”
In the first case, landing on an aircraft carrier at 170 knots is a huge challenge, and if the controllability of the simulator isn’t superb, the paying customer is never going to land successfully. The game gets deleted. In the case of the Space Shuttle landing simulator, the user has the option to bring up on screen touch controls, pitch, roll and yaw, eliminating the need to twist, contort, and skew the iPad display like a drunken maniac in a ‘39 Ford convertible on a bumpy, nighttime road.
Compared to these two flight simulator/games, Infinite Flight fails as a pleasing, manageable challenge whereby one can focus on the instruments instead of muscling the iPad around with great frustration. Even with no wind at all, there’s a certain amount of instability that causes drift. In correcting that, one gets into some horizontal porpoising.
I asked the developer about all this, but have not received a response.
Infinite Flight has some features to commend. There are many different kinds of aircraft in the livery, They range from light planes (Cessna 172) up through several different airliners, small and large, and some military aircraft. Plus the Space Shuttle (landing only, of course.) I spent most of my time with the F/A-18, which I have the most experience with, but also experimented with the A-10, Cessna 172 (the big brother of the Cessna 150, which I’ve flown) and the Space Shuttle (to compare to Ledinsky Software version, and my own Shuttle simulator experience.)
Take-off preparation. Note controls for gear, flaps, autopilot, etc.
Other notable features include:
- ATC Chatter (which is very cool)
- Reverse Thrust
- Multiple camera angles
- Aircraft lighting
- Airport locator/map in HUD
- A 20 second history/playback. But not a full replay capability.
- Engine sound effects
- A logbook of your flights
Coaching and Docs
When you first launch the app, there is a Welcome page that invites you to work through a coaching session. That’s for the pure novice, and puts you in an Cessna, doing basic flying. The autopilot is turned on in the coaching session, so you don’t see the drift mentioned above.
There is no way to gracefully exit this tutorial that was obvious to me. Otherwise you can just proceed to flying one of the selected aircraft.
There is a Help Forums button, but it wasn’t active. Other than all that, there is no documentation included within the app.
You have control over the visibility (in km.), the wind direction, wind velocity, and wind gusts. You can also control the time of day, with four settings, but there’s no control of the clouds. Clouds are not this app’s strong suit.
Settings for Airport and Runway. Select take-off or landing.
However, one strong suit is the ability to 1) select from several locations and airports, 2) pick the desired runway, and 3) make a request for a new regional airport to be added.
Houston, We Have A Problem
In addition to the features, I noted some issues that contrast this app to the previously reviewed apps above.
- There is a frequent freeze in the animation that’s distracting.
- The crash animation is fairly crude compared to the F18 simulator. And in the other simulators, if you roll off the runway at a low speed, you can keep on rolling and steer back onto the runway. Departing from the asphalt in this app results in an instant crash and termination.
- The crash audio sound is simple, more like breaking glass, rather than what one might actually hear in a large aircraft.
- There is no stall warning in the powered aircraft that I worked with.
- There is no overspeed warning on high-speed aircraft with retractable gear.
- The terrain resolution is not as good as the previously reviewed apps.
- There is no jet exhaust animation tied to the thrust level.
- When changing camera angles, there is an occasional blurriness and rendering failure of the aircraft.
Aircraft rendering is good. Terrain resolution is only fair.
Infinite Flight, at version 1.4, requires iOS 5.0 or later and runs on an iPhone 3GS or later, iPod touch (3G or later) or any iPad. There are additional in-app purchases of aircraft available.
This flight simulator/game has fairly decent aircraft renderings, a good selection of aircraft and airports, and has a lot of nice features listed above. Unfortunately, it is marred by the playability of the game and some minor bugs. If you want to have a lot more fun, I recommend both of the other apps previously reviewed and referenced above.
Developer Response (20 July 2012)
Thanks for taking the time to review Infinite Flight.
The instability you’ve seen is inherent to any airplane you fly. Most airplanes won’t go straight down the runway when you take off, they will drift a bit, especially tail draggers. Correcting and anticipating the problems is part of the skills required for a successful take off.
Also, there always is a slight angle on the device when you hold it, we pick it up and that could cause the airplane to drift. Note that some airplanes are harder to fly than others. You can of course adjust the sensitivity in the settings page to make things better.
About the terrain detail, this is something we are working on. We have to find the right balance between level of detail and performance. That being said, the size of our regions and number of airports are beyond anything available today.
Infinite Flight isn’t meant to be an arcade game, it’s a flight simulator in the proper sense of the term. There are some issues here and there but we aim at maximum realism and while we’re not there yet, the feedback we’ve received from pilots across the world has been pretty positive.
We will focus on some of the points you mentioned in the future updates, hopefully it’ll make things better overall.”