Within days of last week's terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., Microsoft was at the center of a controversy because of reports that the terrorists used its popular Flight Simulator game to help plan the attacks. Recent versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator include realistic city landmarks, including the World Trade Center in New York, and sensationalistic news reports have included footage of the software simulating the pilot's view of one of last week's doomed flights. However, Microsoft says that the software could only help hone the skills of an already trained pilot and couldn't be used as the sole instruction for such an act. But the company will remove the World Trade Center from future versions of Flight Simulator in deference to the victims of the recent attack.

"We did decide, after some careful consideration, that we want to do the appropriate thing, the right thing, so we decided to remove the towers \[from the next version of Flight Simulator\]," Microsoft spokesperson Matt Pilla said this weekend. "Obviously, everyone's hearts are in this here, too. We don't want to have any imagery in \[the game\] that would upset anyone." Flight Simulator 2002 is scheduled to go on sale October 18, and Pilla says that the change won't affect that release date. The company is also considering a patch that would remove the landmark from previous Flight Simulator versions.

Prior to the company's decision, various software sellers around the world had already removed the current version of Flight Simulator from store shelves. In London, Virgin Megastores reports that it removed the software "as a mark of respect" for victims of the US terrorist attacks.