After over half a decade of radio silence, Microsoft’s finally preparing to take the wraps off the newest iteration of its venerable flight simulation series. If you want to take Microsoft Flight out for a spin, Microsoft’s accepting beta applications now.

You can get in on the action by clicking here, then typing in your Windows Live ID and entering a few screens’ worth of information about yourself. And while you’re waiting for Microsoft approval, have a look at the preliminary system requirements, released mid-last-month.

The team offers a welcome overview of how it’s approaching performance, stating that it’s been focused on performance optimization "from an early stage."

To achieve this, we constantly monitored game performance metrics across a range of hardware configurations and reacted each time we saw a new feature or code change that caused a dip below the established thresholds. The end result is that Flight looks fantastic on a brand new PC, but because of the emphasis on performance throughout development, it also runs well on older desktops and budget laptops.

To give you a sense of what that means, the company lists two sets of system specs, one that runs the game well on "low" graphic settings, a second that runs it well "high" settings. If you want to know what that translates as, visually speaking, the team offers two comparison screenshots that look about as you’d expect–the low detail one is aliased with sparse foliage and clouds, the high detail one is using anti-aliasing and has thicker tree and cloud coverage.

Still no word on when we’ll see this, or when the beta’s supposed to start, but I’d wager 2012’s a safe bet with the beta app process underway now.

As said by Matt Peckham