[UPDATED July 2009 - This tip still applies with GE 5.0]
Google apparently thought the 3D buildings in Flight Simulator mode would slow down performance for some computers. So, starting with Google Earth 4.3 they automatically disable the 3D buildings layer when you turn on the Flight Simulator. As a pilot, and flight simulator fan, I really don’t like this – and have sent requests to Google to re-enable the feature. Note: download the latest Google Earth if you haven’t already.
The good news is that there is a work around to make the 3D buildings come on in GE 4.3/5.0 Flight Simulator. The process is just a bit of a pain, and you have to do it each time you start up the Flight Simulator. Here are the steps:
Enter Flight Simulator mode – Select “Tools->Enter Flight Simulator“. Optional: fly to a city which has 3D buildings (tip: San Francisco, Baltimore, Atlanta, Raleigh, Charlotte – these all have lots of 3D buildings).
Open the Sidebar – Sidebar shortcut – Press ‘Ctrl + Alt + B‘ (or + Option + B‘ on the Mac) to bring up the sidebar
Turn on 3D Buildings – Turn these on in the Layers pane in the lower left after the sidebar opens.
Turn Off Sidebar – IMPORTANT – before resuming the flight simulator, turn off the sidebar by hitting the sidebar shortcut from step 2
Resume flight – Now you can resume flying the flight simulator by hitting the SPACE key and the 3D buildings should stay on for your current flight.
NOTE: – See GEB’s Tips on Using Flight Simulator.
NOTE 2: If your machine doesn’t have good performance with the 3D buildings, then you shouldn’t try to fly with them turned on. I don’t think Google should automatically turn off the layer though. Do you?
Google Earth 4.3 (beta) was released last week on April 15th (see GEB’s first impressions). This new beta has some very nice new features like sun lighting, new navigation controls, better 3D building performance, and Street View imagery (see the video demonstration, and more details on the release).