3D Planes for Flight Tracking in Google Earth

3d plane tracking in Google EarthFor a couple of weeks a guy called Sven from the Netherlands has posted his attempts to add 3D planes to the FBOweb real-time flight tracking application written about here before. Well, Sven has succeeded in creating a new version of a network link which places 3D airliner models in the correct 3D position from the fboweb application. NOTE: when you download the 3D plane flight tracker , make sure you turn on only one airport in the Places folder (ORD, LAX, BOS, or ATL) at a time as these network links use a lot of bandwidth. Also, you can double click on a flight folder to position yourself over a plane, then open that folder to find “Points of View” which allow you to select other views including different angles from the pilot perspective, directly above, or directly toward the plane. The network link updates every few seconds, so you may have to change your views often.
The application doesn’t actually know the orientation of the plane in flight, but I believe he takes the short track from the previous position report and computes an angle of orientation accordingly. The orientation does look correct most of the time, or just off by a few degrees. Sometimes the flighttracker position data looks messed up, I saw one position report with planes on obvious collision courses. So, please don’t expect the position reports to represent actual real-life situations. Despite the anomalies, this is a really cool addition to the flight tracker. This is great work Sven! Thanks for telling me about it.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. The application had a few difficulties. That was not the plane itself (I hijacked one from Washington Dulles Airport as available at http://www.sketchup.com), although it still needs some modifications.
    The fist thing was to move the polygon, the second one was to keep the shape, for sizes are quite different at Latitude = 89 than at Latitude = 0, the third was to turn the object.
    True I use an comparison between the former and the last point, to calculate the heading of the plane. Probably something to refine.
    One of the hardest things though is the point of view. Form Lat, Lon, Alt of the pilot, one has to calculate GE’s LookAt. But where the planes altitudes are absolute, the LookAt’s are relative. Therefor flying to JFK gives a much better result than flying to ORD, since JFK is at an elevation of +2, while ORD is at +333.
    I’ld like GE to ad an altitudemode to the LookAt tag or, even better, create a tag. Spinning around a should keep the viewer in place whereas the keeps its own point in place and the viewer flies around. would also great for a view from the Eifel or the Empire State Building.

  2. Before everything: this blog is so popular (and as a result my 3d planes too) that my provider shut me down to prevent a system meltdown. I’ll look into it.
    In the previous comment I am suggesting a POV (Point Of View) tag. Since I put it between the brackets, it’s not shown. It shoeld read:
    “or, even better, create a POV tag. Spinning around a POV should keep the viewer in place whereas the LookAt keeps its own point in place ”

  3. Well, Google Earth Blog isn’t quite the same as being Slashdotted yet, but it can generate a fair amount of traffic for story subjects. Hmm…GEBdotted?

  4. Please excuse a random thought – but would it be possible to write a flight simulator interface that allowed people to fly across Google Earth?

  5. Actually, you can “fly” in Google Earth now with what is called the “G-Force” mode of mouse control in GE. See this page for details on G-Force mode:

  6. Here’s another live air traffic site with a GE interface in the works. http://www.ozradar.com
    Traffic is shown for the Sydney (Australia) Area.

  7. The Real Time 3D model flight tracker works again
    so [NOTE: OUT OF SERVICE] is out of date

    The Real Time moving 3D planes module now also allows you to board the plane as a passenger, using your skypeID. A passengerslist with skypeID’s will be shown to all who supplied their skypeID. These passengers will be skypeAble for eachother. Not skypeAble users can only see the number of listed skypeAble passengers.
    Available from http://www.kml.dds.nl/ (2nd option)

    The flights into JFK now have a immediate link to the realtime arrival data of JFK airport.
    Since the GE data is a few minutes behind realtime, this dat might proof a plane has landed whilst you’re still flying around with it.
    I’ll try to add the same into other airports later on.

  10. I just wanted to know, as I live in The Netherlands, how I can make this program see airplanes above my region? I live 20km north of Amsterdam so it shouldn’t be a problem. All my mates are able to see them but I can’t :S
    Please help me out!

  11. After clicking into the link, a page comes up in my web browser saying:
    “Bad Request
    Your browser sent a request that this server could not understand.
    The request line contained invalid characters following the protocol string.”
    PS: i use Mozilla 3.0.4

  12. @David: I’ve confirmed that the “3D Plane” application does have a bug, or is no longer working.

  13. Check out http://casper.frontier.nl/ for live data around Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam (5 minute delayed for security reasons). Have asked them on Twitter (http://twitter.com/peSHIr/status/3837596941) if they have thought about a Google Earth network link including height and heading info, possibly with 3D models.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.