Touch and Gos

Touch and Gos flying with GPS in Google EarthJust thought I would share a recent practice flying trip I made down to Pinehurst, Golf Capitol of North Carolina (home to many US Opens). Maybe you can learn how easy it is to share your GPS use with Google Earth. I flew a few touch and gos in a Cessna 182 and then headed back to the base airport at Sanford, NC. As usual, I took along my GPS and after the flight was able to quickly produce this nice Google Earth illustration of the flight.
The GPS track is in 3D so you can see the altitude changes as well as the track over the satellite photos of the area. The color of the track represents the range of altitudes (purple the highest, red the lowest). You can view three different preset views I stored to illustrate the touch and gos and the takeoff and final approach and landing (they are in the Places folder, double-click and it will fly you to the new view).
How did I do this? After flying…

How did I do this? After flying the flight with my GPS turned on, I connected the GPS to my computer (my GARMIN 60Csx uses a USB cable for this). Garmin’s Mapsource program lets you transfer your tracks and waypoints quite easily. Simply select the menu choice “Transfer->Transfer from device”. Since last fall, Mapsource can generate a Google Earth file as soon as you have your track loaded (just select “View->View in GE”). But, I wanted the fancy colorized track. So, I used
Here are the steps:

  1. First, I saved my track in Mapsource as a GPX file type.
  2. Next, I simply went to this form at and clicked on the “Browse” button for File #1 and pointed it to my GPX file.
  3. Gave it a document name
  4. Selected “Altitude Mode:” of “Absolute” (so it shows altitudes),
  5. Selected “Colorize by:” “Altitude/Elevation” (so you see the colored tracks)
  6. Simply selected “Create KML File”.

It literally takes just a few seconds to do the whole thing. I then added some camera views to the Places folder to make it a little more snazzy. Then I uploaded the file to the web site here so I could share it. The key to getting a GPS file into Google Earth is getting your tracks into a GPX file. Which is a standard file format supported by almost any GPS. And for those GPSes that don’t. someone has probably written a free converter.

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.


  1. Nice Track.
    Just a suggestion from my side:
    The Altitude we can see by the line above ground.
    With GSPvisualizer you can also colour the treack according to speed and THAT would be a real additional information.

  2. Interesting flight.
    You should show this to Garmin’s blog,

  3. Looks good. I have been doing georeferenced video and audio. Mainly out of choppers but we are limited to air, land and water. The garmin 76cx is amazing it works inside and under water for a limited application. I got mapsource this week and it is extremely applicable. Trying to get around ArcGis 9.0 this week also it is a bear of a program I doubt I will ever use it all.
    Great image.

  4. Only last weekend I found out that Google Earth has native support for GPX and LOC files containing GPS data: you can simply open them using File|Open (select the right file type to see the files). I don’t remember seeing this mentioned on this blog.
    I like this option, because the Garmin MapSource Google output looks crappy with all the descriptions and triangular icons and don’t always want/need the many options that supplies. Simply exporting data I want to view from MapSource in GPX format and opening this in Google Earth does what I need most of the time with minimum fuss.

  5. Nice, consistent, square groundref pattern, too. 🙂

  6. Just curious…what was the altimeter mode on your 60Csx ‘Variable’ or ‘Fixed’?

  7. Frank Taylor says:

    @John: I only have a Garmin 60Cx (without altimeter mode). My altitude readings are based on GPS position calculations.

Leave a Reply