Google Earth as a “Flight Simulator”

>>>> [UPDATE AUGUST 31, 2007: The new Google Earth 4.2 has a built-in Flight Simulator mode. Read here for more. ] <<<<
Flight Sim Flying in Google EarthThe new version of Google Earth 4 Beta now supports controllers. If you already downloaded the new beta a day or two ago (version 4.0.2080 for windows), be aware a new release was made this morning which has a new control feature in the options for controllers. By controllers we’re talking things like Joysticks, Flight Yoke/Rudder controls for flight simulators, even racing wheels. I’m not sure if controllers are supported on the Mac as well.
If you have the latest version (Windows 4.0.2091) you can enable the controller in the “Options->Navigation” panel. If you have 4.0.2080, I recommend you go ahead and re-download to get the new version. You also should calibrate your controller using the Windows Control Panel.
In Google Earth, you can turn on the G-Force mode by hitting CTRL-G (note: use CTRL-T to return to normal mouse interaction). You will know if you are in G-Force mode if you have an airplane icon for the mouse pointer. Once you’re in G-Force mode, you can use your controller device to fly in Google Earth. With a flight stick controller you can use your yoke to fly like a plane. Unfortunately, with my controller (a Virtual Pilot Pro) the throttle control doesn’t control speed. I found some of the buttons on the controller would control speed though. (You can also right click your mouse and move forward and backwards to control speed). But, the pitch and roll works as expected with the yoke. It’s a very fun way to fly around in Google Earth. Check it out if you have a controller!

NOTE: If when you first load up the new GE 4 Beta in Google Earth your globe is turning, try calibrating your device or adjusting the trim tabs on your controller to stop the spinning. Then follow the instructions above to test things out.

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. This is awesome! I just have a little Gravis GamePad (like a PS2 controller), but it’s loads of fun. Good find!

  2. I did a couple of videos with my logitech gamepad.
    Flying around Barcelona:

    11S WTC terrorist atack reconstruction in Google Earth:

  3. It would be nice if they added a “cock pit” like interface around the screen. Would make it appear more plane like ya know?

  4. i like google earth it rocks

  5. well seems to be a good enough find for windows. but what abt linux? have you something for that too?

  6. It works under linux also.

  7. It’s really nice, but I’m looking for something else. I would like to do replays of my REAL glider flights as realistic as possible in 3D. Any advise how to do it? Already mentioned “cockpit-like” view would help.

  8. I’ve had my controller (Logitec 3D pro) working just fine, including throttle, ABOUT THREE TIMES,
    but can’t figure out how, usually it doesn’t work,
    what did I do when it did work.
    The Sim is much better with controller.
    I click enable controller each time on initial menu.

  9. Fly over Switzerland – it’s amazing! The whole country is in high resolution and the scenery is incredible!!!

  10. This is a very nice feature!
    Problem1: My Joystick works fine, but thrust and rudder mappings are vice-versa, which makes steering not comfortable. I also can’t deactivate this controls. This would need a possibility to map these controls (editing an .ini-File?).
    Problem2: The scenery only loads from internet when the Flightsim is paused via SpaceBar.
    Would love to see it improved in upcoming versions. Or are there already solutions?
    Greets from Austria

  11. Hi,
    I’ve built a sort of visual ILS guidance for landing. The Glide slope is on 3deg with a 0.7 VDI. The Localizer area witdh expands at a 3deg up to about 11NM. The waypoint fix vertical guidance is based on Singapore Changi RNAV(GNSS) procedure for runway 02L.
    Your comments and suggestion is much appreciated. Enjoy !
    Disclaimer: ILS Localizer and Glide Path NOT for real world navigation.

  12. the same prob here..
    my joystick was working perfectly…and now it doesnt work…
    it says that the joystick is enable but i cant use it…can anyone help me?

  13. John Laughland says

    I am getting the hang of it but it was easier when I had instruments. They dissapeared a week or so back. Was that me or them?

  14. This is a great simulation I love it !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. My Logitech Attack 3 works well with the system. Only problem is constant drift but bearable. My wish is for a compass on the screen so I can tell which way I’m going. Having the mouse pointer on the bottom of the screen allows the coordinates to keep working. Little hard to remember that flying east the numbers decrease in longitude (US flights) and numbers increase when flying in the northen latitudes. Not the easiest way to tell which way you are going.

  16. Logitech Attack 3:
    Allan, what do I have to do for the stick to work when I move it forward, backward, left and right?
    I’ve had a go at programmming buttons 1 and 2 to go up and down, and that worked, but surely, I can do this by pushing/pulling the stick?
    Many thanks

  17. Jim Wallich says

    As a flying instructor I consider this “Joystick” a joke. I crash: I turn & bank when I don’t want to, I can’t control the speed. I’m sure that, as a toy, your customers may be content, but as a simulator … take up bowls!

  18. I have an Attack 3 joystick, just plugged it in and started using ut. Yes, the controls are very sensitive and doesn’t take much to get out of control, but so what? With a little patience it works fine.
    If you want a flight sim, go buy one. If you want to have the most delightful experience enjoying different places around the world and viewing them as if flying over them then Google Earth flight sim rocks!
    Thanks Google.

  19. no gameport joystick support?

  20. Thanks for your reviews here, you gave me new hope, the simulator has to be improved. I was trying to fly, for my first time. With a lot of patience I can do the start now. A flight around is ok too, though often very wacky by oversteering. It’s sensitive indeed. I tried a lot but did not succeed landing properly. Is there a way to improve this? I like the intention to fly the google world very much aswell. Can a joystick improve the experience? If so, let me know whitch one. Besides the steering quality. I think my/an other major problem is the approach of the airfield. This needs more information on the go. Did you also notice that the overview window does not respond correctly to the simulatorwindow? I guess google will improve this all, but I can hardly wait fore it.
    Jos a flying dutchman.

  21. I use a xbox 360 controler with etra scripting via glovePIE. I couldn’t co trole the pause, flaps, or landing gear so I improvised.

  22. Hi there! I am user of Ubuntu (Linux) operation system and unfortunately I am not able to use the flight simulator. Any suggestions and will you make a Linux version of it?
    Thank you

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.