Swiss Alps “Fighter” Tour in Google Earth

On Wednesday, Google released high resolution terrain for the Swiss Alps, and new high resolution imagery for Google Earth. The Swiss Alps are really beautiful to view in GE yourself, but I occasionally like to show YouTube video demos for 3D content like this. As I was considering my approach, my friend Scott Madry (the Armchair Archaeologist) sent me a link to a cool video showing a real-life jet pilot taking off and flying through famous places in the Swiss Alps. At this point, I had to do the geeky thing and see if I could make the same flight sequences in Google Earth! So, I spent all day trying to coerce the “G-Force” mode in Google Earth to fly in a rough approximation to this military pilot (not easy at all!). The main point here is that the GE terrain looks VERY close to the real thing.
Anyway, you can watch the real video on the top, and my video below using Google Earth. If you play both at the same time you can see I managed to get them to play close to in sequence (you might want to turn off the audio on mine since it’s just a crude mono-copy of the sound from the original).


Google Earth

Some notes: Google’s imagery of the alps is summertime, but the jet video was in the winter. It took me like 50 tries to get the upside down turn over Mont Blanc with the mouse-based G-Force interface and no throttle control. The meticulous among you will notice other little flaws in my flying, but hey – it was only 8 hours worth of trial and error! Hope you guys like it. Digg it!
[UPDATE: Some have asked me – I just used the mouse with G-Force to control, and MS MovieMaker to splice the clips together and create the video. It took me a few minutes to figure out where each flight sequence was located and the flight path, and a bit longer to practice the right speed and approach.]

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. Very nicely done; that obviously took a lot of work but it shows off the new terrain quite well! I wish I had a fast enough connection to try something like that.
    Not having a joystick, I’ve never played with the g-force mode much, but I didn’t realize it was possible to roll in GE. That’s the one axis of rotation that the space navigator doesn’t support — not that I miss it, really, but it would be kind of cool for making ‘flight sim’ type movies.

  2. This blog post made my day. Great work…thanks.

  3. Hello Frank,
    this one is awesome and really out of world……….
    i liked it very much……
    Just out of curiosity, did you used Space navigator from 3dconnexion for recording this video………. and what tools did you use to create the video file………
    once gain great job……… congrats
    Gopi P

  4. “At this point, I had to do the geeky thing and see if I could make the same flight sequences in Google Earth!”
    Priceless! I love it!

  5. Great job, I was amazed to see you could match them so closely.


  7. Renalid says:

    Great! Awesome!

  8. frank mate … that was stunning .. a fantastic piece of work!!

  9. Google Mapping Blog says:

    I’ve just linked you ( in my blog about google mapping and… google earthing 😉
    Thank you, Frank, and keep up the good job 🙂

  10. Absolutely amazing, true dedication!

  11. JavaChip says:

    Very nicely done!
    BTW, lauren made a comment about SpaceNavigator not being able to roll. My SpaceNavigator (the least expensive one) DOES support that axis of movement. The key to enabling this is to check the box called Tilt/Spin/Roll from the 3Dconnexion Control Panel. You can get to this screen by pressing the right button on the SpaceNavigator.
    Again, well done on the video.

  12. martin cheeseboy says:

    You are truly a SUPER GEEK!
    That is an amazing piece of work, I can’t believe the level of synchronisation you reached. I salute you and I wish I had nothing better to do but fly around in GE with my spacenavigator…
    Again, well done!

  13. Thank you and keep up the good Job 🙂

  14. Nice video Frank. How do you get such a long video with that amount of clarity to upload on YouTube. I’ve tried doing a few using the original CamStudio (not CamTasia) but the quality just isn’t there after I shrink the video down to under 10Mb. Do you run GE at full screen while recording and reduce the video size later or run GE in a smaller window while recording? Also what software and codec do you use?
    Here’s a little scenary for your next flight 😉

  15. awsum!

  16. After doing a model of the Grande Dixence Dam, I saw your video and had to go back and do a model of the Mauvoisin Dam which you flew over.

  17. Only one word: RESPECT.
    These videos are absolutely breathtaking. Great work !!

  18. Hi Frank,
    Just blogged about your video:
    Some friends and I are going hiking in the Alps this summer and I’ve been using Google to ‘visualise’ the routes. When the upped the resolution of the photos of the Alps it was like the mist had cleared! The videos are inspirational, and it’s a relief to see how accurate Google’s terrain mapping is.

  19. kaboltzky says:

    realy great work…thx a lot.

  20. Kenneth Dockery says:

    Very impressive…I thought I was alone in my attempts to duplicate flight paths. I like to do it real time during sporting events that use blimps and helicopters for aerial shots. I have even split screened a car chase in California. It adds that third dimension to the experience. Keep up the fantastic work!

  21. just Perfect!
    What is the music that you chose ??

  22. Brilliant piece of work – truly inspirational.
    But please tell – what is the music? Truly another masterpiece.

  23. LOL very very cool. I can’t get that close to the runway on Google Earth though — is this a special version?

  24. Very nice work!
    @Kenneth Dockery: The music I believe is “Ameno” from the album “Era” by Eric Lévi (ITMS ->

  25. Wow you have done an amazing job on this!!
    Quite stunning and very impressive.
    I’m going to send this URL on to a few people I know will be well impressed by this.
    I have one question – where did you find out that this new imagery was available from on Google?
    (I’d like to create a “fly past” of the great wall of china – something like this – for kids at a school we are doing charity work for and Google images of the wall are too low res (I think Microsofts are better – but that doesn’t help me with Google Earth. Do you know if Google have an advance list of where they will improve the quality of images?)

  26. Hi Frank, this is amazing, Thank you!

  27. Frank,
    I have never been interested in flight simulation, until you showed this. So I finally decided to try the G-Force myself and the first place I went was the Tetons. They as stunning as the Alps.
    Although I could just as well have used the normal mouse mode to view the scenery, flying around yourself makes it absolutely breathtaking.
    Thanks for showing us the way.

  28. Whow, this is the coolest video I have seen since a long time, also the music is great !!
    Can’t you add a post where you explain step by step how you did this ?

  29. Very cool. These videos are absolutely impressive.

  30. excellent, very cool the video

  31. This is a really cool video. Anyone can tell me the music used in the videos? I really like it!!!

  32. Extrem cool video

  33. simple want to say, that is really cool video. Add same video to your blog again.

  34. fantastiv movie, great !!

  35. Leonard Powell Jr says:

    Frank, you make me want to fly the alps! And I hate flying LOL. This was a work of genius and I was happy to have seen it. Please never stop. 😉

  36. This blog post made my day. Great work…thanks.

  37. Markus Aurilius says:

    great video… is there anywhere where a person can get a step by step instruction guide on how to create a fly by video in GE pro?

  38. Unbelievable. Since when is it possible to see
    such 3d graphics with google earth? probably
    the pro version?

  39. Firstly, where the HECK do you get the time to sit around and do this? Is this your job? It may be, I guess, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting jobs to tell people when you meet them at parties.
    I think, to answer the above poster, that it is the pro version that gets you such quick rendered graphics etc.
    Now, if Google Earth COULD put some season-engine in that would make it interesting. It would also make it very difficult.

  40. Nice Video. I like the direct comparison between real flight view and simulation. As in many jet simulation games, they dont get the feeling for large distances. But anyway nice fly.

  41. Man this is cool. A quick & simple flightsimulator!

  42. Well done mate. Never seen a better copy of real fligt.

  43. Well I put the cocpit pics on the computer but how do i get them to go away please reply

  44. thats very cool, great simulator.

  45. That’s the one axis of rotation that the space navigator doesn’t support — not that I miss it, really, but it would be kind of cool for making ‘flight sim’ type movies.

  46. WOW ! great video great job

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