Flight Simulator Mode in Google Earth 4.2

[UPDATED Monday, 3-September – See new Basic Flying Tips article]
Well, Google slipped in a new feature inside GE 4.2 (released last week) and didn’t even tell us! Yes, there is a new Flight Simulator mode. This is more of a “real” flight simulator mode than the G-Force mode I’ve talked about before. Hit the special keyboard shortcut: CTRL-ALT-A (Command+Option+A on the Mac) and you get this requestor allowing you to choose from two types of aircraft – an F-16 or a SR-22, and choose from one of several airports. [UPDATE: UK readers have an issue with the language settings, but the easiest way around it is to start the mode by hitting CTRL-A. Read comments below for more.]

Flight Sim Requester Window in Google Earth

When you’re ready, select “Start Flight“. But, before you do, you might want to check out the web page describing the controls (or hit the Help button). You’ll find controls for flaps, landing gear, trim, and more. I recommend you start off with the SR22 which is a slower plane, and easier to fly for beginners. Here’s what the flight simulator looks like in action inside Google Earth (UPDATE: See the new basic flying tips article):

You get a head up display (HUD) just like in a fighter-jet. And the indicators tell you which direction you are moving, rate of climb, altitude, and other useful information most flight simulator aficionados will understand. Hit the Page-Up key to add power to the throttle and begin moving. Even if you’re used to flight simulators, it may take a little while to get used to flying with the mouse (with the arrow keys it’s harder). Click the left mouse button (your cursor changes to a “+” sign) and make small movements around the center of the screen. Read the help page for more tips on other controls. This mode will also work with joysticks and flight simulator yokes. I’ll try my flight simulator yoke mount later this weekend and let you know how it works. Imagine how much easier the Swiss Alps Fighter Jet video I made would have been with this new mode?
[UPDATE: Once you hit the hidden CTRL-ALT-A shortcut to enable the flight simulator, you will from now on get a menu choice: “Tools->Enter Flight Simulator…” in Google Earth. By the way, this shows they intended to make this a “hidden” feature on purpose. ๐Ÿ™‚ ]
I’ve been trying to get the release notes for GE 4.2 out of Google all week – but, I guess they wanted to see how long it would take for people to find cool new features like this. I wonder if there are even more hidden features? via Marco’s Blog who appears to be the first person to find 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. This is really good if you have a joystick! I just need a really fast internet connection now! It must still be in beta because after I used it, it totally screwed up Earth (images were not loading and the earth was shaped like a polygon..

  2. this is pretty cool ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. You mean no one has yet figured out the key combo to enable the experimental (BETA) real-time streaming satellite imagery?

  4. Julian Gall says

    It’s great for would-be flyers to have the simulator but how about a simple way to fly over the landscape that doesn’t require learning how to control a plane? Just left, right, up, down, slow, fast, stop etc. Not realistic as far as flying is concerned but easy to use.

  5. c.w.pritchard says

    Is this only for plus version or is it available on the 4.2 version for all to use?

  6. It works in the free version of GE 4.2. I’m sure it is also in the Plus and Pro versions as well, although I haven’t checked yet.

  7. Nope, doesnt seem to work for me either.
    The very latest Free version (downloaded minutes ago) on Windows and/or MacOS X doesnt do anything to all combinations of A key and there’s nothing in the menu ๐Ÿ™

  8. Jimmy Lemon says

    Doesnt seem to work for me with the download of 4.2.0181.2634 (beta)I just downloaded ๐Ÿ™

  9. … but changing my language in Windows Control Panel to ‘English (United States)’ fixed that! Changing it back stops the keyboard shortcut from working, but at least its still in the menu…

  10. Simon Smillie says

    Be careful not to have the cursor in the a search box (click on the Earth or something) as when I initially pressed I got a “รก” in the search box. After clicking on the viewing window, and tried again the Flight Simulator box popped up.

  11. Thomas Daniel says

    Some (or most) keyboards have two CTRL and two ALT keys. On mine, it is the right CTRL and right ALT.
    Left keys don’t work.

  12. Is the Traffic layer new to 4.2?

  13. Be sure that your focus is not in the search box in Google Earth or the shortcut won’t work (and, instead, you’ll get a buch of letter A’s in the search box :-).
    My joystick wasn’t recognized by GE, though.

  14. Ernst M. Kofler says

    I find flying using a joystick works perfectly!
    The reason why images dont load and the terrain looks like simple polygons is that GE only loads terrain if you look downwards on the earth, but not horizontally. So fly steep upwards and look backwards (hold cooliehat back). You’ll see GE will load the images instantly. So flying like a bomber pilot (diving, upwards, looking back) loads your images always in time ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I wonder how long it takes the google guys to integrate the standard navigation gauges to their sim.
    And, I’m kind of looking forward to the MS FS XI (MS Flightsimulator 11). Under Googles pressure I’m sure they’ll have some phantastic ideas for their scenery engine ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. George W. Bush says

    Great! Now the terrorists can practice on all of our cities.

  16. I have Linux (Kubuntu)
    And I have the newest version of GE 4.2 and ctrl+alt+a doesn’t work. Any suggestions? And yes I did change it to US English (which it was in the first place)

  17. I can’t get my joystick to work in 4.2, but I can control the airplane with the arrow keys, and keypad.
    Anyone know where I can get help getting my stick to work?

  18. Oh man. Now I’m going to have to reconsider that dome flight monitor-system I’ve always wanted.
    I don’t know if I still have those guy’s card laying around here though! Last I talked with them was at IITSEC.

  19. Bill Taylor in England says

    CTL+ALT+A or CTL+ALT Gr+ A does nothing. I checked that the cursor was not active in any box
    Do not have English (USA) in language options only system default, English or list of other countries!
    Vn 4.2.0184.9679 (beta)Windows XP
    In addition Overview Map not working Stream error with a large red X in the overview window Overview switched off. Error reported to GE Help group

  20. Bill Taylor in England says

    Flight Sim works with just CTL and the A key. No need fo ALT! Over map does not work still.

  21. That’s really great!!

  22. The Google Earth product info page mentions the flight simulator, but not much more on how to get it working:
    “It’s the universe inside your PC; an atlas, encyclopedia and flight simulator, all rolled into one. Just point and zoom to any place you want to explore. Cities, mountains, and valleys are depicted in high-resolution 3D, along with related information. Or, fly amongst the stars to see planets, galaxies, and nebulae.”

  23. Is there an air speed indicator in this? I think it would be a good idea if it had one.

  24. Ron Ciminero says

    Kubuntu works with ctrl+a

  25. I found that on my XP laptop CTRL+WINDOWS KEY+A worked.

  26. for people having problems getting it to work try CTRL + Windows key + A
    worked a charm for me

  27. The ‘George Bush’ comment is funny. It made me think, ‘No wonder the last time I was in MS Flight, I couldn’t figure-out why everyone kept crashing all the time.’
    By the way, word is there’s a new theory as to why Dick Cheney pixelates his residence:
    Apparently, as the theory goes, Dick likes to sun-bathe in the nude. So, it makes sense that he’s just living up to his promise of protecting the public.

  28. Radu Moldovanu says

    I tried all the combinations and I found that simply Ctrl+A is the combination, not Ctrl+Alt+A

  29. English UK does work. Just need to use the Ctrl+A combination as other people found.

  30. nice… but I like the high-speed-heli feeling I get with SpaceNavigator more… and I missed the compass…

  31. hmm, on my laptop, Ctrl-A worked on the built in keyboard, but not on a plugged in USB one (which I use normally) (but the Alt-Ctl-A or Ctrl-WindowsKey-A works on US language settings, on the USB keyboard…)
    … all seems very random… probably an attempt to make it harder to find (as it did take over a week!)

  32. There appears to be one essential feature missing. ENGINE NOISE! It’s too surreal without it.

  33. If you edit the files in C:\Program Files\Google\Google Earth\res\flightsim\aircraft with notepad, you can turn your f16 into the space shuttle….. welll.. i keep breaking apart at about 10000mph and it wont go faster than 4000mph in space ๐Ÿ™

  34. Washington Souza says

    Very good. After I download Google Earth I will commment.

  35. Chuck Yeager says

    Another tip: open C:\Program Files\Google\Google Earth\res\flightsim\flightsim.ini and you can add your own airports (or any location of course). You just need to work out the lat/long in a decimal format – use Google Maps/Link to this Page if conversion is difficult – and also work out the heading – +0 to +180 is N-E-S side of compass, -0 to -180 is N-W-S side.

  36. how do i open it i can’t get it to open

  37. Oops I guess I discovered where the speed indicator is. Maybe the HUD should have some clear instructions for beginners like me?

  38. How can I see the 3D buildings when the simulator is open ?

  39. KARTOFFELsalat says


  40. Daarbennikweer says

    On my keyboard ‘Ctrl – windows flag – A’ does the trick.
    Fun, and no clouds!

  41. Any recommendations for joystick that will run in Vista?

  42. Wouter Rosario says

    Hi all,
    For me, Ctrl-Alt-A doesn’t do a thing. I’m running Vista and when using the command Ctrl-Windows key-A it does work.
    Happy flyin’!

  43. This is a great addition to google earth. It is a great way to tour places and has much better detail than MS Flight Sim. Mabey they will have more planes in the next version.

  44. Like others I found you don’t need to push the Alt, Just Ctrl + A. Comand + option + A on a mac.

  45. CTRL-ALT-A does nothing for me. Nothing happens. What’s up with that? Version 4.2.0180.1134 (beta)

  46. ben and his bong says

    Dogfights! That’s what I want! (hehe) How cool would it be if you could see the ‘planes’ of other GE users while you’re flying around and interact with them!

  47. how do you get the buildings in 3d

  48. Alan Bergman says

    How does one really enable the joystick. The box is checked but the joystick will not function

  49. claus jensen says

    Has anyone been able to get the joystick to work? If so, any tips?

  50. Good, but it gets quite boring after some time. Can’t wait for improved engine and multiplayer!

  51. If you’re having problems activating the Flight Simulator, you may need to click within the earth view portion of the window before you try the key sequence to activate the Flight Simulator.

  52. how do i get the buildings in 3d?

  53. instead of alt try using the tab key. mine wouldnt work with ctrl + alt + A, but tab + ctrl + A worked fine

  54. Stuart Crick says

    My Saitek P3200 does not work with the flight simulator any tips

  55. OK- I’m ready to give up. I can’t get the flight simulator to work, to even come up. I’ve got Vista, tried reloading the newest version of GE (I had 4.0.2742 and replaced it with the same!) I’ve tried bringing the simulator up with Ctrl-Alt-A, Win-Contrl-A, Win-Alt-A, plus 2 key versions of all, and even tried typing “Lilienthal”- all several times with no results! I’ve even changed from default language (English) to English. No luck.
    What am I doin’ wrong? TIA- Mike

  56. you need GE 4.2

  57. Hi, i have Google Earth on my laptop and i play flight simulator often but my dad and my sister downloaded it today and can’t pull up the simulator at all. I thought i had done something special to my GE but apparently i didn’t change a thing…
    Can you please explain?

  58. does anyone know why it could be that when i press ctrl+alt+a nothing comes up i have a toshiba laptop

  59. peteralwyn says

    the compass no longer appears in the flight simulator it was always in the top centre of the screen.

  60. I had the flight sim working with my Topgun Fox Pro 2 joystick fine until I did a clean install of XP with all my programs. The joystick refused to work even though it was showing joystick enabled and it was working in Hardware properties. I repeated the clean installation using Norton Ghost to do incremental updates of the new installation. I found that the Microsoft .NET 3.0 Service Pack 1 was the cause of the problem and so I’ve not installed it and the joystick works fine. Hope this is helpful to someone.

  61. Be careful not to have the cursor in the a search box (click on the Earth or something) as when I initially pressed I got a “รก” in the search box. After clicking on the viewing window, and tried again the Flight Simulator box popped up.

  62. i cant move the plane!!!!any ideas!!!it the most dificult thing to manage…

  63. John Beattie says

    Saitek AV8R-01 joystick. I can set it up in Control Panel, but if I selct Joystick in Google Earth Sim it crahses out and sends a fault report to Microsoft!. Anyone got a joystick to work? Sim works ok with the keyboard.

  64. Andrew Smith says

    How do you find the heading of an airport?

  65. Robert H. Davidson says

    M/S Flight sim X is my way of staying current when not able to fly. This is interesting I wonder when Google will come out with IFR F/S?

  66. alan mccluskey says

    i,m sure when i first open f/s i could goto third person view, now i cant find it, and flying suggestions please, i,ve flew under brooklyn and golden gate etc,, landed in my sisters street in new york,…hey this would be superb if we could dogfight live on google hehe…also i wish i could record flights and watch from outside the plane, i,m sure i seen that in a vid too…..anyway thankyou GE for hours and hours of maniacle fun…chocks away..

  67. I have an old Gravis joystick and I cannot get it to work or connect with the google flight simulator. Is there a way to do this.

  68. My saitek av8r joystick crashes GE flight sim

  69. Google flight simulator is fun but lacks a bit of realism.Conincidently, i was searching the web for soem other flight simulator.Thats when i came across flightgear, a open source very realistic SIM.You can get get it from http://www.flightgear.org and anotehr wonderful website i found with many add ons called http://www.unitedfreeworld.com .Use these two website to get a full realistic Flight Sim and compare the difference!
    Good flying!

  70. BalkanskiSpijun says

    There’s a bug in flight simulator (Google Earth 4.2):
    Command “Extend/retract landing gear” (keystroke “G”) works even if the aircraft is LANDED.
    I don’t know which aircraft can retract landing gears when is grounded. Do you? ๐Ÿ™‚

  71. i cant get my joy stick to work.the type is raider fx advanced.any one else haveing that problem.the model no. is i think i-73300 i thinkit says that the divice is ready to use and when i go to flight simulator it says that it doesent detect it.what can i do?

  72. I cant get the flight sim. to work at all. even if i se all the different combos. im getting very angry. >:{

  73. GE does not detect a joystick in my computer. Can anyone help???

  74. When will be another update? I can’t wait anymore. There only 2 aircrafts, add commercial aircraft will be great!!!!!

  75. Hi Guys,my google earth cant detect the joystick,anyone can help me what i need to do?
    Thanks in advance.much appreciate it.

  76. Hi,
    Tried it with the SR22 as you recommended and it was great. Are there frequent updates?

  77. i am trying the use ge flight simulation when on google earth but i dont know how to do it , help me ?

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.