Google Earth Blog

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.]

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. 🙂 ]
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.

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