Fly Flight 1549 Yourself in Google Earth

I noticed a number of simulations of US Airway’s Flight 1549’s aborted flight when it landed in the Hudson River on January 15th (see the BBC’s for example). Also, a few people took the published flight data from and created views in Google Earth (see Keir Clarke’s for example, or the one I did at EarthSwoop – which actually shows approximately the plane’s position and heading).
So, I wondered if I could reproduce the flight in Google Earth using the F-16 simulator. I took the data from FlightAware and created a flight path between each of the placemarks. It took a few practice runs to coerce the very maneuverable F-16 to behave like a big jet airliner. In particular, I had to still use a bit of thrust to keep the F-16 from falling out of the sky – even an airliner glides better without engines. But, you can see the end result in the video below (I’ve added audio with some tips and comments on where the birds were struck and what the pilots might have been thinking).

NOTE: I read after I made this movie that the right turn near the river was probably made to avoid a collision with another aircraft.
Tips for flying the F-16 for this simulation:

  1. First make sure you know the Google Earth Flight Simulator controls and display instruments by reading the guide on using the GE Flight Simulator
  2. You’ll need this file to load the flight path and placemarks into Google Earth. Double-click on the folder (or the “Takeoff” placemark) to fly to the end of the runway.
  3. Then click CTRL-A (or Command-A on the Mac) to start the flight simulator at that point. It will automatically select the F-16.
  4. Hold down the PAGE-UP key briefly to crank up the throttle.
  5. Add 20-40% flaps by hitting the “f” key.
  6. Click the left mouse button once so you see a white “+” cursor and lower it to the middle bottom of the window.
  7. You should take off before the runway.
  8. Immediately cut back on the throttle to almost zero.
  9. When your speed slows down to near 200 take off the flaps by hitting “F” a couple of times.
  10. Follow the red flight path. It helps to review the altitudes for each placemark ahead of time.
  11. You will need a small amount of power to keep the F-16 in the air. The F-16 will fly better if it is above 170 kts.

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. These flight path movies are perfect for the new tours feature of version 5. (Hint ;-))

  2. Neat!!! Nicely done!

  3. a question how exactly and in detail do you create the ocean exploration simulatior?

  4. Neat work, Frank. You might want to compare to a reenactment I did using the Tour feature of Earth 5.0 See You banked the plane much more sharply than I did in my model. Definitely some things I could improve, but do you think it needs to bank that much?

  5. i crashed at a speed of 600-550 i used all thrust with 40 flaps my top speed was 640-650

  6. oui! Ces’t super!

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