This Google Earth File Could Make you Sick

WARNING: If you are prone to motion sickness – especially air sickness – you might not want to watch the following Google Earth tour!
This wasn’t the intention, but several people who have seen the tour have been a little queasy afterwards. The file is yet another demonstration of the capabilities of the new Record Tour feature in Google Earth 5. One of the engineers at Google behind the development of the KML standard and the open source libkml is Michael Ashbridge. He took one of the first GPS tracks of a hang glider (or paraglider) which was converted to a KML file (back in 2005) and wrote an application to convert the track into a GE 5 tour which lets you follow the glider as it catches thermals to gain altitude near some mountains in Idaho. Before I say more, just go check out the tour in Google Earth 5. Once it loads, double click “Linestring Tour“.

3D Glider Tour in Google Earth

Michael’s program produced the tour by following the GPS track and shows you the 3D view along the “string”. It’s a really cool experience (if you don’t get sick!). GPS data is typically a bit inaccurate in altitude and only updated periodically (maybe once per second). But, the Tour function in GE 5 does a good job of interpolating between points to smooth the transitions. Even so, the ride gets a bit bumpy in places. The tour really gets interesting if you use the “Fast Forward” buttons on the Tour slider in the lower left.
While the tour is playing, if you grab areas with land with the mouse, you can drag your view to look in a different direction. After you let go with the mouse, the view will move back to following the track. This is a great feature which makes tours even more powerful because it takes a Tour from just being like a recorded video into a live 3D Google Earth recorded experience. But, there is a “bug” which doesn’t let you grab the sky to change your view (which will hopefully be fixed when GE 5 goes out of beta).

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. If you want to get a little less airsick and have a lot more control of the flight I suggest:
    Davis Straub
    Cathedral City, CA, USA

  2. Ha! I’m always amazed at how something, once posted to the internet, can be spread so far. The GPS track that Michael used was created by me, on a hang gliding flight from King Mt. in Idaho, back in 2003.
    There’s a few things I’d like to mention.
    First, Michael does a great job getting the tour to follow the flight path. You say he wrote a program to do that? Is it available for anyone to use? If so, is it downloadable or does it run on a webpage? How do I get it?
    Second, there is an existing program that was written to do this very same thing – follow a flight path. It was written before version 5 of GE so it’ll work with GE 4.2 and 4.3 too. If you want to try it:
    1. Go to this website:
    and download the “IGC Flight Replay” program. Then install it.
    2. Download the IGC version of this King Mt. flight as an example:
    3. Open the .igc file from inside the Flight Replay program.
    – Flight Replay runs GE in a window. It actually looks like normal GE with some custom tabs on the left. you even have all your GE placemarks available.
    – after the tracklog loads, click the “PATH” button in the “Flight” tab to make the flightpath visible.
    – Click “Start” to start the tour. Play with controls to see what they do.
    Third, if you want to use Flight Replay for your own tracklogs, you first have to get them converted to .IGC format. There are several programs that will do conversions. One that I use is G7toWin.exe. Here’s how to use it:
    1. Download G7towin.exe from this website:
    You’ll probably want “G7ToWin Version A.00.201 (with help file)”
    2. unzip the files to a folder.
    3. go to that folder and run “g7towin.exe”
    – open an existing tracklog file in whatever format it’s in.
    – file/”save IGC track file” and there you have it.
    One note: The IGC file must have time information recorded in it. If your original tracklog does not have time info, you’re out of luck, I think.
    Fourth, if you want more track logs from King Mt., or want to learn more about the hang gliding at King, go to this web page:
    and download the placemark collection. “All non-photo placemarks” should do.
    Fifth, and finally, You’ll notice that the example flightpath goes underground at the end (the flight ends with a quick 180 deg. turn). My Garmin GPS has a barometric sensor. When I started the flight, GPS altitude and barometric altitude were pretty much the same (Garmin gets its initial altitude from the GPS). After the initial altitude is set, the Garmin uses the barometer to show altitude. By the end of the flight, the two had drifted apart. You’ll notice other tracklogs from King end the flight up in the air. This discrepancy is a constant bother for those of us who want our tracklogs to be as accurate as possible.
    Ernie Camacho

  3. I’d like to add a couple of minor points:
    1. I’d set the Garmin GPS to “auto” record trackpoints. In that mode, more points are taken when turning than when going straight. On the ground that’ll mark a turn in the trail. In the air, it makes the circles during thermalling smoother.
    2. Even so, watching the tour almost makes ME dizzy. The flight itself wasn’t as jerky as the tour.
    3. There is a non-GE commercial program that sailplane pilots and hang gliding pilots use to re-play their flights, among other things. It’s called “SeeYou”. You can find it on the web.

  4. Sorry, one final comment: If you want to see the entire flightpath, just turn off Terrain. You’ll see where I ran straight off the mountain to start the flight, and mad a U-turn to end the flight by landing into the wind (what little there was – that’s why I wasn’t able to keep flying, I ran out of lift on Dickey Peak).

  5. Mike-Urilorib says

    ” But, there is a “bug” which doesn’t let you grab the sky to change your view ”
    You can always press ‘Ctrl + Arrows’ to change your view at any time. Actually, it’s better than grabbing with the mouse.
    See ya…

  6. Check the *.kmz examples from this page
    (although in german)
    Try the B52-Tour, perhaps flights are possible without air-sickness ?

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.