Using the Google Earth Flight Simulator

The Google Earth Flight Simulator is one of those features that many people overlook. Here are some tips to make the most of it.

With the the release of Google Earth 4.2 back in 2007, Google added a much-requested feature to the product; a flight simulator. To try it out for yourself, simply go to [Tools] –> [Enter Flight Simulator] and dive in!
Not long after it came out, Frank posted a list of tips and tricks for using the simulator, as it can be a bit tricky to get started.

  1. Start up the flight simulator as described above. I recommend you choose the SR-22 plane to start (it is a much slower plane than the F-16, and will help you learn the controls). Choose any airport, or just the default “Katmandu”. If you don’t have a joystick, you can’t select one. Next hit Start flight.
  2. You will see the HUD (Head Up Display) in green (click here for a guide to the HUD indicators). Make your window dimension roughly square (otherwise you may not see all of the HUD display elements).
  3. To get started, hold down the Page Up key briefly (this will add power to your plane). The throttle indicator is on the lower left (triangle should be at the top for full throttle).
  4. To control your direction on the ground, use the comma and period keys on your keyboard to apply left and right brakes. Just touch them briefly to change direction left and right.
  5. Important tip – mouse control – it’s best to use the mouse to control the plane (unless you have a joy stick). I wouldn’t bother with trying to fly with the keyboard. Simply click the mouse once in the center of the view and you should see your cursor change to a “+” sign. Don’t move your cursor outside the window or you will lose control! The mouse will only control your plane in the air, and if the cursor is inside the Google Earth window.
  6. Taking off – Once your plane is going faster down the runway, try moving the mouse back slightly from center. If you’re going fast enough you should take off. Remember: just make small motions with the mouse close to the center of the screen. Once you have the wings level, put the mouse in the center. A lot of first time fliers have a tendency to over correct.
  7. To make a turn – move the mouse slightly to the right or left and when your plane is tilted, pull back slightly. When you’ve made the turn you want, push the mouse back to the center then the other direction to tilt the plane back to level.
  8. Pausing – If you want to stop for a moment, simply hit the space key on the keyboard and it will pause the simulator. Hit space again to resume.
  9. Start higher – Position your view in Google Earth in the normal mode so you are at least 30,000 feet above ground. Tilt your view so you are looking at the horizon. Then restart the flight simulator mode (use Tools->Enter Flight Simulator…, or the keyboard shortcut CTRL-ALT-A) so you can choose what plane to use, and other options. Choose Select your start position->Current view in the window, and then choose Start flight. You should add power by hitting the Page Up key after starting it up. Now you can practice flying a while before you hit the ground!
  10. Landing – it is possible to land the plane. But, I’ll leave that for advanced tutorials.

Your other great option for flight in Google Earth is Xavier Tassin’s amazing GE Flight Simulator site, powered by the Google Earth Plugin. It’s quite an amazing site with dozens of aircraft to choose from (including paragliders and hot air balloons), real-time weather, and live multi-player (see other users flying around near you).
It also has a creative multimonitor mode, for those of you with more than one screen that are looking for a more immersive experience. You can try it yourself right now at

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Joseph Finn says:

    Still has the Page Up problem for those of us who use notebook computers, I see, and don’t have a Page Up key.

  2. Typical little geeks being tough guy keyboard Nina’s.. But hey I’m sure the guy wanted you all to be smart A** dumb Fu***!!!

  3. i don’t know to get it to work

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