Thank you to GEB reader Paul Moskowitz for bringing to our attention the fact that opening the flight simulator in Google Earth Pro automatically turns off the 3D buildings layer. The reason for this is that back in 2008 Google was concerned that showing 3D buildings in Flight Simulator mode would be a performance problem for some computers, so, with the release of Google Earth 4.3 they set the 3D buildings layer to be automatically disabled. At some point they reversed that decision, probably due to user complaints or the fact that computer performance has significantly increased since then, and they removed the setting from the standard version of Google Earth. However, it would appear that they forgot to do the same in Google Earth Pro. At the time, Google Earth Pro was a paid for product and thus was used only by people wanting specific features found only in Google Earth Pro. However, in January 2015, Google decided to make Google Earth Pro free and since then more and more people are using Google Earth Pro and ditching the standard version altogether. You can, however, have them both installed at the same time if you wish.
The result is that more people will be trying out the Google Earth Flight Simulator in Google Earth Pro, so we thought it would be a good time to relook at a workaround that Frank posted in 2008 for getting the 3D buildings back in Flight Simulator mode. These steps must be repeated each time you enter Flight Simulator mode:
- Enter Flight Simulator mode – Select Tools->Enter Flight Simulator (Windows/Linux) or Options->Enter Flight Simulator (Mac)
or Ctrl + Alt + A(Windows/Linux) or + Option + A (Mac)
Optional: fly to a city which has 3D buildings (grab our KML map to find out where).
Hit SPACE to pause the flight simulator.
Open the Sidebar – Sidebar shortcut – Press Ctrl + Alt + B (Windows/Linux)
or + Option + B (Mac) to bring up the sidebar.
Turn on 3D Buildings – Turn these on in the Layers pane in the lower left after the sidebar opens.
Turn Off Sidebar – IMPORTANT – before resuming the flight simulator, turn off the sidebar by hitting the sidebar shortcut from step 2.
Resume flight – Now you can resume flying the flight simulator by hitting the SPACE key and the 3D buildings should stay on for your current flight.
NOTE: – See GEB’s Tips on Using Flight Simulator.