Tracking Flights in Google Earth

Ideas for Live Flight Tracking

Google Earth has a nice new feature to allow you to track a flight plan in real time. Before I cover the basics of actually tracking the flight, I thought I’d go over a few good ideas for making use of this tool.

One of the best that comes to my mind is that it will create a fun way for relatives and kids to track a flight. If you’re coming in for a visit, then I can bet that little brothers and sisters/nephews and nieces will be bouncing off the walls. Watching your flight move across the country should be an interesting little distraction for them. Obviously it can be a neat thing for relatives and friends to do too, if they like playing around with technology. If you like playing around with technology, then you can also learn some more about the cool features of Google Earth along with some ideas for the Google Earth Flight Simulator.

Practical applications are a little limited, but it’s a fun way for you to see whether your flight is on time before you go to the airport. It’s similar to those “Where Has George Been?” websites that track a dollar as it moves around the country. It has little innovation to offer for practical use, but it’s interesting.

Although, if you ever find yourself in some kind of strange betting competition on which plane will land first, then you can cheat (I always prepare for Seinfeldian situations).


How to Exit the Flight Simulator

When you are finished flying, you can exit the flight simulator in two ways:

  1. Select Exit flight simulator in the upper right corner of the screen.

  2. Use the keyboard shortcuts, Ctrl + Alt + A (in Windows) or Command + Option + A (on a Mac). You can also select the Esc key.

Fly your plane

Monitor everything that’s happening on your flight with the head-up display (HUD). To get help while you’re flying, press Ctrl + h (Windows and Linux).

Head-up display

Heading: direction the aircraft is pointed Speed: current speed in knots Bank angle: angle you’re using to slowly turn the plane in a new direction Vertical speed: rate of ascent or descent in feet per minute Exit flight simulator feature: click this button to exit the flight simulator Throttle: level of the engine’s power Rudder: angle of the vertical axis of the plane Aileron: angle of the plane when you roll or bank it Elevator: angle and lift of the plane’s wings Flap and gear indicators: where the flaps and gears are set Pitch angle: angle between where the airplane is pointed and the horizon in degrees Altitude: how many feet above sea level the plane is flying

Fly using a joystick

To taxi down the runway for take off, press the joystick forward to pick up speed. Once the plane is moving quickly, pull the joystick back slightly to lift off. When your plane reaches flight altitude and the wings have leveled off, center the joystick. To change direction, make course corrections, or bank left or right, move the joystick in the direction you want to go. Small movements work best. Pause or resume a flight: Press the spacebar to pause a flight. Then, press it again to resume your flight.

Fly using a mouse & keyboard

Press the Page Up key to increase thrust and taxi the plane down the runway. Once the plane is moving, move the mouse slightly down. When you’re going fast enough, your plane will take off. When your plane reaches flight altitude and the wings have leveled off, center the mouse on your screen. To change directions, make course corrections, or bank right or left, use the arrow keys. Small corrections work best. To look around, press the arrow keys + Alt to turn slowly or + Ctrl to turn quickly. For more keyboard flight controls, see the keyboard shortcuts.

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