Google Earth‘s built-in flight simulator allows users to explore the world from the comfort of their homes. This fun and educational tool is available for free to all Google Earth users. However, there are some limitations compared to the paid pro versions. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll cover everything you need to know about using the Google Earth flight simulator, from getting started to maximizing realism.
What is the Google Earth Flight Simulator?
The Google Earth flight simulator is an integrated feature that allows users to pilot airplanes and helicopters around the 3D globe within Google Earth. It utilizes the same satellite and aerial imagery used in Google Earth for enhanced realism.
Some key features of the flight simulator include:
- 35 different aircraft to choose from, including planes, helicopters, fighter jets and gliders
- Realistic flight dynamics and controls
- Ability to take off and land at over 1,000 airports around the world
- Dynamic weather, time of day and atmospheric effects
- Detailed 3D cities and landscapes based on real-world data
The flight simulator can be accessed directly within the Google Earth desktop application. It is enabled by going to the
Tools menu and clicking on
Enter Flight Simulator.
Is the Google Earth Flight Simulator Free?
The standard Google Earth flight simulator is available for free to all Google Earth users. You don‘t need to purchase any additional software or upgrades to access the basic functionality.
The free features include:
- Access to all 35 aircraft
- Ability to fly anywhere around the 3D globe
- Takeoff and landing at over 1,000 major airports
- Fly day, night, dawn and dusk
- Dynamic weather effects
There are also paid upgrades that add more high-resolution imagery and enhanced realism:
- Google Earth Pro ($399 per year)- High-res 3D buildings, higher quality imagery
- Google Earth Pro Ultra ($499 per year) – Cinematic HD scenery, shadows and textures
However, these upgrades are optional. The free Google Earth flight simulator still provides an excellent experience.
Desktop vs Online Google Earth
An important limitation is that the flight simulator is only available on the Google Earth desktop application, not the web browser version. Google Earth must be downloaded and installed to gain access to the flight simulator feature.
The web version at earth.google.com provides a more limited view-only experience. It allows exploring the 3D globe through satellite imagery but does not include the flight simulator.
So you must use the desktop app on Windows, Mac or Linux systems if you want to pilot aircraft in the simulator.
Comparing Google Earth Flight Simulator to Professional Sims
While the Google Earth flight simulator provides a neat introduction, it has significant limitations in realism compared to professional pilot training simulators.
Some key differences include:
- Flight dynamics – Google Earth uses simplified physics, while pro flight sims strive for highly accurate flight modelling.
- Control options – Google Earth relies on mouse/keyboard. Pro sims often use actual flight controls.
- Visuals – Google Earth imagery provides good resolution but lacks detailed aircraft/cockpit models.
- Scope – Google Earth is focused on VFR sightseeing. Pro sims train for IFR procedures.
- Instructor Features – Used for guided training scenarios.
- Motion Simulation – Full motion platforms for immersive simulation.
So while the Google Earth simulator is fun for casual users, it does not provide the level of realism needed for professional aviation training.
Other Free Flight Simulator Options
If you want a more advanced flight simulation experience beyond Google Earth, there are some good free alternatives:
- FlightGear – Open source multiplatform simulator with detailed flight dynamics.
- DCS World – Military flight sim with powerful graphics and realistic controls.
- X-Plane 11 Demo – Fully-featured demo of professional X-Plane simulator.
- GeoFS – Online Web-based simulator with global satellite imagery.
- Rise of Flight – WWI combat flight simulator, multiplayer enabled.
- War Thunder – Combines military planes with ground vehicles in combined arms battles.
For mobile, Infinite Flight and X-Plane are excellent flight simulators available on iOS and Android. Both have free demo versions.
Using Flight Simulators for Pilot Training
Virtual flight simulators can be a useful training tool for aspiring pilots to develop and practice fundamental airmanship skills. While simulators alone are not enough, they allow pilots to safely build experience with:
- Basic flight controls – yoke/stick, rudder, throttle
- Aircraft instrumentation – altitude, heading, speed indicators
- Navigation – setting headings, GPS waypoints
- Radio communications – ATC protocols
- Airport procedures – traffic patterns, landing approaches
- Cross country flying – navigation across states/countries
- Emergency procedures – engine failure, bad weather response
Many factors like weather, wind, turbulence are modeled in advanced simulators to prepare pilots for real-world conditions.
Overall, flight simulators help establish solid foundational skills before advancing to training in real aircraft. They are a key part of well-rounded aviation education programs.
Finding Your House in Google Earth
One fun aspect of Google Earth is exploring local neighborhoods and finding your own house. This is easy to do:
- Enter your address into the Google Earth search bar
- A placemark pin will appear in the correct location
- Right click the placemark and select
- Paste the latitude/longitude coordinates into a flight simulator like Google Earth or X-Plane.
- Input the coordinates as a custom waypoint and fly to your house!
Viewing your own home from the air provides a unique perspective. The high-resolution satellite imagery in Google Earth allows recognizing local landmarks while flying overhead.
Do Real Pilots Use Flight Simulators?
Professional pilots extensively utilize full flight simulators over the course of their careers. Airlines and flight schools invest in advanced simulators for pilot training and qualification.
Some key applications of pro flight simulators include:
- Initial pilot training – Developing basic flying skills and procedures
- Aircraft transition – Learning new aircraft systems and handling
- Recurring training – Maintaining currency and proficiency
- Exam preparation – Practicing maneuvers for checkrides
- Scenario practice – Simulating emergencies and abnormal conditions
- Route familiarization – Flying approaches to unfamiliar airports
Pilots must undergo regular training in FAA-approved flight simulators to keep their licenses current. They are an integral tool enabling safe global air transportation.
Flight Simulators Used by the Military
Military aviation utilizes some of the most advanced and expensive flight simulators to train combat pilots. Cutting-edge simulators from companies like CAE, Lockheed Martin and Boeing feature:
- 360� wrap-around visuals for total immersion
- Highly realistic flight and weapons systems modelling
- Motion platforms with 6 degrees of freedom
- Networked training with other participants
- Detailed combat scenarios and theatres of operation
- Custom performance profiles for different airframes
These powerful simulators prepare pilots to operate advanced aircraft like fighter jets, helicopters and transport planes costing millions of dollars. They allow maximizing readiness while reducing risks and costs. Flight simulation has become an essential element of modern military training doctrines.
Paid Flight Simulator Options
For users willing to invest in premium software, some top-rated paid flight simulators include:
- Microsoft Flight Simulator ($59.99) – Hyper-realistic with photogrammetry global terrain
- X-Plane 11 ($59.99) – Advanced flight modelling and physics engine
- Prepar3D ($199.95) – Professional grade simulator used by pilots
- FlyInside Flight Simulator ($79.95) – VR enabled immersive flight simulation
- Aerofly FS2 ($39.99) – Easy to use with great graphics
These feature greater realism in areas like weather, aircraft systems and flight dynamics. They also offer a wider range of aircraft and airports beyond the default options. Many work with cockpit controls like yokes, pedals and throttles for added immersion.
For a modest one time fee, paid simulators provide a major upgrade over free options. They are an excellent choice for aviation enthusiasts seeking an engaging simulation experience.
The Google Earth flight simulator offers an exciting way to explore the planet from the air for free. While it has limitations in realism compared to professional aviation training simulators, it provides a user-friendly introduction to flight simulation. With a massive globe to explore and over 35 aircraft available, virtual aviators of all ages can enjoy this ingenious Google Earth feature.