Just a little tip for your next Google Earth visit. Besides the normal Google Earth navigation mode (Ctrl-T) there’s a “flight mode”, which can be turned on by pressing Ctrl-Alt-A or just Ctrl-A to start from current position.

You can control your plane using arrows, but usually you’ll need more precision. In flight simulator mode, when you click the left mouse button, your mouse cursor will take the shape of a cross, and every mouse movement now controls the plane. Another left click will switch the control mode off – the cursor will be an arrow again.

It takes a while to get hold of the controls, because even with the mouse everything is really sensitive, and you have to count with certain inertia. Basically, first you’ll want to make your plane fly straight. Using Ctrl-A to start from a flat angle, and then levelling the plane using just up and down arrows is a safe way to start, although in order not to loose height you might also want to increase throttle (using Page Up), close flaps (using Shift-F), and retract landing gear (using G). You can then use Ctrl and arrows to just look around instead of changing direction.

Use Ctrl-H to reach the complete help for GE flight simulator. There you can find more help and all the keyboard shortcuts. Enjoy!

UPDATE: With the release of Google Earth browser plugin, more interesting “simulators” are available – for example, you can visit http://www.paraglidingearth.com/ for a worldwide directory of paragliding sites, and use Google Earth as a paragliding simulator by clicking on “Fly this site”!

Another interesting use of the GE browser plugin, not a simulator, but a rather interesting visualization of various statistics, can be found at http://www.earthatlas.info/

Need more help with Google Earth? Visit Video tutorials for Google Earth at Google Earth Blog or Google Earth Basics page