"Google Flight School"

WVSTA 2009 Glade Springs

Firstly, let me emphasize that the SMART-Center  is  primarily focused on  "hands on"  learning. We always strive to use off the shelf or easily available components.

This activity uses free and or inexpensive software, and some common peripheral equipment to do the following:

Utilizing some excellent new features in Google Earth 5.0, you can fly anywhere you wish on the planet Earth. You can also "fly" under the oceans, as if you were in a futuristic submarine. These flight simulator capabilities are also available on the planet Mars, and the Moon.  Flight simulator will work with your mouse, but is best experienced with a joystick. Likely, multiple students in your class are quite familiar with gaming and joysticks. This is a good opportunity for them to share their experience and equipment.

Google Earth provides excellent tutorials and directions for all its features, below are links to help you get started. All are on the Google Earth pages.

Your first step is to download the latest version of Google Earth using the link below. Use the installion of the software as a learning opportunity. Pay attention to the choices on the download page, as they would like you to install "chrome and google earth".  You just want to install "earth".

You can take some time to become familiar with the flight simulator feature by following the links, or jump right in exploring by going to "tools" then click on enter "flight simulator".
You can use the flight simulator feature with just your mouse or touchpad, but it is clumsy compared to using a joystick. Plug in your joystick before you open Google Earth so that it recognizes it. You will see "joystick enabled" when you enter flight simulator and choose your airplane. The flight simulator guide will get you up to speed on which key strokes affect your flight... H turns heads up display on and off, F gives more flaps, Shift-F removes flaps, G is for landing gear,  arrow keys up and down are for thrust, arrow keys left and right are aileron controls, etc. You will likely come to see that using a joystick and accessing your "kinesthetic intelligence" will usually be the best strategy.  A couple of great flights on Earth are buzzing Mount Saint Helens or flying up the Grand Canyon. It is always fun to type your own address into Google Earth and fly over your neighborhood.

You travel to planet Mars, or to the Moon by clicking the image of Saturn in the menu bar, and selecting  (choice of Earth Sky Mars Moon)
The features of flight simulator work on  Mars or the Moon, and are even more fun. There are excellent graphics available. Try entering "Victoria Crater into" the "go to" box to get started. When you become a good enough pilot to land on, you can use your craft as a rover by controlling the speed and your wheel brakes. After "roving" you can increase thrust and take off again to explore further. Why not visit Cabeus Crater on the Moon and see where NASA crashed to search for water.

Recording your explorations and making a video: Though we are primarily Mac advocates, there is no question that the Logitech 3D Extreme joystick is configured for and works better on PC equipment. In addition, of the two video choices we tried, Mac plus MacVCR software, and Windows based PC plus Frap (available from FRAPS.com) the latter combination worked best. You can drag your 30 second video clips done with FRAPS into Windows Moviemaker and star in your own flight videos.

This activity is meant to get you started. I would hope you will discover some great ways to use the "Fly Google and capture video" strategy and share it with us.

Richard J. Pollack  e-mail me at this address    energy@smartcenter.org

Google Earth Download



Flight Simulator, Submarine, and Mars Plane



Google Mars… one of the best new things going.

(be among the second to land on mars)


Google Moon... newest off planet adventure.


Starting point for acquiring USB Joystick... (Logitech 3D Extreme is a good choice for PC)


Google SketchUp Build a doghouse, download a mansion... and a dog.


My son's recommended software: free version allows for 30 second clips, can be edited in MovieMaker, which is included in Windows XP and Vista

Windows Systems Video capture software


Mac OSX video capture including AAC+ codec