Fly like a pilot from the comfort of your own home using Google Earth’s flight simulator

See the world from a new perspective using free Google Earth software and control your own aeroplane.

You’ve probably heard all about the wonders of Google Maps and Google Earth. The pair of free services have certainly given a different perspective to how we can explore the world, without even leaving the house.

For those completely new to Google Earth, it’s a piece of software that maps satellite images of the world, enabling us to explore.

[Read more: Explore the solar system using Google Maps]

Google Earth is available as an app for iOS and Android, but there’s also a computer app, which has more features.

But Google Earth isn’t simply about zooming in on images of the world, there is also a decent stash of gems to enjoy, one of which is the flight simulator. The flight simulator mode does exactly what it says on the tin – it allows you to take the view of a pilot as you fly across the globe, giving you full controls.

If you haven’t tried it already, fear not, we’ll show you where to find it and what you can do, watch the video below for an example flight. And if you haven’t downloaded Google Earth yet, you can get it here.

How to use Google Earth's flight simulator

Step 1: Where to find the flight simulator

When you open Google Earth, the flight simulator option can be found by simply clicking Tools and then Enter Flight Simulator…

Google Earth flight simulator

Step 2: Choose your aircraft

A box will then appear, offering you a choice of two aircrafts – the F-16 fighter jet (commonly known as the ‘Viper’) or the SR22 propeller aeroplane. Both will emulate the speed and power of their real-life counterparts – you can see their full descriptions on the selection page.

[Read more: From air bases to maximum security prisons: places you’re not allowed to see on Google Earth]

Step 3: Pick a location – it doesn’t have to be Earth either

When you begin, you can choose to start in your current location or one of a selection of airports, which include London Heathrow (if you want something close to home).

However, if you want to go far out, you can actually visit some areas including the Moon and Mars. They’re not quite as exciting due to the lack of landscape compared to humble Earth, but they’re still worth a quick tour. To see them just click the Saturn icon on the top menu and click whether you want to visit Earth, Sky, Mars or Moon and then enter flight simulator mode

Google Earth flight simulator

Step 4: Know your keys – or get a joystick

This isn’t any simple flight, you’ll have to control everything from thrust to rudder or you’ll crash (yes, it really does crash).

The easiest way is using your mouse. Simply click once so that a plus sign appears on your screen and move your mouse in the appropriate direction.

You can use your keyboard too. Below is a chart of all the keys you should know, although you can get away with the simple thrust (using the up and down keys) and aileron left and right (using left and right arrow keys).

However, it would be a lot easier with a joystick – and undoubtedly more fun. You can find a wide selection to choose from on Amazon, such as the Thrustmaster USB Joystick (£17.99).

Google Earth flight simulator

Google Earth

Step 5: Taking off

Taking off from the ground is simple using a keyboard. All you have to do is press the Page Up button (not the arrow up button). Hold it down for a while to gather speed, then gently click the down arrow button.

[Read more: The 7 wonders of Google Earth]

Step 6: Landing your aircraft

It’s also possible to land, but it’s much trickier. According to instructions from Google themselves, the best way to land is to:

Approach an appropriate airstrip or flat area.

Press Page Down to reduce thrust and slow down the aircraft.

Press G to extend the landing gear.

Press F to increase the flap setting. This slows the aircraft.

Once you have touched down, use the wheel brakes to slow the aircraft. Press , (comma) to apply the left wheel brake; press . (full stop) to apply the right wheel brake.

Step 7: I need a break

Thankfully, this isn’t real, so of course you can pause. Press the spacebar and everything will freeze until you click it again.

If you like Google Earth, check out Google Earth Pro, originally designed for business users. This lets you accurately measure distances.  It went completely free in 2015 giving everyone access to the entire wealth of resources. Here are four reasons you should download it.

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