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Review your flight in Google Earth

Google Earth – what can I say? Wow. If you have a PC, a broadband connection and you haven’t tried it yet, pop over to and take it for a spin. One very nice feature for pilots is the ability to directly load data from your Garmin or Magellan GPS into Google Earth for review in full 3D glory, you can even share them with other people…

Google Earth is one of the latest developments from Google that allows you to zoom in to any point on the globe and view satellite imagery overlaid onto topographically correct 3D landforms. Essentially giving you the ability to zoom in and have a look at anywhere in the world you want. The resolution of the satellite imagery varies. Everywhere has medium resolution coverage, for instance my house in Milwaukee is indistinguishable from the surrounding block. Some areas, particularly US Cities and other points of interest have high resolution – I can clearly see the handicap signs on specific parking spots in the Chicago Aquarium parking lot for example. Google’s HQ has a resolution of 1 pixel per inch, I can see the chairs on the patio outside their cafeteria. What makes you think is that this is the satellite coverage they give away for free, one can only wonder at what is available to the various government users!

Anyway, besides being a great way to browse the geography of the world, if you upgrade to Google Earth Plus ($20) you can plug your Garmin or Magellan GPS direcly into the system and download your waypoints, routes and tracks for display in Google Earth. If you take your GPS along on your flight, you can download the track into Google Earth and review the entire thing, overlaid on the satellite image of the terrain you were flying over. Below are some screen shots of a recent training flight I took, working on some of the Commerecial Pilot maneuvers – Steep Turns, Chandelles, Spiral Descent, Eights on Pylons and Lazy Eights, plus a few landings in the pattern at the end.

Image 1 – We’re north of the airport, looking north showing the whole flight apart from the takeoffs and landings at KMWC. The second image is a link to the full size screen shot.

Flight in Google Earth 1
Full size version 1
Image 2 – Were looking east with my lazy eights on the left, some steep turns on the right and eights on pylons in the bottom left. The second image is the full size screen shot.

Flight in Google Earth 2
(Full size image)
If you fancy seeing the whole thing, download a copy of Google Earth (the free version should work fine for this), fire it up and once you’ve got some spare time left over from zooming around the world, open the following file (File > Open) in Google Earth and it will load into the Places section of the interface so you can turn it on or off at will. With it on you’ll get the full track of my flight on your screen and you can see everything I did, see the road junction I was trying to use for my ‘pylon’, the hole on the golf course I used as another pylon, the road I was using for my lazy eights, the chandelles followed by the spiral descent – its all there. Now if only we had high resolution satellite coverage you could probably see the markings for the tie down spot I parked in…

solo_comm_090705.kmz solo_comm_090705.kmz

I’ve seen posts online of people reviewing their flight routes, getting a feel for the view they will have on a final approach. Some of the satellite images are old so don’t rely on them. If you turn on the 3D buildings for downtown Chicago you can go back in time and fly past Meigs and see the Chicago skyline – Soldier Field, the Planetarium, the Aquarium, Sears Tower and all the other buildings – all laid out before you just as you might remember it from MS Flight Simulator.

Have fun!

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