Sometimes I like to fly a bit in flight simulator in Google Earth (not the Pro version), and I was wondering how realistic it is. There are two planes you can fly. I included some stuff I personally tried.

  • F-16
    • Max altitude (starting from ground): 46200 ft (14081.8 m)
    • Max altitude (starting from the highest google earth let me start): 80000 ft (24384 m)
    • Max speed while falling down: 1450 knots (2685.4 km/h)
    • Max vertical speed: 980 knots (1814.96 km/h)
    • Flies rather stable, I can do some aggressive maneuvers without any problems. Difficult to land. When I'm very high, it's difficult to get control of the aileron.
  • SR22
    • Max altitude (from ground): 19800 ft (6035.04 m)
    • Max altitude (from highset starting point): 60000+ ft (18288+ m)
    • Max speed while falling down: 550 knots (1018.6 km/h)
    • Max vertical speed: 155 knots (287.06 km/h)
    • Not very powerful. Quite unstable (aileron always moves by itself). Easy to land.

Interestingly, Google Earth allows you to fly beneath the surface of oceans, and it flies exactly the same as in the air. The support for taking off from a real airport is rather limited, but it's there. It supports a full ROM afaik.

  • $\begingroup$ It is not "realistic" at all. For that matter, most PC flight sims aren't. I can land a Cessna in real life without passengers realizing we even touched down. I can't even land a Cessa on the runway in a PC flight sim (xPlane 10/FSX) $\endgroup$
    – Keegan
    Apr 25, 2015 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ The fact that there is a difference in maximum altitude depending on whether you start from ground or some point higher suggests that not much. Where you start does not affect at which altitude engines will no longer provide enough thrust to maintain altitude nor at which altitude stall speed exceeds critical mach number and you get in the coffin corner. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Apr 25, 2015 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ "Google Earth allows you to fly beneath the surface of oceans, and it flies exactly the same as in the air." Didn't this already answer your own question? $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Nov 17, 2015 at 23:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Keegan you should give it a try using X-Plane 11 and VR (I use Windows Mixed Reality). It makes all the difference. I was almost immediately flying a perfectly square pattern, and touching down just past the numbers, on center line! It is amazing! I've read that if the head tracking is spot-on that your brain will accept the visual graphics readily. Being able to look around the cockpit, check the correct time to turn base, etc, made all the difference! I even had a memory later of my virtual flight that for a moment, I thought I had actually been up for real, earlier that day! $\endgroup$
    – Canuk
    Feb 11, 2020 at 9:19

4 Answers 4


How realistic is Google Earth Flight Simulator?

It is very unrealistic in most respects.

I believe there are a number of important ways you can measure realism from a pilot's perspective:

  • view out the windows
  • appearance of instrument panel
  • mode of operation of pilot aids like autopilot, autothrottle
  • flying controls
    • physical character
    • responsiveness
  • interaction with ATC
  • effects of wind, weather, turbulence, rain, ice
  • aeronautical characteristics of aircraft

It would be easy to focus solely on the last of these, but from my perspective this is not really the most important.

Here's a few dissimilarities that occur to me.


The SR22 doesn't have a HUD.

I'm pretty sure the SR22 cockpit windows would take up a much greater area of my vision than my computer screen does. Especially peripheral vision. Also in a real SR22, there is important stuff to look at below the windows.


Do these look alike?

Actual SR22 cockpit SR22 PFD Google Earth SR22


In Google Earth you don't have anything like the range of controls that have to be used, where are all the switches, knobs and other dohickeys you find in the real SR22?

Waving a mouse around is nothing like moving a control column around. With a control column you have a much different sense of the position of the controls. Moving a mouse involves completely different muscles and different motions.

Moving a throttle lever is completely different to pressing PgUp and PgDn buttons to move a throttle position in increments


In Google Earth you don't hear any engine, you dont feel any vibration, you don't feel any turbulence, you don't feel anything in an uncoordinated turn or when pulling out of a dive, you don't feel the unevenness of a runway.

It's hard to really feel oriented in a simulator when your sense of balance and peripheral vision tell you you are sitting upright at your desk, not inverted and spinning towards the ground.


I'm not a pilot, I have sat in the pilot's seat of a small Cessna and manipulated the control-column and rudder to make a few turns and attempt to maintain speed and altitude under the direction of a pilot. I've done the same in a glider, and I have done some take-offs and landings in a fairly amazing full (though static) commercial 737 simulator with full cockpit reproduction (all seats, panels, motorised levers, switches etc that you'd find in a real 737 cockpit, wired to a large rack of computers).

enter image description here A more realistic simulator

Google Earth is nothing like any of them in almost any respect.

It's a fun game though.

  • $\begingroup$ Maybe you should try "Prepar3D" $\endgroup$ Apr 26, 2015 at 22:26
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    $\begingroup$ In Google Earth, the airplane has no physical stress limitations except touching the gruond. And I can reach 1600 knots of IAS when diving from 100000 ft using the F-16. Also the SR22 reaches 500 knots of IAS. $\endgroup$
    – neverMind9
    Jan 19, 2018 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Cloud: You could probably squeeze one of these into your home or garage. $\endgroup$ Feb 20, 2018 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Cloud Try out FlightGear. It is excellent, especially for being priced at 0 and open-source. $\endgroup$
    – neverMind9
    Apr 23, 2018 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ @neverMind9 Ok thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Apr 24, 2018 at 10:10

What is great about google earth flight sim is what makes it unrealistic. I can experience things I would never have the opportunity to experience: like diving down the face of Everest at full throttle, Landing at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, skimming just beneath the surface of the water as we approach LA at 1200 knots, and landing on Hadley Delta on the Moon. All for free. All safe, and tell my friends how I like to land at Boston, Heathrow, and a tiny airport in Peru surrounded by mountains. The truth is I am terrified of getting on a real plane, but Google Flight simulator's suspension of reality restores the fun of flying, and makes me wonder if I should not be so scared to get on a real plane.

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    $\begingroup$ These are all valid points, and I guess it does answer the question in a round-about way, by showing just how unrealistic it is. Also, no, you shouldn't be afraid to get on a real plane, and you probably rationally understand that. However, if we were all rational, there wouldn't be any phobias, and what fun would that be? :) $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    May 26, 2016 at 12:22

Is it realistic... No...

As mentioned in the other answer the first main gaps are the HUD which an SR22 does not have to my knowledge and the flight dynamics which don't seem real. But keep in mind that google most like had a few people make this as a fun little addition to google earth I don't think its intended to be a realistic simulator. I am a pilot and a big fan of simulators as they are a great tool but they are just that, a tool. The flight dynamics in Google Earth are not what they would be in a real plane and I would never expect that. There are lots of issues with home based simulators and realism. There are full moving sims out there for pros but in the home market, unless you are this guy you are only going to get so much realism.


While the sim has basic pitch up and down, bank and roll functions it does not feel anything like flying a real plane. Your desk chair is not going anywhere.

Flight Dynamics

I have not flown an SR22 yet but I would imagine they dont handle like they do in that sim. There are other simulators out there (X plane) that have the ability to make very real simulations. Your seat will never move but the flight dynamics of the plane are close to the real thing and good for practice.

Control Input

A real plane is not flown with a keyboard... Yet... but if you do have a joystick or yoke you can get somewhat of a feel for real planes. The issue is that your home yoke will not provide the feedback a real plane does (at least a small plane). I fly the Piper Warrior and before trim there is quite a bit of force on the controls, more than the little springs in my yoke provide.


Unless you have a bunch of monitors you will never see in a sim what you see in real life. In a real plane you can see all around you, but you need to keep in mind you are playing a game not flying a real plane.

Its a tool

Simulators are great tools, they can provide a great platform to train in and get to know the systems of a plane and how they work. However they will never (at least not now) replace real flying no matter how hard you try. Sim's strive for realism but they are in the end of the day a simulation of a physical experience and nothing more. The Google Earth Sim was clearly put together to be more fun than real. The runway roll was almost non existant and a single click of the up arrow put me in a stall which is clearly not realistic.

If you want to see how close it is, go to your local airport and see if they have a flight school that offers an intro course. You can get behind the controls of a real plane and see for yourself!


I don't expect realism from Google Flight Simulator, but in providing a reasonable simulation of real world scenery I haven't seen anything nearly as good.

Takeoff scenarios aren't always true to typical flying conditions. Maybe one or two weeks out of a whole year, planes head east to take off at LAX; at all other times they face west, over the beach and out over the ocean as soon as they take off. But in Flight Simulator you always fly east from LAX.

Google Earth Flightsim works on the Moon and on Mars. Apparently atmospheric conditions are modeled the same as they would be on Earth, since the aircraft seem to behave the same with regard to maximum altitudes and so forth.

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    $\begingroup$ "I haven't seen anything nearly as good". With due respect, you have many other PC simulators to try, that are ways better about aerodynamics and visual details. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    May 26, 2016 at 5:04

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