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Skip Navigation LinksPOW! > Home > Google Earth primer

Flightwise and Google earth / a match made in heaven

(and a great way to see what's flying in it!)

Getting errors trying to use Google Earth? Click here for hints...!

What is Google Earth?

Google Earth is a free program put out by the folks at Google, and it's simply amazing. Essentially, it's a browser for the planet. When you start the program, it shows a distant 3-dimensional image of the planet Earth, and then slowly zooms in - from there, you can use the mouse to pan around, zoom in, zoom out, change your viewing angle... and that's just the beginning. From the Google Earth home page:

The idea is simple. It's a globe that sits inside your PC. You point and zoom to anyplace on the planet that you want to explore. Satellite images and local facts zoom into view. Tap into Google search to show local points of interest and facts. Zoom to a specific address to check out an apartment or hotel. View driving directions and even fly along your route.

The beautiful part is that you can download and interface with thousands of point-of-interest "layers" that you can plop down right on top of the globe, ranging anywhere from earthquake markers to blogger's vacation spots. In addition, Google's search engine is integrated right into the program. This means you can enter the name of any location into the search bar and you can zoom right to it.

Flightwise has developed an interface to integrate our flight-tracking data with this "3D Earth Browser" so that you can now see flights in real-time and in 3D... zooming in to particular flights, rotating around them, seeing them from all angles... by far the most advanced flight tracking system available today.

To use this feature, navigate to any of Flightwise's existing flight tracking features, and look for the Google Earth button - simply click on that button, and Google Earth should load and display the related information automatically.

One of the first things you might like to try is finding a flight to track. Even non-subscribers can use the free QuickTrack option to track any commercial flight.

The thumbnail to the right is an example of tracking a single flight (you can click on the thumbnail for a larger image). The main flight is shown with its flight path in yellow and "extruded" (drawn from the altitude of the point down to the ground) to show its height above the ground and previous tracks. In addition, when tracking individual flights, the aircraft's surrounding traffic is also displayed - all IFR aircraft within a 30 nautical mile radius.

For the most part, almost all of the flight tracking features have been integrated with Google Earth, including FleetWatch, QuickTrack, Area Track, and others. Even the Flight History database has been integrated; this means you can look up the complete flight path of any IFR flight since November of 2001 and display that complete track in 3D, where you can follow along and view the track from any angle at any point along the way.

Additionally, there are a number of "overlays" you can include with Google Earth that will enhance your flight fligh tracking experience. For example, you can add a layer which provides a 3D representation of special use airspace around the United States; see the Class B airspace in its true form around Orlando International Airport (click the thumbnail on the left for an example). Another useful add-on is the collection of Sectional maps. You can load in any one of the US aviation sectional maps for any given area.

For a listing of some of the overlays available, click to the demo page and scroll down towards the bottom of the page.Flightwise will always be on the lookout for useful & interesting layers, and as we find them and we'll place them in this section to make it easier for users to take advantage of.

Still have questions on using Flightwise with Google Earth? Contact Customer Service and feel free to ask away!

Are you seeing errors while using Google Earth, or being asked to 'Download or Open' some weird xxxxx.aspx file?

Regarding the "download or open xxxxx.aspx" error - this is a known problem with about 10% of the installations of Google Earth. We're not yet sure what causes this error; essentially it has to do with the program not properly recognizing the fact that the information coming to it is indeed a Google Earth description file.

One thing some users have had success with is to completely uninstall Google Earth, then go to and download the absolute latest version, then re-install that new version. Another option some users have had success with (at least on Windows machines) is to install Service Pack 2.

A temporary workaround to the problem is that when the system pops up and asks to open or save the file, go ahead and save it to disk, but change the extension of the filename from ".aspx" to ".kml"... and then when the file is done downloading, double-click the file to open it. Things should work as normal at that point, and Google Earth should open (if it's not already open) and begin displaying the information.

We're still working with the folks at Google to try to determine the cause and a permenant fix to the problem, but it definitely seems to be a combination of things that we've as of yet been unable to isolate.

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