September 6, 2007 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Bored at your desk and in dire need of an adrenaline rush? Well now you can go for a quick sortie in an F-16 - without leaving your chair - thanks to a hidden feature in the recently launched Google Earth 4.2/Google Sky .
Here's how it's done: To enter the flight simulator mode, press Ctrl + Alt + A (Command/Open Apple Key + Option + A on the Mac) while browsing Google Earth. The keyboard commands enable you to choose rom one of several airports and then you get to pick your plane: the F-16 Fighting Falcon or the Cirrus SR22.
When you're ready, select "Start Flight". Hit the down arrow along with the Page Up key to take off. Speed, direction and height can be taken care of by other simple keyboard commands, which you learn during the process. Besides controlling the speed and direction of the aircraft, you can land the plane at a desired place, fly it upside down and even crash-land it.
Now don't go off expecting it to be anything like the Microsoft Flight Simulator - but it's definitely looks very promising.
You might want to check out the Web Page describing the controls
To re-enter flight simulator mode, users can choose Tools > Enter Flight Simulator. While the prograe has airports covered fairly well, it does not show the aircraft.
As of now, there are a list of prefixed fly-by zones (about 27) from which you've have to determine your flight-plan. By default, it's set to Kathmandu Airport (Nepal) and you can get rocking and rolling all over the Himalayas in no time. Here's a snapshot while banking right outside the airport.
You need the latest version of Google Earth, and I needed to be over the US to get the window to pop up.