There is a lot of real time flight trackers and at least few flight archives in the web. Some of them offer purchasing the data. After purchasing you are receiving a full flight data, ready for further manipulation. The most popular flight tracker with a big flight data history is the Flightradar24.com. There is also the option to get this data in .csv or .kml file however only for users, who decided purchase at least silver account. Moreover downloading this data is restricted and for the cheapest option the limit is 10 per month only. I realize, that you don’t need more, because  usually you fly not often than 10 times per month  (considerate your own flights only). Nonetheless is quite uncomfortable being reliant for this server without a chance to display your flight in different software than map provided there.

Flightradar241
Pic. 1 The Flightradar24.com service offers only flight simulation back up to 7 days. The .kml and .csv files are not available for basic account.

Let’s considerate the different options then. Before I will come across my own example with last flight I would like to tell you about the most convenient options to gain the .kml data from your flight. There are 2 another live flight trackers  (as far as I know) with accessible data of the flight. Besides there are another options to display the flights provided on the GitHub platform. Back to the web trackers for Americans the most convenient is to be the Flightwise.com. At least a few advises can be found in the web how to use flight information from the Flightwise.com in Google Earth. One of them you can see on the movie below.

My example is based on the Flightaware.com, which has a pretty good archival flights database. Writing pretty good I mean not equal the Flightradar24.com but still OK. When found your flight you have insight in the flight log data. The “View track log” option is very useful for preparing your .kml file in the future. All details about preparation of your flight data you can see in the video below.

The movie above doesn’t cover the moment of data manipulation in MS Excel. I will show you step by step how to do it on my own example. This is the flight from Zadar (ZAD) to London Stansted (STN) operated by Ryanair. You can see the overview of your flight when found it on this website (Pic. 2). Once you copied the data, you should have the table in MS Excel looks like this below (Pic.3).

Flight0
Pic. 2 The overview of your flight when found it on the Flightaware.com website.
Flight1
Pic. 3 The output flight log table in MS Excel.
  1. The table copied to MS Excel looks almost the same. I mean almost the same, because (possibly you have spot it) some values has been copied wrong. You can get rid of these mismatches and adjust this table following the steps below.
  2. Some columns are not necessary in our flight details. Obviously you don’t have to do the same like me. This is my example only. I decided to remove 3 columns: “Direction“, “Rate” and “Reporting facility”. I don’t need thedirection, when I have the azimuth in “Course” column. I don’t need the rate too because I am not interested in how many meters the plane have ascended/descended in past time interval. Basically all I need is: “Longitude”, “Latitude”, “Time” and “Meters” (altitude).

    Flight2
    Pic. 4 Selected unneceserry columns are to be deleted.
  3. Once you remove unnecessary columns remember about unnecessary rows too. There are 3 on the top and another 2 on the very bottom.

    Flight3
    Pic. 5 Selected unnecessary rowsare to be deleted.
  4. Now is the time to make our data tidy. As I have written earlier there are some discrepancies between values on the website log and values copied to the MS Excel document (time and meters). The values looks like they have been copied twice to the same row and appears as string text. Our current task is convert this text to separate columns. Before you do this make sure, that you selected proper rows. Remember to avoid the 1st row with column name and repeat this for each group values (e.g separately for values from 100 to 999, next from 1000 to 9999, etc) to avoid further inconsistencies as per below. Value should have fixed width.
    Flight3b
    Pic. 6 In the “Data” section select “Text to column” option.

    Flight4

    Flight5
    Pic. 7, 8 Conversion text to column: firstly for the values lower than 1000.

    Flight6

    Flight7
    Pic. 9, 10 Conversion text to column for the values between 1000 and 9999.
  5. Fine! Now you have created a new column. Using this column seems to be more comfortable, because there is no comas. So let’s copy the “Meters” column name to our newly created column and delete old one.

    Flight8
    Pic. 11 Old “Meters” column is going to be removed.
  6. You have to make similar steps within the “Time” column. I have got the BST (British Summer Time) – GMT+1 due to the time zone in your destination airport. Initially you have a weekday and 2 types of time description set as strong.  In terms of this you will need to insert 2 new columns between the “Time” and “Latitude” where you finally embed the time values converted. I have chosen the hh-mm format,  because in my opinion is more readable. Besides the log is actualized around twice per minute.
    Flight9
    Pic. 12 Insert 2 new colmns where you will put the converted data.

    Flight10

    Flight11
    Pic. 13, 14. Converting the time values.
  7. Sometimes you can see the alert as per below. Don’t worry about it just click OK. We are going to replace the leftmost column, another two will be used for newly converted data input.

    Flight12
    Pic. 15 Alert about the data in our output columns. Click OK to replace.
  8. Now when you have the “Time” issues sorted remove unnecessary columns making your table clear.

    Flight14
    Pic. 16 First two lefttmost columns are going to be deleted.
  9. Last step is removing repeatable rows or as you wish more rows can be removed depends how “dense” route would you like to have. I decided leave everything as it stands just without 2 repeatable rows near the top.

    Flight13
    Pic. 17 Look on the “Time” column and find the repeatable values, then remove them.
  10.  Save your file in .csv format, which is recognizable by Google Earth software. Flight15

Great! Now you have the .csv file ready to input to Google Earth. There are solutions in the web how to do this. Process is quite simple like in the video below shown. The issues with import Excel data to Google Earth has been raised in earlier article. Just in case you can see the video with instruction below.

The difference between standard process of input the MS Excel data to Google Earth  lies in the data specification. You cannot follow the aforementioned movie exactly step by step because you have to specify your field types correctly.

As per the picture above the “Time UTC+1” field should have the string type, because our time value contains the string of both numbers and symbols.  The “Latitude” and “Longitude” have to be set as the floating point type. Otherwise the tool will not interprete the flight track coordinates correctly. Finally the route of your flight will not be shown correctly. Another fields should be set in the integer type.

Flight16

Considerating, that you came trough the other steps and reached the moment of the “Style Template Settings” there are 2 very important factors, that you have to looking at. First is the “Name” where would be good to select from our “Time UTC + 1” column. If you miss this nothing wrong happened. Only your simple points on your route will not be identified. Much more important issue is “Height”, where we have basically 2 options. To simplify our process select “Clamp features to ground” and then click OK.

Flight17b
Pic. 20 Set the name field from leftmost column.
Flight17
Pic. 21 Choose the “Clamp features to ground” option, when you prefer show your flight route in terrestial way.

In the result you should get awesome flight route between 2 airports. I have not selected the name field hence my route contains the signatures only. After the name field selection as per above you should have a multitude of text alongside the route, which can be not comfortable enough for the smallest zoom. Anyway your flight route in Google Earth has been generated. Now, when you zoom in close to the ground and click on the one of the signatures the pop up window will appear with all information provided  to .csv file before (Pic. 23, 24). Basically our flight route is ready then!…

ZAD-STN 21.06.2018 google earth
Pic. 22 My flight route ZAD-STN, clamped to the ground.

 

Flight18b

 

Flight18
Pic. 23, 24 The flight route details displayed in simple circumstances.

…But some people can ask what about the real plane altitude during the flight???

You can also prepare the flight route with altitude factor if you want. I am not going to remove clamped to the ground route. New route will exist above first one. Do the same steps as I have described above and when you get to the “Style Template Settings” again select the “Set height from field” option. As a field select “Meters” column because this column contains the plane altitude data during the flight (Pic. 25). Another things do as per the image below. Remember to set minimum and maximum value the same both for meters and height. Otherwise the altitude will not be displayed correctly. When do this go OK making your aerial flight route ready.

Flight19
Pic. 25 Set “Meters” column as a height field.

ZAD-STN 21.06.2018 google earth3

 

 

ZAD-STN 21.06.2018 google earth4
Pic. 26, 27 Our flight route shown on almost real altitude.

Excellent! Now you can see both route clamped to the ground (blue) and aerial  (yellowish). Unfortunately is one detail, that can make you slightly dissapointed. All figures has been set relative to the ground, that means if you route passes above mountainuous area the real position will be elevated by the mountain altitude. To fix this problem you must right click  an object, choose the “Altitude” section  and next choose the “Absolute” option. It will keep your flight altitude relative to the sea level. At this moment you have to do it one by one  (sic!) because this problem has not been solved in Google Earth yet.

ZAD-STN 21.06.2018 google earth5

ZAD-STN 21.06.2018 google earth6
Pic. 28, 29 Changing the altitude options from “Related to the ground” to “Absolute”.

Once you do this, you have got fully shown flight route in Google Earth (Pic. 30, 31).

ZAD-STN 21.06.2018 google earth7

ZAD-STN 21.06.2018 google earth8
Pic. 30, 31 Flight ZAD-STN above the Alps shown in Google Earth both in terrestial and aerial version.

Reconstruction of the flight route can be helpful mainly for flightseeing purposes. Having it shown in Google Earth you are able to simulate the cockpit view on the particular part of your flight and analyze what can you see or what have you seen during your journey. This solution can be useful for short flights, where is no information about real-time plane position for passengers.

Mariusz Krukar

Links:

  1. https://flightaware.com/
  2. https://flightwise.com/
  3. GitHub flight tracker
  4. GitHub: Google Maps flight tracker
  5. 10 tips & tricks to make flying easier with Flight Track Pro.
  6. Tacview: KML real life flight recordings
  7. Google Earth flight tracker and viewer
  8. Flight tracking layer from Flightwise.com
  9. Weird altitude effects in Google Earth
  10. Google Earth copy & paste trick
  11. Gogle Maps flight tracker for Flight Gear
  12. https://www.experts-exchange.com/questions/24918085/Google-Earth-can-you-move-multiple-placemarks-in-My-Places-to-new-folder-at-same-time.html
  13. FLightwise.com flight tracker discussion
  14. Select more than 1 place at once in Google Earth

 

Read also:

1. The flood simulation in Google Earth
2. Total solar eclipse vizualisation on Google Earth
3. Using Heywhatsthat.com to generate a multiple summit-perspective views in Google Earth
4. How to show the coordinate grids in Google Earth and Google Maps?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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