Whilst loads of people just think of Google Earth as some sort of glorified electronic globe, in actual fact the free tool masks a lot of pretty powerful functionality, which allows third-parties to extend the tool in all sorts of ways.
One such example that I came across this week is the fboweb.com flight tracking add-on. The site provides a selection of paid for internet based services for the aviation industry, however their basic tools to allow you to track flights are free, including the ability to ‘see’ the plane in Google Earth. Take a look at this flight tracker that uses the service.
The full power of what they have created can be seen on their demo page where there are a selection of example plots showing all the current inbound traffic to major US airports. The top picture shows inbound traffic to New York’s JFK airport, with the addition of their US Airspace areas marked. You can clearly see planes coming in from the Atlantic, together with flights lining up over Long Island for final approach. Fascinating stuff, and because it is using Google Earth, it works fine on the Mac version too, as is shown by the second shot, tracking a single plane, in this case the Air Canada 851 from Heathrow to Calgary, on final approach. The Google Earth primer document makes interesting reading too, which details some of the more advanced features paid up subscribers to the fboweb.com services can get.