Home > Animations > Google Earth Flight Path Animations II

Google Earth Flight Path Animations II

August 4th, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Continuing the idea of time animated flight paths in Google Earth, this KML file includes 300+ non-stop international routes from the four busiest international airports in the USA: New York Kennedy, Chicago O’Hare, Miami International and Los Angeles (LAX).

I’ve put together a video which shows the individual animations for each hub, then all combined.

Download the file here:

Flight Route Animations (440kB)

I’ve made a few subtle KML ‘style’ changes from the Chicago version – thinner lines, different colours etc – but it’s pretty much the same thing multiplied by 6.

Routes are based on the destinations listed under individual airports in Wikipedia. Flight times are indicative not accurate.  The KML is compiled by a script I’ve created to generate trajectories along ‘great circles’.

Anyone else think there’s a resemblance between this and the computer simulated nuclear war in the movie ‘WarGames‘ ? 😉

  1. August 4th, 2007 at 14:47 | #1

    Great work James! Your skills at creating effective animations using KML just keep getting better!

  2. PenguinOpus
    August 4th, 2007 at 15:23 | #2


    This one is especially amazing (I’m abusing superlatives here). Is there any chance you could add San Francisco’s flights?

  3. August 4th, 2007 at 16:09 | #3

    Indeed Frank 🙂

    Congratulations (again) James, another great one 🙂

  4. James
    August 5th, 2007 at 10:21 | #4

    Thanks Folks 🙂

    I’ll bump SFO up to the top of the to-do list.

  5. August 6th, 2007 at 13:42 | #5


    This is fantastic!!! Such a different and powerful visualization – congrats!

    Please submit this to http://earth.google.com/gallerysubmit/ – This “unusual” use will be great to show.

    Keep up the cool stuff!!!

  6. Carsten Bauer
    August 28th, 2007 at 16:34 | #6

    This is an amazing piece of work. I would like to do something similar but have no idea where to start. It would only involve about 30-40 flights originating from Perth Australia and returning.
    Can you please give me any help? Thanks

  7. September 2nd, 2007 at 21:50 | #7

    I thought of the scene from Wargames the minute your animation started! (I always loved the names of the WOPPR war game scenarios: “Albanian Decoy,” “Portugal Revolution,” “Chad Alert.” Someone thought up a lot of background material that got only microseconds of screen time.

    Great work. We live in a Golden Age.

  8. September 10th, 2007 at 13:15 | #8

    Really impressive stuff James. Congratulations on one of the best flight route animations I’ve seen. Look forward to more great stuff from you.

    PS – Wargames it is!

  9. November 13th, 2007 at 04:21 | #9

    This is interesting….If I want to draw a path between two points, how can I make it curved? I need your help please.


  10. bhanupratap,india
    November 15th, 2007 at 05:53 | #10

    tremendus,fantestic visualization, and now i am intrested how you done this.and congratulation for this animation.

  11. Dave Brodeur
    November 21st, 2007 at 23:18 | #11

    What you have is great, but You probably would want to include more USA airports as ATL International (Atlanta, GA) STL (Saint Louis-Lambert International (Saint Louis, MO), Logan (Boston MA) Laguadia (NY), and Dulles (Washington DC)

  12. Ian D Samson
    December 5th, 2007 at 11:35 | #12

    Well done for showing the USA, but what about flights from other places around the globe?

  13. barry milliken
    December 30th, 2007 at 16:42 | #13

    Tried Flights animation, but I get an error when I click on “play”:
    “There are no selected placemarks for the animation”

    I’ve tried to select some of the cities but nothing seems to work.

  14. James
    December 31st, 2007 at 13:10 | #14


    To run this, you need to use the time control at the top of the Google Earth screen, not the play button in the left side-panel.

    If you can’t see it, you might need to download a more recent version of Google Earth.

  15. February 5th, 2008 at 22:30 | #15

    The video looks great, but where did you get the data for this? I am trying to do something similar, but for all european airports. Would you know where I could get the data? Without paying too much for it?

  16. February 21st, 2008 at 09:27 | #16

    Great job!

    Of course, it makes sense for you to simply follow the heaviest traffic volume, but if you are looking for input to help you prioritize future additions I’d love to see London and Stockholm added.

  17. Nigel
    February 28th, 2008 at 05:40 | #17

    I can’t make it work … I get the message,

    “There are currently no Placemarks selected for the tour. Please activate the checkbox for those Placemarks you wish to visit and restart the tour. You can also select a folder and play a tour of all its items whether or not they are checked.”


    So, in plain English, what do I do?

  18. James
    February 28th, 2008 at 13:33 | #18

    Nigel – when you open the file there should time controller at the top of the screen:

    Click the play button on that.

    If it’s not there you need to either switch it on – ‘Show time’, in the ‘view’ menu, or more likely upgrade to the latest version of Google Earth.

  19. rich
    March 30th, 2008 at 00:19 | #19

    I’d like to see what international airline routes pass over my community on google earth. That would be really interesting to know.

  20. bob boldi
    April 8th, 2008 at 20:51 | #20

    unless i am not viewing this properly, it seems that the
    aircraft reach altitiudes of 100’s of miles above the earth –

    — not very accurate – why ?

  21. Loos
    April 9th, 2008 at 11:16 | #21

    The video looks great, but where did you get the data for this? I am trying to do something similar, but for all european airports. Would you know where I could get the data? Without paying too much for it?

    Please help me out!

  22. Lorenzo
    April 13th, 2008 at 01:18 | #22

    why the time zone doesnt work? I have got 1 Jan 2007 to 2 Jan 2007…why we can’t change to today?

  23. syzygy
    April 29th, 2008 at 07:50 | #23

    A dramatic graphical depiction of flights above US was created by Aaron Koblin:

  24. Julia
    June 20th, 2008 at 23:13 | #24

    This is a wonderful feature– I hope you’ll consider updating it though. There are many new routes from New York’s JFK airport now that are not represented in the animation, such Kiev, Accra, Cape Town, etc.

    I am sure this is true for other airports as well, I just happen to be most familiar with that one.

  25. Michael
    August 7th, 2008 at 19:26 | #25

    This is terrific — Emirates will be operating LAX-DXB in October — would love to see that flight path as i’m flying it in Dec. Is there any way i could add Dubai to the tool in the interim?


  26. melina
    August 24th, 2008 at 15:19 | #26

    Hello there, I’m literally dying to know what airlines fly over the Shetland Islands… I’ve just seen 3 fly over my home in a succession of 5 minutes, all heading north !! Is there any way you can find out? 😀

  27. Michael 2
    November 16th, 2008 at 06:20 | #27

    How do you get a LineString in kml to draw out over time instead of all at once? I can’t find it in Google’s kml reference or anywhere else, for that matter.

  28. Michael 2
    November 16th, 2008 at 06:35 | #28

    My guess is that you would use a TimeSpan kml section. I tried that, but the entire line segment would show up at the begin time, then disappear at the end time. I would like my LineString to behave like your flight path simulation–draw out up to a specified time and then stay there. But how?

  29. January 13th, 2009 at 18:48 | #29

    Any chance you can add MSP? Minneapolis is a busy hub for Northwest and KLM, and soon to be Delta.

  30. Martin
    January 31st, 2009 at 19:03 | #30


    really great animation. Can you answer me a question please?
    I would like to have such cool Great Circle (without animation), because i would like to set up a path for all my destinations i have visited!
    Or maybe there is someone else who could give me a hint to achieve this!


    February 14th, 2009 at 14:11 | #31

    any chance u can do heathrow and other airports worldwide

  32. February 20th, 2009 at 14:41 | #32

    Hi James
    It’s a great and probably long time job.
    How did you implement all the coordinates ? By hand ?
    How did you write the Placemarks ? All by hand ?
    Do you maybe know some tools and automatism to find the coordinates along a path in GE and write them into the Placemarks ?
    Many thanks for your tips.
    Best regards

  33. February 22nd, 2009 at 06:48 | #33

    Cool how can i get this on my website?????

  34. James
    February 23rd, 2009 at 11:41 | #34

    @Poldi – Yes and no. Gathering the timetable data takes a long time, but the KML itself I put together automatically with my own command line Perl script. I’ll see if I can extract the line splitting part to make it available online sometime.

    movable-type.co.uk have some online tools for finding coordinates from bearings and distances, but the site seems to be down at the moment

  35. April 6th, 2009 at 14:40 | #35

    Hi James,
    Nice but how do I get rid of it (at least visually)? I am stuck with a visualization of the beginning of the flight path even when the slider is all the way to the left. So I always have colorful curved stems sticking out of every major U.S. cities.

  36. David
    May 1st, 2009 at 22:41 | #36

    James – fantastic work. Thanks for making so much information available and for fielding input.

    I’m trying to do something similar with timespan, i.e., the automation of lines so that they connect 2 locations (numerous pairs). It should be simpler than the flight path animations because I don’t need to worry about height attributes as it will all be clamped to ground.

    Can you share a formula for splitting a line, i.e., obtaining multiple points along a straight line?

    Many thanks and best wishes!

  37. Morgan
    June 3rd, 2009 at 13:45 | #37

    James outstanding job! What formula did you use to calculate the elevations along the flight path? Really wonderful work.

  38. June 11th, 2009 at 11:25 | #38

    Hello, I need your help.

    I have to make animation exactly like yours, but for Slovakia flights.
    It is a point of my final bachelor work at my school.
    Please could you send me something to help? I was searching over the internet a long time, but I didnt find how to make that KML…. I realy need it to finish my last year at university and I have a lot of troubles to find out how to make it. I am not a programator, so it is harder for me..
    If you could help me with, please answer me to my mailbox.

    Thank You
    Best regards
    Tomas Fecko, Slovakia, Technical University Kosice

  39. Steve G
    June 29th, 2009 at 07:17 | #39

    I have been inspired by your work to build a XLS spreadsheet that takes timetable data from the OAG timetable database and creates schedule “waves” that fit with the “sun” function in GE.

    However what I have done is nothing compared to this:


  40. July 6th, 2009 at 03:18 | #40

    I would be grateful if you could advise me how to track a non stop flight from San Francisco to London Heathrow.
    Thanks very much.

  41. Andrew
    July 17th, 2009 at 23:08 | #41

    Hey James

    I know this is pretty amateur but I’m wondering what program you used to make this graphic? I really like and am interested in doing something similar just as a spare time project.

  42. Fábio
    July 19th, 2009 at 21:48 | #42

    Hello James,
    This file it’s amazing !! I love that.
    I have in excel airport coordinates all over the world and its easy for me pick flight information about all over company.
    But i would like to know how animated my flights.
    I know how to put in file kml. I use this website to convert xls for kml http://www.earthpoint.us/ExcelToKml.aspx
    If you have any tip for me, please send to me.

    Thanks !!!

  43. VIVI
    November 8th, 2009 at 04:14 | #43

    I would like to know if these patterns include the worldwide military jets that lay chemtrails all over
    America and the Earth?

  44. Joel
    January 18th, 2011 at 10:01 | #44

    Hi James – How do you draw the lines for each placement?

    Is this a KML feature? Can I write the KML to draw the lines from point A to point B?


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