In fact, it’s one of those “why didn’t we think of it?” types of features. It seems obvious to use Google’s satellite imagery and on-the-fly (sorry for the pun) map loading technology in the context of a flight sim.
So, what is the experience like? Better than you might expect. You get the choice of flying either an F16 jet or an SR22 prop plane, with the obvious speed difference. The controls are pretty delicate and difficult to master, particularly on a keyboard. It appears that Google Earth actually supports joystick input for the flight sim mode, although we haven’t had a chance to try it yet. Most of the world’s biggest airports are represented in the list of starting spots, but you can also choose to start at the current position you were viewing in Google Earth before invoking the flight sim mode.
Before taking to the sky, it is worth reading through the Flight Simulator Keyboard Controls, but if all you want to do is get off the ground, press Page Up repeatedly then press the Down Arrow key a few time as the plane’s velocity increases. This will effectively pull back on the plane’s joystick and vault you into the air. Good luck!