I love Google Earth.
And the best way to run Google Earth is with a 3Dconnection SpaceNavigator. This is a 6-degree-of-freedom controller that lets you fly around in Google Earth effortlessly. (Supposedly it’s good for 3D CAD work too; I haven’t tried that.) Yes, it’s a little pricey but it’s worth every penny.
(Tip: It works better if you glue it to your desk with some double-sided sticky tape. It’s weighted to prevent it from flying off the desk when you pull up, but the tape helps.)
To use Google Earth with the SpaceNavigator (once you’ve got that installed), in Google Earth just do Tools>Options…>Navigation>Non-mouse Controller>Enable Controller.
Unfortunately, if you also have a joystick – any joystick – attached to your Windows box, Google Earth will take input from both at once – which makes control impossible from the SpaceNavigator.
I used to deal with it by unplugging the joystick USB, or by disabling the joystick in Device Manager, but I found a better way.
Start up Google Earth. Get your joystick and adjust it carefully (including the throttle) so that there’s no motion at all in Google Earth. Then turn it off. (Or just leave it alone if your joystick doesn’t have a power switch.)
That’s it. Now Google Earth won’t see any input from the joystick, and the SpaceNavigator will work fine.