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  • The Link Trainer - From Amusement Park Attraction to Vital Wartime Equipment




    Flight simulator

    General Information

    The Link Trainer,  or Pilot Trainer, was the world's first commercially built flight simulator. It was designed and built by Edwin Albert Link in the 1930s. The Link Trainer would form an integral part of pilot training programmes the world over and was instrumental for the final Allied victory during WW2. Over 10,000 Link trainers were manufactured during the Second World War and were used by almost every country. Just over 170 were employed by the RAAF for training.


    Edwin Link wanted to fly, but found that his instructors were not good at teaching, so that the high cost of training was being wasted. He reasoned that if there was a way to replicated the basic movements of an aircraft flying, but without the flying bit, students could be taught to fly at a greatly reduced cost. At the time he was working for the family's Link Piano and Organ Company. There he became expert in the design and use of bellows systems to control movement.


    In 1931, he received U.S Patent 1825462 in which he described his invention.


    You can read the whole Patent description here: https://patents.google.com/patent/US1825462A/en




    Due to the Depression, sales of the trainer to flying schools were virtually non-existent, so, as indicated in the Patent, he attached a coin operated mechanism to the trainer and sold them to amusement parks. By 1934, he was running out of money. So, he made contact with the US Army Air Corps, pleading for the opportunity to demonstrate his technology. The Corps agreed and on "the" day, Ed took off from Binghamton and flew to the field at Newark, NJ, landing in a "pea soup" fog without incident!  The Corps soon followed with an $21,000 order for 6 simulators and Ed was "on his way".


    The value to pilot training soon proved itself as WWII placed extreme demand on pilot training, not only in the USA, but throughout the world. Prior to the start of the war, Link sold his trainers to both Germany and Japan, so it would seem obvious that pilots from the Axis Powers did their instrument flying training in Link trainers.



    Throughout the ages, the number 13 has been shunned by the superstitious as an ill omen. Many air forces purposely delete the numeral from aircraft serials, but the RAAF overcame the problem by allotting "dat ol' devil number" to the ground-operated Link Trainer. In the RAAF, pilots logged time in aircraft type A13. Early RAAF versions included the Mks D, D2, and ANT18, of which 140 were acquired, mainly during World War II Consequently, an uncontrolled spin or an accidental crash would result in nothing more than a red-faced student who could benefit by his mistake. The history of individual RAAF Link Trainers can be found here: http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a13.htm


    This video gives a good account of the history of the Link Trainer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeWrKjkL-os&t=627s


    This is the panel the student looked at


    The simulated performance figures in terms of Never Exceed speed, Rate of Climb, Cruise speed etc might be found in the operating manual. As the Link Trainer was used during the early stages of flight training, these values might be expected to mimic those of the typical flying training aircraft.


    Flight missions were planned and controlled by the Simulator Instructor who could add factors such as wind direction and strength and turbulence as the student gained experience. A feature of the instructor's control was a device called a "crab" which was a three-wheeled device that would respond to airspeed and direction inputs from the Link's pilot's controls and track across a map to produce a record of the "flight"

    image.jpeg.336ab5e29ee835d864212eaaa2acd050.jpegImage result for link trainer crab





    8' 4" (2.54 m)
    10" 2" (3.1 m)
    8' (2.4 m)
    Wing Area:
    Wing Loading:
    Empty Weight:
    388 lbs (176 kg)
    388 + pilot weight
    Fuel Capacity:
    230V 50Hz AC power supply.
    Not Stated
    Cruise Speed:
    Not Stated
    Stall Speed:
    Not Stated
    Not Stated
    Takeoff Dist.:
    Landing Dist.:
    Rate of Climb:
    Not Stated
    Max Glide Ratio:
    Not Stated
    Service Ceiling:
    8' (2.4 m)
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