Link Trainer

Type / History

Type Instrument Flight Simulator
Manufacturer Link Company
Designer Edwin Albert Link
Maiden "flight" 1929
Introduced US Army Air Corps, 1934
Retired about 1960
Primary users USAF, Canada, Australia, Germany, UK
Number built over 10,000

The Link Trainer was the original flight simulator. Its designer, Edwin Link, was a manufacturer of pianos and organs, and developed an interest in flying. His flight training experience led him to conclude that the standard of instruction, and safety, could be improved by simulating flight at ground level.

His experience in manufacturing organs meant it was relatively simple for him to create the mechanics of his design. Using the technology of his time, the connection between the controls of his "aircraft" and the pneumatic bellows driving its movements was based on thermionic valve (vacuum tube) amplifiers.

It was some years before official interest developed, but a sequence of bad-weather aircraft accidents in the USA in 1934 led to an initial order for six by the U.S. Army Air Corps. Demand grew rapidly with the outbreak of World War II, the Link Trainer becoming a standard feature of all air training schools.

While modern flight simulators used by air forces and airlines are far more sophisticated than the basics of the Link Trainer, they can all trace their origins to Edwin Link's ideas in 1929.

In use, the pupil sat in the "aircraft", with the hood closed. The instructor sat at the desk, communicating with the pupil by microphone and headphones, and carried out various training exercises based on local terrain with charts similar to the sample displayed.

The "Link Instrument Flight Simulator" here is a type D2; the desk is a type D4, suitable for jet age training.