||.Flight Simulator History
you ever wonder how flight simulation came about? Ever wonder who came
up with the idea of training people to fly without using an airplane?
Well, maybe this short article will whet your appetite and coax you into
clicking on the links that I have given you below. These sites give a
lot more information than I have given and are presented by persons with
a lot more talent than I have for writing.
Edwin A. Link Jr.
Flight simulation as we know it today really began about 75 years ago,
in Binghamton, NY by a man named Edwin A. Link, Jr. Ed Link began this
business in the 1920s while working in his father's piano and organ factory.
He had great affection for flying and came up with the idea of a device
to train pilots to fly by instrument without ever leaving the ground.
In March 1930 he applied for a patent and received his patent Number 1,825,462
in September 1931 for the "COMBINATION TRAINING DEVICE FOR STUDENT
AVIATORS AND ENTERTAINMENT APARATUS".
This was the famous "Blue Box" that was used by nations around
the world to train pilot during World War II. In the beginning it was
primarily a one-person coin operated carnival ride and then a device used
by flight schools.
In 1934 The
Army Air Corps purchased some of the units to train pilots who were carrying
mail for the postal service. During the war, Link produced over 10,000
trainers to provide over 500,000 pilots with basic flight instruction
prior to actual flight training.
Photo courtesy of Maps Museum.
Link Trainer Base Unit.
Photo courtesy of Maps Museum.
Development Of The Training Devices
Ed Link's Flight Trainer was a device that used organ bellows, motors
and blowers to produce the sensation of actual flying with motion and
instrument movements without leaving the ground. From this initial conception,
development of the training devices changed with the aviation world as
it progressed from piston engine driven aircraft to jet engine and turboprop
engines. The training devices or flight simulators as they are known in
the industry changed from the primary mechanical devises of the Blue Box
to analog electro-mechanical, then to digital-mechanical devices utilizing
six degree of motion hydraulic systems and sophisticated visual systems
to make flight simulation as near as possible to real flight without actually
flying. We now enjoy much of the technology of these devices with our
desktop flying machine using the sophisticated software of the various
flight simulation programs now on the market along with the add-on devices
to replicate the controls of actual aircraft.
Several flight schools use training devices now to prepare their students
in the operation of aircraft and flight procedures. The devices range
from the light single-engine propeller driven aircraft, General Aviation
Trainer, (GAT) used for private pilot training, to Multi Jet-engine Aircraft
Flight Simulators used by the commercial airline industry worldwide.
In the military, the different branches of the services have many bases
where one or more flight simulators are used to teach the military pilots
in the use of the sophisticated aircraft. Not only do the pilots of these
aircraft learn to fly the particular aircraft type that they are assigned,
but also use the weapon systems associated with that aircraft. Devices
used by the military range from fighter, bomber, helicopter and other
specialty trainers such as radar operations and collision avoidance.
training NASA used the Link designed trainers for the Gemini, Apollo and
Lunar Landing Module and later the Space Shuttle programs. In addition
simulators were developed for the Sky Lab and current Orbiting Laboratory.
is not limited to just flight and space. There are simulators built for
the training operators of trains, power stations, ships and other systems
where it is cheaper to use a training device to learn the operation than
actual on the job training.
6 DOM Flight Simulator Systems for B-2 bomber.
ASME International www.asme.org/history/brochures/h210.pdf
About The Author
Fresh out of tech school and looking for work, I happened to be invited
to apply at Link Aviation, Inc. for an interview for a job in drafting
and design. Fortunately, for me, I was hired in June of 1955 as a change
draftsman and from there the only way to go was up. I spent the next 36
years of my working life at Link working on many different flight simulators
and products manufactured by Link Aviation and its subsequent owners*.
Oh yeah, I did progress at Link from a change drafter to designer, tech
supervisor, to Section Head of Mechanical Design and Drafting.
*Subsequent owners include: General Precision, Singer, CAE, Hughes, Raytheon,
and L3 Communications.