Instrument Training: the Link Trainer - c.1950s-1960s

Link Trainer

The introduction of gyro instruments in the 1930s enabled serious 'blind flying' for the first time. This in turn required specialised training, including the need for regular refreshing of highly perishable instrument flying skills.

The Link Aviation Devices Inc. company in the USA produced some of the earliest and best-known instrument flight training simulators. They were electrically and pneumatically operated and were capable of simulating flight instruments as well as the radio-navigation instruments of the day. Link trainers were fitted with a somewhat rudimentary motion simulation system that responded to the pilot's control inputs as well as allowing the instructor to simulate turbulence. The instructor, located at an adjacent console, had a duplicate instrument panel and the 'flight path' flown by the pilot was plotted on a table for later review.

During the Second World War numerous Link trainers were acquired by the RAAF. These photos show a Model D4 (AT51) Link trainer in use with Trans-Australia Airlines, possibly RAAF surplus. The photo above was probably taken at TAA's training centre in Melbourne in the 1950s, while the photos below were taken in the 1960s after the trainer had also been repainted into the airline's new colour scheme.

Link trainers were the precursors of today's high-fidelity flight simulators.


Link trainer

The photo below shows the Link trainer's simulated cockpit. This was purely generic and did not represent an actual type of aircraft. While basic, the panel simulated all the main instruments of the day, including radio navigation aids.


Link trainer

The photo below shows the 'crab table' for the instructor with the Link trainer itself in the background. The framework was a plotter that allowed the instructor to observe and record the simulated flight path. The instructor was also given a duplicated instrument panel readout and, to the left, the controls for simulating radio communication and navigation.

Link trainer


(Photos: 1-CAHS collection; 2,3&4-Wilf Lane)

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