Flying Training Area
Link Trainers and Flying
The principle of providing flying training in an aircraft
without actually taking off was created early in the last century.
Examples at this time were the Saunders Teacher, a modified aeroplane mounted on
a universal joint linked tot he ground, and the Italian Gabardini Company.
The idea of using a captive aeroplane for elementary training, or for amusement,
was patented in Britain by Eardley Billing in 1910. Other examples,
progressively more complicated in construction and realism, followed over the
In the U.S., Edwin Link gained his early engineering
experience with his father's firm, The Link Piano and Organ Company, of
Binghampton, New York. His first patent was granted for an improvement in
the mechanism of player pianos! The flight trainer was developed in the
period of 1927-29 in the basement of the Link factory and he made use of the
familiar vacuum/pneumatic mechanisms from the family business. The first
trainer, advertised as 'An effective Aeronautical Training Aid - a novel,
profitable amusement device' - was described in a patent filed in 1930.
Pitch, roll and yaw movements were initiated in the same manner as in its
predecessors, but vacuum/pneumatic bellows were used for actuation. Vacuum was
also used as an analogue computing medium for the instruments.
The device was not regarded as a wise investment by others
at that point, nor seen to meet a training need. By now, a serious
competitor was also on the scene in the simulator built by HA Roeder. A
need certainly did exist in instrument training, however, so Edwin Link fitted
cockpit instruments as standard equipment to his design and blind flying
training was started by the Links at their flying school in the early 1930s.
The importance of this training was soon recognised, notably by the U.S. Army
Air Corps, when they took on responsibility for Air Mail delivery. This gave
Link Trainers a great reputation so increasing sales.
The Model C followed in 1936, able to rotate through 360
degrees, which allowed for a magnetic compass to be installed, while the various
instruments were operated either mechanically or by vacuum. With further
refinements along the way, the Link Trainer became a simple form of analogue
computer, fitted with a full set of instruments to guide the pupil on an
imaginary flight. The simulated course is automatically recorded and
traced by the three-wheeled course plotter (the self-propelled and steerable
"crab") across paper, or a map on the instructor's desk. A duplicated
instrument panel is also present, electronically harmonised with those in the
Trainer's cockpit. This miniature aeroplane is pivoted on a universal
joint mounted on an octagonal turntable, which in turn is free to rotate in
azimuth on a square base. Between the fuselage and the turntable are four
supporting bellows, which are inflated or deflated by a vacuum turbine.
Its valves are operated as the pupil moves the control column, and realistically
recreates most of the sensations and "feel" of flying.
Both calm and rough-air flying conditions can be created by
the instructor. The Trainer will also initiate stall when recorded
airspeed and attitude fall outside pre-determined limits. It then goes into a
very realistic spin, with the instruments performing normally for such
conditions. A cross-country "flight" of up to 200 miles is possible,
during which the instructor is able to confront the pupil with most of the
difficulties that can occur during a genuine flight, Link Trainers were
also sold to France and Germany - a Luftwaffe bomber pilot of 1940 had spent 50
hours in a Link Trainer!
The Link Trainer type D4 of 1950 is also designed and
equipped to provide thorough instruction in the use of radio signals, radio
beams and radio compass. Both the Lorenz Landing System or SBA and SCS51
precursor of ILS for blind landings in fog are simulated. Modern-day
computerised flight simulators are much more sophisticated and very realistic -
and also expensive. In its time, however, the Link Trainer was at the
forefront of flight technology, saving many lives... and actual aeroplanes.
We have four examples of Link Trainers, although two of
them are not operational. Whilst thousands existed in the UK before,
during and after World War ll, they are now quite rare - even more so in working
order. A small Museum team, led by member Ray Kidd, has devoted
considerable effort over a number of years to their re-assembly and restoration.
Regular work is required to improve and maintain them, and spare components are
always being sought.
In 1937, the first Link Trainers were delivered to the RAF
and an airline company, American Airlines. These were the Model C-2 in the
US and D for the UK and were generic trainers. The US Army Navy Trainer
Model 18 (A-NT 18) of 1940/1 was designed to represent the AT-6/SNJ/Harvard
The newest Link Trainer we have is over 50 years old and
therefore serviceability can be a problem. Please check before visiting if
you wish for close access or to see a trainer operating. Because of difficult
access, health and safety and insurance reasons we cannot let the general public
operate the trainers without qualified supervision. Sometimes a fit and agile
enthusiast or veteran may get the opportunity of a test flight.
We also have a Redifon 101 procedures trainer based on the
Jet Provost from 1970. Although not operational it provides a realistic cockpit
for school visits and event days.
We try to operate some systems on Tuesdays and event
days but these are subject to serviceability and manning
ANT 18 - fuselage only
This came to us from an ATC unit in North London and was in extremely poor
condition, with serious woodworm throughout and many instruments and mechanisms
missing. Now externally restored, we hope it will be given new life as effort
allows. Fitted with a PC based Flight Simulator system it provides
“flight” experience with great scenery.
This trainer appears to date from 1940 and is operating with problems and
limitations, some of which may be original. As with other Link Trainers,
it had been much modified before we acquired it. The Wind Drift Unit is
unlikely to be original and the instrument panel is reversed to clear space for
the “radio” unit. It often struggles to regain level flight from
full bank but is more agile than the heavier D4, having the same actuators.
D4 (Piston Provost)
Manufactured in 1949/50 to Air Ministry order by Aviation Trainers Limited,
incorporating Link sub-assemblies. Now complete with all systems and
overhead radio, it normally “flies” well but the radio navigation systems are
not fully checked out. As acquired, the desk radio unit was stripped to
give intercom only and the overhead radio was missing. The automatic radio
compass system was bypassed to give a heading indicator. The vacuum achieved is
at the lowest acceptable level although we cannot find any significant leaks.
A spare “turbine” is in store awaiting rebuild. This is the “favourite” for
operation as it produces a flight map/certificate.
To provide support for our demonstration units and a simulator for those with
physical handicaps we have a dummy cockpit with PC based Flight Simulator at
wheelchair height. The Instrument panel is from a Link Trainer with the body
produced on site.
A video splitter drives a second screen so that visitors outside the
operating area can see what the “Pilot” is seeing. Great entertainment if the
landing ends in a very realistic crash.
D4 Mk 2 (Jet Provost)
Manufactured around 1955 as a D4 modified to represent the Jet Provost, with
higher speeds and simpler engine controls. When acquired, several electro
mechanical modules were missing although the radio system was complete. With
little chance of acquiring the mechanical units the radio system was therefore
used to complete the D4. Eventually we hope to convert this unit to a
fixed base trainer. At present it provides a hands on cockpit for school visits
and event days.
Redifon 101 Jet Provost
Manufactured around 1970 this analogue computer based trainer was used for
radio procedure and navigation training. Acquired in derelict condition without
electrical power supply pack and hydraulic power pack it is unlikely to “fly”.
However we are trying to get some systems and instruments to operate. If
sufficient helpers are available it is opened for school visits and event days.
We have some manuals and spare components but could always find room for
more. We also try to give assistance to other Link owners, where possible,
and the team can be contacted through the Museum’s main email address. We have
had support from Link Spares in the USA where units are common to UK and USA.
The D4 resembles the American “Basic Instrument Trainer 45 or 1-CA-1 in some
Other exhibits in the area
The area has a large collection of models of Flying Training aircraft.
A large collection of gunsights from the 1930`s to the 1980`s with some
working, this is currently being reworked so none of the sights are currently
working, also many labels are not in place.
Navigation and Radio Navigation
A large display of navigation and blind landing equipment
from 1920's to current day. An intranet site (only available
within the museum) gives details on the equipment on display, we
aim to provide this additoinal information on this site sometime
Valves for Radio and Radar
Radio valves from just after
World War 1 through early radar valves to the miniatures
of the 1960`s.
A magnetron complete with magnet from a 1940`s
radar and packaged magnetrons from the 1980`s
complemented by an example of a military pulse