ERAU Students Glimpse Pilot Training 70 Years Ago

University’s Link Trainer will help celebrate National Aviation Day.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will display an historic Link Trainer as part of the Aug. 19 celebration of National Aviation Day.Rob Mark

Students at the Daytona Beach campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will have an opportunity to compare one of the industry’s basic flight training devices used to train pilots in WWII with a sophisticated simulator used in pilot training today. The university acquired an historic Link Trainer last year from a private owner in Chicago and is preparing to display it as part of the Aug. 19 celebration of National Aviation Day.

The wooden, single-pilot Link Trainer, shaped like a small submarine, with wings and an opaque retractable top, is on display in the university’s Advanced Flight Simulation Center. It’s sitting next to a multi-million dollar, full-motion Flight Safety International CRJ-200 Regional Jet Full Flight Simulator, that sharply contrasts the beginnings of simulator training with the technologically sophisticated full-motion simulator used today.

Link Trainers, originally built in 1929 and patented in 1931 by Link Aviation Devices, Inc., are named after the inventor Edwin Link, also known as the father of flight simulation. An ERAU news release said, "more than 10,000 trainers were used during WWII to improve safety and shorten training time for more than 500,000 pilots." So significant was the Link Trainer that the American Society of Mechanical Engineers declared it an historical mechanical engineering landmark.

Edwin Link used his knowledge of pumps, valves and bellows to create a flight simulator that responded to the pilot's controls and featured the ability to rotate through all three dimensions, pitch, yaw and roll. The trainer effectively simulated all flight instruments, and modeled conditions such as pre-stall turbulence, forgetting to retract the landing gear, and spinning. It was fitted with a removable canopy, which could be used to simulate flying blind, which was especially useful for navigation and instrument training. ERAU’s Link Trainer is complete with the original yoke and other components, as well as the original Army Corp maintenance log that arrived inside.