Link Trainer

Link Trainer model ANT-18
The term Link Trainer, also known as the “Blue box” and “Pilot Trainer” is commonly used to refer to a series of flight simulators produced between the early 1930s and early 1950s by Ed Link, based on technology he pioneered in 1929 at his family’s business.

These simulators became famous during World War II, when they were used as key pilot training aids by most combatant nations.

The original Link Trainer was created in 1929 out of the need for a safe way to teach new pilots how to fly by instruments. Ed Link was a former organ and nickelodeon builder.  He used his knowledge of pumps, valves, and bellows to create a flight simulator that responded to the pilot’s controls and gave an accurate reading on the included instruments.

Trainers built from 1934 up to the early 1940s had the a color scheme that featured a bright blue fuselage with yellow wings and tail sections. These wings and tail sections had control surfaces that actually moved in response to the pilot’s movement of the stick and rudder .

The second and most prolific version of the Link Trainer was the ANT-18 (Army/Navy Trainer model 18), which was in its turn, a slightly enhanced version of the model C3. It was used by many countries for pilot training before and during the Second World War.

The ANT-18 featured rotation through all three axes, effectively simulated all flight instruments and modeled common conditions such as pre-stall buffet, overspeed of the retractable undercarriage, and spinning. It was fitted with a removable opaque canopy, which could be used to simulate blind flying, and was particularly useful for instrument and navigation training.

Images of Interest

Military Display

Cockpit Controls

Trainer’s Tools

As the trainee pilot “flew” the link, the trainer would provide course change instructions.  The map would record the trainee’s response.

Chanute Air Force Base (Rantoul Illinois)

The Chanute Air Force Base (now closed) is approximately 47 miles from PAM.  This picture illustrates that it was a primary site for training Link instructors and maintenance technicians.  


Videos of Interest

Video #1:   Link Trainer Run Time (01:34)

Video #2:  Original Link Flight Trainer at the MOST in Syracuse  Run Time (03:47)

Video #3:  Cabinet of Curiosities SPECIAL: Link Trainer  
Run Time (28:39)  Detailed walk-around.

Video #4   Mixed Reality + fully physical fighter jet cockpit simulator: The best implementation of XR/MR  Run Time (05:00)  What does a modern trainer look like?