Did you know the world’s very first flight simulator was built all the way back in 1929?

It was built by a man named Edwin Link, and every simulator owes its existence to his series of “Link Trainers”.

Edwin Albert Link was born in 1904 in Huntington, Indiana. From an early age he developed a love for flight and aircraft. His father who built pianos and organs could not afford to have him trained as a pilot, so Link improvised, and built himself an airplane which would fly…on the ground.

Using scavenged organ and piano parts from his father’s factory, in 1929 Link had completed the first “Link Trainer”, a small, chubby aircraft attached to a base with an engine inside. It was the world’s first true flight simulator, a contraption that presented the pilot with realistic-looking instrumentation that, when activated, would be recreated by the small plane. Pull up and, using organ bellows, the plane would pull up. Bank and it would bank, etc.

At first a curiosity, the Link Trainer would soon make Edwin and his family rich. After a series of crashes and deaths, all caused by pilot error and unfamiliarity with new real aircraft, in 1934 the US Air Corps bought six Link Trainers at $3,500 each, a tidy sum at the time.

By the time the war ended in 1945, his company had manufactured over 10,000 Link Trainers, most of them the ANT-18 Basic Instrument Trainer, which was nick-named the “Blue Box” due to its bright blue colour scheme. These units trained not only US airmen, but made their way to other Allied nations like the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

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