Ed Link received a patent on a device he called the "Pilot Maker" The Pilot Maker became the first-ever ground based training device designed to teach pilots how to fly.
Ed Link's odyssey in becoming the "Father of Flight Simulation" began in 1927 when, at the age of 23, he began working for his father at the Link Piano and Organ Factory in Binghamton, NY. Ed Link built pianos and tuned organs, a job that required a thorough knowledge of the pumps, valves and bellows that directed the air power within the instrument. It was during this period that Link, whose passion was aviation, began to wonder if he could create a training device that could give pilots the skills they would need to safely fly.
Ed Link's idea to develop a ground-based flight trainer was given a boost during a chance meeting with a group of fliers at Wright Field, OH in 1927. In a book on his life, "From Sky to Sea," Ed Link said that he watched as a "Major Ocker" tried to help a group of aviators at Wright Field understand the problems with direction that are encountered while in flight.
"He'd blindfold the people and twist them around in this seat a few times, then ask them which way they were turning," Ed Link states in the book. "They invariably said the wrong way and that was one of the things that gave me the idea that you could make a whole airplane to train a pilot to do everything. He (Major Ocker) was merely demonstrating... that you couldn't tell where you were going by sight or feel. You had to have an instrument that told you where you were turning and whether you were flying straight or level."
Over the next 18 months, Ed Link worked in his father's piano and organ factory's basement to create a machine that could mimic the experiences of flying an airplane without ever leaving the ground. Link applied the principles he had mastered in building fine organs to the design of his new flight training device. The pilot trainer's stubby wooden cockpit fuselage was mounted on organ bellows that Link had borrowed from his father's piano factory. An electric pump drove the organ bellows that allowed the trainer to bank, climb and dive as a pilot operated the controls in the cockpit.
Ed Link received a patent for his new pilot trainer on April 14, 1929, the first in a long series of patents that he would receive for continued flight simulation innovations. Link upgraded the trainer in 1933 to include aviation instruments in common use at the time, such as radio aids and gauges that could tell a pilot if he was flying level. By adding a hood that enclosed the pilot in the simulator and an instrument panel to cockpit, the function of the trainer changed from pre-flight to instrument flight training. The first significant military sale of what now had become known as the Link Aeronautical Trainer took place in 1934 when the U.S. Army Air Corps purchased six trainers to develop well-trained and capable instrument pilots.
Today, Link simulators are providing training for pilots and aircrews on some of the world's most advanced military aircraft. Link has built simulators for aircraft platforms including the B-2, F-117, F/A-22, F/A-18, F-16, C-130, T-45 and a wide range of attack, reconnaissance and transport helicopters. Link simulators are licensed and manufactured by L-3 Communications.
Edwin Link Patents