Inventor of first flight simulator
EDWIN ALBERT LINK
INDIANA-born tinkerer Edwin Albert Link invented the first flight simulator.
It was very low tech. Using parts from pianos and organs, and working in his father’s basement, Ed built a fuselage-shaped hull with a complete cockpit, and controls that produced the motions and sensations of flying.
He was hooked on flying back in 1920, when he took his first flight lesson for $50 and walked away feeling like he had wasted his money.
Ed’s dream of flight was put on hold until the mid-1920s when he made friends with a group of barnstormers who taught him to fly.
In 1927, Ed bought the first delivered Cessna aircraft, the Cessna “A” Model; a four-seat, 110 horsepower, cantilever wing monoplane. With it, he joined up with the barnstormers, which included some flying aces from the Lafayette Escadrille, and travelled the country performing at barnstorming events, doing charter flights, and eventually becoming a flight instructor.
During this period, Ed also developed an innovative early advertising plane with parts from his father’s piano and organ factory. Using a punched roll and pneumatic system from a player piano, Ed was able to control a series of sequential lights on the lower surfaces of the wing that would spell out brief messages for viewers below. And in order to draw more attention, and maximise the effectiveness of the advertising, he also added some organ pipes, small but loud, that were also controlled by the roll from the Player piano.
Working in his father’s basement, Ed built a fuselageshaped hull with a complete cockpit, and controls that produced the motions and sensations of flying. His knowledge of air compression and movement to produce sounds in musical instruments allowed him to expertly replicate the pneumatic systems of an actual airplane, and he called his ground-breaking invention “The Pilot-Maker.”
With the Link Aeronautical Corporation gaining recognition, a young reporter named Marion Clayton interviewed Ed for an article.
They clicked and married in 1931.
Ed later expanded Link Aeronautical Corporation into Link Aviation, Incorporated, which began manufacturing a larger variety of flight training equipment.
In 1945, Ed was awarded the Howard N. Potts Medal, a science and engineering award, for developing training devices that modernised and made safe flight training.
As their company continued to flourish, Ed and Marion created The Link Foundation, which provides grants and fellowships for innovators in aeronautics, simulation, and training, as well as ocean engineering. Later he merged Link Aviation, Inc. with General Precision Equipment Corporation (GPE), and became the company president in 1958, where he worked until he retired and dedicated himself to studying the ocean.