Link, Edwin Albert
Innovator/Inventor/IndustrialistEnshrined 1976 1904-1981
With his “Pilot-Maker” flight simulator, Edwin Link thought he had developed the perfect device to help pilots learn to fly safely and inexpensively. A series of air accidents, however, convinced the Army Air Corps that the “Pilot-Maker” was an effective training tool, rather than a simple amusement park ride.
- In 1929 he built his first airplane simulator and taught his brother to fly in it.
- Formed the Link Aeronautical Corporation and to make flight training affordable for everyone, he built his “Pilot Maker” trainer. He then began his own school using the trainer.
- During World War II, Link was swamped with orders of his basic trainer, called the “Blue Box.” The armed forces would eventually use this trainer to teach wartime instrument flying, aerial gunnery, bombing, navigation, automatic pilot and radar operation to a half-million airmen.
- Link’s advanced gunnery and navigation trainers led to the first jet bomber simulator after World War II.
Edwin Albert Link, an unusual pioneer of aviation, was dissatisfied when he took his first flying lesson in 1920, as the instructor didn’t even allow him to touch the controls for his hard-earned fifty dollars.
Consequently, aviation took a back seat in his life until he met a group of barnstormers, and they helped him learn to fly.
In 1927, Link acquired the first Cessna airplane ever delivered. He then took up barnstorming, charter flying and flight instruction in an attempt to eke a living out of aviation. Still concerned about the cost of learning to fly, Link set out to do something about it, and constructed a fuselage-like device with a cockpit and controls that produced the motions and sensations of flying. He dubbed it the “Pilot-Maker” and to manufacture it he formed Link Aeronautical Corporation in 1929.
To his surprise, aviation schools were not interested in his trainer, but amusement park operators were. Consequently, most of his first models became fun rides. Undaunted, he opened his own flying school with his trainer and advertised that students could “Learn to Fly for $85.” While his first class turned out to be a success, acceptance of the Trainer was slow. Finally the Army Air Corps purchased six of them in 1934. At this point Link formed Link Aviation, Incorporated, to manufacture flight training equipment. During the next five years, his trainers came into use in thirty-five countries around the world.
During World War II, Link received a plethora of orders for his basic trainer, called the “Blue Box.” The military was using this to teach wartime instrument flying, aerial gunnery, bombing, navigation, automatic pilot and radar operation to a half-million airmen.
After the war, Link’s advanced gunnery and navigation trainers gave rise to the first jet bomber simulator. Later, sophisticated electronics and digital computers were added and eventually led to simulators in which the astronauts in the United States’ Space Program trained.
Later he merged his company with General Precision Equipment Corporation and in 1958 became its president. He served in that capacity until he stepped down to devote his talents to underwater research.
Edwin Link died on September 7th, 1981.
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