Our Link Trainer

The Link Flight Trainer was developed by Edwin A. Link after getting his pilot’s license in 1927. The Link family originally owned and ran an organ factory hence the Link Trainer has many parts similar to those fitted in the organs of the time e.g. bellows.  The Instrument Flying Trainer (AN-T-18 Variant D2) was thought to have been built in 1943 by Link Manufacturing Co Ltd to train pilots in World War II on how to fly aircraft using flight instruments only, as a large number of pilots had been killed during training due to being disorientated while flying through cloud or at night time; Link Manufacturing Co Ltd was subsequently either renamed or bought out by Singer Link-Miles.  Upgrades to the trainer emphasised flying by instruments rather than by visual observation, supporting Link’s belief that flying in the future would not be limited to good weather and daylight only. 

The Trainer was first installed at RAF Grimsby (Waltham) and was used for pilot training; however, actual flying at RAF Grimsby ceased in 1945 as the concrete runways were in a very poor condition and were considered beyond economical repair at the time.  195 (Grimsby) Sqn ATC moved into RAF Grimsby at the end of the 1940’s but RAF Grimsby itself closed down in 1950, shortly after the Sqn arrived.  It was at this point that the Sqn acquired the Link Trainer and has kept it running ever since then.

Our Squadron is one of a handful of ATC Sqns in the UK that have owned a Link Trainer and may now be the only Sqn still having a working example. The Trainer was recently restored and integrated into the Squadron Training Syllabus and is about 85% working as it did when it was first manufactured. Cadets still get the chance to fly the trainer either visually or on instruments only using a specially fitted blackout hood. All movements and compass headings were given to the cadet via radio and a special plotter known as the Crab due to its slow sideways movement, draws the cadets progress on a map so they are able to see how well they performed.

Further maintenance work has subsequently been carried out replacing all of the small calibre vacuum pipes and some old wiring.  However, original spare parts are extremely hard to find and hence some functionality has been lost but this has fortunately has mainly been restricted to the Instructor’s desk and the loss of the use of the radio system.  The Link Trainer is a ‘work-in-progress’ project so watch this space for further developments.