Link AN-T-18 Trainer
Published October 19, 2010
This pilot training device was patented by Edwin A. Link in 1931 and used extensively by the Army to train its fliers beginning in 1934. Mounted on a pedestal and connected to an adjacent instructor's console, the trainer allowed student pilots to "fly" by actually simulating the roll, pitch, and yaw of a real aircraft. It thereby taught them the basics of instrument flying in bad weather or at night. It quickly earned the nickname "Pilot Maker," although it was usually referred to simply as the "Blue Box."
By the end of World War II, the War Department had purchased well over 7,000 Link trainers and hundreds of thousands of student aviators had flown in them. The device was used by more than 35 other nations, including England, France, and the Soviet Union. It was far cheaper to operate per hour than an actual training aircraft. Most importantly, it was safe to fly, never having lost a pilot in a simulated "crash."
The early Link AN-T-18 trainer on exhibit was restored by the Training Devices System Management Division here at Hill AFB in the 1970s. It was given to the base Heritage Committee in 1981 and came to Hill Aerospace Museum when it opened in 1986. The base has had system management and repair responsibilities for Air Force flight trainers since the first Link trainers were first purchased by the military.