Link Army-Navy Trainer model 18 (AN-T-18)

Inspired by the idea of reducing the expense of flying lessons, Edwin A. Link developed his first “pilot trainer” from parts obtained from his father’s organ factory and received a patent on his device in 1931. Link had limited success selling his trainers prior to the outbreak of World War II, but after the conflict started the U.S. military ordered thousands of Link Trainers for the Army and Navy. Nearly all Army Air Force cadets took blind-flying training in the Link.

The best-known Link was the prewar (1936) Model C, identified by its blue fuselage and “pillbox” canopy, with yellow wings and empennage. During World War II the Link Trainer underwent several modifications. Mass production demands and wartime materials shortages led to the development of the AN-T-18,  the second and most prolific version of the Link Trainer. It no longer featured the brightly painted wings and empennage, but now had a sliding opaque canopy.

The trainer moves through all three axes, rotating 360 degrees in the horizontal, and effectively simulates all contemporary flight instruments. It is operated by vacuum bellows, valves, and a vacuum turbine in the frame on which the fuselage is mounted via a universal joint mounted on an octagonal turntable. While a student in the trainer navigated over an imaginary flight path, the instructor sat at a desk adjacent to the trainer with a duplicate instrument panel and three-wheeled course plotter. The instructor transmitted radio messages to the student in the trainer who relied on his instruments to perform maneuvers while flying over a designated course which was simultaneously traced on a map and recorded at the instructor’s desk.  

Did you know?

The trainer had slip stream simulators and a rough air generator to add realism to the flight.

About this...

This Link AN-T-18 Trainer unit is on loan to the Frontiers of Flight Museum from the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
Early Link Trainer with Desk
Photo credit and description:; Beautifully restored early "Blue Box" Link Model C on display at Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum
Video Credit: CAF Museum