The Biggs' Boys
By Ken Stofer
Copyright 2001 Ken Stofer, All Rights Reserved
The Link Trainer
For most pilots the first few "trips" in a Link Trainer were a novelty. After that he was apt to lose his zeal.
Personnel in the Link Trainer Section became all too aware of this and so to freshen the interest and to impress on the pilot the advantages of this type of training, the Link Trainer Section spent considerable time and care on introductory remarks to new pupils. A member of a new course would hear something along these lines:
"Well chaps, once again you are confronted with the Link and once again most of you consider this room as you might a torture chamber. Before starting on this machine let us stop and consider what we are trying to accomplish by whirling around in that box. As in all things, if we are to have any hope of succeeding, we must understand what we are trying to accomplish. Many of you have said to me, `I can fly an airplane by instruments but I'll be damned if I can fly a Link.'
"Others will say, `Oh, but this Link doesn't fly like any known airplane.'
"Of course it doesn't. We are not trying to teach you to fly, you can already fly an airplane through the skies. You are intrepid birdmen, so why should we be trying to teach you to fly.
"I am the first to agree this machine is like a butterfly in a high wind. And it is like that on purpose. Remember it costs 2,000 pounds Sterling - (about $10,000 1940's). It would cost a good deal less if it were not so sensitive.
"It is made without a weathercock stability so as to keep you continually on the alert, to make you fly not the plane but the instruments. The physical movements may correspond in some way to those you would make in an airplane, but your real effort is to fly the instruments, to put the needles of those instruments where you want them and to hold them there.
"Reproductions of rough air conditions and elaborate exercises are added teasers for you to control a number of things at once, as well as flying the ship correctly.
"You might remember that when you first learned to drive a car you looked at each instrument separately. After a while you saw the dashboard as a composite picture, and then later with just the flick of the eye you saw your ampermeter, oil pressure, speed, and perhaps the time of the day, and your petrol gauge. Not only that, but if you were running short of petrol you might subconsciously figure out the distance to the next petrol station and whether you had enough to get there. In one flash you would have seen that you were running out of petrol and would have unknowingly worked out how far it would get you, if you had your girl friend with you it would need a much longer look into her eyes trying to convince her that you really had run out of petrol.
"Now lets look at this war from your point of view, a bomber pilot, and strip your work to its bare essentials. You are being trained to fly an aeroplane for a number of hours on end. You will perhaps fly for three and a half hours, pull a lever, drop bombs and fly three and a half hours back home. Seven hours continuous flying at night, and then entirely by instruments. Now you can't fly seven hours by instruments unless you have had considerable practice. You would be a nervous wreck if you attempted a trip to Berlin without sufficient previous instrument flying. You would be a nervous wreck, if, on your way to Berlin, you didn't fly your plane like you drive your car.
"While you are driving a hundred miles in your car you are thinking about anything except driving that car, and so it is in the air; you will wonder what your girl friend is doing; you will say I am only a Pilot Officer and should be a Flying Officer; you will ask yourself why you haven't any money in the bank; you will listen to music over Holland. And all these things you should do, for you must fly intuitively if your nerves are to stand up to many more trips. Now you can see that instrument flying will be your major job and the Link Trainer can teach you instrument flying as well as any aeroplane, without the additional cost of petrol and risk of a crash. This has been proved by the Link Company who got hold of a number of pupils who knew only how to fly a plane visually and who had only seen an airspeed and an altimeter. These pupils were taught instrument flying entirely on the Link. When they were sent blind flying on a panel it was found they could fly perfectly on their instruments and it was no time before they could master Z.Z. or Beam Approach.
"Unfortunately the benefit you receive from Link Training is seldom appreciated. Any aptness at instrument flying, you ascribe to your own natural ability. Give a thought then sometime to the Link and put in a few hours' practice, even though you have wings and rings(rank designation). And when you do enter the Link Room, give a kindly word to the Instructor, who will be struggling with more sweating sceptics and turning out more and better intrepid birdmen from his revolving boxes."
Copyright 2001 Ken Stofer, All Rights Reserved
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