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World War II-Era Link Trainer Joins Museum Display

A replica of a World War II-era Link Trainer is being prepared for display at the Selfridge Military Air Museum, March 10, 2011. Children will be able to sit in the trainer and work the controls. An authentic Link Trainer is currently being restored by museum volunteers for future display. (U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt. Terry Atwell)(RELEASED)

A replica of a World War II-era Link Trainer is being prepared for display at the Selfridge Military Air Museum, March 10, 2011. Children will be able to sit in the trainer and work the controls. An authentic Link Trainer is currently being restored by museum volunteers for future display. (U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt. Terry Atwell)(RELEASED)

The control panel of a World War II-era Link Trainer is being restored for display at the Selfridge Military Air Museum, March 10, 2011. Museum volunteers are working on restoring the trainer, used extensively by the U.S. military in the 1930s-50s. (U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt. Terry Atwell)(RELEASED)

The control panel of a World War II-era Link Trainer is being restored for display at the Selfridge Military Air Museum, March 10, 2011. Museum volunteers are working on restoring the trainer, used extensively by the U.S. military in the 1930s-50s. (U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt. Terry Atwell)(RELEASED)

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- Long known for providing a link to the past at Selfridge, the base's air museum will be providing a different Link this summer.

The Selfridge Military Air Museum is adding a Link Trainer to its collection of artifacts. The Link, also affectionately known as the "blue box," was used as an initial training simulator for military pilots from the early 1930s through the World War II era and into the early 1950s. The Museum's volunteer staff is currently working on refurbishing an actual Link that it received from another museum. Volunteers have also built a Link replica.
 
Children who visit the museum will be able to sit in the replica and move the control stick and flip switches and similar controls. The replica is expected to be on display and available for visitors to sit in when the museum opens for the season in April. The original Link will likely take a couple of years to fully restore, though the work has already begun.

The museum is also working to secure an F-89 Scorpion, an all-weather interceptor aircraft that was flown by the Michigan Air National Guard in the 1950s. If the museum obtains the F-89, it would join the roughly 30 aircraft already on display on the museum grounds.

"Pretty much any pilot who flew in World War II would have started out in a Link," said Roger Krings, assistant director of the museum. "So, while it's not an aircraft, it really adds to our collection of aviation history here."

The museum at Selfridge generally only displays and collects aircraft and artifacts that were used at Selfridge or by the Michigan Air National Guard. While Krings said the museum does not have definitive proof that there was a Link trainer at Selfridge, the museum committee "strongly suspects" one was at the base.

"Plus, every pilot of that era who flew here, learned the basics on the Link," he said.

The Link Trainer and replica will be on display in a newly-opened room at the museum.  The Link room formerly held a variety of books and archive materials that are now stored elsewhere.

The Link Trainer was first developed in 1929 by the Link Company, which had been building organs and nickelodeon machines. The company's owner, Ed Link, used his knowledge of pumps, gears, pulleys and related devices to create a simulator that responded to a trainee's stick movements. The pumps and devices could also be manipulated by a trainer operating a nearby instrument panel.

It is estimated that at least 500,000 U.S. military pilots received training on a Link device. The Link Trainer was also used by the militaries of numerous other nations prior to phasing out of use in the 1950s.

Selfridge Military Air Museum officials recently announced their 2011 general public hours of operation for their Museum and Air Park as 12:00 noon to 4:30 pm on Saturdays, Sundays, Independence Day and Memorial Day, from April 2 through Oct. 30. The Air Museum and Air Park will be closed during the 2011 Selfridge Air Show on Aug. 21-22. The Museum and Air Park can also be opened by appointment at other times throughout the year by calling 586-239-5035.