For almost as long as there has been flight, there have been simulators to assist in training would-be pilots in the art of flying. They have evolved from primitive mechanical trainers to electronic cockpits.

With Grantville leading the creation of an air force in the 1632 universe, there will be a demand for flight simulators. The need won't be immediate, as there are few planes in service with the United States of Europe, but as more are built, and more combat losses occur, simulators will take an important role in training new pilots.

The standard method of pilot training is placing students in the cockpit with an instructor and teaching them to fly "hands on." In 1633, this method was used to train Hans Richter and the first batch of Air Force pilots. But with few flight instructors, fewer aircraft, and many potential pilots, simulators are sure to become one aspect of the Air Force's training program.

Pilot Training Before Simulators

The first attempts at training pilots occurred in aircraft, usually gliders, on the ground. Would-be pilots would be placed in the aircraft, exposed to a headwind, and be given the chance to get the feel of the controls.

In the early 1900s, there were many attempts at building artificial simulators. The first artificial trainer was developed in 1910 and consisted of little more than two sections of half-barrels. These were moved manually to simulate the motion of an aircraft.

Another notable attempt was the Saunders Teacher. The Teacher was an aircraft mounted to a joint. Like the glider training methods, it was faced into the wind, and the Teacher's controls responded to the aerodynamic forces. The Teacher and similar devices never caught on due to the unreliable nature of the wind.

World War I, the 1930's, and World War II

The outbreak of war in 1914 created a great demand for pilots in the growing air corps of Europe, and along with it, a greater demand for better training methods. Aptitude assessments of potential airmen were instituted, and novel methods of training, such as short-winged aircraft that weren't capable of flight and mounting an aircraft to an overhead gantry or railway cars were tried without success. A few electro-mechanical devices were tried, and the most successful of these was the pneumatically-powered Link Trainer in 1929.

In the late 1920's, instrument flight training became a higher priority, and trainers were developed or modified to accommodate this. The first instrument trainers required an instructor to manually control the simulation, but later simulators had instruments that were operated by mechanical or pneumatic methods.

To assist with instrument flight training, a course plotter was developed in the 1930s. This device traced the flight path of the trainer on a chart and allowed instructors to manually control signals from navigation aides.

The Link Trainer, combined with the course plotter, was the star of the era. In the late 1930s, it had received sales from Great Britain, the Empire of Japan, and American Airlines. By the eve of World War II, it had become the instrument trainer of several major air forces.

When World War II began advances in aircraft technology increased the need for cockpit training. Trainers were equipped with mock-ups of aircraft instrument panels and fuselages. Later in the war, radar trainers were added to the simulators to create Aircraft Interception Trainers. Other features were added for gunnery instruction and torpedo attack training.

The Link ANT-18, known to many pilots as the Blue Box, became the most popular flight simulator of its era. Over 10,000 were built, and they were used in every flight school in the United States and Allied nations.

One new simulator developed during the war was the Celestial Navigation Trainer. This trainer, which began development in 1939, was designed to train bomber crews on celestial navigation and improve nighttime bombing accuracy. The trainer had room for the pilot, navigator, and bomber. Navigation training was accomplished by a combination of radio aids and the use of a constellation of stars that moved based on the aircraft's supposed location. In addition to this, a series of photographic plates were suspended below the simulator for bomber training.

The Electronic Era

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- The Grantville Gazette Staff