Flight Simulators of Yesteryear

Modern Flight Simulators

We've all seen pictures of simulators that are in use today; modern, highly sophisticated machines that make you feel as if you were actually flying.

They are useful training aids and help pilots polish their flying skills and procedures in many areas such as cockpit resource management, flying instrument approaches, dealing with emergencies and abnormal situations, familarization with new aircraft, and flight crew coordination .... all from the safety of being on the ground.

They are amazing machines and have developed considerably since the beginning when men and women started flying. Even the modern desktop and laptop computer flight simulators are far ahead of what was used in the past for ground based flight training.

Have you ever wondered what some of the early simulators were like? I have and found some interesting simulators from yesteryear.

Antoinette Trainer

This is a photograph of one of the earliest ground simulators (photo circa 1911).

A student is seated in a "Tonneau d'apprentissage", or "Antoinette", at the École de Pilotage (Antoinette Piloting School)
at Mourmelon-le-Grande, France.

Two half-sections of a barrel were moved manually which represented the pitch and roll of an airplane. The student pilot was then required to line up a reference bar with the horizon.

Breese Penguin

Although not a true synthetic simulator, this is a 1917 Breese Penguin.

It was used to give student pilots the feel of aircraft controls at near flying speeds without the danger of actual flight. (The Penguin's wings were too short and its engine too small to allow it to fly.)

The "Penguin" was intended to be just as unmanageable as real aircraft, thus they had no brakes or steerable wheels - which made them quite difficult to control.

Ruggles Orientator

This is the 1917 "Ruggles Orientator".

It consisted of a seat mounted within a gimbal ring assembly that enabled full rotation of the student pilot in all three axes (pitch, yaw, and roll) and a fourth additional vertical movement.

All motions were controlled by rudder bars and sticks by the instructor and student pilot which operated electric motors to produce the desired flight attitudes.

The goal was to train students to recognize and recover from unusual attitudes that might be encountered in flight.

*Note the position of the student pilot in the far right simulator and the fact that there is no instructor!

Link Ad

The next major advancement in simulators came in 1929. The Link trainer invented by Edwin Albert Link is easily one of the most recognized early simulators.

They were produced and used from 1934 through the late 1950's.

Just as this ad says, "Every aviation cadet receives instruction in a Link Trainer"....and that's not an exaggeration because 10,000 units were produced and thousands of pilots trained in them, especially during WWII.

Link Exterior

Known as the "Blue Box" to the student pilots, these trainers kept pace with the increased instrumentation and flight dynamics of aircraft of their period, but retained the electrical and pneumatic design fundamentals pioneered in the first 1929 Link prototype.

There are two major components to the trainer, the first is the trainer itself which is connected via universal joint to the base.

Inside the cockpit is a single pilot's seat, stick and rudder controls, and a full suite of flight instruments.

The base contains several items: complicated sets of air-driven bellows to simulate 3 axis motion, an air compressor (powers the motion bellows and some of the aircraft instruments), and a "Telegon Oscillator" which controls the remaining instruments.

Link Interior
Link Instructor station

The second major component is an external instructor's station, which consists of a large map table, a repeated display of the main flight instruments, and a moving marker known as a "crab."

The crab moves across the glass surface of the map table, plotting the pilot's track.

The pilot and instructor would communicate with each other via headphones and microphones.

Both the trainer and the instructor's station are powered from standard 110VAC/240VAC power outlets via a transformer, with the bulk of internal wiring being low voltage. Simulator logic is all analog and is based around vacuum tubes.

The Link trainer is really the beginning of modern flight simulators because they all incorporate many of the innovations that were found in this trainer....3 axis motion, pilot / instructor radio communcation, flight tracking, full cockpit instrumentation, and to some extent aircraft specific duplication (the instrument layout of the ANT18 Link is that of the AT-6 and SNJ aircraft). All that would be needed to complete the formula is a visual element.

Boeing 377

The first airline to own a full aircraft simulator was Pan American Airways in 1948.

Curtiss-Wright developed the simulator for use in training crews flying the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser.

No motion or visual systems were installed, but in all other respects the simulator duplicated the appearance and behavior of the Stratocruiser cockpit.

Instructors could introduce emergencies or abnormal situations on a fault insertion panel or "trouble box" to train flight crews procedures and coordination in order to solve in-flight problems. In addition, complete routes could be flown, as in real life, using the same navigational aids.

BOAC Simulator

By 1958 it was all beginning to come together. BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) had contracted Redifon to develop a full motion simulator for the Comet IV aircraft.

The simulator was beginning to look more like what is in use today but realistic visual aspects were yet to be used.

It wasn't until 1962 when the first color system was produced by Redifon, utilizing television technology, that simulators had believable visual references that we are familiar with today.

Here is the joystick that we like and use: Extreme 3D Pro Joystick
I've used this yoke too, it really is a "classic": CH Products Flight Sim Yoke
These are the rudder pedals that we use: CH Products Pro Pedals

Light Gun Signals Used In Aviation

Do you know the light gun signals that are used in case of a radio failure or if your aircraft is not equipped with a radio?
Air Traffic Control (ATC) will use a signal lamp to give you instructions and clearance limits. The light gun has a focused bright beam and is capable of emitting three different colors: red, white and green.
You have to look closely but they are visible from a surprising distance away. These colors may be flashed or steady, and have different meanings to aircraft depending if you are in flight or on the ground.
Pilots can acknowledge the instructions by "rocking" their wings, moving the ailerons if on the ground, or by flashing their landing or navigation lights during hours of darkness.

Here's a quick refresher to the signals used...

Flashing Green On The Ground:Cleared to taxi Flashing Green In The Air:Cleared to approach or return to land
Cleared to taxi Cleared to approach airport, or return to land.
Steady Green On The Ground:Cleared for takeoff Steady Green In The Air:Cleared to land
Cleared for takeoff. Cleared to land.
Steady Red On The Ground:Stop Steady Red In The Air:Give way to aircraft, continue circling
Stop Continue to circle, give way to other aircraft.
Flashing Red On The Ground:Immediately taxi clear of runway in use Flashing Red In The Air:Airport unsafe, do not land
Immediately taxi clear of runway in use. Airport unsafe, do not land.
Alternating Red/Green On The Ground:Exercise extreme caution Alternating Red/Green In The Air:Exercise extreme caution
Exercise extreme caution. Exercise extreme caution.
Flashing White On The Ground:Return to starting point. There is no Flashing White used In The Air.
Return to starting point.

Janet Flights

Living in Las Vegas one can't help but notice the "JANET" flights arriving and departing McCarran Airport several times a day but did you know why they call them "JANET"?

According to legend the "JANET" call sign stands for Just Another Non Existent Terminal.
It is also said to be the wife's name of a CIA agent in charge of "Area 51".... no-one knows for sure.

The Janet missions started as far back as 1955 with the founding of the secret airbase "Watertown Strip", but eventually became official in 1972 with a single Douglas DC-6B, followed by an additional DC-6B in 1976.

Janet Flight 737-600 by Twistedpictures1

The current fleet consists of several Boeing 737-600's (painted white with a red side stripe).

Janet Flight Beechcraft 1900 by Tomás Del Coro

They also operate Beechcraft 1900 and 200 airplanes (painted white with a blue side stripe).

Janet flights operate from McCarran and fly to several locations including "Area 51" (airport code KTKM). (The "Area 51" flight at best lasts only 25 minutes and never gets much higher than 15,000 feet.)
Janets use the airline code WWW plus a three digit flight number however after handoff from approach or departure control the name often changes.

Other Janet Flight Destinations:

• Edwards Air Force Base
• Nellis Air Force Base
• San Nicolas Island
• Point Mugu Naval Air Station
• Palmdale Flight Test Installation, AF Plant 42
• China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station
• Alamogordo-White Sands Regional Airport
• Salt Lake City International Airport
• Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
• Nut Tree Airport KVCB
• Creech Air Force Base
• Hill Air Force Base

Interestingly enough, there were never many Boeing 737-600's produced (only 69) with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) being the launch customer in 1995 receiving the first aircraft on September 18, 1998. The final B737-600 was delivered to WestJet in 2006.

Hand Signals Used In Aviation

Have you ever heard the old saying; "It's easy enough flying there but the hard part is finding your way once you're on the ground"?

Thankfully there are men and women on the ground who's job it is to help. The military, airlines, and general aviation ramp personel all use the same basic hand signals to communicate taxi directions to you.

It makes no difference if it is daytime or nightime, the signals are the same but at night lighted wands are used instead of hands or unlit wands.

You may or may not know what the aviation hand signals are or what they mean so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the different signals that are in use...

All Clear All Clear Start Engine Start Engine Face Me Face Me Taxi Forward Taxi Forward Taxi Slower Taxi Slower Turn Right Turn Right
Turn Left Turn Left Stop Stop Set Brakes Set Brakes Cut Engine Cut Engine Chocks In Chocks In Chocks Out Chocks Out

There's more hand signals in use but if you remember some of these basic ones you'll be "good to go!"

Clear To Go

Mooney Mite M-18

Mooney Mite Ad

Did you ever wish you could have your own personal "fighter", an airplane that would fly at speeds of 120-130 m.p.h., sipped 3.5 gallons of gas per hour, and only cost $1995?

Well, Al Mooney was sure that you would so he designed a cute little single place airplane called the Mooney M-18 "Mite".

It was certified and produced from 1948 to 1955 with a total of 283 Mites being built.

I first saw a Mooney Mite when I was a teenager; it was hanging from the rafters in a barn that was owned by a business customer of my Father. It was one of several other airplanes being stored there and was painted yellow.... I'll never forget it.

It seemed a shame that the Mite was reduced to "flying" from the rafters. I was told that Mooney Mites were originally powered by Crosley "Cobra"- COpper BRAzed automobile engines. I found that interesting because my brother just happened to own a 1952 Crosley Custom Sedan at the time!

Mooney Mite Engine

As I recall, the performance of the auto was poor with the 25- h.p. liquid cooled engine so I imagine that the performance of the M-18 Mite might not be spectacular either. As a matter of fact, the performance of the Crosley engine (now called a Mooney CC46M-2, see photo on the left) was inadequate which caused Mooney to exchange the engines in the first 10 production Mites with a more reliable 65-h.p. Lycoming (0-145-B2) engine.

Later models also used a Continental (A65-12, or -8) when the Lycoming engine became unavailable.The performance with the new engine increased the cruise speed from 85 m.p.h. to 125 m.p.h., rate of climb increased from barely 300 f.p.m. to 1000 f.p.m.

Al Mooney was well on his way to producing a great flying airplane. It did fly well but sadly the sales were not there and production ended in 1955.

Mooney Mite Prototype

This photo is the M-18 prototype with a Crosley engine. It also happens to be the same airplane featured in the ad at the beginning of the article. As you can see it was later converted with the aircraft engine also.

Mooney Mite Panel
Mooney Mite M-18
• Manufacturer: Mooney Aircraft Corporation
• First Flight: 1947
• Crew: 1
• Wingspan: 26 ft 10½ in.
• Length: 17 ft 7¼ in.
• Height: 6 ft 2½ in.
• Maximum Takeoff Weight: 780 lbs.
• Empty Weight: 500 Lbs.
• Powerplant: One, Continental Motors C-65 wooden propeller, 65 hp
• Total Fuel: 11 Gal.
• Maximum speed: 138 mph (Vne)
• Cruise speed: 125 mph
• Rate of Climb: 1090 ft/min
• Service Ceiling: 19,400 Ft.
• Range (@125 mph): 390 Miles.
• Stall Speed: 45 mph

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