Edwin Albert Link - Aviation


He took his first flying lesson in 1920. In 1927, he obtained the first Cessna airplane ever delivered and eked out a living by barnstorming, charter flying and giving lessons.

As a young man, Edwin Link used apparatus from his father's automatic piano and organ factory (of the Link Piano and Organ Company) to produce an advertising plane. A punched roll and pneumatic system from a player piano controlled sequential lights on the lower surfaces of the wings to spell out messages like "ENDICOTT-JOHNSON SHOES". To attract more attention, he added a set of small but loud organ pipes, also controlled by the roll.

In the 1920s, he developed the Link Trainer, "a fuselage-like device with a cockpit and controls that produced the motions and sensations of flying." Much of the pneumatic system was adapted directly from technology used in the organ factory (in the 1970s Link used parts scavenged from an inoperative trainer to help rebuild a Link pipe organ). He formed the Link Aeronautical Corporation in 1929 to manufacture the trainers. His few early customers were amusement parks, not flight training schools; the early models served as amusement rides. Finally, in 1934, the United States Army Air Corps bought six. During World War II, more than half a million airmen were taught by the Link Trainer.

Together with his wife Marion Clayton Link, whom he had married in 1931, Edwin Link managed the very successful Link Aviation, Inc. He contributed a great deal to the Binghamton, New York area, where he set up a production facility that at one time employed thousands of workers. The field on which Greater Binghamton Airport lies is named after him, and there is an original "Blue Box" on display in the terminal.

Link was awarded the Howard N. Potts Medal in 1945 for developing training devices for aviators. In 1953, Edwin and Marion Link established The Link Foundation. The foundation continues to provide grants and fellowships in aeronautics, simulation and training, ocean engineering, energy, and organizations of interest to the Links. Ed Link received an honorary degree from Binghamton University. In 1976, he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

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