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Gananoque’s Link to Victory


 

Edwin A. Link (1904 - 1981) moved, with his family, from Indiana to Binghamton, NY, where his father had established the Link Piano and Organ Company. He dropped out of high school and went to work for his father. He learned to build and repair organs, and just about any other machine that needed fixing, experience that would prove to be invaluable. However, all he really wanted to do, was fly.

He needed to scrape together the funds for flying lessons and plane rentals. When his father heard of his flying escapades, he fired him. Fortunately, he was soon rehired. At 24, he persuaded his mother to lend him the money for his first plane.  He then spent his spare time giving flying lessons, making air deliveries, and barnstorming at air shows to earn the funds for the loan repayment.

As he struggled with the high costs of learning to fly, he reasoned that a device that simulated the motions of an aircraft  could reduce the time needed to train pilots.  For 18 months he worked on this idea in the basement of the organ factory, naming his trainer the Pilot Maker. 

His sales were few but he was determined and eventually enabled it to simulate different weather conditions which would allow pilots to "fly blind", ie, by their instruments and without  reference to the landscape below.

By 1934, he was running out of money. So, he made contact with the US Army Air Corps, pleading for the opportunity to demonstrate his technology. The Corps agreed and on "the" day, Ed took off from Binghamton and flew to the field at Newark, NJ, landing in a "pea soup" fog without incident!  The Corps soon followed with an $21,000 order for 6 simulators and Ed was "on his way".   [Editor's note: The US Postal Service had contracted with the Air Corps to deliver mail. Sadly, within a month or two, the Corps lost nearly a dozen planes and pilots - all the crashes were in bad weather. Ed's making contact for the demonstration proved to be a life changer, and life saver.]

Gananoque’s Role

Before and during WWII, Britain had restrictions on buying war goods from non-Commonwealth countries. Link realized that business would only increase if he had a plant in Canada. He owned an island east of Gananoque, Perch Island, and frequently flew from Binghamton in his amphibious plane to his cottage.  As he always checked  in with Customs and Immigration at Gananoque, he got to know the collector of Customs, Ken Mullins. One day he asked Mullins if he knew of a location where he could manufacture Link Trainers, and who he could recommend as its manager.  Mullins suggested Keith Taylor and in 1938, the first Link Trainer was built in what became known as the “Link Plant”, later known as the “Cliffe Craft Boat Buildings” and now vacant.  Over 5,000 Link Trainers were built in Gananoque and with over 200 employees it was one of the town's most-important businesses.

 

The importance of the Link Trainer, in a larger context,  was clearly indentified when Winston Churchill, in a speech to the House of Commons, told the House that without the Link trainer the "Battle of Britain" would not have been won.Today, there are only three-living employees from the plant but many family members recall those crucial years, and the pivotal role played by the employees.

During the war years, Ed had another vision that  of developing a trainer that would assist pilots in water landings and take-offs. He developed the "Aqua Trainer". Unfortunately,with the development of aircraft carriers, the interest in seaplanes declined and only one “Aqua Trainer” prototype was built.
It is now  on permanent display at Clayton,  NY, in the Antique Boat Museum. Also on exhibit, at Gananoque’s Arthur Child Heritage Museum, is a fully-equipped “Link Trainer” - it is part of an important exhibit commemorating Gananoque’s history from 1895-1945.

When Ed Link died, he held over 30 patents and he had been a major contributor to the establishment of philanthropic foundations for research in aquaculture, undersea rescue, and undersea mining.

 

His “Link Trainer” made modern aviation possible and he was, truly, an aviation pioneer. 


By John and Jim Taylor, Gananoque, ON.

 Author's note:  We encourage everyone to see the display at the Arthur Child Heritage Museum. It gives a wonderful-and-interesting picture of Gananoque's colourful history.

The article on the "Link Trainer" was prepared by the sons of Keith Taylor.  As children, they grew up knowing the Link family and their parents were very good friends of Ed and Marion Link. Jim and John still live in Gananoque and summer on Tremont Park Island.

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Comments

Michael Laprade
Comment by: Michael Laprade ( )
Left at: 8:06 AM Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Great article, thank you!
Denis Legacey
Comment by: Denis Legacey ( )
Left at: 7:15 PM Thursday, September 16, 2010
I enjoyed reading this article. As a former employee of flight simulator manufacturer CAE Electronics in Montreal I was familiar with the American company Link (later Singer-Link and part of CAE in the 1980s) but was unaware of Link's original company's connections to Gananoque in the 1940s during WWII. It was an interesting and welcome surprise. Kudos to TI Life and the Child Heritage Museum in Gananoque for bringing it to our attention.
Marilyn C. Link
Comment by: Marilyn C. Link ( )
Left at: 12:55 PM Sunday, September 19, 2010
I am Ed Link's sister and it has been my pleasure to stay in contact with Jim and John over the years. Their article was well done.Your readers may be interested to know that The Link Foundation was established in 1953 by Marion and Edwin Link. Part of the original endowment was provided by Ed and Marion with their proceeds from the closing of the Gananoque Link plant. The mission of the Foundation is to award scholarships, fellowships, internships and research funds in the fields of simulation and training, energy resources development and conservation and ocean engineering and instrumentation. Many of the Fellows have been from Canadian Universities.The Link Foundation is on-going. www.linkfoundation.org
Ronald Hendricks
Comment by: Ronald Hendricks ( )
Left at: 2:02 PM Monday, September 20, 2010
I was employed by the Link Company in Binghamton, NY for 30 years and then served on the Board of the Link Foundation for 16 years. I thought that over the course of those years I had encountered all the Link lore there was. I was wrong. The Gananoque episode was new and fascinating information. Thanks to the two Taylor authors.
Bill Turner
Comment by: Bill Turner ( )
Left at: 7:57 PM Thursday, September 23, 2010
I had the good fortune to havr been an "Up to Links" guy for 30 years. What an exciting place to work! Simulation as Ed Link had envisioned continued to be at the leading edge of technology and played such an important role in our mission to the moon and many other uses. I had the opportunity to serve as the President of Link as well as a member of the Link Foundation Board. I also had the opportunity to have a guided tour of the Gananoque Plant and to see the many pictures of the contribution made during WWII. The Link legacy is a precious piece of history!
Jamie LaFrance
Comment by: Jamie LaFrance ( )
Left at: 7:44 PM Friday, September 24, 2010
Enjoyed the article immensely. As an Air Cadet during the early forties, I had the pleasure of visiting the Gan plant during it's heyday. I was invited to board and fly the Link Trainer. I shall always cherish the memory of the canopy closing over me and being in total darkness except for the green illuminated dash and watching the instruments change as I moved the 'Joystick' around. it was a wonderful 'flying' experience.
Jack Patterson
Comment by: Jack Patterson ( )
Left at: 12:46 PM Saturday, October 9, 2010
Ed Link was as well President of Mohawk Airlines I believe . Many of us remember Mohawk : " Go hawk , Slow hawk , Mo hawk Airlines " as characterized by Lenny Bruce at one time I think . Used to fly regular service into Chaumont ( doesn ' t sound like it looks . . . ) - Watertown Airport there with the likes of my grandfather , John Foster Dulles , Phil Sharpless , and probably Sherman Pratt et al in the 1950 ' s . . . I roamed NY State for the Chemical Bank in the 1960 ' s via Mohawk and remember some exceptionally bumpy rides over the Catskills , elsewhere ( do NOT sit in the back ) , coming back to Newark from such places as Olean , Salamanca , Potsdam , Norwich , Penn Yan , Warsaw and Bradford , PA . Even David Harum ' s , Homer , NY !
Jack Patterson
Comment by: Jack Patterson ( )
Left at: 8:56 AM Saturday, October 16, 2010
Whoa - upon reflection , I was in error as to Ed being President of Mohawk Airlines . My memory failed me . It was rather , Bob Peach , I believe . Still there was the ' couplet ' ( above ) as to the somewhat famous carrier who flew principally throughout NY State . And until corrected , I stand with my belief that it was Lenny Bruce who authored it .
Jack P / Axeman Island - Lake Fleet Group
Donald Evans
Comment by: Donald Evans ( )
Left at: 9:55 AM Tuesday, October 19, 2010
The Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, Ontario had on display a early Link Trainer for use by patrons during the last year before the CNE was transformed into a Military Base for all Three Services. That would be 1941 & I managed to fly the LINK! I was 15 yars old & I don't recall the cost, probably 25 cents. Later I volunteered for service in the Royal Canadian Armoured Corp. [By this time the RCAF were not accepting new air crew recruits].
I'm a member of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, having served as the Toronto Chapter's Secretary/Treasurer, Flypast newsletter Editor, CAHS National Director, Webmaster for www.cahs.ca & now a member of CAHS National & Toronto, Ottawa & Regina Chapters.
I have fond memories of the Link Trainer.
Jim Taylor
Comment by: Jim Taylor ( )
Left at: 6:08 PM Monday, January 17, 2011
My brother John and I had such pleasure researching more about the "Trainer", but most important of all was the refreshing of our memories of Ed Link and his family.Our first flying experience was in the cockpit of Ed Link's Grumman Widgeon, flying into northern Quebec with Ed's sisiter Marilyn keeping a watchful eye on us in the right hand seat- we were about 10 and 14 years old. When I was about 4 years old, my father made for me a minature Link Trainer instead of a hobby horse. I still have a photograph of it.--
During the "war years' our home was always busy with visiting squadron leaders, etc. and other airmen.-- such wonderful memories.
Leo van der Weerden
Comment by: Leo van der Weerden ( )
Left at: 9:34 AM Saturday, February 19, 2011
We have a museum with only simulators.
also a Gananoque built D2 in flying condition.

see: www . vluchtsimulatie.nl (remove spaces)

We also have spareparts and documentation.
Susie Smith
Comment by: Susie Smith
Left at: 9:54 AM Saturday, February 19, 2011
From the Editor. I urge our readers to visit the website listed above. We do not put live links in our comments, so you will have to removed the inserted spaces. The site has an english translation and is described as:

"The Museum of Flightsimulation (Museum voor vluchtsimulatie) is located at the industrial estate of Someren in the south of The Netherlands, east of the City of Eindhoven. The museum is founded over 25 years ago.
The museum is under the control of Foundation The Link, named after Ed Link, the famous inventor of the flight simulator, back in the year 1935..."

Susan W. Smith, Edtor, TI Life.

Anonymous User
Comment by: Anonymous User
Left at: 9:15 AM Monday, May 2, 2011
http://allgraphicsonline.com/wordpress/?p=59045
isabel taylor
Comment by: isabel taylor ( )
Left at: 9:55 AM Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Way to go Grandpa! Great article on the history of the link trainer! I never knew that you flew in a Grumman widgeon as a young boy. You'll have to tell me about it next time I see you over in TO.
Doug Rombough
Comment by: Doug Rombough ( )
Left at: 4:37 AM Saturday, July 14, 2012
I commend both of you (John and Jim) for this excellent article and your efforts in seeing that there is a model of the Trainer in the Arthur Child Heritage Museum for all of us to enjoy. Thank you. Doug

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