1. That’s a Link trainer, an early kind of simulator, where the pilot sits in a cockpit with a blacked-out canopy and practice flying on instruments. The machine moves around a little bit – yaw, pitch and roll – on a universal joint pushed by pumps and bellows in response to control inputs.

    I guess the joke is simply that the simulator worked so well the trainee pilot was really able to take off – presumably he (and in WW2 it would most likely be a he) thought he was still on the ground simulating, but the people monitoring know the truth.

    I once saw my father (an experienced commercial pilot) sit in something like one of these as some sort of refresher training or regular check in the late 60s or early 70s. The nearest thing they had to a full-size simulator (that you could look out of ) in the Middle East region where he worked was in Beirut, and in those pre-CGI days it used a camera tracking over a model of a landscape, like an enormous model railway setup. They used something similar to train Apollo astronauts for landing on the Moon.

    In the absence of time on that a Link trainer was the nearest to reality they could get without taking a real airliner into the sky – which they used to do a lot of back in the 1960s as well, for circuits and bumps. We used to live near the airport and would often see a 707 or something go round and round in circles, touching down and zooming off again.

  2. The description of this cartoon at the Conde Nast store says “A dummy plane breaks free from its mooring“, but the pilot in the second plane (at the back of the room) proves that these are working flight simulators, and the pilot of the first one has managed to “take off”.

    Here is a link to the original image, which is sharper than what wordpress has rendered above. The image includes a lot of white in the border, so I didn’t want to embed it.

  3. P.S. The original joke was of course in the astonished reactions from the instructors and the other pilot, but the anachronistic displacement to the present also offers a comparison to those little (one-person) rides found in some shopping malls, in which toddlers and small children can “drive” a car or “fly” a plane for a few minutes. In my childhood they probably cost a quarter, but nowadays they probably charge one or two dollars. I’m sure those things did not exist in 1943.

  4. Specifically, the machines shown here are Link Trainers. These pneumatic and hydraulic contraptions were designed to teach new pilots how to fly by instruments. The trainee inside could not see out, and interacted with the world outside only by an instrument panel that would simulate what you would find on an actual aircraft of the era. An instructor at a desk would place the “plane” in a hazardous condition, which the trainee would have to correct based entirely on what the instruments showed. This was quite crude, but far superior to taking a raw trainee up at night to teach him how to fly at night.

  5. Kilobytes has it, assuming it is a CIDU, the trainer (would they have used the term “simulator”? Maybe. Why not?)and they are astonished to see it flying around.

  6. It is extremely impressive the trainee was not only able to get the Link Trainer to actually fly, he maneuvered it around the room without hitting anything (so far) while being unable to see beyond the windows of the trainer.

  7. Kilby, thanks for the sharper image. I pulled this off my CD of “The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker” which probably has resolution sufficient for magazine size, but not art print size.

    In looking at all the cartoons for March, 1943 I see a good percentage of them deal with rationing, which had begun in the US in the spring of 1942. It provides a bit of perspective on the current supply chain shortages and inflation.

  8. @ zbicyclist – Actually, I first went to that very same CD (I bought the book years ago, on sale here in Germany, and never regretted it). However, the main reason that I looked there first is that I was searching for the precise date. The Conde Nast store doesn’t offer any date filters or sorting, but after I found the comic there, I belatedly discovered that you can search for “Dunn March 1943”, and that produces the “Link Trainer” comic in the top row of the results. The store also has a new, and very powerful “zoom feature“, which displays a small portion of the image in amazing resolution (but includes a watermark).

    P.S. I had never heard of the “Link Trainer” before reading the comments in this thread. I’m very impressed that it was recognized immediately by at least three or four CIDU readers.

  9. I worked as a flight simulation engineer at Link as my first job out of college. In the lobby of the office building near JSC, there was a beautifully restored Link trainer.

  10. I have a book of cartoons from PUNCH magazine dating from the WWII era full of comics dealing with the War and the home front, mostly from a British perspective. The comic posted above strikes me as to be from a similar mold.

    I have been trying to find info on the miniature landscape variety of simulators. Tom Scott has a video in his You Tube channel where he visits a tank driving simulator with periscope camera lens traveling over a miniature landscape. It is a rare bit of apparatus, and has been restored and is in a museum setting. Frustratingly Tom’s video shows only brief glimpses of the model itself. In the early ’70s film maker John Dykstra developed a motion-control system with periscope camera as an experiment with Berkeley U in California to study small-scale city landscapes from the perspective of a automobile driver or pedestrian. The resulting films are available at archive.org. I understand there was a truck driving simulator that involved a camera on a model truck traveling around a miniature environment, but haven’t found much regarding that one.

    Now I’m going down an analog flight simulator rabbit hole. Fun stuff!

  11. If you google

    Motion in Flight Simulators: A story of Evolution, Aviation Focus

    you come up with a pdf with a short history of it, with a tiny bit on early camera/landscape visual systems.

  12. @Grawlix The first visual system for the Shuttle simulator was a mapboard/camera rig. I have some old photos of it before it was ripped out and replaced with computer graphics. The Apollo simulators also used mapboards and a really neat “starball” system for the starfield. The Apollo systems are described in volume 1 of the instructor handbook, available here https://archive.org/download/AMSInstructorHandbookVol1/AMS%20Instructor%20Handbook%20%20Vol%201.pdf

  13. There was an old movie gag — maybe Abbott and Costello, maybe “McHale’s Navy Joins the Air Force” — where two guys sneak into a trainer and try to make it work. Workmen arrive and load it onto a truck, which the guys take as simulated turbulence. The trainer falls off the truck in transit. The guys open the top, see they’re far from the warehouse, and think they actually flew it. My boomer memory can’t place the exact location.

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