Museum unveils Link Trainer display

By Rob Vogt
During the Second World War, men from all over the Allied world descended on Claresholm to train to be pilots.
The Link Trainer, a model airplane trainees could sit inside and learn to fly by instruments only, was a vital part of that training program.
For years it sat outside, a victim of the elements.
Now, it has been fully restored and is ready for the world to see once more.
The Claresholm and District Museum unveiled the Link Trainer display on Friday, May 10, for museum staff and volunteers as a preview, before it opens for general viewing to the public.
Barry Gibb, chair of the museum board, welcomed everyone and paid tribute to the volunteers at the museum, including the group who restored the Link Trainer.
Bill Kells, executive director of the museum, then recognized those four volunteers – Don Glimsdale, Bob Mackin, Allan Engel, and Dave Wasylyshen.
“I’m thrilled to see the Link Trainer,” Kells said.
He explained it was an important part of the training program, used for advanced pilot training.
“This was sort of their last stop before they went overseas and got into combat,” Kells said.
The Claresholm air base opened in 1941 and closed in 1945, training more than 1,800 pilots during that period.
Kells cited a pilot who trained at Claresholm who said if you didn’t make it through the Link Trainer you wouldn’t be a pilot.
“It was quite an important part of the air force training base,” Kells said.
He explained the Link Trainer is named after its inventor Edwin Link.
He used his knowledge of pumps, valves and bellows gained at his father’s Link Piano and Organ Company to create a flight simulator that responded to the pilot’s controls and gave an accurate reading on the instruments.
“How important (the Link Trainer) is to have as an exhibit in our museum,” Kells said.
Don Glimsdale said the project started back in 2017, when the Link Trainer was put in a private hangar.
He and Al Engel tore everything out of it and connected with the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton about parts for the Link Trainer.
Finally, they were able to use the terminal building at the Claresholm airport, where they had more room to work.
The body was sent to Cardston to have fabric put on the trainer’s body.
Then it sat at the airport, waiting for the wings to be painted.
Dave Wasylyshen heard about the project and, utilizing his vast experience, volunteered to paint the wings.
“It’s done, and we’re very glad to have it in here,” Glimsdale said.
He noted Josh Thyssen put the bottom in the trainer, which is made of wood.
In total, more than 370 hours were put into restoring the Link Trainer by volunteers.
“It looks good,” Glimsdale said. “I’m proud of it.”
Bob Mackin said when he and Glimsdale were in air cadets they got flight instruction in the Link Trainer.
“It was a way to learn to fly without getting hurt,” Mackin said
Then the Link Trainer sat outside for years.
At one point it was stored at Jean Hoare’s restaurant at the Claresholm airport area. The Blue Room in her restaurant was actually named after the blue of the Link Trainer’s wings.
Ultimately, it was rescued and restored.
“Everyone has done a terrific job,” Wasylyshen said. “It’s nice to see this in our town.”
Engel was impressed with the volunteers at the museum and throughout the community.
“I am so amazed,” he said. “I respect all of you.”
Kells concluded by pointing out this year is the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force in Canada.
Consequently, the museum will have an official opening for the Link Trainer and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Volunteers at the Claresholm and District Museum have completed the restoration of the Link Trainer, a vintage flight simulator used to train pilots at the Claresholm air base during the Second World War. The display was officially unveiled at an event on Friday, May 10 at the museum’s exhibit hall. From left are Don Glimsdale, Bob Mackin, Allan Engel, and Dave Wasylyshen, the volunteers who worked on restoring the Link Trainer. Photo by Rob Vogt