My dad in the Link trainer (above). The Link trainer had no windows
and was used to teach new pilots to fly using instruments. A
Beechcraft Bonanza (below) of the sort Daddy and I used to fly.
The Link Trainer
looking down at the ground, which became a
thing of beauty viewed from among the
clouds, which gave fresh perspective to
When he gave my father's eulogy, Bruce
Logue, minister of the Greenlawn Church of
Christ in Lubbock, gave an example of his
“Cecil nearly scared me out of my wits one
time when we flew up to Edmond, Oklahoma,
to pick up Barbara at Oklahoma Christian
College. As we approached Oklahoma City, I
just assumed we would land at the big Will
Rogers Airport. We passed it by.
"The first thing I knew, he banked down out of
the sky and right down over housetops and
landed in a very small pasture. He landed on
the campus of Oklahoma Christian College
and taxied up near the Administration
Building. I thought, 'This guy, I don’t know
where he’s taking me,' but there was Barbara
standing out there on the edge of the pasture
waiting for him.”
The Link trainer was a flight simulator
produced between 1930 and 1950 by Link
Aviation Devices, founded and headed by Ed
The Link trainer was also called the big blue
box. I didn't know that part until I looked it up
for this issue and saw my first color photo. It
was bright blue with yellow flaps and a red
and white striped tail rudder!
All I'd ever seen was the black-and-white
photo of my Daddy in the Link trainer that was
in our scrapbook (right). I'd always imagined
that it was a silver gray.
It used pumps, valves and bellows to
respond to the pilot's controls and give an
accurate reading on the instruments in the
More than 500,000 pilots were trained in the
simulators in various nations. It has been
designated as a historic mechanical
engineering landmark by the American
Society of Mechanical Engineers.
A few Link trainers can still be seen. One
used to train the Tuskegee Airmen is on
display at the Museum of Aviation at Robins
Air Force Base near Warner-Robins, Ga.
Another is displayed in the Golden Age of
Flight Gallery at the San Diego Air and Space
Museum. In August, 2009, Edwin Link's
granddaughter visited the museum and
shared her stories with the volunteer docents
My sister Barbara Webb, as a project for her
work as State Regent of the Texas State
Society of the Daughters of the American
Colonists, helps to maintain the one at the
Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock, Texas.
Obviously, Barbara and I share a love of
history--particularly history connected with
our family. I'm looking forward to her and her
family visiting from Texas this summer.
My Daddy loved to fly, and I loved to fly with
him. We would go to the little airport in Tulia
and rent a private plane--a Beechcraft
Bonanza or Piper Comanche--and soar
among the clouds above the Texas plains.
Almost without exception, it would be hot.
The little cabin would be stuffy. It would be
windy. We'd blow around the sky at a dizzying
pace. And the cramped, stuffy cabin would
smell like vomit, where previous pilots and
passengers had suffered upsets from being
Mother refused to fly with Daddy, and it wasn't
hard to see why. It cost money we never had,
and it wasn't the most pleasant environment.
I was always eager to. I enjoyed doing things
with Daddy. I liked co-piloting--feeling like an
important part of the process. And I enjoyed