BOISGONTIER Gilbert

From the “penguin system” to full flight simulators

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As early as 1919, pioneering airlines faced the challenge of training their pilots.

Although nothing beats an in-flight experience, planes were expensive and not always very reliable. There was the Antoinette machine, a barrel on a platform produced by Levavasseur in 1910, that reproduced the effects of the flight controls. Trainee pilots however tended to practice their skills on the “penguin systems”, using planes with decorative wings to get used to the controls on the ground. The first real simulator, invented by the American Edward Link, was created in 1934. The “Link trainer” was an enclosed cockpit, assembled on an oleo pneumatic system. For decades, this simulator was used to train up and coming pilots around the world, before being replaced with more elaborate models. Such as the Constellation L-1049, brought into service by Air France in 1957, with an identical cabin and background sounds. Over the years, innovations – hydraulic cylinders, computer-generated images, etc. – paved the way for more realistic and reliable models, and to simulate countless flight scenarios. Simulators were now not only used to train pilots, but also to control pilot qualifications.

Air France currently owns 18 simulators encompassing every type of aircraft in its fleet. Early in June, the Air France Roissy simulator building was named after Lucien Bossoutrot, pilot of the first international flight carrying twelve passengers and Air France flight captain.

Find out more about Lucien Bossoutrot in this tribute film.

  • © COLLECTION AIR FRANCE - MUSÉE AIR FRANCE. DR
  • © COLLECTION AIR FRANCE - MUSÉE AIR FRANCE. DR
  • © DELAFOSSE Philippe
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