Tuesday 5 September 2017

Flying the ‘Southern Myth’: pioneering flight simulation in Australia – talk by Dr Peter Hobbins, Department of History, University of Sydney

In 1957, trainees at the Qantas Technical School in Sydney reported “scrounging around” to build a Lockheed Super Constellation. Christened the ‘Southern Myth’, it was not a flyable airliner, but rather a facsimile flight station “able to simulate practically any emergency that could arise”. Knocked together from “scrap” components, circuits, plywood and paint, it was expected to train over 200 flight crew within 6 months.

Often overlooked in aviation history, from the 1930s flight simulators developed rapidly in technological complexity. Pioneered by compact servomechanical units such as the Link ANT-18 Trainer, by the late 1950s installations such as the Boeing 707 simulator were sophisticated systems at the vanguard of digital computing. As an aid to training, they reduced the human and financial costs of flight instruction, permitting both routine and emergency scenarios to be ‘gamed’ in safety – and under close supervision. As the automation of aircraft systems advanced, by the mid-1960s mastering a simulator was arguably more demanding than the majority of operational flights.

Surveying flight simulators in Australia from the late 1930s to the early 1970s, this talk pieces together their civilian and military uses in aircrew training and evaluation. Spanning the Link Celestial Navigation Trainer to the first Qantas Boeing 747 simulator, it considers their value in modelling aerodynamic, operational and psychological scenarios under Australian skies.

Dr Peter Hobbins is a historian of science, technology and medicine at the University of Sydney. He is currently researching aircraft crashes and aviation safety systems in Australia up to 1970, and is a member of a forthcoming multi-institutional project exploring our civil aviation heritage since 1920. Peter is also a Research Fellow at the Civil Aviation Historical Society/Airways Museum in Melbourne.

Venue: History House, 133 Macquarie Street, Sydney

Time: 5.30 for 6 pm

Cost: Includes light refreshments on arrival; RAHS and ASHET members $10, others $12

Bookings: phone RAHS on (02) 9247 8001 or email history@rahs.org.au

TAA Link Trainer, Airways Museum

TAA Link Trainer, Airways Museum. (Courtesy CAHS/Airways Museum)