Astro-navigation for aviation

Bausele’s Air Force 2021 collection was designed in collaboration with the Air Force 2021 Committee and are based on the innovative early Royal Air Force navigators watches that launched astro-navigation for aviation. These early timepieces are the airborne equivalent to the marine chronometer.

During World War II instrument flying training became all-important, and Edwin C. Link's Instrument Flight Simulator, or Link Trainer, was used by most Allied Air Forces. The early Link Trainers were designed specifically for pilot training, but as the war continued and long-range aircraft were introduced, it became necessary to co-ordinate the training of aircraft crews.

Link's answer was the Celestial Navigation Trainer (CNT), which was an ingenious and remarkable conception for its time. The CNT was housed in an air-conditioned, eight-walled building, 13.7 metres high by 7.9 metres across the base.

Aircrew members were positioned in a fuselage similar to the Link Trainer, but enlarged to carry a pilot, navigator, bomb-aimer, and wireless operator. Above the fuselage was a synthetic night sky for astro-navigation, and ground features could be projected onto a white screen beneath the fuselage. The pilot flew the 'aircraft' while the navigator used sky or ground references to reach an objective, where the bomb-aimer took over to complete the mission.

The CNT instructor could introduce bumpy flying conditions, changes of wind, create daylight or nightfall, scurry clouds across the sky or arrange static to worry the wireless operator. In 1944 a CNT was installed at East Sale where it operated until 1957.CNT1 RAAFCNT3 RAAFThe photo at the top of this page was taken in Leconfield, England, 1944. It shows a relieved looking Halifax crew of No 466 Squadron RAAF returning from a sortie over Berlin. At their feet are the navigator’s map and instrument bag, sextant and astro-compass cases.

Did you know that astronavigation for aviation is still used today? To explore this world-changing history Bausele is holding an astronavigation event. Navigators from No 37 Squadron RAAF will give presentations to an audience at the Queensland Cruising Yacht Club (QCYC), Brisbane. The event will be livestreamed and accessible to all.

sailor airman RAAF astro navigation The date is to be confirmed and this page will be updated regularly. To make sure you don’t miss anything please register your interest at

Click here to view the Official Air Force 2021 timepiece collection


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