Eric Melrose "Winkle" Brown
Listed as a contributing author to Putnam Aeronautical 1997, Aircraft of the Second World War: the development of the warplane 1939-45, and described as:
Captain Eric Brown. The Fleet Air Armís (FAA) most decorated pilot, he had a thirty-one-year career in the Royal Navy. He served as test pilot from 1942, eventually being appointed Chief Naval Test Pilot at RAE Farnborough and commanding the Enemy Aircraft Flight, the High Speed Flight and the Aerodynamics Flight. He continued test flying after the war, amassing a world record total of 487 basic aircraft types before retirement.
Brown is credited with flying every type of Allied combat plane operated during World War II; 53 German aircraft, including the Me 163 rocket plane and the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet plane; plus American, Italian and Japanese aircraft; all the postwar jets, and early helicopters. He also holds the world record for aircraft carrier landings, 2,407. This included two significant firsts for carrier operations: the first carrier landing using an aircraft equipped with a tricycle undercarriage, a Bell P-39 Airacobra Mk1 AH574, during trials with the carrier HMS Pretoria Castle on April 4, 1945; and the first carrier landing of a jet aircraft, a deHavilland Sea Vampire on the carrier HMS Ocean on December 3, 1945.
In addition to the 487 types, he is also credited with having flown 2,407 aircraft carrier landings, and survived 11 crashes.
He was appointed MBE, OBE and CBE.
The records are considered to be understated, and may not be surpassed due to the wartime conditions under which they were set. Aircraft which would have been flown as they developed through a number of variants, such as the Spitfire, were only counted once towards the total number of types flown.
Brown could also have been the first supersonic pilot, flying the Miles M.52, a top secret British supersonic research aircraft project undertaken between 1942 and 1945. The project was controversially cancelled by the Air Ministry even though it was not far from completion, Britain was basically bankrupt as a result of the war, and had already handed its supersonic research to the Americans (Bell Aircraft Company), who reneged on a data exchange deal and provided nothing in return.
Born in Edinburgh on January 21, 1919, he was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and in 1937 began a course in modern languages at Edinburgh University, where he joined the university air squadron. When war broke out in 1939, he was on a placement in Germany and, as a student pilot, was held by the Gestapo and underwent three days of interrogation before being released and allowed to cross into Switzerland from where he returned to the UK.
He joined the FAA as a pilot with the rank of Sub Lieutenant RNVR, and was posted to HMS Merlin in Donibristle, Fife for training. He is said to have been chosen to perform a roll in a Martlet (RN name for the Grumman F4F Wildcat, an American carrier-based fighter) for Winston Churchill but his engine cut out and he ditched in the Forth. On completion of his training he was posted to HMS Audacity, an escort carrier based at Gibraltar and involved in convoy protection. In 1942 he was awarded the DSC (Distinguished Service Cross) for his actions in a torpedo raid on enemy shipping.
In 1944 he moved to HMS Daedalus (RNAS Lee-on-Solent) as a Chief Naval Test Pilot, a rare privilege for a RNVR officer. In 1946 he was transferred to the Royal Navy. It was during this period that he flew more UK planes and several German ones in an assessment of their capabilities.
In 1945 he was chosen to be one of the interrogators of Hermann Goering, and in December of that year he became the first man to land a jet plane on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
In 1951, during the Korean War, he became the resident British test pilot at USN (United States Navy) Air Test Centre, Patuxent River, where he flew several new US planes and helicopters.
His RN career continued until 1970 by which time he held the rank of Captain and had included a couple of postings as Deputy Director of air gunnery at HMS President, the chief headquarters of the Royal Navy.
In 2007 he received the Lifetime Achievement award.
In June 2008, at the age of 89, he returned to Edinburgh University to receive an honorary degree.
BBC Radio 4 interview 2013
3 ⇑ Captain 'Winkle' Brown: Is he the greatest pilot ever? Retrieved May 02, 2013.
- Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) Officers 1939-1945
- Daily Record, June 25, 2008.
- BBC News, June 25, 2008.
- Secrets of the Dead: Hunt for Nazi Scientists. Watch online. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). May 13, 2008.
Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown - test pilot legend (part 1)
Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown - test pilot legend (Part 2)
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