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For aircraft enthusiasts: the greatest pilot ever, Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown.

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Blazer, Jun 17, 2014.

  1. Blazer


    Nov 27, 2003
    The Netherlands
    Rogue luthier employed at Knooren Handcrafted bass guitars
    This elderly gentleman of the age of 95 is Eric Melrose Brown, pictured here with what he calls his favorite aircraft of all time: the Grumman F4F Wildcat.

    Brown, who got the nickname "Winkle" because of his short stature, sure knows a thing or two about what makes an aircraft great and that the humble Wildcat is his favorite also says a lot since Brown flew 487 (Yup, you read that right 487) types of aircraft. Which spanned the full range: from wood and linnen Biplanes to mach 2 capable jet fighters.
    Go here to see the full list of the planes Brown flew

    So where does all of this stem from?

    Well Brown's father was a pilot who took him for his first flight and soon after took him to Germany to meet former German aces, which is where Brown met Ernst Udet, the man who later founded the Luftwaffe. Udet told the young Eric that he should take up flying and learn how to speak German properly. Teaching him the German variant of the "Break a leg" motto "Hals und Bein bruch" (Neck and legs break)

    Brown finished school and was sent over to Germany as a diplomat and met up with Udet who proudly showed him the newly formed luftwaffe, glad to find that Brown, accomplished what Udet told him to go and do, since he now spoke German fluently and was a very talented flyer.

    But as war broke out, Brown had to leave Germany and returned to England where he enlisted but rather than to fly for the Royal airforce, he chose to go fly for the fleet air arm, where his love affair with the Grumman wildcat began.
    Brown, on missions to protect convoys from Focke-Wulf FW-200 Condor long range patrol bombers and U-boot Submarines, proved himself a formidable fighter but there was something else that caught his superior's eyes: Brown had a very keen eye for detail and the best deck landing skills they ever saw in a naval pilot.

    So Brown was transferred to Farnborough, where his expertise was put to good use as a test pilot. Throughout the war Brown was the go-to guy if a new type of aircraft was to enter service. He was strict on his reports and to the point with his findings, if he deemed a plane unsuitable for battle use, it simply wouldn't enter service, PERIOD.
    Brown flying what probably has been his least favorite plane he ever flown, The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver.

    The Helldiver was proposed to be the replacement for the old Fairy Swordfish Biplane torpedo bomber, but while doing simulated deck landings, Brown found that the Helldiver was very unstable and in his opinion totally unsuited for carrier use. And since his opinion counted, the Fleet air arm, never flew the Helldiver in operational use.

    Brown was also the first to fly captured enemy aircraft, since his pre-war friendship with Udet gave him an intimate knowledge about the Luftwaffe.

    Brown talking about flying captured German planes.

    After the war, Brown was taken to Germany as a consultant on the aircraft industry and was given the opportunity to interview Hermann Goering about the Luftwaffe. When asked about who really won the Battle of Britain, Goering declared that it was a draw. Since near the end of 1940, both the Focke Wulf FW-190 and more advanced version of the Messerschmitt-109 were entering service and more pilots were enrolling into the Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe would have decimated the RAF had the battle continued. The war in Russia however kept it from happening, since that's where the pilots and planes were needed. Before Goering was taken away to prison again, Brown told him "Hals und beinbruch."

    In the late fourties and throughout the Fifties, Brown was always there when a new kind of plane had to be taken through its paces, flying everything which had wings and was taken in consideration to be put in use in the UK's armed forces.

    Brown also made the history books for being the first man to land a jet powered aircraft on an aircraft carrier.

    Everything from the Blackburn Buccaneer to the McDonnell F4 Phantom, was placed in Brown's capable hands and his opinion mattered.

    As many former airforce pilot will tell you, being a test pilot is probably the most dangerous job one can have and Brown certainly saw many friends die, among them Geoffry DeHavilland Jr, who was the chief pilot for the aircraft company set up by his father.

    DeHavilland was poised to make the record books as the first to break the sound barrier in the DH-108 "Swallow", which was specifically designed for that purpose.
    But as he picked up speed, the Swallow suddenly began to vibrate very harshly before disintegrating in front of the shocked audience.

    Enter Eric "Winkle" Brown, to find out what the hell had happened...

    Currently Brown is still a consultant for the air ministry (Which is why he still has the rank of Captain and not the suffex of "retired" after his rank) and his experience is of immeasurable value.

    Frankly, even I myself was surprised to find that this great man, who's name I kept seeing in aviation books, is still around. At 95 Eric "Winkle" Brown is the greatest pilot ever.

    Captain Brown, I salute you.
  2. odin70


    Dec 26, 2007
    Wow! Very interesting. I think Goering was right. The luftwaffe would have won.
  3. EmptyCup


    Feb 25, 2013
    Nashville Area
    Thanks for posting this. Sounds like Englands Chuck Yeager.
    A hearty U.S. salute to Captain Eric Melrose Brown!
  4. Stewie26

    Stewie26 Supporting Member

    Thanks for posting. I like stories like this about the great generation.
  5. IGotGas

    IGotGas Cajun Rocker

    Sep 26, 2011
    Baton Rouge, LA
    This is excellent! Great post!!
  6. nutdog

    nutdog when I'm a good dog they sometimes throw me a bone Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2009
    in the dog house
    Another fascinating post.

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