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Blessed test pilot legend Eric Brown flew 487 types of aircraft, piloted 2,407 aircraft carrier landings (no computer aid)


By WcP.Story.Teller - Posted on 22 February 2016


Captain Eric Brown was friends with astronaut Neil Armstrong

Update with BBC vedio: "Story of Captain Winkle Brown"

Readers' comments:
"Bow in Respect!! I kept Saluting him during the Documentary. Blessing!!!"
"What a human being, RIP Captain Brown. A true Scots old school hero."
"He is probably the greatest man that I ever heard about. R.I.P Mr Eric Brown:')"
"An interviewer once said he made James Bond seem boring. RIP great man."
"Will we ever know the FULL story, I wonder? What an astonishing man, what an astonishing career. I salute you, Sir. RIP."
"Would love to meet this gentleman. The word hero is overused but in this case it's spot on?"
"I had some friends from Scotland when I attended Arizona State University. They were fearless rugby players. Captain Brown is a true Scot. Best pilot, and one of the greatest humans the world has ever known. Honest and true. God bless you Sir!!!"

(quote)

Pilot Eric "Winkle" Brown holds two of the most startling records from the world of flying. He has flown 487 different types of aircraft. Today's test pilots average fewer than 100 flights. "Over 50 is deemed a large number. We can't imagine in this day and age how dangerous his job was." Captain Brown has piloted 2,407 aircraft carrier landings. That's just a part of his extraordinary life. Brown's exploits run through some of the most momentous events of world history. He was at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he interrogated Hermann Goering, helped liberate the Belsen concentration camp and by chance managed to sing with the Glenn Miller band.

But his greatest achievements were as a Royal Navy test pilot. He mastered deck landings in the face of tremendous danger. Now 95, he is a hero among military pilots who fly far more safely thanks to the techniques and technologies he helped test.

Brown has flown 487 different types of aircraft - a current world record. Today's test pilots average fewer than 100 flights, says Rear Admiral Simon Charlier, former commander of the Fleet Air Arm. "Over 50 is deemed a large number. We can't imagine in this day and age how dangerous his job was."

"They didn't have the advantage of high-tech simulators. He just had to look at the aircraft and think what he was going to do with it", says Mark Bowman, chief test pilot at BAE Systems.

But aircraft Eric was testing were not just "difficult and novel to fly", they were also "genuinely and totally untested", says Charlier.

He will have been flying the aircraft with "the benefit of a slide rule, not a bank of computers as we have now," says Bowman.

Brown ensured he made lots of preparations for his flights. He survived so many of them thanks to his preparation and "incredible presence of mind", says the historian James Holland. The other pilots, "cavaliers of the sky, with a devil may care attitude would be out chasing girls and boozing. Eric wouldn't do any of that".

He was one of the first to attach notes to his leg, explains Holland. When you are testing so many aircraft you need to know "exactly which one you are flying".

Brown says it was a game of Russian roulette as at one stage "we had one incident every nine landings". When landing on a carrier, "you are essentially aiming for a small lay-by in the middle of a large lake", explains Bowman. "It is a three-dimensional problem through a fog, with none of the same visual references you get on land. It is one of the most demanding tasks you can do as a pilot." Any kind of landing was difficult, but designers had yet to fit planes to the task.

As a naval pilot you are sent off into the "big blue yonder", says Brown. And you are "not sure where your carrier is - maybe a hundred miles away somewhere in the ocean". Some planes never found their way back, lost out at sea because the carrier could not reveal its position. The US Navy were said to have given one man the specific job of breaking Brown's record. "To his everlasting credit he got up to 1,600 and then had a nervous breakdown," says Brown.

Brown flew 14 version of the Spitfire and many other iconic planes. This is a (very long) list of the aircraft types flown by Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown, Royal Navy. The list is the one drawn up and verified by the Guinness Book of Records. It includes only the main aircraft types, for example, Brown flew fourteen different Marks of Spitfire/Seafire, but only the basic types are listed here.

(unquote)

Image courtesy Wikipedia, Imperial War Museum, British Royal Airforce, BBC, Telegraph UK, Daily Mail, Guardian, and PBS

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