Me? Mislead people? I am shocked. Shocked, I tell you. You got it, Sir; and you get to ask the next question. Take it away. Thanks; Ernie P.
Question: What warbird pilot do I describe?
(1) He didn't score five victories, but he accomplished some truly remarkable things.
(2) He set at least two world records.
(3) He scored at least two notable firsts.
(4) His father was a WWI pilot, who introduced him to flying.
(5) As a young man, he became a personal friend of Ernst Udet.
(6) He watched as Hanna Reitsch
flew the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 helicopter
(7) He studied languages in college, and joined their air unit, where he received his first formal flying instruction.
(8) After graduation, he became an exchange student. While traveling abroad, WWII broke out. He was arrested, but escorted to a neutral border and allowed to leave.
(9) While stationed aboard ship, he scored two victories against enemy aircraft.
(10) The ship he was on was sunk, with heavy loss of life.
(11) After that experience, he was attached to a special unit; where he helped with the testing and development of several new aircraft. He spent the next two years with the unit.
(12) After that stint, he resumed operational flying; although he was sent to an operational unit to teach them landing techniques. He also flew operational fighter missions.
(13) He also flew a number of interceptor missions. During this time, his home was destroyed by a new type of enemy bomb.
(14)) After less than a year, he was again assigned to the special unit in (11). This time, he was sent to the field to conduct testing and evaluation of captured enemy aircraft.
(14) Quite often, he had little help in learning to fly the enemy units; as documentation was scarce.
(15) He performed very well and was rewarded by being sent back to the special unit again. He was again assigned to fly enemy aircraft; flying more than a dozen of them in less than a month.
(16) As the chief test pilot, he landed a twin engine aircraft on an aircraft carrier.
(17) He also conducted a number of very high speed tests of operational aircraft; diving them from high altitude.
Eric Melrose "Winkle" Brown, RN
, Hon FRAeS
Eric Melrose "Winkle" Brown, RN
, Hon FRAeS
(born 21 January 1919) is a British former Royal Navy
officer and test pilot
who, in testing 487 different types of aircraft, has flown more types of aircraft than anyone else in history. He also holds the world record
for most aircraft carrier
landings performed (2,407) and is the Fleet Air Arm
's most decorated living pilot.
Brown was born on 21 January 1919, in Leith
, near Edinburgh
. He first flew when he was eight or ten when he was taken up in a Gloster Gauntlet
by his father, the younger Brown sitting on his father's knee.
In 1936, Brown's father, an ex-Royal Flying Corps
pilot, had taken him to see the 1936 Olympics
in Berlin, where, Hermann Göring
having recently announced the existence of the Luftwaffe
, Brown and his father met and were invited to join social gatherings, by members of the newly disclosed organisation. It was here that Brown first met Ernst Udet
, a former World War I
fighter ace. Brown, soon discovered in himself and Udet a shared love of flying and Udet offered to take Brown up with him. Brown eagerly accepted the German's offer, and after his arrival at the appointed airfield at Halle
, he was soon flying in a two-seat Bucker Jungmann
which Udet threw around much to Brown's delight. Udet told Brown he "must learn to fly" and that he "had the temperament of a fighter pilot". He also told Brown to learn the German language.
In 1937, Brown left the Royal High School
and entered Edinburgh University
studying Modern Languages
, with an emphasis on German
. While there he joined the university's Air Unit and received his first formal flying instruction. In February 1938 he returned to Germany, where, having been invited to attend the 1938 Automobile Exhibition by Udet, by then a Luftwaffe Major General, he saw the demonstration of the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 helicopter
flown by Hanna Reitsch
before a small crowd inside the Deutschlandhalle
. During this visit he met and got to know Reitsch. Brown was later to renew his acquaintance with her after the war, in less pleasant circumstances, she having been arrested after the German surrender in 1945.
In the meantime, Brown had been selected to take part as an exchange student at the Salem International College
, located on the banks of Lake Constance
, and it was while there in Germany that Brown was woken up with a loud knocking on his door one morning in September 1939. Upon opening the door he was met by a woman with the announcement that "our countries are at war
". Soon after, Brown was arrested by the SS
. Fortunately, they merely escorted Brown in his MG Magnette
sports car to the Swiss border, saying they were allowing him to keep the car because they "had no spares for it".
On returning to a United Kingdom now at war, he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve
as a Fleet Air Arm
pilot, where he was posted to 802 Squadron
, initially serving on the first escort carrier HMS Audacity
flying the Grumman Martlet
. During his service on board the Audacity he shot down two Focke-Wulf Fw 200
"Condor" maritime patrol aircraft. The Audacity was torpedoed and sunk on 21 December 1941 by U-751
, commanded by Gerhard Bigalk
. Eric Brown was one of only two survivors of the squadron. The loss of life was such that 802 Squadron was disbanded until February 1942. On 10 March 1942 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross
for his service on Audacity, in particular "For bravery and skill in action against Enemy aircraft and in the protection of a Convoy against heavy and sustained Enemy attacks".
Following the loss of Audacity, Brown was posted to the Royal Aircraft Establishment
(RAE) at Farnborough
, where his experience in deck landings
was sought. While there he initially performed testing of the newly navalised Sea Hurricane
. His aptitude for deck landings led to his posting for the testing of carriers' landing arrangements before they were brought into service. The testing involved multiple combinations of landing point and type of aircraft. with the result that by the close of 1943 he had performed around 1,500 deck landings on 22 different carriers. In six years at RAE, Brown recalls that he hardly ever took a single day's leave.
In 1943 Brown resumed operational flying, being seconded to Royal Canadian Air Force
(RCAF) squadrons flying escort operations to USAAF B-17s
over France. His job was to train them in deck-landing techniques, though on airfields. As a form of quid pro quo he joined them on fighter operations.
He also flew several stints with Fighter Command
in the air defence of Great Britain. During this time, Brown's home was destroyed by a V1 "Doodlebug" Flying Bomb
, but without harm to his family.
After his time operational, again in 1943, he then went back to the RAE, this time to perform experimental flying, almost immediately being transferred to southern Italy to evaluate captured Regia Aeronautica
and Luftwaffe aircraft. This Brown did with almost no tuition, information having to be gleaned from whatever documents were available. On completion of these duties, his commander, being impressed with his performance, sent him back to the RAE with the recommendation that he be employed in the Aerodynamics Flight department at Farnborough. During the first month in the Flight, Brown flew thirteen aircraft types, including a captured Focke-Wulf Fw 190
While at Farnborough as Chief Naval Test Pilot, Brown was involved in the deck landing trials of the Sea Mosquito
, the heaviest aircraft yet chosen to be flown from a British carrier. Brown landed one for the first time on HMS Indefatigable
on 25 March 1944. This was the first landing on a carrier by a twin-engined aircraft. The fastest speed for deck landing was 86 kts, while the stall speed
was 110 kts.
At this time, the RAE was the leading authority on high-speed flight and Brown became involved in this sort of testing, flights being flown where the aircraft, usually a Spitfire
, would be dived at speeds of the high subsonic
and near transonic
region. Figures achieved by Brown and his colleagues during these tests reaching Mach 0.86
for a standard Spitfire IX, to Mach 0.92 for a modified Spitfire PR
Mk XI flown by his colleague Sqn Ldr Anthony F. Martindale.
Together with Brown and Martindale, the RAE Aerodynamics Flight also included two other test pilots, Sqn Ldr James "Jimmy" Nelson and Sqn Ldr Douglas Weightman.
During this same period the RAE was approached by United States Army Air Forces
(USAAF) General Jimmy Doolittle
with a request for help, as the 8th Air Force
had been having trouble when their Lightning
aircraft, providing top cover for the bombers, dived down onto attacking German fighters, some of the diving US fighters encountering speed regions where they became difficult to control
. As a result of Doolittle's request, early in 1944 the P-38H Lightning, P-51B Mustang and P-47C Thunderbolt, were dived for compressibility
testing at the RAE by Brown and several other pilots. The results of the tests were that the tactical Mach numbers, i.e., the manoeuvring limits, were Mach 0.68 for the Lightning, Mach 0.71 for the Thunderbolt and Mach 0.78 for the Mustang. The corresponding figure for both the Fw 190 and Bf 109
was Mach 0.75. The tests flown by Brown and his colleagues resulted in Doolittle being able to argue with his superiors for the Mustang to be chosen in preference to the P-38 and P-47 for all escort duties from then on, which it subsequently was.
Brown had been made aware of the British progress in jet propulsion in May 1941 when he had heard of the Gloster E.28/39
after diverting in bad weather to RAF Cranwell
during a flight and had subsequently met Frank Whittle
when asked to suggest improvements to the jet engine
to make it more suitable for naval use. This resulted in the Gloster Meteor
being selected as the Royal Navy
's first jet fighter, although, as it turned out, few would be used by them. Brown was also selected as the pilot for the Miles M.52 supersonic
research aircraft programme, and he flew modified aircraft incorporating components intended for the M.52; however, the post-war government later cancelled the project in 1945 with the M.52 almost complete.
During carrier compatibility trials, Brown crash-landed a Fairey Firefly
Mk I, Z1844, on the deck of HMS Pretoria Castle
on 9 September 1943, when the arrestor hook
indicator light falsely showed the hook was in the "down" position. The fighter hit the crash barrier, sheared off its undercarriage and shredded the propeller, but the pilot was unhurt. On 2 May 1944 he was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire
"for outstanding enterprise and skill in piloting aircraft during hazardous aircraft trials."
In February 1945 Brown learned that the Aerodynamics Flight had been allocated three Sikorsky R-4B Hoverfly/Gadfly
helicopters. He had never seen one of these tail-rotor machines, so a trip to Farnborough was arranged and Brown had a short flight as a passenger in one. A few days later Brown and Martindale were sent to RAF Speke
to collect two new R-4Bs. On arrival, they found the American mechanics assembling the machines, and when Brown asked the Master Sergeant
in charge about himself and Martindale being taught to fly them
, he was handed a "large orange-coloured booklet" with the retort; "Whaddya mean, bud? - Here's your instructor". Brown and Martindale examined the booklet and after several practice attempts at hovering and controlling the craft, followed by a stiff drink, they set off for Farnborough. Brown and Martindale managed the trip safely, if raggedly, in formation, although sometimes as much as a couple of miles apart.
With the end of the European war in sight, the RAE prepared itself to acquire German aeronautical technology and aircraft before it was either accidentally destroyed or taken by the Soviets, and, because of his skills in the language, Brown was made CO of "Enemy Flight". He flew to Northern Germany
; among the targets for the RAE was the Arado Ar 234
, a new jet bomber that the Allies, particularly the Americans, were much interested in. A number of the jets were based at an airfield in Denmark
, the German forces having retreated there. He expected to arrive at a liberated aerodrome, just after it had been taken by the British Army
; however, German resistance to the Allied advance meant that the ground forces had been delayed and the airfield was still an operational Luftwaffe base. Luckily for Brown, the commanding officer of the Luftwaffe airfield at Grove
offered his surrender, Brown taking charge of the airfield and its staff of 2,000 men until Allied forces arrived the next day. Subsequently, Brown and Martindale, along with several other members of the Aerodynamics Flight and assisted by a co-operative German pilot, later ferried
twelve Ar 234s across the North Sea
and on to Farnborough. The venture was not without risk, as before their capture the Germans had destroyed all the engine log books for the aircraft, leaving Brown and his colleagues no idea of the expected engine hours remaining to the machines. Because of the scarcity of the special high-temperature alloys for use in their construction, the Junkers Jumo 004
engines had a life of only 25 hours – it was thus not known whether the engines were brand new or just about to expire.
During this period, Brown was asked by Brigadier Glyn Hughes
, the Medical Officer of the British 2nd Army
occupying the newly liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp
, to help interrogate the former camp commandant and his assistant. Agreeing to do so, he subsequently interviewed Josef Kramer
and Irma Grese
, Brown remarking; "Two more loathsome creatures it is hard to imagine" and describing the latter as "... the worst human being I have ever met." Kramer and Grese were later tried and hanged
for war crimes.
After World War II
‚ Brown commanded the Enemy Aircraft Flight
, an elite group of pilots who test-flew captured German aircraft. That experience makes Brown one of the few men qualified to compare both Allied and Axis aeroplanes as they flew during the war. He flight-tested 53 German aircraft, including the Me 163
B Komet rocket fighter. His flight test of this rocket plane, apparently the only one by an Allied pilot, was accomplished unofficially: it was deemed to be more or less suicidal due to the notoriously dangerous
. Brown also flight tested the Messerschmitt Me 262
, the Arado Ar 234
and the Heinkel He 162
turbojet combat aircraft.
Fluent in German, he helped interview many Germans after World War II
, including Wernher von Braun
and Hermann Göring
, Willy Messerschmitt
, Dr. Ernst Heinkel
, Kurt Tank
. Brown was himself using Himmler's personal aircraft, a specially converted Focke-Wulf Fw 200
Condor that had been captured and was being used by the RAE Flight based at the former Luftwaffe airfield at Schleswig
. He was also able to renew acquaintances with German aviatrix Hanna Reitsch
, whom he had met in Germany before the war.
As an RAE test pilot
he was involved in the wartime Miles M.52 supersonic
project, test flying a Spitfire
fitted with the M.52's all moving tail
, diving from high altitude to achieve high subsonic
speeds. He was due to fly the M.52 in 1946, but this fell through when the project was cancelled. The all moving tail information, however, gleaned from British at Miles' Woodley facility, allowed Bell to modify its XS-1 for the true transsonic pitch controllability, allowing in turn Chuck Yeager
to become the first man to exceed Mach 1
In a throwback to his days testing aircraft in high speed dives, while at the RAE Brown performed similar testing of the Avro Tudor
airliner. The requirement was to determine the safe limiting speed for the aircraft and to gather data on high-speed handling of large civil aircraft in preparation for a projected four-jet version of the Tudor. Flying from 32,000 ft, in a succession of dives to speeds initially to Mach 0.6, he succeeded in diving the Tudor up to Mach 0.7, an unusual figure for such a large piston-engined aeroplane, this speed figure being dictated by the pilot's discretion, as pulling the aircraft out of the dive had required the combined efforts of both Brown and his second pilot. However, as an airliner, the Tudor was not a success. The planned jet-version of the Tudor would later become the Avro Ashton
In 1946 he test flew a modified (strengthened and control-boosted) de Havilland DH.108
after a fatal crash in a similar aircraft while diving at speeds approaching the sound barrier
had killed Geoffrey de Havilland, Jr.
Brown initially started his tests from a height of 35,000 ft, rising to 45,000 ft and during a dive from the latter he achieved a Mach number
of 0.985. It was only when attempting the tests from the same height as de Havilland, 4,000 ft, that he discovered that in a Mach 0.88 dive from that altitude the aircraft suffered from a high-g pitch oscillation
at several hertz
(Hz). "the ride was smooth, then suddenly it all went to pieces ... as the plane porpoised wildly my chin hit my chest, jerked hard back, slammed forward again, repeated it over and over, flogged by the awful whipping of the plane ...". Remembering the drill he had often practised, Brown managed to pull back gently on both stick and throttle and the motion; "... ceased as quickly as it had started". He believed that he survived the test flight partly because he was a shorter man, de Havilland having suffered a broken neck
possibly due to the violent oscillation. Test instrumentation on Brown's flight recorded during the oscillations accelerations of +4 and −3g's at 3 Hz. Brown described the DH 108 as; "A killer. Nasty stall
. Vicious undamped longitudinal oscillation at speed in bumps". All three DH.108 aircraft were lost in fatal accidents.
In 1948 Brown was awarded the Boyd Trophy
for his work in trials for the rubber deck
landing system. On 30 March 1949 he was granted a permanent Royal Navy commission as a lieutenant, with seniority backdated to his original wartime promotion to the rank.
On 12 August 1949, he was testing the third of three Saunders-Roe SR.A/1
jet-powered flying-boat fighter prototypes, TG271, when he struck submerged debris, the aircraft sinking in the Solent
, Isle of Wight
. He was pulled unconscious from the cockpit of the wrecked aircraft, having been knocked out in the crash, by Saunders-Roe test pilot Geoffrey Tyson
. He was promoted lieutenant-commander
on 1 April 1951, commander
on 31 December 1953 and captain
on 31 December 1960.
Brown is responsible for at least two important firsts in carrier
aviation – the first carrier landing using an aircraft equipped with a tricycle undercarriage
(Bell Airacobra Mk 1 AH574
) on the trials carrier HMS Pretoria Castle
on 4 April 1945 and the world's first landing of a jet aircraft
, landing the de Havilland Sea Vampire LZ551/G
on the Royal Navy carrier HMS Ocean
on 3 December 1945. He also holds the world's record for the most carrier landings, 2,407.
In the 1950s during the Korean War
, Brown was seconded as an exchange officer for two years to the United States Naval Test Pilot School
at Patuxent, Maryland
, where he flew a number of American aircraft, including 36 types of helicopter. In January 1952, it was while here that Brown demonstrated the steam catapult
to the Americans, flying a Grumman Panther
off the carrier HMS Perseus
while the ship was still tied up to the dock at the Philadelphia Naval Yard
. It had been planned for Brown to make the first catapult launch with the ship under way and steaming into any wind; however, the wind on the day was so slight that British officials decided that, as the new steam catapult was capable of launching an aircraft without any wind, they would risk their pilot (Brown) if the Americans would risk their aircraft. The launch was a success and US carriers would later feature the steam catapult. It was around the same time that another British invention was being offered to the US, the Angled Flight deck
, and Brown once again was called upon to promote the concept. Whether due to Brown or not, the first US aircraft carrier modified with the new flight deck, the USS Antietam
, was ready less than nine months later.
In 1954 Brown, by then a Commander
, became Commander (Air) of the RNAS Brawdy
, where he remained until returning to Germany in late 1957, becoming Chief of British Naval Mission to Germany, his brief being to re-establish German naval aviation after its pre-war integration with and subornment to, the Luftwaffe. During this period Brown worked closely with Admiral Gerhard Wagner
of the German Naval Staff. Training was conducted initially in the UK on Hawker Sea Hawks
and Fairey Gannets
, and during this time Brown was allocated a personal Percival Pembroke
aircraft by the Marineflieger
, which, to his surprise, the German maintenance personnel took great pride in. It was, in fact, the first exclusively naval aircraft the German Navy
had owned since the 1930s. Brown led the re-emergence of naval aviation in Germany to the point that in 1960 Marineflieger squadrons were integrated into NATO
Later Brown enjoyed a brief three-month period as a test pilot for the Focke-Wulf
company, helping them out until they could find a replacement after the company's previous test pilot had been detained due to having relatives in East Germany.
In the 1960s, due to his considerable experience of carrier aviation, Brown, while working at the Admiralty
as Deputy Director of Naval Air Warfare, was consulted on the flight deck
arrangement of the planned new UK class of aircraft carrier, the CVA-01
, although the ship was subsequently cancelled while still on the stocks. In September 1967 came his last appointment in the Royal Navy
when, as a Captain
, he took command of HMS Fulmar, then the Royal Naval Air Station
, until March 1970. He was appointed a Naval Aide de Camp
to Queen Elizabeth II
on 7 July 1969 and promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1970 New Year Honours
. He relinquished his appointment as Naval ADC on 27 January 1970 and retired from the Royal Navy
later in 1970.
He flew aircraft from Britain, the United States, Germany, Italy and Japan and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records
as holding the record for flying the greatest number of different aircraft. The official record is 487, but includes only basic types. For example Captain Brown flew fourteen (14) versions of the Spitfire
and although these versions are very different they appear only once in the list. The list includes only aircraft flown by Brown as 'Captain in Command'.
Because of the special circumstances involved, he doesn't think that this record will ever be beaten.