Eric Brown – Flying Scotsman and Aviation History Maker

Captain Eric Brown (Royal Navy) Test Pilot
Captain Eric Brown (Royal Navy)

94 year old Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown formerly of the Royal Navy was a decorated fighter pilot during World War Two and later the chief test pilot at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough (UK). He has flown 487 different types of aircraft (more than anyone else in the world), including 55 types of captured German aircraft such as the famed Messerschmitt Me-262 jet fighter.

Eric Brown was also the first pilot to fly a jet fighter on and off an aircraft carrier (a de Havilland Sea Vampire in December 1945) and also holds the record for the most aircraft carrier landings (2,407). He is definitely made of the right stuff!

Eric Brown test flew aircraft like this captured German Heinkel He-177 Grief bomber (seen here in RAF markings post WW2)
Eric Brown test flew aircraft like this captured German Heinkel He-177 Grief bomber (seen here in RAF markings post WW2)
A captured Dornier Do-335 Pfiel in RAF markings
A captured Dornier Do-335 Pfiel in RAF markings
Captured Heinkel He-162 in RAF markings
Captured Heinkel He-162 in RAF markings
Captured Aircraft Exhibition Farnborough November 1945
Captured Aircraft Exhibition Farnborough November 1945
Post war, given his excellent aviation knowledge and ability to speak German,  he was tasked with interviewing many leading characters in the German aviation industry including Willy Messerschmitt (they did not get along – “We had a bit of a to-do” about compromises in the quality of his aircraft), Dr. Ernst Heinkel, Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering (when Eric asked him about the outcome of the Battle of Britain Goering stated “A draw”), Wernher von Braun (responsible for the development of  the German V2 rocket and later helped man reach the moon) and the famous female test pilot Hanna Reitsch. He even captured 2,000 German troops single-handedly in Denmark (he landed at a German airbase that he thought had already been captured, it had not! Luckily the German officer in command courteously surrendered on the spot)!
First jet fighter carrier landing December 1945 - de Havilland Sea Vampire
First jet fighter carrier landing December 1945 – de Havilland Sea Vampire (Photo Source: U.S. Naval Aviation News January 1947)
The Daily Mail published an article on Eric Brown today which is well worth a read. Another interview worth reading is one from 2009 by Air & Space Smithsonian where Eric talks about his test pilot career. Eric is also an author, his books include Wings On My Sleeve about his flying career and another titled Wings of the Luftwaffe: Flying the Captured German Aircraft of World War II.
From the Daily Mail article, I like his quote about one of the many aircraft he flew in:
The least appealing one to fly was the German World War Two rocket powered interceptor the Messerschmitt Me-163 Komet. It was fuelled by a liquid explosive! Many German pilots lost their life testing and developing the Me-163 but Eric Brown just laughs about his maiden flight in the type: “I soon worked out that the only way to land it without exploding was to run out of fuel first, so you had to get your timings right.”
Messerschmitt Me-163 Komet (rocket powered interceptor)
Messerschmitt Me-163 Komet rocket powered interceptor (taken at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Centre in 2013)

What an adventurous life Eric Brown has lived to date! He is doing some public speaking in the UK in 2014. I would love to catch one of those presentations!

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