Legendary pilot Eric Brown dies aged 97

Legendary pilot Eric Brown dies aged 97

22-Feb-2016 Source: HeliHub.com

British pilot Eric “Winkle” Brown has died at the age of 97.  A pioneer in every sense of the word, Brown holds the record for having flown 487 different aircraft types, a world record that is unlikely to ever be matched – and only includes basic types (he flew 14 different marks of Spitfire/Seafire, for example).  In addition he piloted 2,407 aircraft carrier landings, survived 11 crashes and the sinking of HMS Audacity during the Second World War in 1941 after it was torpedoed by a German submarine.  A selection of the other records he held include the world’s first carrier landing of a jet aircraft and of a twin-engined aircraft, and he test flew the only jet-powered seaplane fighter.

At another time, Brown added another first to his logbook when engaged in trials with HMS Pretoria Castle, he was supposed to make a number of landing approaches to the escort carrier in a Bell Airacobra, which had coincidentally been modified with a tail hook. During one of these passes, Brown declared an emergency and was given permission to make a deck landing; a ruse which he has pre-agreed with the carrier’s captain, Caspar John. Although the landing was achieved without difficulty, the long take off run required for the Airacobra meant that even with the ship steaming at full speed, there was little margin of error. This was the first carrier landing and take off for any aircraft with a tricycle undercarriage.

After retiring from military service in 1970, Brown was instrumental in the setting up of the British Helicopter Advisory Board – these days known as the British Helicopter Association – and it is no coincidence that the primary UK industry award made at their Annual Dinner is the Eric Brown Award.

We could write for hours on this remarkable pilot, but a quote from his book “Wings on my Sleeve” will serve to demonstrate a true pioneer of his time

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.

As recently as October 2015, Brown spoke at Helitech International in London (see 35 minute video at foot of this story) and signed copies of his books.  In an entirely fitting, but unusual, way, a tribute to this great aviator has come in from outer space, with British astronaut Tim Peake tweeting the following from the International Space Station.

Eric passed away at East Surrey Hospital on Sunday following a short illness, and is survived by his son, Glen, and his second wife, Jean Kelly Brown.

Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com



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