Through the years, Doctor Aviation has learned a lot about aviation history. Every once in a while, I run across someone who I have never heard of, who has accomplished an impressive aviation feat. Today is such a day. Doctor Aviation ran across Eric “Winkle” Brown the most prolific pilot you have never heard of.
Eric Melrose Brown was born on January 21, 1919 in Leith Scotland. Like many born near 1920, he was to be launched into World War II as a young man. He became a naval aviator and through a series of incidents met and worked with a number of important aviation figures during the war. Among the most important were Frank Whittle, the British father of the modern turbojet engine. Another key figure was Jimmy Doolittle. Brown conducted flight tests for Doolittle that helped the Allies determine the most effective airspeed for allied fighters and confirmed the superiority of the P-51 Mustang among the group.
It was near the end of the War, when Brown was introduced to helicopter flying. Immediately after the war, he was given the job of flying captured Italian and German aircraft. He flew virtually all of the Luftwaffe’s top aircraft.
However, it was on this day, 74 years ago that Brown accomplished the first landing and takeoff aboard an aircraft carrier by a jet powered aircraft. The aircraft carrier was the HMS Ocean. The aircraft was the de Havilland DH.100 Sea Vampire Mk.10, LZ551/G. The DH 100 was a single seat fighter with a twin tail. Brown’s flights on that day clearly demonstrated the future of the jet age operating from naval vessels.
Brown eventually retired from the British military in 1970. His last assignment was Aide-de-Camp for Queen Elizabeth. Upon his retirement Brown had accumulated several aviation records likely to never be broken. Below are a sample
487 aircraft types flown (not variants)
2,407 landings on a carrier (fixed wing)
2,721 catapult launches from a carrier
212 helicopter carrier landings
8,000 hours as a test pilot
Eric “Winkle’ Brown departed this earth February 21, 2016 at the ripe old age of 97. A tip of the hat to the most prolific pilot you have never heard of. For more info on the jet landing on a carrier see first carrier