On a sadder note: Britain’s leading navy test pilot and rocket plane test flier Eric “Winkle” Brown passes away

by | Feb 22, 2016 | History, On a Sadder Note, Technology | 0 comments

During February the death of Eric “Winkle” Brown, age 97, was announced. Having briefly served in the Royal Air Force, Brown had transferred to the Senior Service to become the leading test pilot in the Royal Navy. “Winkle” Brown, whose nickname referred to his short stature, became the Royal Navy’s most decorated pilot.

Brown test flew nearly every aircraft employed during World War II, including a captured Me-163B Komet rocket plane, which he regarded as an exhilarating high-performance death-trap due to its volatile rocket propellants. But his most distinctive role was to perfect carrier landing techniques with jet aircraft. He survived 11 plane crashes and the sinking of HMS Audacity in 1941.

The Scottish-born Brown, who was a fluent German speaker, used this talent at the end of World War II to interrogate the Luftwaffe leader and leading Nazi, Herman Goering, and to restore his connection with the famous German test flying aviatrix, Hanna Reitsch, whom he had met before the war. Brown himself witnessed the evil of the Nazi regime when he was at the liberation of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

As a post-war test pilot, Brown was contempory with the likes of Chuck Yaeger and Neil Armstrong. Brown declared that he was not envious of US fighter pilots who later became astronauts.  However Brown did note wish he could have flown the US hypersonic research aircraft, the X-15, which was once the mount of Neil Armstrong.

Seradata gives its condolences to Winkle Brown’s family and friends.

Post Script: Just a short note of tribute to actor George Kennedy who has passed away at the age of 91. In addition to playing menacing tough guys in his film career, including an Oscar-winning performance in Cool Hand Luke (1967), Kennedy also played Joe Patroni, the ground engineer who you would not want to be without, in the excellent Airport movie of 1970.  That film and its not-so-good successors which Kennedy also starred in, were later parodied by the Airplane comedy franchise which Kennedy declined to take part in.

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