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  • Fleet Air Arm Test Pilot Captain Eric 'winkle' Brown signed photo

8x12 inch photo montage dedicated to and signed by legendary aviator and test pilot Eric 'Winkle' Brown who was recently the subject of the BBC Documentary "Britain's Greatest Pilot". An amazing life, an amazing career and an amazing man.

Signed for us exclusively at his home on 12th June 2013.

Captain Eric Melrose "Winkle" Brown, CBE, DSC, AFC, Hon FRAeS (born 21 January 1919) is a British former Royal Navy officer and test pilot who has flown more types of aircraft than anyone else in history, piloting 487 different aircraft. He is also the Fleet Air Arm’s most decorated living pilot and holds the world record for aircraft carrier landings – 2,407

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 only includes basic types. For example Captain Brown flew fourteen (14) versions of the Spitfire and Seafire and although these versions are very different they only appear once in the list. The list only includes aircraft flown by Brown as 'Captain in Command'.

Due to the special circumstances involved, he doesn't think that this record will ever be beaten

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 and Seafire. 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 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, fortunately 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 Implacable on 25 March 1944.
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, Thunderbolt and Mustang 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 Me 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."

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 due to 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 twenty five 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. He tested this rocket plane in powered flight as apparently the only Allied pilot (having done that rather unofficially, as it was deemed more or less suicidal undertaking due to the notoriously dangerous propellants, C-Stoff and T-Stoff), and the Messerschmitt Me 262, Arado Ar 234 and Heinkel He 162 turbojet planes.

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 and top Luftwaffe fighter ace with 352 victories, Erich Hartmann. In addition, Brown spoke to Heinrich Himmler. Coincidently, Brown had himself been using Himmler's very own 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 1947.

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 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 off Cowes, 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 (now RAF), Lossiemouth, 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 

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Fleet Air Arm Test Pilot Captain Eric 'winkle' Brown signed photo

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