NOTAM 06-2016 (Brown) Honorary Member

Golden Eagle NOTAM
CAPT Eric M. “Winkle” Brown, British Royal Navy, (Ret)

Honorary Member

Dear Golden Eagles,

It is my sad duty to inform you that Honorary Member, CAPT Eric M. “Winkle” Brown, British Royal Navy, (Ret), made his Last Take-Off on February 21, 2016, at age 97 in East Surrey Hospital in Redhill, Surrey, England after a short illness.  Eric was born on January, 21, 1921 in Leith, Scotland.  He first flew when he was eight when he was taken up in a Gloster Gauntlet by his father Robert, an ex-Royal Flying Corps pilot in WWI, the younger Brown sitting on his father’s knee in a single seat biplane.  In 1936, Brown’s father took him to see the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.  He was 15.  Hermann Goring had recently announced the existence of the Luftwaffe, so Brown and his father met Goring and were invited to join social gatherings by members of the newly disclosed organization.  It was here that Brown first met Ernst Udet, a former German WWI fighter ace, who downed 62 allied planes during the war.  Udet offered to take Brown up in a two seat Bucker Jungmann and after the flight, Udet told Brown he “must learn to fly” and that he “had the temperament of a fighter pilot.”   He also told Brown to learn German.  In 1937 Eric entered the University of Edinburgh, studying Modern Language with an emphasis on German and joined the University’s Air Unit where he received free flight training. It was at the University that his classmates named him “Winkle” after Periwinkle, because of his small stature at 5 feet 6 inches tall.  He received his wings on December 4, 1939, when the United Kingdom and Germany were at war.

He joined the British 802 Squadron, initially serving on the first escort carrier HMS Audacity, flying the Grumman F-4F Wildcats (renamed Marlet) in England.  He shot down two Fock-Wulf “Condor” maritime patrol aircraft. The HMS Audacity was torpedoed and sunk on Dec 21, 1941 by a German Sub, and Eric Brown was one of only two survivors of the squadron, being saved by his Mae West life jacket. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his service on HMS Audacity.  He married Evelyn “Lynn” Macrory in 1942 while he was on survival leave.  He was assigned to Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Farnborough, where his experience in deck landings was sought.  He performed testing of the newly navalised Sea Hurricane and Seafire.  By the close of 1943, he had performed over 1,500 arrested landings on 22 different carriers.  In six years at RAE, Brown recalls that he hardly ever took a single day’s leave.  In 1944, American General Doolittle, USAAC, asked Farnborough for help and Chief Test Pilot Winkle investigated high speed maneuvering characteristics of the P-38, P-47, and P-51 and compared them to captured German Me 109’s and Fw 190’s.  The P-51 was selected as the best.  After WWII, Eric was made CO of “Enemy Flight”, where he tested 53 different and unique German aircraft, including 3 jet aircraft flown during the last part of the war.  During the Korean War, 1950 to ’52, Winkle was assigned to the U. S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, MD, where his boss was LtCol Marion Carl, USMC.  Winkle flew 36 types of American aircraft including helicopters.

Some of the highlights of his career follow:

  • The first naval pilot to fly a jet aircraft, and the first carrier landing using an aircraft with a tricycle landing undercarriage.
  • The world’s first landing of a jet aircraft, a de Havilland Sea Vampire on HMS Ocean Dec 3, 1945, and the first carrier deck landing of a twin jet (Meteor) June 8, 1948.
  • Total flight hours 18,000 including civilian flying.
  • Guinness Book of World Records, arrested landings 2,407, catapult launches at sea and on land, 2,721 and number of aircraft different types flown as command pilot: 487.
  • Demonstrated to the US Navy a steam catapult launch of a Grumman Panther jet off the HMS Perseus while the ship was tied to the dock at the Philadelphia Naval Yard in 1952.
  • Leader of Fleet Air Arm’s piston aircraft Aerobatic Team 1950, and Leader of Fleet Air Arm’s jet aircraft Aerobatic Team 1954.
  • Commanding Officer, Royal Naval Air Station Lossiemouth, Scotland, 1967-1970.
  • Winkle had 11 major aircraft accidents and he cheated death every time.
  • His awards, Distinguished Service Cross, Air Force Cross and King’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air.

After a distinguished 31- year career in the Royal Navy, CAPT Brown could not give up his involvement in aviation.  He became the chief executive of the British Helicopter Advisory Board and chief executive and vice president of the European Helicopter Association.  He also authored several books about aviation and served as the President of the Royal Aeronautical Society from 1982-83.  His wife Lynn died in 1998 after 56 years of marriage.  
I shook hands with Eric in 1991, in London, when I gave a talk to the Royal Aeronautical Society.  I was surprised never to see him at a Golden Eagle Reunion nor do I know who nominated him for membership.  I can only assume that it was Gen Marion Carl, USMC, LTO 1998 or CAPT John Lacoutour, USN, LTO 2010, whose photo is with Winkle in our Chronolog.   We have lost another member of the Greatest Generation, a brilliant test pilot, world record holder in carrier arrested landings and most models of aircraft flown, and a true gentleman. 

He will be missed!

Donald V. Boecker-Pilot