Eric holds the world record of having flown the largest number of different aircraft types - 487. And he was the first to land a jet aircraft on a carrier. In the closing months of the war he flew several advanced, (which is to say bloody tricky) German aircraft back to Britain. With an MA in German he was ideally suited to fly these and then he was in the front line of examining and analysing German secret research.
The following interview, conducted by the former BBC science correspondent Reginald Turnhill and including astronauts Joe Engle and George Abbey gives a fascinating glimpse of the times.
Top Test Pilots Discussion
It’s very hard not to be astonished by the German wartime achievements. Brown describes how they were way ahead of the Allies in virtually every aspect of aviation engineering with the possible exception of electronics. Brown describes the remarkable Me163 rocket plane. He was the only non-German to fly it under rocket power.
Also discussed is the almost forgotten Space Shuttle precursor, the X20 Dyna-Soar. This single seat, vertical launched craft would have landed conventionally after re-entering from Earth orbit. This was a fabulous road not taken in space exploration. With a genealogy going back to World War 2, Sanger’s proposed design for a German bomber capable of attacking the USA, the Dyna-Soar would have made an astonishing weapons systems.
I’d love to write more about Eric Brown, but I’m without my prime reference. I keep buying his biography, Wings on my Sleeve, then lending it to people and never getting it back. It’s recommended.
Wings on My Sleeve