Captain Eric Melrose ‘Winkle’ Brown was born in Leith, Scotland, on 21st January 1919 and was a British former Royal Navy Officer who flew 487 different types of aircraft during his long career, more than anyone else in history. At the time of his death on 21st February 2016, he continued to hold the world record for most aircraft carrier landings performed (2407) and was the Fleet Air Arm’s most decorating living pilot. Because of the particular circumstances during which he flew such an array of aircraft, this record is never likely to be broken. He earned the affectionate nickname ‘Winkle’ from his Royal Navy colleagues, short for ‘Periwinkle’ which is a small mollusc. He was given the name because of his short stature – 5’7”, which he claimed partly attributed to his survival, including his ability to curl himself up in the cockpit if necessary! His military career spanned from 1939 to 1970. After active WWII service, Captain Eric Brown commanded the Enemy Aircraft Flight, an elite group of pilots who test-flew captured German and Italian aircraft. It was in this role that he flew the Me 163B Komet. His flight test of this rocket plane, apparently the only one by an Allied pilot, was deemed to be almost suicidal due to the notoriously dangerous, highly flammable propellants C-Stoff and T-Stoff. Fatal accidents amongst German pilots had been commonplace, hence its nickname ‘tin coffin’.
He was interviewed very recently on the occasion of his being re-united with the aircraft at the National Museum of Flight in East Fortune, Scotland, Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown, at the age of 97, recalled when he had first climbed into the cockpit of the dangerous German aircraft over 70 years earlier, he had wondered if he was going to survive his test flight. The flight had taken place on 10th June 1945 after he had captured it at Husum, Schleswig Holstein at the end of the war. Fortunately, survive he did to forge a highly distinguished career. Until his death very recently, he lived in retirement in Sussex.
Oxford’s superb 1:72 scale replica of the Komet is as flown by Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown. Decorated in RAF green and brown camouflage markings following capture, the aircraft has a pale grey upper fuselage and yellow underside and features the RAF roundel on the upper wings, with red, white and blue vertical markings on the rudder. The generator spinner on the front of the nose, wheel axles, pitot tube and exhaust are all coloured in silver and the wheel hubs and tail wheel are black.
The model represents an incredible story of man and machine and you can see the Komet yourself where it is on display in the National Museum of Flight in Scotland. A real must see for aviation enthusiasts.
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