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caesar novus

Legendary Test Pilot dies at 97

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The Economist has an obituary for the most famous test/evaluation pilot of WW2 and postwar at http://www.economist.com/news/obituary/21693807-mr-brown-regularly-defied-death-humour-and-smile-he-was-97-obituary-eric-winkle-brown . Eric Brown (sometimes you have to search for "Erik" on book web sites) test flew and evaluated almost 500 aircraft types, often ingenious captured  German designs that were dangerous without a written manual.


Article suggests he survived by being small and calm. I remember a training aircraft where my knees blocked much of the travel of the stick, and was jammed probably too tight to bail out. Also I have met 2 top aerobatic pilots and they seemed almost clinically dead when there was no scariness to stimulate them.


I bought many of his books that cover these historic aircraft from the 40's and 50's. They help de-romanticise them, because almost all have exasperating user-unfriendly flaws that were avoidable if the development hadn't been so rushed in wartime. The article hints at clever tactics he worked out; I haven't seen this in his books, but maybe it's in some of them I had to avoid due to cost (his out-of-print tends to run above retail price).


P.S. edited in: I now see there are more interesting obits for him appearing on the web, calling him the world's best test pilot etc. As usual some of the most interesting info on his life is on youtube, if you can understand the thick Scottish accent when he talks.



Edited by caesar novus

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I don't know many civilian training aircraft that allow you to wear parachutes, thus 'bailing out' is a rare privilege and not one normally accorded trainees. Also, despite cockpits being generally uncomfortably cramped in light aircraft, they almost always allow forward/back seat adjustment and finding that you could not use the controls freely suggests you should have terminated the flight before it began. Free use of controls is part of the pre-flight procedure in every aeroplane.

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