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Wit and wisdom of Eric 'Winkle' Brown
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Post subject: Wit and wisdom of Eric 'Winkle' Brown  Reply with quote   (Liked by:0)  Like this post
As we now have a dedicated air section I have rescued a two postings from War at Sea which might be suitable here as well:


Captain Eric Brown was chief naval test pilot for the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, Hants, and one of the most highly decorated Fleet Air Arm test pilots with a career spanning 1939 to 1970. At the end of WW2 he visited many German airfields and persuaded often reluctant German ground staff to prepare German types for him to fly. He even managed to talk his way onto some Soviet airfields and try some Soviet types before the Iron Curtain came down.

Brown's flown 487 different types of aeroplane and holds the world record for the number of carrier landings. His flight experiences ranged from the Gloster Gladiator to the F4 Phantom and he also commanded the British 'Enemy Aircraft Flight' as well as serving as resident British test pilot for the Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, USA. In addition to all that Brown was called in by the US as test pilot advisor on some US projects war-time and post-war. He was involved in de-bugging the later model of the P-47 Thunderbolt and ending its run of uncontrolled 'graveyard dives'. He tested a P-47D in dives for the RAE and these tests resulted in a British recommendation for a dive recovery flap which was subsequently fitted to all Thunderbolt models.

Brown has published several books the best of which are 'Duels in the Sky' and 'Testing for Combat'. In the latter he talks about flying aircraft as diverse as the Whitley, Bolton-Paul Defiant and US B-24 Liberator, and US combat types like the Skyraider, Cutlass and Panther. He even got his hands of a Soviet Lavochkin LA-7. Duels in the Sky deals purely with WW2 naval combat aircraft but as these frequently clashed with land planes the comparisons are more general.

In compiling his 'best of' he looked at a number of factors. Despite earlier comments on this thread he rated the Mustang quite highly, crediting it with a rate of roll little slower than the FW-190 which was the best in the world.

His all-time best fighters are in order (his final comments thus):
Spitfire XIV (superb performance, splendid handling but short range)
FW-190 D-9 [the long-nosed Dora 9] (magnificent rate of roll, almost flawless except for stalling)
Mustang IV (only a whisker inferior to the D-9 but superior in range)
George 12 (a good all-rounder in the tradition of the ubiquitous Zeke)
Tempest V (large but agile for its size and particularly suitable for ground attack)
F6F-3 Hellcat (robust and very good in every desireable fighter feature)
Zeke 53 (incredibly nimble with impressive range but fragile)

Greatest NAVAL fighters are, in order:
Grumman Hellcat
Mitsubishi Zeke
Grumman Wildcat
Chance-Vought Corsair
Hawker Sea Hurricane
Supermarine Seafire (naval Spitfire)

He downgrades the Seafire/Spitfire at sea due to its poor landing record. More were lost in deck landings than through combat.

Most effective dive-bombers in WW2:
Junkers Ju87
Douglas Dauntless and Aichi Val (equal)
Blackburn Skua
Curtiss Helldiver
He calls the Helldiver 'a major disappointment' but acknowledges the Skua had a short combat life.

Top torpedo bombers in WW2:
Fairey Swordfish
Grumman Avenger
Nakajima Kate
Nakajima Jill

He said: "I did a lot of thinking before placing the obsolete Swordfish biplane before the more modern Avenger monoplane. Analysis of the facts shows that the Swordfish, in action well before the Avenger, obtained better torpedo results and suffered fewer losses."


A few of Eric Brown's more detailed comments:

Gloster Sea Gladiator:
"Beautiful harmony of control" but "Outgunned, and outperformed though never out manouevered".

Blackburn Skua:
As a fighter had little hope of success except against slower aircraft. As a dive-bomber: "It performed effectively, provided it was not intercepted before reaching target."

Fairey Swordfish:
"Virtually without vice" when it came to flying and a phenomenal rate of turn. "It could only survive in an environment with air superiority".

Bf 109E:
Control harmony "poor for a fighter" and lack of a rudder trimmer meant application of rudder was required in climb and dive. "Pleasant to fly" at 298mph but flying close to stall lead to buffet and snatching. "Formidable fighter of proven ability but one with certain handling shortcomings that could be exploited in combat".

Bf 110:
"Useful night-fighter but as a day fighter it lacked the agility to mix with single-seat interceptors".

Junkers Ju87 (Stuka):
"A most effective dive-bomber" but he adds poor performance meant it could only be deployed in areas of air superiority. As a carrier pilot himself he adds: "Would have been a good deck landing aircraft but judging from its airfield landing performance one can conclude its rather weak main landing gear and tailwheel would have required strengthening".

Heinkel III:
Described it as a thing of aerodynamic beauty from the outside but he disliked flying in its 'glass tunnel' cockpit which gave poor view in bad weather. In these conditions pilot's head was elevated through the roof to see forwards. Outstanding and versatile, it was vulnerable to rear attack and crew disliked the internal arrangements.

Polikarpov I-16 Rata:
High rate of roll but slow in a dive and a poor gun platform due to vibration. Fragile to gunfire.

Fairey Fulmar:
The Fairey Fulmar's performance was well below that of contemporary single-seat monoplane fighters but it had a killer punch if it could bring its forward-firing armament to bear on the enemy. It was reasonably manoueverable for its size and had an endurance that made it useful for combat air patrol in carrier service.

Fiat CR 42:
Highly manoueverable but even more under-gunned than a Gladiator.

Cockpit was "large and roomy of the sort I would associate with an airliner". Stable in flight and a 'good weapons platform".

Brewster F2A Buffalo:
A true anomaly for an airplane: "Delightful manoueverabily but poor fighter performance".

Fairey Albacore:
Improved on Swordfish's range and service ceiling but suffered from "pedestrian performance and manoueverability".

ME 109F:
Significant advance over the previous 109s and - at time of appearance - 'almost certainly the best fighter in the world'.

Reggiane 2000:
Identical in performance to Hurricane I but lacking the Hurricane's firepower. "Gave a good account of itself in 1941".

Junker Ju 88A-4:
A multi-role aircraft with a turn of speed which could match some contemporary fighters for speed and a superb airplane to handle.

Hawker Sea Hurricane:
Outclassed by contemporary fighters it could still deal with bombers effectively. Not built as a carrier fighter it adapted well to carrier operations. All Sea Hurricanes were conversions, none were ever built as Sea Hurricanes. Manoueverable but dangerous to ditch in the sea.

Wildcat II (Martlet):
Superb for deck landings it was a great asset to the Fleet Air Arm. "A potent fighter with splendid manoueverability, good performance, heavy firepower and excellent range and endurance".

FW 200 C Condor/Kurier
Impressive aray of all-weather flying equipment it was heavy to manouevre. When attacked had little option than to fly straight and level and rely on its guns. Heavy landings resulted in catastrophic structural failures. "A thoroughly effective long-range maritime reconnaisance bomber but with all the inherent shortcomings of a converted commercial airliner".

Zeke 22/Zero:
"The most astonishing features were a lack of armour for the pilot's seat and three non-self sealing fuel tanks, one forward of the cockpit".
"The absence of bullet-proof glass in the windscreen enhanced the view".  (Eric Brown has a dry sense of humour).
There was no quick release inside for the cockpit canopy.
Controls light and beautifully harmonised. The world's "outstanding fighter at low and medium altitudes" but suffered from inability to absorb punishment.

Aichi D3A1 Val:
Good handling and slow to build up speed in a dive so plenty of time to line-up on target. Slightly superior in performance and considerably superior in handling to the Stuka. However only half the Stuka's bombload.

Nakajima Kate:
A good all-rounder which - if covered by Zeros - would be a devastating attacker.

Douglas Dauntless:
Was rugged and reliable with mediocre performance because it was underpowered. It seemed vulnerable to fighters and yet gave a good account of itself in the Pacific. Its loss rate in that theatre is reputed to have been lower than any other US ship-board aeroplane.

Douglas Devastator:
The Devastator was an obsolescent design plagued by unreliable torpedoes. It was highly vulnerable to fighter attack because of its poor performance and poor defensive armament. It was significantly inferior to the Kate.

Grumman Avenger:
The Avenger was was a ponderous aeroplane, certainly out of court as a dive bomber. Even as a torpedo bomber it would be vulnerable during breakaway. It would only be effective if operating in an environment of air superiority or under cover of darkness.

Mitsubishi Betty:
The Betty appeared to have the attributes necessary for effective action but it had the same Achilles heel as the Zeke, an inability to absorb punishment. It carried a lot of fuel and no self-sealing fuel tanks.

Supermarine Seafire IIC:
The Seafire's performance fell below that of the land-based Spitfire because navalisation incurred penalties of increased weight and drag. Never designed for ship-board use the Seafire was difficult to deck land and it acted like a submarine when it ditched. In spite of this it was the fastest shipboard fighter in the world at the time of Operation Torch.

Dewoitine D520:
The D520 was a good-looking aeroplane with several bad handling characteristics. It was underpowered, as its lowspeed clearly indicated, but it had a surprisingly good initial rate of climb. The plane was also underarmed by contemporary (1942) standards: its single cannon was provided with a small ammunition load.

The Corsair was a mixture of the good, the mediocre and the bad. It had excellent accelleration, speed and firepower, and was rugged in construction. Its slow speed characteristics left much to be desired. Manoueverability was mediocre from the point of dogfighting but it had a good rate of roll that could be used to advantage defensively. In summary, as a fighter the Corsair was a formidable aircraft to introduce into the Pacific but as a shipboard aircraft it had serious shortcomings.

Focke-Wulf 190-A4:
When the FW190A-1 entered service in July 1941 it was the most advanced fighter in the world. The A-4 model appearing a year later maintained that status for a while. It was a technically superb aeroplane, a good dogfighter and a good gun platform with magnificent performance.
'Master and Commander' afloat on the seas of life...

Last edited by 'Warspite' on Fri Sep 18, 2015 8:33 am; edited 6 times in total
PostTue Feb 21, 2012 6:42 pm
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Post subject: Reply with quote   (Liked by:0)  Like this post
Brown is a treasure. Duels in the Sky is required reading with its presentation of one-on-one match-ups. In his Wings of the Navy, he gives himself more liberty to exercise his exquisitely dry sense of humor. His assessments are, of course, just one man's opinion, but that's not much of a drawback since he is Da Man.
PostTue Feb 21, 2012 6:47 pm
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Post subject: Reply with quote   (Liked by:0)  Like this post
Tiornu wrote:
Brown is a treasure. Duels in the Sky is required reading with its presentation of one-on-one match-ups. In his Wings of the Navy, he gives himself more liberty to exercise his exquisitely dry sense of humor. His assessments are, of course, just one man's opinion, but that's not much of a drawback since he is Da Man.

Thank you for agreeing.
The other postings on this group are very numbers orientated at the moment so I thought some more subjective comments from an expert would liven the group up a bit. Brown seemed the obvious choice and luckily I had saved a hot link to my previous posting on WaS.

'Master and Commander' afloat on the seas of life...
PostTue Feb 21, 2012 6:54 pm
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