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The greatest ever pilot.

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The greatest ever pilot.

Old 26th Nov 2014, 16:07
  #21 (permalink)  
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I know a few retired airline captains who started their careers when the WW2 generation were the current airline captains. There were indeed some excellent ones, but I'm told there were quite a few who just weren't up to swept wing jets and intensive ATC, and covered their shortcomings by being absolute b'stards on the flight deck (and off it, as well).

I've heard this first hand from quite a few disparate sources who were 'there', so I'm inclined to believe there's more than a grain of truth in it. It's in one or two autobiographies, as well.

No doubt there were highly competent ex-WW2 pilots flying the airways, but it seems not all were.

Best pilot of all time? Got to be 'Wincle'!
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Old 26th Nov 2014, 20:19
  #22 (permalink)  
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Why oh why has nobody nominated Winkle Brown for a knighthood when so many undeserved get one. Or even more looking at the political lordships. If they have nominated him, why has he not got one yet? Can we mount a campaign?

With apologies to JF, Winkle is clearly the most outstanding pilot this country has ever seen - and I'm an (ex) crab.

The Sweep
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Old 26th Nov 2014, 21:14
  #23 (permalink)  
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Shaggy Sheep Driver ....

You have it.

I recall a colleague once commenting that some of the old ( younger then than I am now ! ) Captains couldn't fly an ILS to save their lives, literally, but pop out of cloud too high, too fast, not configured and say " the runway's over there, Sir " ( never forgetting the Sir ! ) and they would straighten up and fly an immaculate visual approach to a perfect landing, whereas the young trainees we were instructing could fly an instrument approach - aka Microsoft Flight Simulator game to them - better than we ourselves ever could, or likely would, but pop out of cloud at minima and have to land a real aeroplane on the real earth, and they lost it. ( remember San Francisco last July ? )

Yes, some of them were well known Martinets, but to be fair, had I survived being shot at nightly with the shells coming through the cockpit, I think my attitude to "lesser" mortals might have been a little different ! Not excusing, but understanding, sort of.
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Old 26th Nov 2014, 22:02
  #24 (permalink)  
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On these sorts of lists and criteria, and having had the privilege to meet a number of these amazing pilots, I'd put it neck and neck between Eric Brown and Neil Armstrong.

Not just on their pure flying achievements, but because both put huge amounts into promoting the whole breadth of the science and pursuit of aeronautics, and both have been possessed of huge humility and willingness to support others.

There are others who have done great things with flying machines, many who have pushed the bounds of aeronautics in one way or another, and a few who even show humility. But, I can think of no others who reach supreme heights in all three in the way that these two have.

Actually maybe one, not too far behind them - which would be George Cooper, who is held in similar regard within the flight test profession to Eric Brown, but is probably much less well known outside it.


(CG, at 98, is 3 years older than EB - I happened to meet him three months ago and he's still doing well, if not quite as fit as EB.)


Last edited by Genghis the Engineer; 26th Nov 2014 at 22:14.
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Old 26th Nov 2014, 22:14
  #25 (permalink)  
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Did have wings on my sleeve in my youth.
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Old 27th Nov 2014, 01:39
  #26 (permalink)  
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I once heard the late great Scott Crossfield pay tribute to Chuck Yeager -- as a "pretty good author".
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Old 27th Nov 2014, 13:20
  #27 (permalink)  
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Eric Brown has just been interviewed on the Jeremy Vine Show. He is fantastic for a 95 year old. His story about the sinking of the Aircraft Carrier HMS Alacrity was very interesting.

Jeremy did suggest that he should be knighted and I certainly agree. Can some of you top people on this site sort it out please?

What a wonderful man Eric Winkle Brown is.
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Old 27th Nov 2014, 15:50
  #28 (permalink)  
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It seems that the rest of the country is discovering what an exceptional man and pilot "Winkle" Brown is, something we aviation types have known for a long time. More power to his elbow.
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Old 27th Nov 2014, 17:55
  #29 (permalink)  
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'Little wonder that when he arrived at Buckingham Palace at the grand old age of 28 for the fourth time, to receive the AFC in addition to the DSC, MBE and OBE he had already received, George VI greeted him with the words:
‘Not you again.’ .

Read more:
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Old 28th Nov 2014, 13:47
  #30 (permalink)  
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I think Ernest Gann should be high in the ratings.
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Old 28th Nov 2014, 18:57
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Gann never tried to land on a carrier. I am sorry but that is the most difficult area of operations . Its the major criteria in this case.
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Old 28th Nov 2014, 19:59
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Gann wasn't a great pilot. A great writer maybe. What about Harald Penrose? He could write and fly!
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Old 29th Nov 2014, 01:17
  #33 (permalink)  
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Gann never tried to land on a carrier. I am sorry but that is the most difficult area of operations . Its the major criteria in this case
Just because he didn't doesn't mean he couldn't therefore, IMHO, your statement is bollocks. Not decrying EB or any other Naval aviators, but somebody mentioned about being given the opportunity put a lot of the names mentioned in 'the frame' where other equally skillful hands were overlooked.

The question was the greatest pilot ever, not who has the most types or who has the most carrier landings or the largest number of hours.

As has been said, many 'unsung' - the 'few', bomber command, Doolittle raiders, Tuskagee... I could go on.

They're all 'great pilots' -way above my 'pay grade!'

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Old 29th Nov 2014, 11:16
  #34 (permalink)  
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I'm surprised nobody has mentioned John Young. "Just" a test pilot before he joined NASA, and lacking the research and aeronautical combat experience of Neil Armstrong (he was gunnery officer on a destroyer providing NGS in Korea), but flew the first Gemini, was the first man to fly solo around the moon, landed, then was instrumental throughout the Space Shuttle program, and ultimately a very senior spaceflight safety man at NASA.
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Old 29th Nov 2014, 14:51
  #35 (permalink)  
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I have no idea how "great" a pilot Ernest Gann was. But he was successful in the the age when flying was dangerous, and sex was safe.

And he was unsurpassed in his tale-telling, giving the reader a magnetic sense of 'being there', learning the hard lessons just as he had.

And his humor - when telling hairy situations - was a real talent. The last few chapters of Gann's Band Of Brothers are a treat!
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Old 29th Nov 2014, 16:41
  #36 (permalink)  
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Some are just good at promoting themselves, while so many others sit quietly by.....
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Old 4th Dec 2014, 01:10
  #37 (permalink)  
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Neil Armstrong

PBS' Nova this week is presenting a biography of Armstrong.

Unfortunately the editors can't distinguish between a J-3 and a 7AC.

Last edited by barit1; 4th Dec 2014 at 01:22.
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Old 4th Dec 2014, 01:46
  #38 (permalink)  

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. The greatest ever pilot.
Cough, cough....being modest and low key I hesitate to mention myself,
So I won't.
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Old 4th Dec 2014, 03:39
  #39 (permalink)  
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Hanna Reitch should be there somewhere...
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Old 4th Dec 2014, 08:05
  #40 (permalink)  
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some sense at last ...then Joan Hughes and the other ATA girls (and guys) who delivered new aircraft (without radios) in weather when "the boys" were grounded...not only did they do better than the blokes but they had to fight the prejudice of "woman know your place"....
as to airline pilots
and some instructors....taught me many of my fears .....even to the briefing on my dutch roll on the iron duck....we will limit the demonstration to 30 degrees (as against 60) because someone put the wrong input in and the aircraft nearly went through the vertical...
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