HMS Prince of Wales honour Navy’s greatest pilot

Today’s Fleet Air Arm fliers paid their respects to the Navy - and nation’s – greatest pilot on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Sailors from HMS Prince of Wales gathered at the statue to Capt Eric Brown at Edinburgh Airport to pay tribute to an airman whose accomplishments are unlikely to be surpassed.

The fighter-turned-test pilot died three years ago at the age of 97, leaving behind a remarkable legacy of flying accomplishments.

No man flew more aircraft (486), took off from a carrier flight deck on more occasions (2,407) and landed back safely on a carrier (2,271) than the quiet Scotsman, who also met Luftwaffe leader Hermann Göring and, as a fluent German speaker, helped interpret for British troops who liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of World War 2.

No man flew more aircraft, took off from a carrier flight deck on more occasions and landed back safely on a carrier than the quiet Scotsman.

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He was the first man to land a jet aircraft on an aircraft carrier shortly after the war’s end and, despite long being retired from the Fleet Air Arm and having reluctantly given up flying, Capt Brown was nevertheless consulted on the design of the Navy’s two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales.

With the latter fitting out just across the water in Rosyth, a four-strong team led by helicopter pilot Lieutenant Commander Rudi Lorenz crossed the Forth and joined Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, Frank Ross, Capt Brown’s son Glen, pupils from the flier’s former school, and airport officials at the statue erected in the pilot’s honour outside the terminal.

It was at Edinburgh – then RAF Turnhouse – that a young Eric Brown learned to fly with the city’s university air squadron.