He has been lauded by astronaut Tim Peake as the “greatest test pilot who ever lived” and held the world record for the number of landings made onto aircraft carriers.
Now flying enthusiasts have called for the creation of a bronze life size statue to commemorate the achievements of Scottish World War 2 pilot Eric “Winkle” Brown, who died last year aged 97.
Former pilots of the Edinburgh University Air Squadron are behind the move to raise £75,000 as a memorial to Leith-born Brown, who became the Royal Navy’s Chief Test Pilot after joining the force when the war broke out in 1939.
Desert Island Discs presenter Kirsty Young described Brown - who holds the world record for the number of landings onto aircraft carriers as well as having flown more types of aircraft than any other pilot in history - as “making James Bond look like a slacker”, due to his string of achievements, including helping to liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and using his language skills at the Nuremburg trials, when a number of Nazis were held to account.
The statue would be erected near the tram stop outside the main entrance to the terminal building of Edinburgh Airport, formally RAF Turnhouse, where Brown learned to fly, while the Air Squadron also hopes to raise sufficient funds to enable several young people to learn to fly through flying scholarships.
Hamish Macleod, chairman of Edinburgh University Air Squadron Association, said: “Winkle was not only a man who loved to fly, but he also inspired a generation of pilots with his modest good humour, and outstanding courage. A statue of him outside Edinburgh Airport will give the estimated three to four million passengers walking passed each year the opportunity to reflect on this Scottish hero who can inspire us all. Winkle’s legacy can also bring a life changing experience to today’s youngsters by assisting them to learn to fly.”
Brown’s interest in aviation stemmed from his father who trained to become a pilot in the later stages of the First World War. However, it was during a trip to Germany in 1936 and already enthusiastic about flying that he flew with the First World War ace Ernst Udet, who persuaded him to learn German and to learn to fly.
He was a past President of the Royal Aeronautical Society; an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and a Master Pilot of Russia. In 2008 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Edinburgh University.
Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: “Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown’s achievements speak for themselves and it is incredible to think that one man accomplished so much.
“To have someone of his stature have a connection to Edinburgh Airport is something that we are immensely proud of. We are delighted to provide space for Eric’s statue so his story is not only remembered but told to others who have a keen interest in flying – it is people like Eric who inspire the next generation and his memory will continue to live on in the place that he loved.”
Scottish Secretary David Mundell has backed the campaign.
He said: “It is fantastic to hear of plans to honour a Scottish hero, RAF Pilot Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown.
“His audacity, bravery and exceptional skill had a huge impact on the advance of aviation, and I hope this project gets the support it deserves.”
Brown, who married met Northern Irish singer Evelyn Macrory, who once performed during the war with Glenn Miller and his orchestra, died in February last year.
The memorial statue is being designed by the renowned Scottish sculptor David Annand.