Interviews with legendary test pilot Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown and Handel Davies, former Deputy Director of the RAE and head of research at the Air Ministry, Boscombe Down and BAC, have now been released by the National Aerospace Library.

The Test Pilot Interviewees

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In the 1979 interview with Rodney Giesler, Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown talks about his work at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough and his experiences of Germany after World War II. Starting off with his time working on the compressibility and transonic research at the RAE’s Aero Flight just after the end of World War II he goes on to discuss his test flying the special swept wing research aircraft and reflects how well adapted the Spitfire wing was for this work.  He then refers back to the exotic German jet and rocket aircraft he flew at the end World War II particularly in relation to compressibility and the capabilities of German aero engineers in the war and the German approach, or lack of it, to flight testing.

Captain Brown also reminisces about his favourite aircraft, the de Havilland Hornet and discusses some post war flight testing including issues with the Avro Tudor, and even transonic testing on the Tudor which had a poor safety record in passenger service.  He then discusses why the Handley Page Halifax used to corkscrew into the ground while on operations.

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Handel Davies talks about his career work many of the big projects that dominated the mid-late twentieth century, from his time with the World War II Aero Flight at RAE Farnborough, advising the Ministry of Aviation on Civil and Military projects during the 1960s through to working for the British Aircraft Corporation in the 1970s.

The Davies interview starts with the same topic of the work at the later part of World War II but, unlike Captain Brown, from his management point of view.  He talks of the technical issues of compressibility research using WWII fast propeller aircraft at Farnborough, praises the wing of the Spitfire, discussed his involvement in the decision not to proceed with the Miles M52 project and covers the problem of Hawker Typhoon pitch down which killed so many pilots. Of particular importance to Handel Davies was the training of test pilots and he discusses how the science of test flying developed, especially with the establishment of the Empire Test Pilots’ School in 1943. 

Davies goes onto to talk about the development of delta wing aircraft after the war leading to the design choices of Avro Vulcan, Handley Page Victor and Vickers Valiant bombers, his work at Boscombe Down, overcoming flying issues of delta wings and particularly on the Vulcan and the much different Concorde wing design and the problems with the Supermarine Swift.

These interviews were conducted by Rodney Giesler and were edited by the National Aerospace Library volunteer Mike Stanberry FRAeS.

Want to hear more?

More of Rodney Giesler’s interview can be found on the RAeS Soundcloud. Other interviews include the record-breaking US X-Test flyers Chuck Yeager and Scott Crossfield plus awker's Wold War II test pilot Bill Humble discusses the Fury, Tempest and Typhon.

Those who want to hear more about the XB-70 Valkyrie Mach 3 bomber can listen to his discussions with their principal pilot, Al White, and you can hear more about flying rocket planes by listening to Gielser’s discussions with Col Pete Knight. Giesler also found out more about the early days of flying faster than the speed of sound by interviewing North American’s test pilot Dick Johnson.


Tony Pilmer
26 May 2017