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Was Eric “Winkle” Brown the best test pilot?

5/15/2009 • Discussions

Aviation History Reader Poll

Many consider Royal Navy Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown the greatest test pilot who ever lived. Do you agree, and if not, who would you nominate for the honor?

Give us your thoughts in the comments box below.


20 Responses to Was Eric “Winkle” Brown the best test pilot?

  1. Herb Fisher Jr. says:


    My Dad, Herbert O Fisher, Chief Production Test Pilot for Curtiss Wright from 1939 thru end of war, then Propellor Division for Curtiss at Caldwell New Jersey.

    Herb Jr.

  2. Mike Dunn says:

    He certainly was the best Test Pilot who ever lived…his record proves it!

    Quiet, unassuming, methodical, professional…NEVER a “Look at meee” operator!!

    No way he can ever be dethroned now!

  3. Herb Fisher Jr. says:

    Thanks Mike, at least I know Herb Sr. has two votes. Wish I could talk directly to ya. Maybe these folks after reading this will give you my email.

    I have a slice of Aviation history in my garage. Herb documented everything and saved.

    Take care.

    • Mike Dunne says:

      Thanks for the reply! Completely missed it earlier Herb! ‘Winkle’ certainly was a remarkable officer…it wasn’t just a matter of being ‘Johnny on the spot’ either! He had all the right attributes to
      make the perfect Test Pilot (it even helped having a smallish stature!)

      I have seen some incredible rubbish levelled at him by ‘Armchair Aviation Experts’ from the USA, however…(don’t they HATE anyone ‘doing it better than them’ at ANYTHING!) Some lunatic got funding and approval to beat Eric Brown’s number of carrier landings…he failed by a very wide margin and in fact had to stop trying because of TOTAL BURNOUT!

      The exceptions to that negative stuff, are of course, the splendid American pilots who worked with him and knew him well…Marion Carl. Corky Meyer (Grumman, Test Pilot) Neil Armstrong. Leroy Grumman. Albert Boyd

      Winkle was a definite One Off! SALUTE! RAISE YOUR GLASSES!

  4. Rodney Scull says:

    I think Eric was probably the greatest experimental test pilot ever. Having said that I think Roland Beamont must come fairly close.
    When I was a lad test pilots were like film stars or pop stars. Real heros and great role models. I can still name about 20…! I was at Farnborough the day that John Derry & Tony Richens crashed in the DH110.. Lets not forget them. Peter Twiss, Neville Duke, Mike Lithgow , Roland Falk and all the others are all part of our Aviation History. They do n`t make um like that today.

  5. Mike Dunn says:

    I can think of no higher compliment than to have another great pilot like General Marion Carl USMC call Brown “the best of the best!”…

  6. Julius Palermo says:

    Lyod Child was Herb Fisher boss’s, Lloyd was VPof a ll Flight Test for Curtiss-Wright. Lets not forget John Olmsted – he was doing experimettal flight test work before Herb was hired. John Seal saved S2BC by recovering from a tail failure for research of failure. I meet Herb the day he was hired to fly production fligfht test.. Lloyd Child flew thw Hawk 75 exceedijng 500 mph in demonstration flight for th eFrench governemt circa 1939 check Life magazine. John Olmsted flew the reverse prop flight on A P47 before it was tried on a C54.

    The worrk of the Flight Test Crew ar C_W would make an intersting book.

    • Herb Fisher Jr. says:

      Hello Julius,

      To a certain degree you are correct, Childs was my Dad’s boss for a short period of time (three maybe four months). Loyd quit/stress, nobody wanted that position of extreme responsibility, Herb stepped up to the plate from the Loft at CW, Don Berlin and Burdette Wright said…”done deal”……at that time they needed someone qualified with steady steel nerves. From late 1939 thru approx.1952..my Dad was the man. Please note, that included the entire war period…..he was there with Chennault/Tigers/P-40s, the Hump/ C-46s advising young fellows how to survive as a consultant from Curtiss. Then trans-sonic propeller testing at Caldwell, NJ. Past President of the P-40 Warhawks Association, Hump Pilots Association, Thunderbolts Association and others. Get your facts straight. Herb Jr.

  7. Kris Bowne says:

    Herb, Just a note regarding your dad from personal experiences.
    Herb Fisher picked me up & set me down on the wing of the P-47 he had just finished piloting for the crowd at Curtiss-Wright Airport in Fairfield (then Caldwell Township), NJ. What a thrill, I’ll never forget that moment. He was a family friend for years before that, and I maintained intermittent contact with him as I grew up, and until his passing. A strong, solid man, good friend, and great engineering pilot for sure. One of the best ever to to strap on an airplane. I also have a momento he gave me from his time spent with Claire Chennault over with the AVG in China. One of the things he told me about was the fix he had to develop due of the dust & debris being inhaled at takeoff with the P-40’s on those unimproved strips. If you can contact me, it’d be nice. Last I knew from your dad was that your were at Dal-Ft.Worth.
    Even though we’ve never met, I’ve wondered about you for years.

  8. Herb Fisher Jr. says:


    Very kind comments and I do appreciate. I have pictures of that Airshow at Caldwell Wright….now Essex County and a recording from the announcer broadcasting on a local radio station. I would really like to chat with you as well. Not sure how to make contact thru this forum.

  9. Kris Bowne says:

    Glad to see that you made a visit to this site..I’ve been spotting it every once it the while in hopes that you’d check in. As a quick note, I moved my family in the early 90’s to not far from where you lived. I often rode by the house & waved “hello” to who, I believe, was your mom. If you feel comfortable to post a phone# where I can call you, I will do so & we can put more together from there. On one of my surfing expeditions I thought I saw you in TX, but not 100% sure. I’ll be back thru this site soon, hope to hear from you.

  10. William Sloan says:

    In my humble opinion Chuck Yeager was the best test pilot American ever had and we had a lot. He had many, many noted accomplishments along with being the head of the Edwards Test Pilot school @ Edwards AFB, Calif in 1964.

  11. George J. Kirkby says:

    While working on my pp cert. I would fly over Caldwell (1960) but could never find it from the ground. Later in 1973 I would be a CFI for Peggy Nusum at Liberty Aviation. At that time I was living in Ramsey and would see a very pleasant old man named Mr. Drum. After his passing while reading his obituary I learned Mr. Drum had been a test pilot for CW. I was disappointed that I had not known this earlier as I would have loved to have had a conversation with him. Does anyone know of Mr. Drum and his work?

  12. Paul Faltyn says:

    Dear Sir,

    I would like to contact you regarding your father’s career in Buffalo, I am with the NIagara Aerospace Museum and Niagara Frontier Aviation & Space Hall of Fame.

    Thank you,

    Paul D. Faltyn

  13. David Carpenter says:

    I’m sure that there are many test-pilots of several nations who have all achieved great things. However, can anyone seriously challenge 487 types flown, more carrier take-offs and landings then anyone else ever, the first carrier jet-landing, flying all the captured german aircraft post-war including the jets, the rocket-fighter, the mini-light Zaunkoenig, the six-engined ME 321 and six other types in one day. I’ve yet to read of anyone approaching Eric Brown’s long and incredibly varied testing career, admirable though their records may be.

  14. Steve Pace says:

    Was your dad the first to fly the Curtiss XP-46A on 15 February 1941?

  15. Mike Dunn says:

    Hi there. I would love to estabvlish contact with you! My background is in Naval History…a subject I lecture on 2-3 times a year to Military folks here in Australia. I am also past editor of the Journal of Ausdtralian naval History. I also do Aircraft illustrations of very high quality.


  16. J. Lindsay says:

    My Dad, Alexander (Sandy) Lindsay was briefly chief of production test pilot Buffalo ca 1942. Any info on him?

  17. Steve Pace says:

    Att: Herb Fisher Jr.
    Please contact me at stevepace43@gmail.com
    I’m writing a book on factory test pilots

  18. Tim says:

    Montgolfier brothers and Wilbur wright are the best.
    Pure guts and being the first are best.
    Everything else is just improving on an idea that is proven.

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