Eric Brown - A Pilot's Story
"Deck landing was a very difficult business. The back end of the vessel, at the worst, was moving through an arc of sixty feet. Now that was virtually impossible for landing but we were up there and had to get back".
Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown's calm description on camera of the reality of a naval pilot during the Battle of the Atlantic recalls a kind of warfare that's beyond the comprehension of anyone who has not experienced it. Yet Eric Brown would survive it - along with years of life as test pilot flying new aircraft in the most extreme circumstances.
I came to know Eric when I filmed him for my feature-length documentary Whittle - The Jet Pioneer. He and Sir Frank Whittle had been old friends since working together on Britain's pioneer wartime turbojet aircraft. Eric and I continued to meet and I keenly devoured his autobiography Wings On My Sleeve to learn more about his career.
An idea took root. What if I could film Eric telling his life story and make it the core of a second feature-length documentary ? I would then have a unique duo of aviation films, about Britain's greatest aviator and our greatest aero-engineer respectively. I was delighted when Captain Brown agreed to be filmed for this.
It would be a challenge to compress such a huge life story into an 80 minute film. I realized this had to fuse the two main strands in Eric Brown's career - aviation and Germany - and span many decades. These would bring alive Eric's role in protecting our Gibraltar convoys; his wartime test work at Farnborough; the revelations awaiting in defeated Germany; the dismal story of how Eric was thwarted in breaking the sound barrier first; his post-war life as a naval pilot and postings to Germany as both a flight instructor and diplomat.
The result is our latest film Eric Brown - A Pilot's Story. It has been a particular honour to make this documentary.