Monday, June 15, 2015

USNA Superintendent Talks Aviation with British World War II Hero

U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter met a former British Navy officer and World War II aviator June 10 during a brief trip to the United Kingdom.

Carter traveled to the U.K. to meet with his counterpart at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Commanding Officer Capt. Henry Duffy, and discuss ideas and best practices for training. While at the BRNC, he attended a working group tasked with developing the theme and agenda for the 20th Naval Academies’ Superintendents’ Conference, which will be held in Annapolis, Md., next year.

But Carter also had the opportunity to meet a different kind of counterpart, Capt. Eric “Winkle” Brown, at the Royal Air Force Club in London. Brown performed a world record 2,407 carrier landings during his career, including the first carrier landing of a twin-engined aircraft. (Carter holds the record for carrier landings among American aviators with 2,016.)

Photo by Sam Churchill

Brown served as a Fleet Air Arm pilot during World War II and is that organization’s most decorated living pilot. His honors and awards include the Order of the British Empire, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Air Force Cross.

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and a thrill of a lifetime to meet not just a hero of the United Kingdom or a hero of World War II – I would say he’s a world hero,” said Carter, who described the 96-year-old aviator as having a “spark for life and a love for freedom.”

They talked about Brown’s involvement in interrogating German war criminals after World War II as well as some of the scariest moments in his career. He was one of only two survivors from the crew of the British escort carrier HMS Audacity, which was sunk by German torpedoes just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Photo by Sam Churchill

“He’s very short in stature – that’s why they call him ‘Winkle’ – and he talked about how that probably saved his life more often, because he was small and agile,” said Carter.

During the conversation, Carter asked if Brown had any regrets in life. His reply: only one – that in a career full of aviation “firsts,” he didn’t beat Chuck Yeager in breaking the sound barrier.

He did, however, fly 487 different types of aircraft throughout his career as a pioneer test pilot, more than anyone else in history.

“In an era when aviation safety was being written every day, very few test pilots who flew more than a couple hundred airplanes survived, and yet he did,” said Carter.

Photo by Sam Churchill

Carter said Brown loves American aviation and is a member of the Golden Eagles, an elite group of early and pioneer naval aviators, founded by World War I-era U.S. pilots.

“It was really exciting to meet somebody who is a representation of the best in aviation,” said Carter.

Carter will next travel to China where he will meet with his counterpart and other leadership from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy.

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