Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

Captain Eric Winkle Brown Annual Lecture

18 November 2016
2016 has been a significant year for aviation in the Royal Navy. The Fleet Air Arm said goodbye and paid its respects to its most-decorated aviator – Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown who died aged 97 on 21 February.

However his work and legacy continues to live on in aviation, in particular through the Fly Navy Heritage Trust (FNHT) which is the charity behind Navy Wings and it also lives on through the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) where Captain Brown himself was President back in 1982-83.

This current year has been a poignant year for the RAeS as it celebrates its 150th (sesquicentennial) anniversary having been formed back in 1866.

Today there are some 68 branches around the globe predominantly here in the UK but also throughout Europe, North America, and numerous branches across Asia and Oceania. Among this network of 68 branches that the RAeS likes to call its “life blood”, is the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Branch administered at RNAS Yeovilton.

Each year the branch hosts its main signature event or named lecture as it were.  Captain Brown spoke at the annual showpiece event back in 2014 underneath Concorde in the FAA museum.

He retold stories of his extensive military career including his war time service and his many aviation firsts and the setting of records that could never possibly be broken in the modern age.

It was these captivating stories that now inspire others, and it is this theme of inspiration and innovation that the RAeS FAA Branch committee likes to continue each year when organising its own signature event the aptly named “Captain Eric Winkle Brown lecture”.

This year was no different as the key objectives for FNHT of educating, inspiring and remembering Britain’s great naval aviation heritage dove tailed well with the RAeS Presidents message of inspiring the next generation to look into the aviation industry as a future career choice.

Captain Brown would have no doubt listened attentively sat underneath Concorde as the FAA museum again hosted a fine evening.  Innovation and aviation firsts were the order of the day as Dr Robin Davies from Reaction Engines Ltd (REL) delivered a fascinating lecture on the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) and Skylon concept air vehicle.

SABRE is a new class of engine and REL is leading the way in developing this technology in the UK, with global interest in their work which could result in hypersonic flight at Mach 5 allowing travel from London to Sydney in just 4 hours in Skylon using SABRE propulsion.

The current technical programme is focused on completing the build and testing of the SABRE engine by the end of this decade.

Dr Davies enthralled his mixed audience of military, civilian and local school students as he tried to simplify his own “rocket scientist” knowledge to a level in keeping with his crowd, and through a practical demonstration using Gin and Tonic showed how much rocket fuel in the form of liquid hydrogen (tonic) and liquid oxygen (gin) would be required to propel a lemon into space – the mixture was very, very weak!

Captain Brown would have probably preferred a dram of whiskey instead.

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.