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Legendary naval pilot immortalised at Edinburgh Airport

2 August 2018
More than 14 million passengers each year will be reminded of the Royal Navy’s – and nation’s – most accomplished pilot with a statue dedicated to Captain Eric Brown at Edinburgh airport.

No man flew more aircraft – 487 different types – during his career both as a naval flier and test pilot, and no-one has taken off from a carrier more times (2,407) or touched back down again (2,271 times).

Capt Brown, who died two years ago at the age of 97, was born in Leith in 1919, studied German at Edinburgh University and learned to fly with Edinburgh University Air Squadron before joining the Fleet Air Arm.

The university air squadron association was determined to mark the aviator’s achievements with a statue at the site where he learned to fly (today’s international airport occupies the former RAF Turnhouse) – a bronze statue partially funded by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity with £14,000 and unveiled by the Duke of York, himself a naval aviator, in the presence of RN and RAF veterans, today’s generation of students and local Sea Cadets.

Putting this statue in place to recognise this inspirational aviator would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and our association is exceptionally grateful to them.

Group Captain Alasdair Montgomery

As well as the memorial itself, featuring the pilot striding to his aircraft, cap and gloves in hand, there’s an extensive information board outlining the details of the naval aviator’s accomplishments.

Such was Capt Brown’s expertise that long after retiring, his opinion was sought in designing the Royal Navy’s new generation of aircraft carriers now entering service.

So it was fitting that one of those two ships, HMS Prince of Wales, was represented at the unveiling in the form of Executive Warrant Officer Gary Nicholson who made the short journey from Rosyth, where his ship is in the later stages of fitting out.

“As someone serving on board an aircraft carrier considered to be the future of naval aviation, it wasn’t lost on me that the extraordinary number of deck landings Brown completed will never be repeated again,” Gary said.

“It was particularly fitting that the statue was housed within the grounds of Edinburgh Airport and takes centre stage at the entrance to the airport.”

Group Captain Alasdair Montgomery from Edinburgh University Air Squadron Association added: “Putting this statue in place to recognise this inspirational aviator would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and our association is exceptionally grateful to them.”

The memorial is the first in a two-stage plan to maintain Capt Brown’s name in perpetuity in Edinburgh.

The next goal is to build up a fund of at least £50,000 which will help today’s youngsters – especially those from underprivileged and disadvantaged backgrounds – learn to fly under the Winkle Flying Scholarship. It’s estimated that it costs £3,000 to reach the standard required to fly solo.

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