February 21st of this year saw the passing of one of the greatest pilots who ever lived, aged 97.
Eric Brown – or Captain Eric Melrose ‘Winkle’ Brown to give him his full name – was an extraordinary man, even for the heroic wartime generation.
During his career he flew 487 different types of aircraft, more than anyone in history.
He also held the world record for aircraft carrier take-offs and landings (2,407 and 2,271 respectively)
It’s also very unlikely these records will ever be beaten.
There aren’t enough aeroplane types still flying and the last pilot who tried to beat the carrier landings record had a nervous breakdown at 1,600.
There’s a good reason for this.
Landing on an aircarft carrier is incredibly difficult, dangerous and mentally demanding.
Even now, with advanced radar technology, electronic guidance and radio communication assisting, it’s really tough.
Eric Brown had none of those things when he was the first person to land a twin engined aircraft on a carrier in March 1944.
An aircraft that theoretically couldn’t land on a carrier because it’s stalling speed was too high and it was too heavy for the arrestor gear.
It was also discovered that if either engine failed on the approach, the plane would go nose first into the sea within two seconds.
Everyone expected it to drop like a stone in to the sea, or destroy the arrestor gear and crash.
But Eric Brown did it anyway. Having never flown the aircraft just 2 months before.
It was wartime and it wasn’t possible to wait for perfect conditions.
He had to get on with it.
As a test pilot, he always prepared as well as he could.
But eventually he had to just climb aboard and fly to see what would happen.
The imperative of war produces extraordinary leaps in progress and technology.
It’s probably fair to say that most of what we all work on each day, isn’t quite so life and death.
We worry about things that are bold, different or a bit risky.
We find reasons not to, have lots of meetings and generally procrastinate until all risk can be removed.
Except it can’t.
So let’s take some inspiration from Eric Brown.
Stop waiting for perfect and just fly the thing.