Scott Crossfield began engineering studies at the University of Washington in 1940. Wartime service with the US Navy from 1942 to 1945 interrupted his education. He was trained as a naval aviator, and flew overseas as an instructor, but without the opportunity for any combat experience. His flight experience included the SNJ trainer, and F6F and F4U fighters. After the war he resumed his education, obtaining a BS in 1949 and an MS in aeronautical engineering from the University of Washington in 1950. He joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High Speed Flight Research Station at Edwards AFB, California, as a research pilot in June 1950. During the next five years, he flew the X-1, X-4, X-5, XF-92A, and D-558-I and -II aircraft, accumulating 87 rocket flights in the X-1 and D-558-II aircraft. He became the first man to reach Mach 2 on 20 November 1953 at the controls of the D-558-II.
Crossfield left NACA for North American Aviation in 1954 in the hope of being the first man into space aboard their X-15 rocketplane. Instead, the government proclaimed that contractor test pilots could only wring out the spaceplane; test flights into space would only be undertaken by government employees. In any case the later crash Mercury program resulted in Alan Shepard being the first American in space rather than any of the X-15 pilots.
Nevertheless Crossfield's work at North American as chief test pilot and design consultant for the X-15 contributed significantly to the final form of the spacecraft. Crossfield was the first pilot to fly it, and tested both rocketships built 14 times, reaching Mach 2.97 and 27 km altitude in the process.
After North American snagged Apollo contracts in 1961, Crossfield was named System Director for the Apollo spacecraft and the Saturn II upper stage. In this role he was responsible for systems test, reliability engineering, and quality assurance for those systems. From 1966 to 1967 he was Technical Director, Research Engineering and Test, at North American.
After the Apollo 1 fire Crossfield was one of the North American managers asked to leave the program. He worked as an executive for Eastern Airlines from 1967 to 1973, then was tapped by Hawker Siddley Aviation from 1974 to 1975 to set up an American subsidiary to handle marketing of the HS-146 short-haul air liner. From 1977 to 1993 Crossfield worked as a technical consultant to the House Committee on Science and Technology
NASA Official Biography
Scott Crossfield joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA--the predecessor of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA) at its High Speed Flight Research Station, Edwards, Calif., as a research pilot in June, 1950. During the next five years, he flew the X-1, X-4, X-5, XF-92A, and D-558-I and -II aircraft, accumulating 87 rocket flights in the X-1 and D-558-II aircraft, plus 12 flights in the latter aircraft employing only jet power.
He made aeronautical history on November 20, 1953, when he reached the aviation milestone of Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound) or more than 1,320 miles per hour in the D-558-II Skyrocket. Taken aloft in the supersonic, swept-wing research aircraft by a Boeing P2B Superfortress "mother ship" (the Navy designation of the B-29), he dropped clear of the bomber at 32,000 feet and climbed to 72,000 feet before diving to 62,000 feet where he became the first pilot to fly more than twice the speed of sound. His flight was part of a carefully planned program of flight research with the Skyrocket that featured incremental increases in speed while NACA instrumentation recorded the flight data at each increment.
Following his five years at the Edwards unit (redesignated the NACA High Speed Flight Station in 1954), Crossfield left the NACA in 1955 to work for North American Aviation, the firm just awarded a contract to design and build the X-15 rocket-powered airplane. There, he served as both pilot and design consultant for the revolutionary new aircraft.
Responsible for many of the operational and safety features incorporated into the X-15, Crossfield guided the rocket-powered airplane on its first free flight in 1959 and subsequently qualified the first two X-15s for flight before North American turned them over to NASA and the U.S. Air Force. He flew the two aircraft a total of 14 times (not counting 16 captive flights), reaching a maximum speed of Mach 2.97 (1,960 miles per hour) and a maximum altitude of 88,116 feet.
In 1960, Crossfield published his autobiography (written with Clay Blair, Jr.), Always Another Dawn: The Story of a Rocket Test Pilot (New York: Arno Press, reprinted 1971). There he covered his life through the completion of the early X-15 flights.
Crossfield also served for five years as System Director responsible for systems test, reliability engineering, and quality assurance for North American Aviation on the WS 131 Hound Dog Missile, Paraglider, Apollo Command and Service Module, and the Saturn II Booster. Then from 1966 to 1967 he served as Technical Director, Research Engineering and Test at North American Aviation.
Crossfield served as an executive for Eastern Airlines from 1967 to 1973, helping the company develop its technological applications, new aircraft specifications, and flight research programs. Then from 1974 to 1975, he was Senior Vice President for Hawker Siddley Aviation, setting up its U.S. subsidiary for design, support, and marketing of the HS-146 transport in North America.
From 1977 until his retirement in 1993, he served as technical consultant to the House Committee on Science and Technology, advising committee members on matters relating to civil aviation. Upon his retirement, NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin awarded him the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal for his contributions to aeronautics and aviation over a period spanning half a century.
Among his many other awards were the Collier Trophy for 1961 from the National Aeronautics Association, presented by President John F. Kennedy at the White House in 1962 and the International Clifford B. Harmon Trophy for 1960, presented by President Kennedy in the White House the year before.
Born in Berkeley, Calif., on October 2, 1921, Crossfield began his engineering training at the University of Washington in 1940. He interrupted his education to join the U.S. Navy in 1942. Commissioned an ensign in 1943 following flight training, he served as a fighter and gunnery instructor and maintenance officer before spending six months overseas without seeing combat duty but flying such aircraft as the F6F and F4U fighters. While in the Navy he also flew SNJs and a variety of other aircraft.
He resumed his engineering studies in 1946 and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Washington in 1949. He earned a masters in aeronautical science the following year from the same university and received an honorary doctor of science degree from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1982.
He currently resides in Herndon, Virginia.
Albert Scott Crossfield learned to fly with the Navy during World War II. He became an aeronautical research pilot with the NACA in 1950, flying the X-1 and D558-II rocket planes and other experimental jets. From 1955 to 1961 he was the chief engineering test pilot for North American Aviation, Inc. The first man to fly at twice the speed of sound (Mach 2) in the D558-II in 1953, Crossfield reached Mach 2.11 and an altitude of 52,341 in the first powered flight of the X-15 in 1959. His last flight in the X-15 apparently occurred on 6 December 1960.
Departed Date: 1960-12-06. Cause of Death: Crashed private light aircraft in bad weather near Ellijay, Georgia.. Degree: University of Washington. Marital Status: Married. Children: Six children. Education: Washington.
Birth Place: Berkeley, California.