Many folks would like to see us back on the Moon and developing its resources.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Former Test Pilot Scott Crossfield Killed in Plane Crash

Good day,

Earlier this week there was on some of the space groups, talk about former test pilot Scott Crossfield being killed in a plane crash. He was 84 years young.

David Baker in the UK sent me his thoughts about Scott and I have copied his note. (see later).
- LRK -

Former Test Pilot Scott Crossfield Killed in Plane Crash
By Robert Z. Pearlman

posted: 20 April 2006
4:50 p.m. ET

The first man to fly twice the speed of sound, Scott Crossfield was found dead today inside the wreckage of a single-engine plane he had been flying on Wednesday morning from Alabama to Virginia, authorities told the Associated Press.

Crossfield's Cessna 210A was found by search crews in the mountains northwest of Atlanta, Georgia on Thursday after radio and radar contact was lost at 11:15 a.m. EDT (1515 GMT) the day before. There were thunderstorms reported in the area, though the cause of the crash was not immediately released.

"Scott Crossfield was a pioneer and a legend in the world of test flight and space flight," said Mike Coats, Johnson Space Center Director. "The astronaut corps and all of NASA are deeply saddened by his death, but his legacy will be with us through the centuries."

Crossfield, 84, made aeronautical history in 1953 when he reached a speed of more than 1,320 mph, or Mach 2, in a Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket research aircraft. Taken aloft by a Boeing P2B Superfortress (the Navy's designation of the B-29), Crossfield climbed to 72,000 feet before diving to 62,000 feet, becoming the first person to travel at more than twice the speed of sound, according to his NASA biography.


Sometimes you wonder how individuals in our space program got there start.

Often there is something early in their lives that helps to set one on a life path. One of the articles about Scott's life mentions that his first airplane flight was at the age of 6 and hooked him on aviation.

Maybe you can look back in your life and remember someone or an event that helped shape your carrier.

My dad, who will be 95 June 9th, taught Jr. High Industrial Arts classes for 41 years and I remember some of the summer arts and crafts classes he gave for kids. Some of his students are now teachers or working in cabinet shops, or architects. It is a nice warm feeling when you hear someone call out, "Hi Russ". When asked, "Who was that?" Oh I had him in class back in ...

Then there was my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Peavy, that had us build crystal radio sets by wrapping wire on an oat meal carton and finding a hot spot on a galena crystal (lead sulfide) with a "cat's whisker" wire contact.

That extra 2% effort will often make a difference. One doesn't need to be a genius, just attack life with gusto.

You know the look, when you see someone say, "Boy are we excited!"

Reach out, and "Make It So."

Thanks for looking up with me.

Larry Kellogg

Web Site:
RSS link:


I think we forget that individuals do make a difference and showing what some have done may help us find the same spirit in ourselves.

Thanks David. - LRK -

>Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2006 2:09 AM
>Subject: Memorium


I greatly enjoy your notes and read them avidly whenever I can. The good work in bringing to our notice the great contributions of Eberhardt Rechtin will, I am sure, absolve you of retribution from the great sword of copyright (far more terrifying than Damoclese)!

I write to share thoughts about the life of the pioneering test pilot Scott Crossfield, a gentleman in every sense of the word who was a great influence in my early life just before I came from England to school in the US. Being a teenage lad in the 1950s with a great desire to fly and to "push the envelope" Scotty's activities, among many of that era, transformed these pilots into heroes - they WERE a very great stimulation to so many of us and role models which, dare I say it, were a breed non-existent today. Everything was so different then, anything seemed possible and achievable through exciting adventures on the new frontier of high speed, high altitude flight - all the way to space. But a diversion prevented wings making it to orbit for another 20 years or more, yet when the Shuttle took off in 1981, great machine as it was, it had the role more of a Mack truck than a thoroughbred high performer.

Crossfield gave us lads that can-do spirit and when a persistent ear problem kept me from the hot seat I seized an opportunity to begin a ground career in the US at NASA that gave me great oppotunities for which I shall for ever be grateful. I remember Scotty saying that he was reluctant to "fly" the X-15 simulator because it would give him only theoretical feedback based on predictions about how this aircraft would fly - it was his job, he said, to write the formula for the simulator by flying the real thing first! What a difference to the approach today where experimental test flights occupy the centre, not the corner, of the envelope.

Scotty was very aware of the need for us to embrace the young and not distance ourselves from them - they are, after all, the next generation to whose shoulders the mantle will pass. He was highly supportive of the aerospace teachers' program which resonates deeply with me after a lifetime in aerospace - I spend much time in that role for universities and colleges.
Perhaps a quote direct from Scotty himself sys it all: "Each of us who strives toward the unattainable contributes to man's ever-growing reservoir of knowledge and fact. Each drop, however small, is vital for those who follow behind us. Without it man must inevitably atrophy. Thus, as Emerson says, Men walk as prophecies of the next Age."

Let all of us keep looking up and drawing more to our line of sight.

David Baker

Cambridge, UK

On April 19, 2006, a Cessna 210 piloted by Crossfield was reported missing while flying from Prattville, Alabama to Herndon, Virginia. On April 20, authorities confirmed his body was found in the wreckage of his plane in a remote area of Gordon County, Georgia. There were severe thunderstorms in the area when air traffic monitors lost radio and radar contact with Crossfield's plane.

While lightning itself poses a relatively minor risk to all-metal aircraft like Crossfield's, thunderstorms often contain turbulence severe enough to break an aircraft into pieces, as well as strong downdrafts, heavy rain, severe icing, and heavy hail. The Gordon County Sheriff's department reported that debris from Crossfield's aircraft was found in three different locations within a quarter mile, suggesting that the plane broke up while it was still in the air.

Scott was returning from Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama, where he had given a talk. He was survived by his wife of sixty years, Alice Crossfield; six children; and two grandchildren.
Scott Crossfield
A. Scott Crossfield former NASA Dryden Pilot

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.

A. Scott Crossfield

First X-15 test pilot (for NAA) and major contributor to design and development in an engineering role. Prior to the X-15 program Scott Crossfield had substantial test flight experience in the Bell X-1 and the Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket. It is possible that no other test pilot in aviation history has test flown as many aircraft that are now displayed in flight museums -- The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Milestones of Flight Gallery includes the #1 X-15 and the #2 Skyrocket, in which Crossfield became the first pilot to fly faster than Mach 2. He also flew the #2 Bell X-1, the sister ship of the #1 ("Glamorous Glennis"), which also hangs in the same gallery.

Scott Crossfield's X-15 experience included 14 free flights, 2 captive carries, 14 aborts, and numerous ground tests. Ground tests included the ammonia tank explosion that blew apart the #3 X-15 during an XLR-99 test run prior to first flight of this engine. All of his flight test work was part of North American Aviation's initial test phase, which brought the X-15 to readiness for its official delivery to NASA and the Air Force. This provided more than an average share of high adventure as early problems with aircraft systems were ironed out. Although his role with North American Aviation precluded flying missions in the research program, Crossfield has said that he was very pleased to have been able to spend 9 years of his life with the X-15, from its conception to his last flight.

His distinguished career in test flight and aeronautical engineering has been widely recognized. He was one of 6 test pilots who were the founding members of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP), and his participation in that organization still continues. At his 80'th birthday, in 2001, Scott Crossfield was still flying 200 hours per year as a private pilot. His autobiography is the book Always Another Dawn, and the following references are but three of more than 1,000 citations on the web:

Biography, at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

Biography, at Edwards AFB, Air Force Flight Test Center

Awards -- AVweb's summary of Scott Crossfield's awards and recognitions


March 21, 2001
Scott Crossfield

Scott Crossfield was the first pilot to fly the X-15. He was the first pilot to fly at Mach 2 and (unofficially) the first to fly at Mach 3 successfully.
That was the ascent phase of a 60-year career that took him from general aviation through the Navy, Ike's military-industrial complex at NACA, the airline business at Eastern, manufacturing and research at North American and Hawker-Siddley, politics on the House Transportation committee, and back to general aviation as a Cessna 210 owner. With a list of awards and recognitions longer than a dry lake bed, Scott has been a lifelong advocate for aviation education, and just last week presented the 16th annual A. Scott Crossfield Aerospace Teacher of the Year Award. In this month's Profile AVweb's Joe Godfrey talks with Scott about aeronautics, space, and general aviation: where we are, where we're going, and where we should be.

By Joe Godfrey

Scott CrossfieldA. Scott Crossfield was born October 2, 1921, in Berkeley, Calif. He took his first flight at age six in an oil company airplane, a flight that hooked him on aviation for life. During World War II he was a fighter pilot and fighter gunnery instructor in the U.S. Navy. In 1950, he joined NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and was a research pilot for the next five years at the High Speed Flight Research Station at Edwards, Calif. There he was the test pilot for numerous research aircraft, including the X-1, X-4, X-5, XF-92, the D-558-I, D-558-II, and on November 20, 1953 he became the first pilot to fly faster than Mach 2. He was also the first pilot to fly the X-15 and in 1960 became the first man to fly that aircraft (unofficially) at Mach 3.

Author's note: Here's the story on the adjective: Exceeding Mach 3 was Joe Walker's assignment, but Scott admits to bumping Mach 3 while flying his own assignment a few days before Walker did it. Technically that violated Scott's contract, and, although the statute of limitations for that transgression is long passed, he believes the official record properly belongs to Walker, which is why he adds "unofficially." -JG




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