The son-in-law of legendary test pilot Scott Crossfield has confirmed that the aviation pioneer was killed Thursday in the crash of his light plane in northern Georgia. He was 85.
Among other achievements, Crossfield was the first man to fly more than twice the speed of sound, piloting the Douglas Skyrocket to a speed of 1,320 mph in November, 1953. By today's standards, that may not seem particularly impressive, but it's important to remember that the sound barrier (Mach 1) was considered an impenetrable barrier (in some circles) before Chuck Yeager's historic flight in 1947.
While Crossfield was best know as a pilot in the X-15 rocket plane program in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was also an aeronautical engineer who worked on a variety of aircraft and missile programs over his long career. Crossfield is among the handful of aviation legends to receive both the Collier and Harmon Trophies, among other awards.
Crossfield was flying from Alabama to Virginia at the time his plane went down. He died doing something he truly loved. There is sadness in the death of a true aviation legend, but joy at the memory of a man who did so much to advance the science of flight--both in and out of the cockpit.
Y'know, spook, if I were Scott, I'd be feeling just a wee bit embarrased right now, given how he died vs. all the risks he took on, and overcame, as a test pilot during the heyday of test flight in the '50's and '60's.
Can you see White, Grissom, and Chafee (and perhaps USAF Maj. Carl Cross and NASA test pilot Joe Walker of XB-70 fame) watching Crossfield show up at the Pearly Gates? I can almost hear them laughing, saying: "You WUSS! You bought it HOW???"
(silent hat tip...the world is a lesser place when men like you leave us, Scott...Godspeed.)
Evidently Mr. Crossfield wandered into a level 6 thunderstorm. The FAA is looking into it, but I'm wondering if he had a storm scope or radar onboard.
It's hard to believe a pilot of his caliber would deliberately challenge one of those monsters.
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