Chair Force Engineer

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Missing Man

Scott Crossfield, one of the greatest pilots in the world of flight test, died in the crash of his personal aircraft at the age of 84. He will truly be missed.

When the sound barrier was broken in 1947, it ushered in an "Age of Heroes" in the aerospace world. Fueled by Cold War passions, men went higher and further then ever before, and shattered records at a frenzied pace.

The names of the test pilots (and their successors, the astronauts) were seared into the minds of Americans and motivated the children of that era to join them in the quest for the stars. Chuck Yeager will always be remembered as the first man to go supersonic (although history is not his friend on this claim.) Bill Bridgeman briefly claimed the title "The Fastest Man Alive." Neil Armstrong's name became synonymous with the pinnacle of aviation achievement after he walked on the moon (on top of an incredibly gutsy flying career.)

Scott Crossfield may not have the name recogniton anymore, but he was a great among greats. His many accomplishments include being the first man to break Mach 2 (in the Douglas Skyrocket) and conducting the early flights of the phenominal X-15 spaceplane. He flew practically all of the early X-Planes; after a flight in the tailless X-4, he reportedly said, "Both the aviator and the airplane require a considerable amount of tail."

The Age of Heroes ended with the Apollo program, but Scott Crossfield and the other aviation legends continued until their dying days in advancing aviation & spaceflight. Ad Astra, Scott. You will be missed.