In the history of daredevil test pilots, Albert “Scott” Crossfield is one pioneer who stands out from the crowd. A legendary test pilot in the post-World War II era, Crossfield is remembered as the first pilot to fly twice the speed of sound.
Born in 1921 in Berkeley, California, Crossfield first fell in love with flying at the age of 12, when he worked washing planes at a small airport. This passion led him to serve as a flight instructor and fighter pilot for the U.S. Navy in World War II.
After the war, Crossfield earned his Master of Science degree in aeronautical engineering, and joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics‘ (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station as an aeronautical research pilot.
This role allowed Crossfield to test nearly all of the post-WWII experimental aircraft, including the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket. On November 20, 1953, Crossfield made history as the first person to fly at twice the speed of sound, piloting the Skyrocket at a speed of 1,291 mph.
Crossfield died in 2006 at the age of 84, after his single-engine aircraft crashed in northern Georgia. His experiences as a test pilot were remembered in Tom Wolfe’s best-selling book, The Right Stuff, which was adapted into a film in 1983. A true pioneer of aviation, Crossfield’s legacy is celebrated with the A. Scott Crossfield Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year Award, which is presented at the National Aviation Hall of Fame each year.