Scott Crossfield is dead

The name might not mean much to many people, but to people who follow the history of flight testing his name is legendary. Scott Crossfield was the first man to fly twice the speed of sound in the Douglas D-558-II in 1953.

The wreckage of his Cessna 210 was found about 50 miles northwest of Atlanta. Civil Air Patrol members identified the body as Crossfield’s.

He was 84.

That is sad although I guess it was the best way for him to go. Maybe he decided to stress test the old airframe or something.

I recognized the name but couldn’t quite place it. He lived a long life with more excitement than most people get. Better than choking on Jello at 103 I suppose.

I had an old Guinness Book of Records when I was a kid, long before “The Right Stuff”, and Crossfield held several aviation records. Of course this wasn’t too many years after he set them, but his name was instantly recognizable when TRS came out.

The report I read said he was in thunderstorms when he went down. After all he’d been through, I wonder what was going through his mind in those last moments.

As a huge fan of the movie The Right Stuff, I know who Scott Crossfield is.
Actually, the other day I bought a pack of Bemens gum.
84 years and still flying. Pretty damn good.

As I’ve mentioned before, I worked as an extra on The Right Stuff. Though I didn’t make it into the film, I was filmed in the scene where Crossfield had just completed his historic flight.

Yeah, not the worst way to go for a pilot. I’m sure he tried to save the aircraft until the end.

Didn’t Crossfiled pilot the X-15 rocket plane as well? This probably makes HIM the first astronaut!

Wikipedia lists the X-15 flights. Crossfield flew the aircraft 14 times, achieving an altitude of 88,116.7 feet.

I don’t think Crossfield ever went high enough in the X-15 to qualify as an astronaut. He did survive two accidents in it, though. Once when he couldn’t jetison fuel before landing and the weight bent the fuselage, and once during a ground test of the engine when the whole thing exploded.

Don’t seem right to survive those and go down in a Cessna.

I don’t know… I’ll bet if you asked Crossfield 50 years ago how he wanted to live his life, he might have said, “I want to live until I’m 80 or 90, and then die flying an airplane.”

For a man like him, it probably beats the hell out of deteriorating away in a nursing home thinking about his lost youth.

Btw, Chuck Yeager is still flying as well at 83. And not just Cessnas. A couple of years ago he flew a P-51 at Oshkosh, and I think he still gets fighter jet stick time, or did until recently.

Bob Hoover, the other one of that bunch, is no longer flying. He lost his medical a few years ago. There was quite a scandal for a while because Hoover lost his license because an FAA examiner watched him perform at an airshow, and decided that he wasn’t ‘sharp’ any more and pulled his medical on the spot. Hoover fought it for a long time and won his medical back, and during that period flew airshows in other countries. Then after a few years back in the air he finally lost it for good (or maybe he still has it, but is no longer insurable for air show flying).

And maybe he arranged it. Too bad, although he wasn’t cheated out of much in life.

For those still flying: Gethomeitis is bad news.

Yup, had to go over 50 miles to earn astronaut wings. (Unfortunately, the civilian pilots were not given their wings until quite recently.) 88k meters would have done, but not 88k feet.

I’m sorry to hear about this. I met Crossfield at least once. Very nice guy. And for about a decade my office was about 100 feet from his D-558. The first X-15 wasn’t far away, but I don’t think Scotty ever flew that one.

I think I agree with the others here who say that that was the way to go.

You worked at the NASM? Very cool. What did you do there, and how’d you get a sweet gig like that?

A life well lived, may the angels speed him to his rest.

The fact that someone like Crossfield could get killed in a Cessna is a cautionary tale for us all. It can happen to anyone, no matter how much experience. Allowances of course for his age, but it still underlines how we fliers must be cautious and avoid complacency.

My favorite story about Crossfield is about when he dead-sticked the F-100 Supre Sabre he was testing. It lost power, and although nobody had ever done it, he put it down as nice as could be, but fast because no flaps were available.

He was so happy with himself he decided to use his momentum on the ground to taxi up to the hangar. Then he made a mistake: In an engine-out situation in that airplane you lose the hydraulics. The residual hydraulic power is then good for two presses of the brakes. He forgot this, lost the brakes and plowed right through the hangar wall!

Again, it can happen to anyone. My thanks to Crossfield for encouraging me to be cautious through his stories. It’s something I pass on to my flight students too.

In the early-'70s the FAA published small safety posters. One of them depicted an airplane flying toward a mountain with an Evil Cloud around it. The legend was ‘Get-there-itis / May someday bite us.’

2001 interview with Scott Crossfield.