Albert Scott Crossfield
United States Navy officer
Albert Scott Crossfield
Albert Scott Crossfield was an American naval officer and test pilot.
Biography
Albert Scott Crossfield's personal information overview.
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    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 2006
    Age 84
    His funeral ceremony was held at the Arlington National Cemetery on August 15, 2006.
    More Details Hide Details On September 27, 2007, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a report stating the probable cause of his crash to be as follows: "The pilot's failure to obtain updated en route weather information, which resulted in his continued instrument flight into a widespread area of severe convective activity, and the air traffic controller's failure to provide adverse weather avoidance assistance, as required by Federal Aviation Administration directives, both of which led to the airplane's encounter with a severe thunderstorm and subsequent loss of control." Crossfield received the Lawrence Sperry Award (1954), Octave Chanute Award (1954), Iven C. Kincheloe Award (1960), American Rocket Society (ARS) Astronautics Award (1960), Harmon International Trophy (1961 at the White House by President John F. Kennedy), Collier Trophy (1961 at the White House by President Kennedy in 1962), John J. Montgomery Award (1962), NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal (1993), and was named Honorary Fellow by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) (1999). Crossfield is the only American to be honored in the White House for his contributions in advancing aeronautical science - or any other discipline - more than once, let alone two consecutive years. He has been inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame (1983), the International Space Hall of Fame (1988), the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame (1998), Aerospace Walk of Honor (1990), The Glen A. Gilbert Memorial Award (1990) and the National Air and Space Museum Trophy (2000).
    On April 19, 2006, a Cessna 210A piloted by Crossfield was reported missing while flying from Prattville, Alabama toward Manassas, Virginia.
    More Details Hide Details On April 20, authorities confirmed his body was found in the wreckage of his plane in a remote area of Ludville, 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. Crossfield was returning from Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama, where he had given a speech to a class of young Air Force officers attending the Air and Space Basic Course. He was survived by his wife of sixty-three years, Alice Crossfield, six children and nine grandchildren.
  • 2001
    Age 79
    From 2001 to 2003, Crossfield trained pilots Terry Queijo, Kevin Kochersberger, Chris Johnson and Ken Hyde for The Wright Experience, which prepared to fly a reproduction Wright Flyer on the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight on December 17, 1903.
    More Details Hide Details The training was successful, but the re-creation of the flight on December 17, 2003 was ultimately not successful due to low engine power and the flyer's rain-soaked fabric covering which added considerably to its takeoff weight. The Wright replica did fly successfully at Kitty Hawk after the Centennial jubilee but without media coverage. When asked to name his favorite airplane, Crossfield replied, "the one I was flying at the time," because he thoroughly enjoyed them all and their unique personalities. To young teens, he would compare airplanes to different girls or boys they would date: each one was special and a learning experience.
  • 1991
    Age 69
    In the 1991 Discovery Channel series Frontiers of Flight, Crossfield claimed he " probably had more centrifuge time, pressure suit time and pressure chamber time and all of that than any man alive."
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  • 1986
    Age 64
    In 1986 he created and funded the A. Scott Crossfield Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year Award presented annually under the stewardship of the Civil Air Patrol during the National Congress on Aerospace Education now called the National Conference on Aerospace Education (NCASE).
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  • 1983
    Age 61
    Crossfield was played by Scott Wilson in the 1983 film The Right Stuff.
    More Details Hide Details Crossfield co-authored Always Another Dawn, a story of a rocket test pilot, with Clay Blair Jr, and authored "Onward and Upward" Research Airplanes, Act II.
  • FIFTIES
  • 1977
    Age 55
    In 1977, he joined the United States House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology where he served, until his retirement in 1993, as a technical adviser on all aspects of civil aviation research and development and became one of the nation's leading advocates for a reinvigorated research airplane program.
    More Details Hide Details In 1986, this House Committee tasked Crossfield to be a member of the task group assigned to investigate the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. In a 2000 public lecture, 'Scotty' (as he was known to friends) described how the X-15 aeronautical calculations and design required computing power that filled four 10'x12' rooms. He went on to say that these very same calculations could be performed today on a notebook computer. He also hinted that Burt Rutan and his Scaled Composite company were performing pioneering work for a private aircraft to take-off from an airport, fly into outer space, and return to that airport. In 2004, White Knight carried Space Ship One to its successful launch and winning of the Ansari X-Prize, the first attempt by a plane since the X-15 cancellation.
  • 1974
    Age 52
    In 1974-1975, he worked for Hawker Siddeley as a senior vice president supporting HS 146 activities in the United States.
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  • FORTIES
  • 1967
    Age 45
    In 1967, Crossfield joined Eastern Air Lines where he served as a division vice president for research and development and, subsequently, as a staff vice president working with U.S. military and civilian agencies on air traffic control technologies.
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  • THIRTIES
  • 1961
    Age 39
    In 1961, A. Scott Crossfield became division director of test and quality assurance for NAA's Paraglider project.
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  • 1960
    Age 38
    On June 8, 1960, he had another close call during ground tests with the XLR-99 engine.
    More Details Hide Details He was seated in the cockpit of the No. 3 X-15 when a malfunctioning valve caused a catastrophic explosion. Once again he was uninjured as pried open the cockpit to save him and despite being subjected to a later calculated acceleration force of near 50 Gs. (although Crossfield stated in the Discovery Channel's series Frontiers of Flight he began to have debilitating issues with his night vision after the accident) and the airplane was completely rebuilt. On November 15 of the same year, he completed the X-15's first powered flight with the XLR-99 engine. Two flights later, on December 6, he brought North American's demonstration program to a successful conclusion as he completed his final flight in the X-15. Although it had been his hope to eventually pilot one of the craft into space, the USAF would not allow it, and gave strict orders which basically amounted to "stay in the sky, stay out of space."
  • 1959
    Age 37
    On September 17, 1959, he completed the first powered flight.
    More Details Hide Details Because of delays in the development of the X-15's mammoth 57,000 pounds force (254 kN) thrust XLR-99 engine, the early flights were completed with a pair of interim XLR-11 rocket engines. Shortly after launch on his third flight, one of these engines exploded. Unable to jettison his propellants, Crossfield was forced to make an emergency landing during which the excessive load on the aircraft broke its back just behind the cockpit. He was uninjured and the airplane was repaired.
    On June 8, 1959, he completed the airplane's first flight, an unpowered glide from 37,550 feet.
    More Details Hide Details The flight was troubled as the flight controls had not been set up properly. As Crossfield attempted to land the unfueled X-15, it went into what Crossfield described as "a classic PIO" or pilot induced oscillation. He managed to set down the X-15 on the desert runway at the bottom of one of the severe oscillations saving himself and the airframe.
  • 1955
    Age 33
    Crossfield left NACA in 1955
    More Details Hide Details As chief engineering test pilot for North American, Crossfield played a major role in the design and development of the North American X-15 and its systems. Once it was ready to fly, it was his job to demonstrate its airworthiness at speeds ranging up to Mach 3 (2,290 mph). Because the X-15 and its systems were unproven, these tests were considered extremely hazardous. Crossfield flew 14 of the 199 total X-15 flight tests with most of these tests establishing and validating initial key parameters. Crossfield not only designed the X-15 from the beginning, but introduced many innovations, including putting engine controls of the rocket plane into the cockpit. Previously, all engine adjustments resulted from technicians making adjustments on the ground based upon results of flight profiles. It was during this time that Crossfield was part of the U.S. Air Force's Man In Space Soonest project.
  • 1954
    Age 32
    In September 1954, Crossfield was forced to make a deadstick landing in the North American F-100 Super Sabre he was evaluating at Dryden (now the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center), a feat which North American's own test pilots doubted could be done, as the F-100 had a high landing speed.
    More Details Hide Details Crossfield made a perfect approach and touchdown, but was unable to bring the unpowered aircraft to a halt in a safe distance, and was forced to use the wall of the NACA hangar as a makeshift brake after narrowly missing several parked experimental aircraft ("with great precision," as he later wryly joked). Crossfield was uninjured, and the F-100 was later repaired and returned to service.
  • 1953
    Age 31
    On November 20, 1953, he became the first person to fly at twice the speed of sound as he piloted the Skyrocket to a speed of 1,291 mph (2,078 km/h, Mach 2.005).
    More Details Hide Details The Skyrocket D-558-II surpassed its intended design speed by 25 percent on that day. With 99 flights in the rocket-powered X-1 and D-558-II, Crossfield had — by a wide margin — more experience with rocketplanes than any other pilot in the world by the time he left Edwards to join North American Aviation in 1955.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1950
    Age 28
    In 1950, Crossfield joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics' (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station (later called the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, and now named the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center) at Edwards Air Force Base, California, as an aeronautical research pilot.
    More Details Hide Details Crossfield demonstrated his flight test skills on his very first student solo. His instructor was not available on the designated early morning, so Crossfield, on his own, took off and went through maneuvers he had practiced with his instructor, including spin entry and spin recovery. During the first spin, Crossfield experienced vibrations, banging, and noise in the aircraft that he had never encountered with his instructor. He recovered, climbed to a higher altitude, and repeated his spin entry and spin recovery, getting the same vibration, banging and noise. On his third spin entry, at yet an even higher altitude, he looked over his shoulder as he was spinning and observed the instructor's door disengaged and flapping in the spin. He reached back, pulled the door closed, and discovered all the vibrations, banging and noise stopped. Satisfied, he recovered from the spin, landed (actually, did several landings), and fueled the airplane. He also realized his instructor had been holding the door during their practice spin entries and recoveries, and never mentioned this door quirk. In later years, Crossfield often cited his curiosity about this solo spin anomaly and his desire to analyze what was going on and why it happened, as the start of his test pilot career.
  • 1946
    Age 24
    From 1946 to 1950, he worked in the University of Washington's Kirsten Wind Tunnel while earning his Bachelor of Science degree in 1949 and Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1950.
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  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1921
    Born
    Born October 2, 1921, in Berkeley, California, Crossfield grew up in California and Washington.
    More Details Hide Details He served with the U.S. Navy as a flight instructor and fighter pilot during World War II.
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