A. Scott Crossfield made aeronautical history and was dubbed the "fastest man alive" by becoming the first person to reach the aviation milestone of Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound). His boyhood dream to follow in the footsteps of aviation giants, such as Boeing's Edward Allen and the US Air Force's James H. Doolittle, had been realized. Born in Berkeley, California, in 1921, Crossfield began his illustrious career in 1940 by studying engineering at the University of Washington. He interrupted his education to join the US Navy and was commissioned as an ensign in 1943 following flight training. Crossfield served as a fighter and gunnery instructor and maintenance officer, and flew the Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair overseas.
At the end of World War II, he left the Navy to complete his aeronautical engineering degree at the University of Washington. Crossfield then joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA-the predecessor of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA) at Edwards AFB, California, as a research pilot in June 1950. During the next 5 years, he flew numerous aircraft and accumulated 87 rocket flights in the Bell X-1 and Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket, the latter being the aircraft he flew into the history books. Crossfield left NACA in 1955 to work for North American Aviation, who had won the contract to design and build the X-15 rocket powered aircraft. Crossfield was instrumental in the design and testing of this revolutionary aircraft, and also distinguished himself at North American as a system director responsible for many projects including the Apollo Command and Service Module and the Saturn II booster.
Crossfield took his expertise and experience to Eastern Airlines in 1967. He helped the company develop its technological applications, new aircraft specifications, and flight research programs. From 1974 to 1975, he was Senior Vice President for Hawker Siddeley Aviation. From 1977 until his retirement in 1993, he served as technical consultant to the House Committee on Science and Technology, advising members on matters relating to civil aviation. Upon his retirement, NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin awarded him the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal for his contributions to aeronautics and aviation over a period spanning half a century. Included among Crossfield's many other awards are the International Harmon Trophy, presented by President Kennedy for outstanding aviation achievement, the National Aeronautics Association's Collier Trophy, also presented by President Kennedy for the year's greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, and membership in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
On 20 November 1953, Scott Crossfield flew the swept wing D-558-II research aircraft Mach 2.005 (or 1,328 miles per hour). A modified Boeing P2B-1S (B-29 Superfortress), nicknamed Fertile Myrtle, acted as the "mother ship" to drop Crossfield and the Skyrocket at 32,000 feet before he climbed to 72,000 feet to begin his historic flight. His flight was part of a carefully planned program of research with the Skyrocket that featured incremental increases in speed while NACA instrumentation recorded the flight data at each increment.