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  Autograph of the Week 002: Scott Crossfield

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Author Topic:   Autograph of the Week 002: Scott Crossfield

Posts: 474
From: Northville MI USA
Registered: Aug 2005

posted 08-19-2012 09:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yeknom-ecaps   Click Here to Email yeknom-ecaps     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Autograph of the Week, Week 2 (August 20, 2012)
Space Autograph of the Week Topic 2: Scott Crossfield

Scott Crossfield is one of the legendary test pilots from the "Golden Age" of research aircraft. But the stories behind this man are truly legendary! Here are a few of them...

Crossfield would often refer to his very first solo flight as the start of his test pilot career. That flight certainly demonstrated his flight test skills. As he told it — what is a student who is going to fly solo for the first time do when the instructor doesn't show up? Fly solo anyway! After taking off in his solo flight Crossfield flew off and began going through the maneuvers he had practiced with his instructor. The maneuvers included spin entry and spin recovery. As would be expected on a first solo flight something has to go wrong — after the first spin entry Crossfield experienced vibrations, banging, and noise in the aircraft that he had never encountered in any of his training flights with the instructor. He performed his recovery. Then what would he do? Land and see what it was? No, Crossfield climbed to a higher altitude, and repeated his spin entry and spin recovery, getting the same result. So why not try again... climb higher and on this third spin entry he looked over his shoulder as the plane was spinning and observed the instructor's door disengaged and flapping in the spin. He reached back (remember the plane is spinning!) and pulled the door closed, and all the vibrations, banging and noise stopped. Confidently, Crossfield recovered from the spin, and then he landed the plane.

In 1950, Scott Crossfield joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics' (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base, California, as an aeronautical research pilot. Crossfield flew nearly all of the experimental aircraft being tested, including the X-1, XF-92, X-4, X-5, Douglas D-558-I Skystreak and the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket.

In 1951, Crossfield made his first flight in the X-1 rocket plane. The X-1 was carried aloft by a B-29 to 30,000 feet and was released, then the unexpected happened, it flipped on its back. After using his skills to right the X-1 Crossfield fired the rocket engines and rose to over 41,000 feet. Things seemed to be going smooth but then the windshield iced over and he was unable to see anything. Quick thinking and in desperation, he removed one of his flight boots and used his sock to rub a hole through the ice large enough to allow him to see adequately for a safe landing.

On November 20, 1953, he became the first person to fly at twice the speed of sound as he piloted the Skyrocket D-558-II to a speed of 1,291 mph or Mach 2.005. The Skyrocket surpassed its intended design speed by 25 percent on that day.

In September 1954 Crossfield was forced to make a dead stick landing in the North American F-100 Super Sabre he was evaluating, a feat which North American Aviation's own test pilots doubted could be done, as the F-100 had a high landing speed. 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. Crossfield was uninjured.

In 1955 Crossfield would join North American Aviation and would become the primary test pilot for the upcoming X-15 aircraft.

In the June 8, 1959 glide flight, the X-15 was successfully dropped from the B-52 at 38,000 feet, and Crossfield entered into a steep descending turn, then flared for a landing. Suddenly the X-15 began gyrating, nose up, then nose down, then nose up over and over again. Crossfield was able to use his skills to bring the plane down and the X-15 skidded a mile before coming to a halt.

A tremendous jar shook the X-15 during his third powered X-15 flight and the "fire" warning light illuminated — an explosion of the rocket motors had buckled the fuselage. During that descent, the cockpit windows completely frosted and Crossfield was again literally flying an aircraft blindly. Once again it is a sock to the rescue — he removed his flight boot, took off his sock, and created a peep hole to reference his chase plane wingman all the way to landing. Not one to be away from trouble for long, on June 8, 1960, Crossfield had another close call during ground tests with the XLR-99 engine. He was seated in the cockpit of the No. 3 X-15 when a malfunctioning valve caused a catastrophic explosion but an uninjured Crossfield walked away.

Then on November 15th, 1960, Crossfield became the first man to exceed three times the speed of sound — and survive! President John F. Kennedy presented Crossfield with the International Harmon Trophy as the "world's outstanding aviator" in 1960.

This is but a fraction of the things Crossfield accomplished in his career.

Crossfield was always a terrific signer and would return signed items almost immediately. Though questions asked usually received at most one or two sentence answers on the same paper the question was asked on. Pictured above is a cover produced for the first captive flight of the X-15 signed by Crossfield (the cachet and cancel are March 11, 1959 but the actual flight was March 10).

Looking forward to your posts of your favorite Scott Crossfield item and any story behind it.


Posts: 582
From: Belgium
Registered: Jul 2003

posted 08-20-2012 09:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dirk   Click Here to Email Dirk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In 2004 Scott Crossfield sent me a nice answer on my questions about Mutke (Ger), Goodlin, Welch, Hoover and Lilly, claiming having flew Mach 1 before Yeager, and about the design of the D558-II.


Posts: 570
From: Statesville, NC
Registered: Mar 2009

posted 08-20-2012 03:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dogcrew5369   Click Here to Email dogcrew5369     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Scott Crossfield sent me this letter after I had sent him a few photos I had of his D-558-1 Skystreak in sad shape. The Carolinas Aviation Museum that I volunteered at had acquired it shortly after the photos had been taken at Cherry Point MCAS. In this letter he believes the Skystreak is the #37970, but is actually #37972 that he flew a lot during the test years.

In 2001 the museum held an unveiling of the restored D-558-1 which Crossfield attended and I got to chat with him. I also have a photo or two with him in front of his Skystreak. One of the most historic days that I can remember witnessing with my own eyes. Robert Champine and Stuart Childs was also there.

It was an honor meeting him that day. I've also included before and after photos of this historic aircraft.

Above photo shows #37972 in very early restoration in 2000. Below photo speaks for itself. Sorry if these photos don't follow autograph criteria, but I think they add to my letter.

Bob M

Posts: 1393
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 08-21-2012 08:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had the pleasure of meeting Scott Crossfield in 2004 at the Civil Air Patrol's National Congress on Aviation and Space in Atlanta. Besides Crossfield, also there were Space Shuttle astronauts Jim Voss and Joe Edwards. All three gave fascinating accounts of their careers and it was a wonderful experience for us space and aviation fans. At the conclusion of the event, guests had the opportunity to meet the attendees, and I literally bumped into Crossfield in the active crowd.

Because of the short notice of the event, I didn't have time to acquire an appropriate item for Crossfield to sign, having exhausted all appropriate material sent to him previously to autograph.

So I chose an X-24B cover previously autographed/inscribed by Chuck Yeager and decided to use that cover that would result in autographs of both the first pilot to fly Mach 1, Yeager, and the first pilot to fly Mach 2, Crossfield. However, when I asked Crossfield to inscribe something along those lines he hesitated and I just quickly thought to ask him to add "X-15." That didn't work out quite as I intended, but still resulted in something that I'm very proud of.


Posts: 1025
Registered: Aug 2002

posted 08-21-2012 05:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MarylandSpace   Click Here to Email MarylandSpace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was so fortunate to hear Scott Crossfield speak at Frederick, MD; College Park MD Airport; and at the NASM. I was on the edge of my seat each time listening to his details. He was a true scientist/engineer.

Do you all remember that in 2002-2003 he worked on the 100th anniversary Wright Bros project? I was fortunate to have him sign one of my two copies of Always Another Dawn. He was a very gracious man.


Posts: 1339
From: Huntington Beach
Registered: Feb 2000

posted 08-21-2012 05:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aztecdoug   Click Here to Email Aztecdoug     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by MarylandSpace:
Do you all remember that in 2002-2003 he worked on the 100th anniversary Wright Bros project?

Yes, I even recall that it sort of crashed, as it were, and he tumbled out of it at his age! He stood right back up after rolling on the ground.


Posts: 1273
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 08-21-2012 07:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
His words were something to the effect that the Wright Flyer flew totally different than any modern pilot was accustomed to.


Posts: 585
From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 08-21-2012 09:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Not directly autograph-related, but since Crossfield the man has come up: In 1987 or 1988 Chuck Yeager published a book called "Press On!" that was a sequel of sorts to "Yeager." In its review, "Air & Space Smithsonian" ripped the book to shreds.

The next issue's letters column included a contribution taking the reviewer to task for the review's snarky tone, saying it wasn't called for and reminding the reviewer it's completely possible to criticize a book without getting personal about it.

The letter was signed "A. Scott Crossfield."

Considering the stories about Yeager's opinion of him, I have never forgotten Crossfield's gesture. It reinforces what I've so often heard, that Scott Crossfield was a class act.


Posts: 1273
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 08-25-2012 03:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, this Scott Crossfield probably looks like it is on a totally unrelated cover. But there’s an interesting story to both the cover and the autograph.

If you talk to any X-15 postal cover collector, he/she will be searching for an X-15 cover from the first free flight, a glide flight on June 8, 1959. Nobody has even seen one. They just don’t seem to be out there. So, I altered the old "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades." saying to include unfindable X-15 covers.

This cover was postmarked at Los Angeles International Airport at 8:30 am on June 8, 1959, about 9 minutes before Crossfield was launched on the glide flight, roughly 80 miles away at Edwards. The LAX airport mail facility was also just across the airport from the North American Aircraft plant where the X-15 was built. So, this is as close as I have been able to get to a June 8, 1959 X-15 flight cover.

Well, I sent this to Crossfield many years ago with a note explaining all of the above. As always, Crossfield-the-gentleman signed the cover and jotted his own note down on my note. His note mentioned that he actually carried six covers on his flight that day! Then he mailed them off to whoever sent them, and he had never seen them again. And understandably, he could no-longer recall the name of the requestor…

So, Scotty, here’s to you, and your keeping the search alive!

Bob M

Posts: 1393
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 08-25-2012 03:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great cover/autograph and great story! Such autograph material and stories are what we are looking for here.


Posts: 1423
From: Fairfax, VA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 08-26-2012 09:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As you can see in David's letter above, Crossfield lived for years in Herndon, Virginia, just a couple of miles from where I lived for several years. I did some teacher training at Crossfield Elementary School in Herndon.

Around the year 2000, I wrote to Crossfield asking him to sign a couple of items, including this cover:

I also asked if I could meet him some time, offering to take him to lunch at one of Herndon's nicer restaurants. He wrote on my letter, "Sorry, my dance card is pretty full" which I think was a funny way of letting me down easily.

All times are CT (US)

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