A profession just like anything else.
April 20, 2006 11:57 AM   Subscribe

Scott Crossfield, Pilot, Pioneer. (1921-2006) "In the days of the research airplane program, things were somewhat different than the bureaucracy that we find ourselves in today. For instance, there could be a day where I would do an X-1 launch early in the morning, fly the X-4 over lunch hour, and do a D-558-II launch in the afternoon."
posted by grabbingsand (13 comments total)
Of particular interest from the linked 1988 interview:

Q. Okay, Mr. Crossfield, you said that people make a big deal of test pilots. The (pilots) are really just individuals. Would you comment on that please?

A. Well, we keep talking about test pilots but there is no such thing as a "test pilot." There are all kinds of people. There are tall people, small people. Some of them are functionally illiterate and some are intellectual. Some are moral. Some are immoral. They are all just people who incidentally do flight tests. It is a profession just like anything else. There is not, to my mind, any common thing called a test pilot.

Q. ...When you were speaking before, you said that the idea of the hero is really kind of silly.

A. The opportunity to be a test pilot...is there for all--and probably within the grasp of most. In my mind, we should divest ourselves of this idea of special people (being) heroes, if you please, because really they do not exist.

posted by grabbingsand at 12:01 PM on April 20, 2006

I remembered the name and think it was from "The Right Stuff", although I haven't seen that in a while to be clear on the details.
posted by smackfu at 12:18 PM on April 20, 2006

Metafilter: small, functionally illiterate, immoral test pilots.
posted by ab3 at 12:23 PM on April 20, 2006

Ironic that he died in a Cessna crash.
posted by driveler at 12:30 PM on April 20, 2006

Q. ...When you were speaking before, you said that the idea of the hero is really kind of silly.

Well, people tend to throw the 'hero' moniker around a bit too much anyway.
posted by NationalKato at 12:35 PM on April 20, 2006

It's about time somebody came out and said that, NationalKato. You're my hero. :)
posted by davejay at 12:37 PM on April 20, 2006

In his auto-biography, General Chuck Yeager didn't have too high of an opinion of Mr. Crossfield...
posted by BobFrapples at 12:46 PM on April 20, 2006

Thank you, grabbingsand. I was probably twelve the first time I read The Right Stuff. I was already a NASA devotee, and I was tremendously impressed by Scott Crossfield and others involved with flight test. I knew the history that NASA wanted me to know: the Original Seven, John Glenn's Friendship capsule, the race to the moon. I knew nothing of Crossfield (et al, except Yeager) until Tom Wolfe set me straight. Much reading followed.

It takes big dreams and big cojones to pilot your way into space before the government's managed to match Sputnik. Godspeed, Scott Crossfield, and thanks.
posted by swerve at 12:52 PM on April 20, 2006

Ironic that he died in a Cessna crash.

My brother said the same thing when he emailed me the news report a little while ago.

And yes, smackfu, you remember correctly.

Crossfield was the first man to exceed Mach 2, and came this close (2.97) to Mach 3.
posted by pmurray63 at 1:55 PM on April 20, 2006

posted by moonbird at 9:02 PM on April 20, 2006


These guys really did have the right stuff.
posted by greycap at 11:19 PM on April 20, 2006

Perhaps Crossfield's closest call while testing the X-15 occurred on the ground. In June 1960, during a static ground test of a new rocket engine [French translation], Crossfield narrowly escaped injury or death:
One of the biggest problems during the NAA testing portion of the program occurred during the ground testing of the large engine, the XLR-99, installed in the X-15 airframe. This occurred at Edwards Air Force Base at the thrust stand facility. We were running complete static tests on the aircraft with the large engine prior to its first flight. The X-15 was completely fueled, Crossfield was in the cockpit, the canopy closed, all the test engineers were in the blockhouse, a situation that could make the pilot feel expendable [*], and all instrumentation had been installed and was checked out.

The test director gave the pilot the go-ahead, and Scott proceeded to start the engine and advanced the throttle to a high thrust, then lowered the power. This was repeated several times. On about the second or third time, there was a tremendous explosion. The cockpit moved about 20 ft forward, the aft fuselage and tankage disappeared, and flames enveloped the whole area. While the flames were still roaring around, one of the ground crew members got Scott out of the cockpit, and fortunately with no personal injury to either party.
He survived an explosive acceleration of 50 Gs: photos of the test aftermath are here [French translation].

*Crossfield said later that seeing the ground crew wave goodbye and retreat into their blockhouse didn't exactly "build the confidence of the pilot." A brief bio and list of his X-15 flights is here.
posted by cenoxo at 11:39 PM on April 20, 2006

One amazing (word deleted)!
posted by blasdelf at 1:50 AM on April 21, 2006

« Older In The Pit   |   Moo Tube Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments