Albert Scott Crossfield was born October 2, 1921 in Berkeley, California. He served as a Navy fighter pilot and flight instructor in WWII, and was a graduate of the University of Washington, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1949 and a master’s degree in 1950, both in aeronautical engineering. In 1950, he was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base, California, as an aeronautical research pilot.
Crossfield was one of a handful of test pilots whose achievements in supersonic flight made history in the 1950s. On November 20, 1953, he became the first man to pilot an aircraft at Mach 2, reaching a speed of 1,291 mph in the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket.
Crossfield miraculously survived two engine explosions: one on the ground which destroyed the plane around him, another at high altitude which resulted in a crash landing.
The 84 year old Crossfield died in a plane crash in north Georgia Wednesday night, having been caught in a major thunder storm while flying home in a small Cessna from Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, where he had been delivering a talk.