Albert S. "Scott" Crossfield joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA--the predecessor of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA) at its High Speed Flight Research Station (now NASA Dryden Flight Research Center), Edwards, Calif., as a research pilot in June 1950. During the next five years, he flew the X-1, X-4, X-5, XF-92A, F-51D, F-86F, F9F, B-47A, YF-84, F-84F, F-100A, YF-102, D-558-I and D-558-II. During that time he logged 100 rocket flights, making him the single most experienced rocket pilot.
Commissioned an ensign in 1943 following flight training, he served as a fighter and gunnery instructor and maintenance officer before spending six months overseas without seeing combat duty. While in the Navy he flew the F6F and F4U fighters, as well as SNJ trainers, and a variety of other aircraft.
As a research pilot for the NACA he made aeronautical history on November 20, 1953, when he reached the aviation milestone of Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound) or more than 1,320 miles per hour in the D-558-II Skyrocket. Taken aloft in the supersonic, swept-wing research aircraft by a Boeing P2B-1S (the Navy designation of the B-29) "mother ship", he dropped clear of the bomber at 32,000 feet and climbed to 72,000 feet before diving to 62,000 feet where he became the first pilot to fly more than twice the speed of sound.
Crossfield left the NACA in 1955 to work for North American Aviation on the X-15 rocket-powered research airplane project. There, he served as both pilot and design consultant for the revolutionary new aircraft that was carried aloft and launched from beneath the wing of a B-52 for high-speed, high-altitude research missions.
As a result of his extensive rocket plane experience, he was responsible for many of the operational and safety features incorporated into the X-15 and was intimately involved in the design of the vehicle. Crossfield piloted its first free flight in 1959 and subsequently qualified the first two X-15s for flight before North American turned them over to NASA and the U.S. Air Force. Altogether, he completed 16 captive carry (mated to the B-52 launch aircraft), one glide and 13 powered flights in the X-15, reaching a maximum speed of Mach 2.97 (1,960 miles per hour) and a maximum altitude of 88,116 feet.
Upon his retirement in 1993, 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.
His many other awards included the International Clifford B. Harmon Trophy for 1960 and the Collier Trophy for 1961 from the National Aeronautics Association, both presented by Pres. John F. Kennedy at the White House. He received an honorary doctor of science degree from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1982. Crossfield has also been inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame (1983), the International Space Hall of Fame (1988), and the Aerospace Walk of Honor (1990). In 2002-2003, Crossfield served as technical adviser for the Countdown to Kitty Hawk project, which successfully built and flew an exact reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer, as well as several of the Wright brothers' earlier gliders. That project culminated with the airplane's presence at the national centennial of flight celebration at Kitty Hawk in December 2003. Crossfield was a founding member and fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.