Mach 2 Rivalry Recalled

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You'd never guess from meeting the unfailingly polite, soft-spoken and friendly older gentleman that Scott Crossfield was once the hottest stick on the planet. It was 50 years ago last Sunday that "Scotty" took the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket to 1,290 mph and became the first to hit Mach 2. But Crossfield admits there was more to it than that. "We thought it would be kind of cute if we beat (Chuck) Yeager and the Air Force to Mach 2 in the Navy airplane," Crossfield recalled. " It was a very friendly competition. This base (Edwards AFB) was made up from the top on down, at the time, of fighter pilots, and they're competitive. The aircraft had flown as fast as Mach 1.96 and to push it over the magic number they crammed extra fuel aboard and even waxed the exterior. It worked, and the plane hit Mach 2.005. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) approved the 50-year-old flight in part to commemorate the 50th anniversary. Three weeks after Crossfield's flight, Yeager hit Mach 2.44 in the Bell X-1A, and the friendly rivalry continues to this day. "Yeager always claimed that he was first to exceed Mach 2," said Crossfield. "I'd protest and he would say to me, 'Well, you were the first to get there, but I exceeded it.'" Crossfield remains active in aviation and is currently director of flight operations for the Wright Experience, training the pilots who will fly the Wright Flyer replica on Dec. 17 at Kitty Hawk.