Albert Scott "Scotty" Crossfield, Jr. was born on October 2, 1921, in California. As a young boy, Crossfield was often confined indoors due to health problems related to pneumonia and rheumatic fever. During this time, he dreamed of becoming a pilot and designed and constructed model airplanes. Crossfield took his first airplane ride in 1927, at six years old, in an Alexander Eaglerock A-1 piloted by family friend Charles "Carl" Lienesch. Lienesch also encouraged Crossfield to become an engineer as well as a pilot. Unbeknownst to Crossfield's parents, he began taking flying lessons at the age of 12 at Wilmington Airport under the tutelage of pilot Vaughn McNulty. The family later moved to Washington State and it was there, at the Chehalis Airport, that Crossfield made his first solo flight in a Curtiss Robin. It was not until the summer of 1941, however, that Crossfield officially soloed and earned his pilot's license under the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA), Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP).
Crossfield enrolled in the University of Washington in 1940 and worked at the Boeing plant in Seattle, beginning in the fall of 1941, while still pursuing his studies. Crossfield's first assignment at Boeing was as an assembly page clerk. He was later promoted to the position of production expediter and shop salvage engineer. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Crossfield enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and continued to work at Boeing while he waited for an opening in a cadet class. In February 1942, tired of waiting on the Air Corps and eager to get into combat, Crossfield enlisted in the U.S. Navy instead where he joined the cadet class of May 7, 1942. Crossfield first trained in Seattle, Washington, and later was sent to the Naval Air Training Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he earned his Naval Aviator's wings in 1942. During his time in the Navy, Crossfield never fulfilled his ambition to see combat because he was selected instead to remain at Corpus Christi as a flight and gunnery instructor. Crossfield eventually was sent to Hawaii to prepare and train for an invasion of Japan but the war ended before this became necessary. During his time in the U.S. Navy, Crossfield flew the Grumman F6F Hellcat, Vought F4U Corsair, and the North American SNJ Texan, among other aircraft. After he separated from active duty with the Service, Crossfield remained active in the Naval Reserves and was part of an aerobatic team at Sand Point Naval Air Station that flew Goodyear FG-1D Corsairs.
Crossfield returned to his studies at the University of Washington in 1946 and was employed doing tests at the Kirsten Wind Tunnel at the University's Aeronautical Laboratory. Crossfield earned his Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1949 and his master's degree in aeronautical science in 1950. After obtaining his degrees, Crossfield joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) as a research pilot. During his time with NACA, Crossfield flew many aircraft including the Convair XF-92A, Bell X-1, Northrop X-4 Bantam, Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak, Bell X-5, Republic F-84F Thunderstreak, Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, North American F-86 Sabre, and the North American F-100A Super Sabre. Crossfield made history in the Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket on November 20, 1953, as the first pilot to exceed Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound).
In 1955, Crossfield left NACA and joined North American Aviation, Inc. to work on the X-15 program where he would not only serve as the X-15 Project Pilot but also as a Design Specialist, a role in which he was an integral part of the design of both the aircraft and the pressure suit developed by the David Clark Company for the X-15 program. The suit served as a prototype for the spacesuits later worn by astronauts. Crossfield helped to develop the X-15's cockpit, control, and engine systems; structural design; propulsion system; engineered its escape system; and contributed to its handling quality requirements. He also developed the ground control test methodology that would later become standard on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs. Crossfield piloted the North American X-15 on its first captive flight in March 1959, first glide flight in June 1959, and the first powered flight in September 1959, as well as numerous other test flights, before the X-15 was delivered to the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in February 1960. Crossfield also served as Chief Engineering Test Pilot at North American from 1955-1961 before moving to the Space and Information Systems Division first as the Director of Systems Test (1961) then as the Division Director of Test and Quality Assurance (1961-1966) where he was responsible for quality control in all North American projects including the Hounddog Missile (AGM-28, GAM-77), Paragliders for the Gemini program, Apollo Command and Service Module, and the Saturn V launch vehicles, second stage. Crossfield's final position with North American was as the Technical Director, Research, Engineering and Test from 1966-1967.
Crossfield joined Eastern Air Lines in Miami, Florida, as Division Vice President, Flight, Research, and Development, Flight Operations in 1967, a position he held until 1971 when he moved to Washington, DC, to serve as Staff Vice President, Transportation Systems Development (1971-1973). From 1974 to 1975, Crossfield served as Senior Vice President at Hawker Siddeley Aviation's U.S. subsidiary branch, an office he helped to establish. After leaving Hawker Siddeley, Crossfield served for many years as an independent technical advisor to the U.S. Congress. Crossfield also served on the United States Organizing Committee to plan the Air and Space Bicentennial. In the later part of his life, Crossfield traveled extensively to give talks, attend events, and make various professional appearances and it was on a return flight home from one such trip in 2006 that Crossfield was killed when the plane he was piloting was caught in a thunderstorm.
Crossfield was active in various organizations including the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP), a group in which he was a founding member. Crossfield also created the Scott Crossfield Foundation to support aerospace education. Crossfield was the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Sperry (Lawrence B.) Memorial Award (1954) and Chanute (Octave) Award (AIAA, 1958), Kincheloe Award (SETP, 1960), Harmon Trophy (1960), Collier (Robert J.) Trophy (1961), NASA Distinguished Service Medal (1993), and the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) Trophy for Lifetime Achievement (2000).
Crossfield published his autobiography,
Always Another Dawn
, in 1960 with Clay Blair, Jr. and is the author of numerous other publications, articles, and technical papers.