National Air and Space Museum Archives

A. Scott Crossfield Papers


Collection ID:
Crossfield, A. Scott (Albert Scott), 1921-
1940 - 2004
Physical Description:
20.23 Cubic feet
42 boxes
This collection consists of over nine cubic feet of material documenting Scott Crossfield's aviation career, with emphasis on his involvement with the North American X-15. The following types of material are included: correspondence; reel to reel tapes; papers, manuscripts; newspaper and magazine clippings; aviation manuals; photographs; film; and Crossfield's notes and reports.

Scope and Content note

Scope and Content note
This collection encompasses the entirety of Albert Scott "Scotty" Crossfield, Jr.'s career as an engineer, test pilot, airline executive, and speaker and advocate for aerospace education. Records in the collection date from Crossfield's time at college in the 1940s through his death in 2006. Crossfield's papers were donated to the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) Archives by the Crossfield family in 2006 and a second batch of material was received in 2008. The collection was received without any apparent organizational scheme, but some items were received in labeled folders and these folder titles were retained when the collection was processed. One group of material was loaned by the family for copying and these items were photocopied and placed within the appropriate folder in the case of documents, or were scanned and entered into the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) Archives image database in the case of photographs.
After his retirement from North American Aviation, Inc., Crossfield gave his papers to a former secretary, Marion Brown, so that she could organize them for his use in future writing projects. In February 1973, a U.S. Navy Vought A-7E Corsair II crashed into the apartment building where Brown lived and all of Crossfield's papers in her possession were destroyed. Due to this incident, the collection has more material from Crossfield's time with Eastern Air Lines and onwards, although the prior years are still well represented through records that were either retained in Crossfield's possession or copies that were gathered after the fact. There is correspondence from Crossfield relating to the crash in Box 11 of the collection.
The archival materials in this collection are organized into four series. The first series is composed of personal materials and includes school records, correspondence, personal photographs, records relating to various organizations in which Crossfield was active, information relating to the publication of Crossfield's autobiography, Always Another Dawn, other writings by Crossfield, financial records, subject files assembled by Crossfield, philatelic materials (Crossfield was an active collector and was a founding member and officer of The Aviation Historical Foundation, a philatelic organization), and news clippings. The material in this series is largely organized chronologically. Personal photographs and subject files are organized by topic first and chronologically within each folder and organizations are arranged alphabetically by name first and also chronologically within the individual folders.
The second series contains items relating to Crossfield's professional life, organized chronologically by place of employment. This series includes materials relating to Crossfield's work at Boeing, the U.S. Navy, the Kirsten Wind Tunnel at the University of Washington Aeronautical Laboratory, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), North American Aviation, Inc., Eastern Air Lines, Hawker Siddeley Aviation, Crossfield's work as an Independent Technical Advisor, Crossfield's application for the position of Director of the National Air and Space Museum, Crossfield's time as a member of the United States Organizing Committee, and his work with organizations such as the Scott Crossfield Foundation and The Wright Experience. During the later part of his life, Crossfield toured the country extensively giving speeches, presenting awards, etc. and there is a large amount of material relating to these appearances in this part of the collection. These materials arrived already organized chronologically by individual trip and this organizational scheme was retained. Specifically, the professional life series includes flight reports, manuals, drawings, business correspondence, administrative records, presentations and papers, travel itineraries, notebooks, calendars, speeches delivered by Crossfield, and career related photographs (which are broken out as their own subseries). The professional life series also includes a section of miscellaneous professional items including job seeking correspondence, information on the patent for a power wheel braking or driving unit designed by Crossfield, and a folder of Crossfield's résumés.
The third series consists of audiotapes and is organized first by tape format and then chronologically within each category. Subjects of the audiotapes include speeches, a large number of North American X-15 cockpit recordings and radio communications, tape produced for a television program, and autobiographical notes. A number of the audiotapes include no description. With a total of 65 examples in this series, the most common audiotape format in the collection is, by far, 7 inch reel to reel tapes. Other formats in this series include 5 inch reel to reel tapes, 3.125 by 3.5 inch metal audiotape cartridges, and Dictaphone recording belts. Please note that these audio recordings are unavailable to the researcher at the time of processing due to the format and fragility of the tapes.
The fourth series of this collection is comprised of oversized materials and additional materials including galley proofs, news clippings, drawings, charts, professional records, and photographs. The organization of this series mirrors the folder titles found in the rest of the collection.
The researcher should note that the collection also contains several motion picture films relating to the life and career of Albert Scott "Scotty" Crossfield, Jr. These films are not included in the container list but a NASM Archives staff person can assist you regarding access.


The A. Scott Crossfield Papers are organized into the following series and subseries:
Series I: Personal Materials
  • 1.1 School Records
  • 1.2 Correspondence
  • 1.3 Personal Photographs
  • 1.4 Organizations
  • 1.5 Information Related to the Publication of Always Another Dawn
  • 1.6 Other Writings by Crossfield
  • 1.7 Financial Records
  • 1.8 Subject Files
  • 1.9 Philatelic Materials
  • 1.10 News Clippings
  • 1.11 Miscellaneous Personal Records
Series II: Professional Life
  • 2.1 Boeing
  • 2.2 U.S. Navy
  • 2.3 Kirsten Wind Tunnel, University of Washington Aeronautical Laboratory
  • 2.4 National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA)
  • 2.5 North American Aviation, Inc.
  • 2.6 Eastern Air Lines
  • 2.7 Hawker Siddeley Aviation
  • 2.8 Independent Technical Advisor
  • 2.9 Application for NASM Director Position
  • 2.10 United States Organizing Committee
  • 2.11 Scott Crossfield Foundation
  • 2.12 The Wright Experience
  • 2.13 Speaking Engagements and Professional Appearances
  • 2.14 Career Related Photographs
  • 2.14 Miscellaneous Professional Records
Series III: Audiotapes
Series IV: Oversized Materials

Biographical/Historical note

Biographical/Historical note
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.


Jessamyn N. Lloyd
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
Alice Crossfield, Gift, 2006
Processing Information note
Arranged and described by Jessamyn N. Lloyd, 2010.
Encoded by Brittany Dunton, December 2011.

Using the Collection

Conditions Governing Use
Material is subject to Smithsonian Terms of Use. Should you wish to use NASM material in any medium, please submit an Application for Permission to Reproduce NASM Material, available at Permissions Requests.
Conditions Governing Access note
No restrictions on access.
Preferred Citation note
A. Scott Crossfield Papers, Accession number 2006-0041, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
Preferred Citation
A. Scott Crossfield Papers, Acc. 2006-0041, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.


Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
North American X-15 Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Air pilots Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Aeronautics Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Aeronautics -- Records Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Audiotapes Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Correspondence Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Manuscripts Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
North American Aviation, Inc. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Eastern Air Lines Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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