Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Man Who Changed The World

There is a scene from The Right Stuff in Pancho Barnes' Happy Bottom Riding Club in which she says:
I tell you, we got two categories of pilots around here. We got your prime
pilots that get all the hot planes, and we got your pud-knockers who dream about
getting the hot planes. Now what are you two pud-knockers gonna have? Huh?

Yesterday in foul weather over Georgia, Prime Pilot Scott Crossfield's single engine plane went down killing the 84 year old pioneer. Crossfield was the first to fly at Mach 2 and flew the X-15 to 88,000 feet for North American Aviation.

The rivalry between military test pilots and civilians was the stuff of legend, with Chuck Yeager saying that Crossfield was a great pilot but too arrogant for Yaeger. But it was the brave men and women who tested the boundaries of flight who made so much of what we take for granted possible. Aviation today would be very different without the sacrifices of men like Scott crossfield.
The opening lines of that movie capture the sense of the mission:
There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would
die. Their controls would freeze up, their planes would buffet wildly, and they
would disintegrate. The demon lived at Mach 1 on the meter, seven hundred and
fifty miles an hour, where the air could no longer move out of the way. He lived
behind a barrier through which they said no man could ever pass. They called it
the sound barrier.
Oh, by the way, the bartender in the background of that scene, the one in the bad hat. That was Chuck Yaeger.

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