Scott Crossfield's "ALWAYS ANOTHER DAWN: THE STORY OF A ROCKET TEST PILOT"
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
I’ve read several books about post-WWII aerospace technology and aircraft development including what went on at Edwards Air Force Base. This one is more personal than most.
Crossfield started out when the early X-planes were still seen as advanced. He eventually left NACA to work with North American the developer of the X-15.
This book provides an insider’s view of development of the X-15 which is also (and more technically) detailed in Dennis R. Jenkins' X-15: EXTENDING THE FRONTIERS OF FLIGHT. Also of interest here is how the different early X-planes at Edwards handled and how delicate they were as pilots learned how to control them at the extreme edges of speed and altitude performance.
The deaths and injuries that occurred along the way are mentioned but not dwelt upon by Crossfield. It was an occupational hazard that most test pilots had to endure.
One interesting perspective I learned while reading this was how eventually the “advanced” rocket planes at Edwards were surpassed by production aircraft like the F-100 Super Sabre. Growing up in those times as I did, the image of Edwards aircraft presented in the popular media was of super-advanced space age technology. Little did I know that, viewed from the inside, budgets and inter-service rivalry stymied X-plane development while more money was being pumped into, for example, ICBM powerplants rather than give older x-planes another upgrade. Crossfield saw this happening and jumped to North American to be part of the X-15 program.
I heard Crossfield speak in person years ago at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. The place was packed. Crossfield’s pitch, honed by years of presentations, was not a disappointment and often thrilling. You could not argue with the significance of the work he did as provided personal insights into what it was like to fly those early beasts of the air.
Book review copyright (c) 2019 by Dennis D. McDonald
NOTE: I read this via a Kindle edition. As with many Kindle editions of older books this one suffers from many typos. Be aware of that if you are considering buying it.