Always Another Dawn
Scott Crossfield (1921 - 2006)
Even when he became the "fastest man alive" after his record-setting Mach 2 flight in November of 1953, temporarily taking the title away from perenneal rival Chuck Yeager (the two would trade the first position several times over the years), Crossfield was little known outside the rather closed circle of test pilot ranks. Unlike most of his military colleagues, Crossfield was a civilian, and yet by all accounts his skills in the cockpit rivaled the best of the Navy and Marine "stick jockeys" against whom he frequently competed.
His contributions to high-speed and high-altitude flight stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Yeager and others in the Edwards AFB group of the mid-to-late 1950's, such as Gus Grissom, Deke Slayton, and Gordo Cooper, all of whom would eventually eclipse him (in fame at least) during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs of the 1960's.
After his active flying career ended in the early '60's, he continued to make significant contributions the industry, acting as a consultant to aviation and aerospace manufacturers on several major programs, including the Apollo command module and Saturn V booster; serving as CEO for Eastern Airlines for a number of years (where he was succeeeded by Gemini & Apollo astronaut Frank Borman); as well as playing a key advisory role within NASA for the last decade of his career.
Given that, for many years Crossfield inhabited a rarified world of speed and danger, pursuing a profession that was known for taking a grissly toll on his fellow pilots, there's a certain grim irony in the manner of his death: After surviving several close calls himself over the years, to finally succomb in a small plane crash seems as fitting as it is unfortunate.
One interesting local connection: Crossfield received his B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Washington in 1949, rounding it off with a Masters Degree from "The U Dub" the following year.
Maybe somebody there will think to name a building after him someday.
on 4:43 PM