American test pilot (b. Oct. 2, 1921, Berkeley, Calif.-d. April 19, 2006, Gordon county, Ga.), became on Nov. 20, 1953, the first person to fly at Mach 2, twice the speed of sound, while flying for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the forerunner of NASA. He was also instrumental in helping to design the first full-pressure flight suit, which was later adopted for the astronauts. During World War II, Crossfield was an instructor and trained as a fighter pilot, although he did not see action. As the chief test pilot for North American Aviation, he piloted the X-15, a rocket-powered craft that was designed to reach the fringes of space, and he narrowly escaped two brushes with death-once when an engine blew up and the plane split in two during an emergency landing and again when the X-15 engine exploded during a ground test. Crossfield served as an executive for various airlines and as a consultant (1977-93) to the House Committee on Science and Technology. He was killed when his plane crashed in the mountains of northern Georgia during a thunderstorm.
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