Post-War Developments: 1946-1956

The Douglas Aircraft Co. ... Supersonic Experiments

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, engineers and scientists at the Douglas Aircraft Co. researched supersonic aircraft. These experimental aircraft included the D-558-1 Skystreak, the D-558-2 Skyrocket, and the X-3 Stiletto.

The jet-powered D-558-1 Skystreak, which flew first in May 1947, contributed important data used in future supersonic aircraft. It almost crossed the sound barrier on Aug. 20, 1947, when Marine Corps test pilot Marion Carl took the Skystreak to 650.7 mph, but was beaten to that goal in October of the same year by the Bell X-1, flown by Chuck Yeager.

On Aug. 15, 1951, a B-29 bomber carried the D-558-2 Skyrocket to an altitude of 35,000 feet and released it. The Skyrocket, flown by Douglas test pilot Bill Bridgeman, then climbed to a record 79,494 feet. Bridgeman pushed the D-558-2 into a shallow dive and quickly reached Mach 1.88 (1,238 mph), the fastest anyone had flown up to that time. The Skyrocket also set an unofficial altitude record of 83,235 feet on Aug. 21, 1953, while flown by Marion Carl.

On Nov. 20, 1953, government test pilot Scott Crossfield became the first person to fly at twice the speed of sound when he took the D-558-2 to Mach 2.005 (1,291 mph) in a dive following an air launch. The follow-on D-558-3 was intended to reach a velocity several times faster but was never built.

The needle-nosed X-3 Stiletto rolled out in 1952. Douglas engineers designed it to demonstrate the impact of the high temperatures caused by high speeds on aircraft structure. However, it was underpowered for its hypersonic mission and made very few flights.

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