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Douglas D-558-2 "Skyrocket"

The Douglas D-558-2 "Skyrockets" were among the early transonic research airplanes like the X-1, X-4, X-5, and X-92A. Three of the single-seat, swept-wing aircraft flew from 1948 to 1956 in a joint program involving the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), with its flight research done at the NACA's Muroc Flight Test Unit in Calif., redesignated in 1949 the High-Speed Flight Research Station (HSFRS); the Navy-Marine Corps; and the Douglas Aircraft Co.

The HSFRS became the High-Speed Flight Station in 1954 and is now known as the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. The Skyrocket made aviation history when it became the first airplane to fly twice the speed of sound.

On Nov. 20, 1953, shortly before the 50th anniversary of powered flight, Crossfield piloted the Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket research aircraft to Mach 2 - twice the speed of sound, or more than 1,290 mph.

The '2' in the aircraft's designation referred to the fact that the Skyrocket was the phase-two version of what had originally been conceived as a three-phase program, with the phase-one aircraft having straight wings. The third phase, which never came to fruition, would have involved constructing a mock-up of a combat-type aircraft embodying the results from the testing of the phase one and two aircraft.



Stan Butchart


Robert Champine


Scott Crossfield


Frank "Pete" Everest


D-558-2 with F-86 chase plane

The D-558-2 pilot pictured is Bill Bridgeman with Chuck Yeager flying chase*


John Griffith


  • First flight #1 by Douglas Test Pilot John Martin on 4 February 1948

  • Broke Mach 2 attained Mach 2.005 November 20, 1953 Scott Crossfield aircraft #2

  • Last flight of program by John McKay in aircraft #2 December 20, 1956


Plane Tail Number Flight Agency Date Pilot
#1 37973 1st Flight Contractor February 4, 1948 Martin
    Last Contractor D122 Contractor August 14, 1951 Bridgeman
    1st NACA N1 NACA September 17, 1956 McKay
    Last Flight N1

" "

" "

" "

    Total Flights 123      
#2 37974 1st Flight Contractor November 2, 1948 May
    Contractor D2 Contractor November 7, 1948 May
    1st NACA N1 NACA May 24, 1948 Champine
    Last Contractor D30** Contractor August 15, 1951 Bridgeman
    Last Flight N75 NACA December 20, 1956 McKay
    Total Flights 105      
#3 37975 1st Flight Contractor January 8, 1949 May
    Last Contractor D21 Contractor November 27, 1950 Bridgeman
    1st NACA N1 NACA December 22, 1950 Crossfield
    Last Flight N66 NACA August 28, 1956 McKay
    Total Flights 87      
  • Total Contractor Flights 173

  • Total NACA Flights 142

  • Total Flights of Program 315

Toward Mach 2:
The Douglas D-558 Program
Edited by J. D. Hunley
NASA SP-4222  *page 33

Caution This is 20Mb file!

**After NACA flight #21 on January 6, 1950 by John Griffith, John's last flight in the D-558-2, aircraft 37974 was returned to Douglas for air launch modifications. Contractor flights resumed with D24 on January 26, 1951 by Bill Bridgeman. Bridgeman flew flights D24-D30. The NACA then took back over and started numbering flights N1 again - N75. The numbering is thus a bit confusing for plane number #2, or tail number 37974.

  • Tail number 37974, plane number #2

    • D1 - D2 Contractor flights

    • N1 - N21 NACA flights

    • N22 & N23 are not documented but believed to be aborts.

    • D24 - D30 Contractor Flights

    • N1 - N75 NACA Flights

    • Total 105 flights


NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

Skystreak, Skyrocket, & Stiletto Scott Libis Specialty Press