Planes of Fame Air Museum
 
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Home »  Collection »  Flying & Static Aircraft »  Douglas D-558-II 'Skyrocket'

HISTORY

  • The US Navy contracted with Douglas Aircraft to build the D-558-II Skyrocket (developed from the D-558-1 Skystreak) as a transonic and supersonic research vehicle. Three of the single-seat, swept wing aircraft were built in 1948. Two of these were used by the U. S. Navy and the one on display at Planes of Fame Air Museum was flown by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which later became NASA.
  • Flight tests were held from 1948 through 1956 in a joint program between the Navy and NACA at Muroc Flight Test Center (later Edwards Air Force Base) in California. On November 20, 1953, just days before the 50th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' historic first flight, Scott Crossfield flew the Skyrocket to a record speed of 1 ,327 mph, twice the speed of sound -- the first time this speed had been achieved. Later that same year the D-588-II #2, flown by Bill Bridgeman, set the altitude record of 83,235 feet.
  • Originally designed to take off and land under its own power, the aircraft incorporated both a jet (for low altitudes) and a rocket engine (for high altitudes). The aircraft was later modified to remove the jet engine, to save weight and fuel. The modified Skyrocket was lifted aloft by a B-29 and released at 35,000 feet for test flights.

 

DISTINCTION

  • Manufactured in El Segundo, California and delivered on November 10, 1947, the Museum’s D-558-II (NACA 143) is the first of the three Skyrockets built.  From February 1948 until August 1951, it completed 122 contractor-directed flights.  These were ground-takeoffs made by Douglas Aircraft test pilots to determine the transonic and supersonic capabilities of the aircraft.  It was eventually returned to Douglas (El Segundo) for conversion to rocket-only air launch.  On September 17, 1956, the aircraft made its final (and only NACA) flight, flown by test pilot John McKay, when “Fertile Myrtle,” the Navy P2B-1S, dropped it at 35,000 feet.  After program cancellation in December, the Navy used the aircraft for several years as a traveling “static recruiting billboard.”  It was acquired by the Museum in 1966.  In this black & white photo, the Museum's D-558-II is at the NACA High-Speed Flight Station hangar (at Edwards Air Force Base) in 1956 jettisoning its liquid oxygen. Parked in the background is the the Navy version of the B-29 Superfortress, the P2B-1S "Fertile Myrtle", which served as the launch aircraft for the Museum's D-558-II.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Status: Static Display
Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company
Year: 1948
Model: D-558-II Skyrocket
Registration Number:
Serial Number: 37973;  NACA 143
Crew: 1
Max T/O Weight: 15,787 lb.
Span: 25 ft. 0 in.
Length: 45 ft. 3 in.
Height: 12 ft. 8 in.
Maximum Speed: Mach 2.007
Cruise Speed: N/A
Rate of Climb: 22,400 ft/min
Power Plant: 1 × Reaction Motors XLR8-RM-5 4-chambered liquid-fueled rocket engine, 6,000 lbs. thrust
Range: N/A
Service Ceiling: 83,235 ft.
Armament: None

 

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