February 20, 2019
This 35 second video clip shows D-558-1 Skystreak full power engine runs and taxi tests at Muroc Army Airfield.
With assembly complete and its systems checked out, the first Skystreak was ready for its first flight. This was flown by Douglas test pilot Gene May. In 1947, May was 42 years old, a grandfather, and had been flying for Douglas Aircraft Co. for some six years. This footage was from a Douglas documentary film.
Conceived in 1945, the D-558-I Skystreak was designed by the Douglas company for the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, in conjunction with the NACA. The first of three Skystreaks made its maiden flight on April 14, 1947 at Muroc Dry Lake (later named Edwards AFB), with Douglas test pilot Gene May as its pilot. Less than 4 months later, on Aug. 20, this aircraft set a new world speed record of 640.74 mph. This aircraft was delivered to the NACA in Apr. 1949 but was never flown by the NACA.
The second aircraft was delivered to the NACA in Nov. 1947 and made a total of 19 flights with the NACA before it crashed on takeoff due to compressor disintegration on May 3, 1948 killing NACA pilot Howard C. Lilly. The third aircraft was delivered to the NACA in 1949 and made a total of 78 flights with the NACA before being retired on June 10, 1953.
The Skystreaks were turbojet powered aircraft that took off from the ground under their own power and had straight wings and tails. All three D-558-I Skystreaks were powered by Allison J35-A-11 turbojet engines producing 5,000 pounds of thrust. All the Skystreaks were initially painted scarlet, which lead to the nickname "crimson test tube." NACA later had the color of the Skystreaks changed to white to improve optical tracking and photography. The control surfaces were left in the red finish to maintain their balance. The white paint was heavier and the slight added weight caused problems. The Skystreaks carried 634 pounds of instrumentation and were ideal first-generation, simple, transonic research airplanes.