Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, contests and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Unfamous Aviation Seconds

We all know the planes and pilots that were first to do something monumental. But do you know who the second ones to those same achievements were? Neither did we. But their stories, when we can dig them up, are very cool.

The Douglas Skyrocket is the second supersonic plane model. Photo courtesy of NASA.
The Douglas Skyrocket is the second supersonic plane model. Photo courtesy of NASA.

We live in a country and a world that attaches big bonuses to finishing first, and that includes record-setting feats. In baseball, Babe Ruth’s name is famous. And if you’re a fan, and maybe even if you aren’t, you might know that Ruth was, in 1927, the first player to hit 60 home runs in a season. Did you also know that Ruth was also the first in the modern era of Major League Baseball history to reach the milestones of 30, 40 and 50 home runs in a season? But who was second? Off the top of my head, I know that Roger Maris, also a New York Yankee at the time, was the second to hit at least 60, in 1961. The other seconds? I’d have to look them up and likely wouldn’t recognize the names once I found them.

As far as aviation milestones are concerned, it’s pretty much the same deal. Chuck Yeager was first to bust the sound barrier (aka Mach 1), but who was second? And what was the second supersonic plane? Chances are you don’t know—we didn’t. Even more than that, it’s often really hard to find out who those unfamous seconds were. So, here, we salute those who came in second in the race to immortality.

6. Second supersonic plane model

Image 6 of 9

6. Second supersonic plane model

In terms of aircraft, the second plane to go supersonic was the Douglas Skyrocket. While the Skyrocket, initially conceived as a rocket/jet engine hybrid, was second to go supersonic, it was the first to hit Mach 2, which it did with famed experimental test pilot Scott Crossfield at the controls during a flight in 1953. The plane was also intended at some point to go hypersonic, but the Air Force decided to focus on another plane, the X-15, which ultimately became the fastest atmospheric, powered aircraft ever.

Photo courtesy of NASA.

Advertisement

Save Your Favorites

Save This Article