Born in Berkeley, California, Crossfield grew up in California and Washington. He served with the U.S. Navy as a flight instructor and fighter pilot during World War II. From 1946-1950, he worked in the University of Washington's Kirsten Wind Tunnel while earning his bachelor's(1949) and master's degrees(1950) in aeronautical engineering. In 1950, he joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics' High-Speed Flight Station (now the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center) at Edwards Air Force Base, California, as an aeronautical research pilot. In those early days, it was called Muroc Field, reverse spelling of the wealthy California Corum family who donated the land to the Army Air Corps. Crossfield joined the Navy because he could enter flight training two weeks earlier than a date offered by the Army Air Corps.
Crossfield demonstrated his flight test skills on his very first student solo. His instructor was not available on the designated early morning, so Crossfield, on his own, took off and went through maneuvers he had practiced with his instructor, to include spin entry and spin recovery. During the first spin, Crossfield experienced vibrations, banging, and noise in the aircraft that he had never encountered with his instructor. He recovered, climbed to a higher altitude, and repeated his spin entry and spin recovery, getting the same vibration, banging and noise. On his third spin entry, at yet an even higher altitude, he looked over his shoulder as he was spinning and observed the instructor's door disengaged and flapping in the spin. He reached back, pulled the door closed, and discovered all the vibrations, banging and noise stopped. Satisfied, he recovered from the spin, landed (actually, did several landings), and fueled the airplane. He also realized his instructor had been holding the door during their practice spin entries and recoveries, and never mentioned this door quirk. In later years, Crossfield often cited his curiosity about this solo spin anomaly and his desire to analyze what was going on and why it happened, as the start of his test pilot career
Over the next five years, he flew nearly all of the experimental aircraft under test at Edwards, including the X-1, XF-92, X-4, X-5, Douglas D-558-I Skystreak and the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket.
On November 20, 1953, he became the first man to fly at twice the speed of sound as he piloted the Skyrocket to a speed of 1,291 mph (2,078 km/h, Mach 2.005). The Skyrocket D-558-II surpassed its intended design speed by 25 percent on that day. With 99 flights in the rocket-powered X-1 and D-558-II, he had — by a wide margin — more experience with rocketplanes than any other pilot in the world by the time he left Edwards to join North American Aviation in 1955. As North American's chief engineering test pilot, he played a major role in the design and development of the X-15 and its systems. Once it was ready to fly, it was his job to demonstrate its airworthiness at speeds ranging up to Mach 3 (2,290 mph). Because the X-15 and its systems were unproven, these tests were considered extremely hazardous. Crossfield flew 14 of the 199 total X-15 flight tests with most of these tests establishing and validating initial key parameters. Scott Crossfield not only designed the X-15 from the beginning, but introduced many innovations, to include putting engine controls of the rocket plane into the cockpit. Previously, all engine adjustments resulted from technicians making adjustments on the ground based upon results of flight profiles. In a 2000 public lecture, 'Scotty' (as he was known to friends) described how the X-15 aeronautical calculations and design required computing power that filled four 10'x12' rooms. He went on to say that these very same calculations could be performed today on a notebook computer. He also hinted that Burt Rutan and his Scaled Composite company were performing pioneering work for a private aircraft to take-off from an airport, fly into outer space, and ret