Beautiful Climber

In the summer of ‘58, nothing was faster to 50,000 feet

A U.S. Marine Corps Douglas F4D-1 Skyray in flight. (USMC/US Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation)
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The oracles of aviation might have said that the end was discernible on May 27, 1958, just four days after LeFaivre became the fastest man to 50,000 feet. That was the date of the Phantom II’s first flight. “As soon as the Phantom came in,” says Erv Heald, “we were out of business.”

Well, not entirely. Douglas tried to sell a new, improved Ford called the Skylancer, a longer, more powerful Skyray without the warts. The test pilots liked the new airplane, but the Navy chose Chance Vought’s F8U Crusader. Because the Skylancer was never produced, the Ford earned one final distinction: It was Douglas’ last fighter.

About Carl A. Posey

Novelist and award-winning science writer Carl A. Posey was the author of seven published novels, a number of non-fiction books, and dozens of magazine articles. He was a licensed pilot and an Air & Space magazine contributor for more than 30 years, beginning with its second issue in 1986. Posey died on February 9, 2018.

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