Douglas D558-II Skyocket

Gene May
Test Pilot

Gene in the cockpit of the Douglas Skyrocket

Was there deception in the Skyrocket flight records?

This page is nowhere near finished, but here is a little information to whet your appetite.

Under Construction As part of the original contract that created the D558 program, it was stated that the research was to be a joint venture between the Navy and NACA, and that all flight data obtained by one party was to be shared with the other. This was the same with the X1 (and other subsequent X-series programs) which was a joint ventures between the Air Force and NACA. All of these programs were classified Top Secret.

This put NACA in the unique, if not awkward, position of receiving Top Secret information from both the Navy and Air Force. It is common knowledge, now, that at that time there was a lot of competition and rivalry between the newly created Air Force and the Navy for both funding and prestige.

I believe Douglas and the Navy may not have been completely factual in the flight reports they provided NACA about some of the flights they made in the Skyrocket during the last half of 1949. I believe that about 25 of the flights that NACA records show as routine flights made by Bill Bridgeman, were in fact secret Navy flights made by Gene May. I believe that falsified flight records were sent to NACA to keep the research data obtained from these fights from falling into Air Force hands.

When I get more time, I'll share ALL their reasons I don't believe the "official" account of the Skyrocket flight during this time.

I know this sounds crazy, but it is fairly well documented in NACA records that Douglas/Navy did not share with NACA certain Skystreak flight data about horizontal stabilizer buffeting until years later. In the mid-1950s, NACA replaced the tail assembly on their Skystreak with the one originally on the Douglas/Navy Skystreak (now being used my NACA for spare parts). They did this because that horizontal stabilize had data recording instruments that the NACA plane didn't have. During NACA flights with this tail, they experienced buffeting at high speeds, and sent the data to Douglas asking for their analysis. Until this time, Douglas was not aware of the tail swap. For safety reasons, they fessed up to the fact that they had not only encountered the same phenomenon, but had conducted several flights to investigate it. Furthermore, the sever stress of those tests (all flown by Gene May) was a key factor in retiring the airplane when they did. There bottom line recommendation to NACA was to remove that tail assembly from their airplane because it was unsafe due to metal fatigue.

So if Douglas/Navy kept the information about tail buffeting from NACA, what else did they keep from them?


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