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Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak

15 March 2013

Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak

The Skystreak in flight, note the white livery but red control surfaces — NASA photo

The Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak took off under its own power, a turbojet engine, to investigate the high subsonic and transonic flight regime. It  is an aircraft that had simple lines but complicated wing and fuselage construction. The fuselage was clad in magnesium sheeting and resulting in only the most careful of ground handling being standard. There is only enough fuselage to house the pilot and engine with only enough wing to fly — the fuel supply was also limited so that flights were measured in minutes, not hours. The wing’s construction was complicated by its thinness, having 400 pressure orifices while also carrying the fuel in tip tanks. Originally painted red, and nicknamed the “crimson test tube”, it was later painted white as this color better enabled optical tracking.  The control surfaces remained red since repainting them white to match with the rest of the aircraft risked unbalanced forces — a reminder that this slip of an aircraft was purpose-built to live at the edge of its flight envelope and not within it.

The control panel of the Skystreak — NASA photo

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