Douglas D558-II Skyocket

Gene May
Test Pilot

Gene in the cockpit of the Douglas Skyrocket

The most experienced research pilot in the race for supersonic flight!

  • Sixth person to fly supersonic!
  • First to fly faster than the speed of sound in a jet aircraft!
  • First to fly faster than the speed of sound in an aircraft designed to take off under its own power!
  • First to fly faster than the speed of sound at ground level!
  • First person to demonstrate supersonic flight to the public!
  • First to fly faster than the speed of sound in two different aircraft models!
  • First grandfather to fly supersonic!
Gene May

Eugene Francis May was my grandmother's younger brother. Uncle Gene was a test pilot for Douglas Aircraft from 1941 through 1952 and contributed much to the advancement of aviation. He is best known for his work with the D558-1 Skystreak and the D558-2 Skyrocket (the "X-planes that weren't" -- the Navy's counterpart to the Air Force's X-1 & 2). But there was much more to the man and his career.

These pages are the precursor to a Gene's biography that my wife and I are writing. While the book will go into more detail, this web site will cover the highlights of his life.

I have only begun this project and much, much more will be added in the future --- some right away and more down the road -- so please check back again to see what's been added.

If, by chance, you knew Gene or have any Gene May information you'd like to share, PLEASE contact me at

Steve Carroll
Bradenton, Florida

Gene May in the Douglas D558-2 Skyrocket
  • Gene flew more research flights than any other test pilot investigating the transonic-supersonic region -- more than Scott Crossfield or Chuck Yeager.
  • He made 103 of the 231 Skystreak flights.
  • He flew 46 of the 314 Skyrocket flights.
  • He is the only pilot to have flown all 6 of the D-558 aircraft, and made the first flight in 5 of them.
  • His were among the most high-risk flights of the entire program.
  • And he was a Grandfather before he flew his first flight in the Skystreak! He was in his mid forties, 15 to 20 years older than the other test pilots at Muroc.
  • His last flight in the Skyrocket was a supersonic pass at ground level in front of 100+ reporters and photographers. This was the first public demonstration of supersonic flight and the newsreal coverage of the event was shown in theaters around the world.

Gene was indeed the yardstick used to see if the other pilots measured up and had the Right Stuff!

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