Douglas D558-II Skyocket

Gene May
Test Pilot
Extraordinaire!

Gene in the cockpit of the Douglas Skyrocket

Miscellaneous Pictures and Bits of Information

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These are various pictures of Gene that I haven't yet used somewhere else. This page will change often as new images are add and others transferred to other pages. These pictures are in no particular order. Click on any picture to see a larger version.

Verne May, his daughter Dianne Thomas, and me, Steve CarrollThis picture was taken on Thanksgiving Day, 2008. On the left is Verne May, Gene's younger brother, his daughter Dianne Thomas, and yours truly. Verne turned 93 on January 11, 2009 and is the last surviving siblings of Gene's. Gene taught Verne to fly back in the 30's and he flew regularly up until he retired and moved to Georgia. Dianne is married to George Thomas, who was a Major League Baseball player from 1957 through the early 70's.

C-74 GlobmasterC-74 GlobmasterThe C-74 Globemaster was one of the airplanes Gene tested for Douglas. At the time, it was the world's largest transport. For more information about this interesting airplane, visit the Home of the Heavies.

This is a great shot of Gene taking off in the Skyrocket using JATO assist. Under the turbojet engine power alone the Skyrocket took nearly 15,000 feet to get airborne. To reduce the hazards of such a long takeoff roll, they either used JATO tubes or some of the rocket tubes if that flight required rocket power. When the JATO tubes were used, the forward 2 tubes (shown firing in this picture) were ignited first; 12 seconds later, the rear two tubes (seen right behind the gear doors) would automatically fire. The JATO tubes had a normal running time of 12.5 second. The assist shortened the take-off distance to about 10,000 feet. Due to the cost of the JATO tubes, NACA rarely used the 2nd set.

This pictures shows Gene taking off with skyrocket #3 using two rocket tubes to assist during the last portion of the takeoff. This procedure would shorten the takeoff roll to about 8,000 feet. On two occasions, Gene used all four rocket tubes from the beginning of the takeoff roll, in addition to full jet power, and the ship was blasted into flight in 2,610 feet!! Both of those flights, incidentally, ended with harrowing emergency landings due to in-flight fires.

These are a couple of promotional shots taken of Gene with the Skyrocket, either in preparation of, or the day of his public demonstration of low level supersonic flight on december 1, 1949. Note the fancy fixture Gene used to get in the cockpit -- A wooden step ladder! Pretty fancy footwork for Grandpa, I'd say ;-)

Gene and the SkyrocketIronically, if one searches the huge Corbis catalog of stock photography for Douglas Skyrocket, this is the only image shown -- and it's clearly from the same photo shoot, taken within seconds of the picture on the left.

This picture shows Skyrocket #1 as it appeared in 1990 outside of the Planes of Fame museum. This is the aircraft in which Gene broke the sound barrier at ground level. NASA pulled this aircraft from retirement in 1955 and had Douglas remove the jet engine and configure it to rocket power only for air launches. Unfortunately, after all the work (and destroying its historical configuration), they only flew it one time, in 1956.

This is a picture of the XB-42 sitting on the ramp and Edwards Air Force Base. Gene did much of the testing on the '42, and also flew the later XB-42A and XB-43. These were amazing airplanes and historically significant as well.

Left to Right.... Glenn Anderson, Glenn Edwards, Gene May, Fred Ascani and Davis Seawell in front of the XB-42 in which Capt. Edwards set a cross country speed record. This picture came from Capt. Edwards personal scrapbook, courtesy of the Edwards Historical Center.

This is how the XB-42A appears today in storage at the Smithsonian. The two hinged panels provide access to the twin Allison engines.

Gene's final resting place near Mackay, Idaho.

This instruction sheet from a 1950s model airplane kit is an example of some of the promotional work Gene did for Douglas. An interesting side note is that these kits were built in Moline, Illinois, only a few miles from where Gene grew up.

I need more information about this picture. It is Skystreak #1 after it was painted white, I know, but I don't know who the people are or the occasion of the picture. Is that perhaps Donald Douglas, Sr. in the middle?? If anyone out there knows, please email me.

Tony LeVeir (Lockheed), Gene May (Douglas), Capt. Chuck Yeager (Air Force), Fred Becher (Northup) and Col. Olbert "Dick" Lassiter (Air Force). General Yeager told me the picture was taken at a SETP meeting in Los Angles, but he wasn't sure of the year. Fred Becher didn't remember the picture, but did remember attending a couple of Quiet Birdmen and early SETP meetings as a guest. He also pointed out that Yeager was still wearing the old Army Air Corps uniform while Lassiter was wearing the new Air Force blue uniform. As near as I can find out, the Air Force started issuing new uniforms in 1950 and it took them until late in '52 to get all of the old uniforms replaced. Also, a close inspection of Yeager's shoulder looks to me like he is still wearing his Captain's bars. With all this information, I'd place the picture in late 1950 or early 1951 and probably a QB meeting, as SETP didn't form until 1956. Gene was active in the L.A.Q.B.'s. If you have any other thoughts, please email me! (1)

Preview of the movie JET PILOTMystery solved! I just got an email from Derek Horne, author of the Chuck Yeager fan site Mach-Buster. He told me he knew exactly where, when and at what event that my picture (above) had been taken. He said it was at a private screening of the unfinished Howard Hughes film Jet Pilot, at RKO studios in 1951. He also sent me a picture he had (left) that was taken at the same event. Here is who is in the picture, from left to right: -- Front Row; Tony Levier, Turner Caldwell, Gene May, and Chuck Yeager: Middle Row; unknown, Kit Murray, Pete Eerest and Colonel Lassiter: Back Row; unknown, unknown, Jack Ridley and Fred Ascani. If you can solve any of the unknowns, please let me know. Thanks Derek!

This is a highly publicized image of Major Marion Carl, U.S. Marines (left), and Commander Turner Caldwell, U.S. Navy. This picture was taken in front of Skystreak #`1 while they were preparing for their back-to-back world speed records in August of 1947. Ship #2 was used for pilot familiarization while ship #1 was used to set the records. Not surprisingly, company records show that Gene made repeated low level passes at 680 mph (Mach .83) a week before Caldwell and Carl made their official" runs at 641 mph (Mach .825) and 651 mph (Mach .828) respectfully. Commander Caldwell is actually misidentified as Uncle Gene in the caption for this picture on the Edwards Air Force web site. Understandable, since he and Gene ware about the same size and he was wearing Gene's distinctive shorty red helmet .

A picture of Gene with Marion Carl and Turner Caldwell taken during the week of the world speed records. Commander Caldwell was the Project Officer on the Skystreak for the Bureau of Aeronautics from the program's very early days.


These were a series of company promotional pictures that Gene sent my grandmother. These were probably taken shortly before the first flight. Note bubble canopy.

This is Skystreak #1 as it look today sitting in the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL

This is Gene and my father, Dick Carroll, in front of dad's Chief at grandfather Carroll's farm in 1947 just before Gene began the Skystreak program, and just before dad married my mother.

This another picture at the farm while Gene was visiting his older sister. That's his wife, Hazel, on the tractor with him and my Dad's younger brother, Donnie, in the background.

A picture of Gene with his second wife, Hazel, taken in front of their home in Los Angles when my Grandmother and Grandfather visited them in late 1947.

A picture of Gene while testing the new DC-6. This picture was dated 1946 on the back, but I don't know if that was the year my Dad got the picture or the year it was taken.

These two pictures of Gene getting ready for a test flight in a AD-1 Skyraider were taken about the same time as the one with the DC-6. If you look carefully at the picture to the left, you can see the C-74 parked in the background.

A couple more Douglas promotion pictures. The one on the right was taken at the Skystreak's public debut at Long Beach in February of 1947.

This is a picture of Gene with NACA pilot Howard Lilly in front of the ill-fated Skystreak #2 in which Lilly was later killed. This picture was probably taken when Gene turned the aircraft over to NACA.

A couple of early pictures of Skystreak #1. None that both show the bubble "training" canopy and the Skystreak logo on the nose. That portion, at least, of the airframe was repainted sometime before August of '47 and the logo was never reinstated.

This picture of #1 shows the high-speed canopy.

Some of Gene's fellow Douglas test pilots. On the left is Win Sargent and Roy Harper. To the right is John Martin and Ted Deaso. John made the maiden flight of the Skyrocket then later became Douglas' chief test pilot. He also flew the Skystreak a couple of time for jet engine familiarization before flying the Skyrocket.(1)

A picture from the August, 1948 issue of Boy's Life Magazine of George Jenson (left), Gene and Bob Brush (then chief test pilot for Douglas) with models of the Skystreak and Skyrocket. George would soon begin testing the Douglas Skyshark at Muroc, after a couple of flights in the Skystreak to familiarize him with jet turbine operation. He also flew the B-29 mothership for Bill Bridgeman's air launches in the Skyrocket. Note that both models are painted red. (1)

A picture of Gene's brothers, sister and mother in 1954. From left to right, brother Cecil, Verne's wife Lee, Sister Audrey, Brother Verne, mother Cornelia and brother James and his wife Sybil. (1)

This picture of Gene and his surviving siblings was taken at their mother's funeral in 1961. From left to right: Cecil, Audrey, Gene, Verne and James kneeling in front. John Jr. was already deceased.

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