Richard Frost was a key member of the team that made the greatest advances in aviation since the Wright brothers opened the age of powered flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. The young boy born in 1916 in Ohio, just a few miles east of the cradle of aviation, would eventually help advance aviation into the world of supersonic flight. Frost began his studies at a small liberal arts college, then went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the highly respected Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1940.
As a student, he worked towards his pilot's license, bought an old Gypsy Moth trainer, and used it to earn money. After graduation, he worked in Brownsville, Texas for a short time as an engineer for Pan American Airways Systems. In 1941, he became Chief Engineer for Arens Controls, Inc., Chicago, Illinois. Frost was responsible for design, development, and production of mechanical remote control systems. In 1943, the young engineer got the opportunity of a lifetime and began working for Bell Aircraft corporation, Niagara Falls, New York. He quickly became a well-respected and accomplished test pilot, flying Bell's P-39 Airacobra, P-63 Kingcobra and P-59 Airacomet fighters.
In February 1945, Frost had to bail out of a burning P-63; severe burns on his hands grounded him until late in the year. When the project engineer on the top secret X(S)-1 rocket airplane was assigned to another project, Frost was tapped to replace him and supervise the installation and checkout of the Reaction Motors XLR-11 rocket power plant. He then nursed the exotic aircraft through its contractor-powered flight program. When the Army Air Corps began its test program in midsummer 1947, Frost routinely flew low chase on the X(S)-1 in a Lockheed RF-80. He was one of the few men privileged to witness, from close range, Captain Chuck Yeager's historic flight through the sound barrier on October 14, 1947.
In 1949, he left Bell to work for the Stanley Aviation Corporation, Denver, Colorado. He helped design an extraordinarily thin wing, and other modifications for X(S)-1 #2. This aircraft, redesignated the X-1 E, completed 26 flights before being grounded in November 1958. Frost continued his work at Stanley Aviation until 1960, when he became the founding president of Frost Engineering Development Corporation, Englewood, Colorado. The company now specializes in the manufacturing of life support equipment for military and civilian aircraft and crew. Today's pilots who fly the General Dynamics F-16 rely on products that resulted from this aviation pioneer's genius.
In March 1946, Richard H. Frost was assigned as Chief Project Engineer for the X(S)-1 rocket airplane project, Muroc Army Air Base, California. The program was born during WWII when aerodynamicists and structural engineers became concerned that compressibility phenomena might become a major obstacle to high-speed aircraft design. Although the X(S)-1 is now history, the significance of its supersonic flight and the contributions of men like Richard Frost remain as technologically germane as they were at Muroc 40 years ago.