The Navy was pleased with the Pratt and Whitney J57-P-11-powered Crusader from the start. The Museum's Crusader is the prototype airplane, BuNo 138899. After being completed at the Vought factory near Dallas, it was flown in a Douglas C-124 Globemaster to Edwards Air Force Base where it made its first flight on March 25, 1955. Test pilot John Konrad took the airplane supersonic on this flight, the first time it had ever been done with any fighter on its maiden flight.
In the years following, the Crusader would win the Collier Trophy for the year's greatest achievement in aviation, become the first fighter to fly over 1,000 miles-per-hour (1,600 km/h), and set the cross-country speed record with young Marine aviator John Glenn Jr. as pilot.
Perhaps the Crusader's most interesting feature was its high-mounted, variable-incidence wing. For takeoff and landing, the entire wing would elevate seven degrees at the leading edge, thus dramatically improving pilot visibility and coincidentally allowing the landing gear to be shorter and stronger. In the up position for takeoff, (or fuselage down position in flight), the drooping leading edge devices and trailing edge flaps would combine to form a very cambered, high lift wing.
'899' made 509 flights during five years of flight testing, after which it was donated to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in 1960. After being stored at the Silver Hill, Maryland restoration facility for a number of years, and a few other intermediate stops, the airplane was moved to the Museum of Flight's Restoration Center in Everett, Washington, where it is currently under restoration.