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Pete Everest


General Frank Kendall ‘‘Pete’’ Everest Jr. (August 10, 1920-October 1, 2004) was a military aviator and a pioneer in U.S. rocket plane flying who earned the nickname ‘‘the fastest man alive.’’ He test-piloted 122 different models and makes of aircraft and logged more than 10,000 hours in about 170 aircraft types.

Everest was born in Fairmont. After graduating from high school, he attended Fairmont State College (now Fairmont State University) for a short time and later studied engineering at West Virginia University. He graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College in 1956. In July 1942, Everest completed the Aviation Cadet program and was commissioned as a second lieutenant with the U.S. Army Air Force. He was sent to North Africa and flew 94 combat missions in Africa, Sicily, and Italy. In 1944, he was assigned to the China-Burma-India region. He completed 67 combat missions and destroyed four Japanese aircraft before his plane was shot down by ground fire in May 1945. He was captured and remained a Japanese prisoner of war until the end of hostilities.

Everest piloted both the Bell X-1 and X-2 rocket planes. He set the X-1 altitude record of 73,000 feet in 1949, and, in 1953, the world speed record of the F-100A at more than 750 mph. In 1956, he flew the X-2 at Mach 3, exceeding 1,900 miles per hour and breaking the record of Chuck Yeager, his rival and close contemporary.

Everest became a brigadier general in 1965. General Everest, with more than 20 military awards, and other honors, retired from the Air Force in 1973. He lived in Tucson, Arizona, until his death.

Written by Judie Smith