August 22, 1951: Frank K. Everest, Jr. - Aviator Extraordinaire

  • Published
  • Air Force Flight Test Center

The Bell X-1D was jettisoned from its B-50 mother ship and destroyed during the climb to altitude for its second mission. The rocket plane’s fuel system had malfunctioned and the flight was aborted. An explosion and fire took place when a violent reaction took place between liquid oxygen and an Ulmer leather gasket. The pilot, Lt Col Frank K. “Pete” Everest, Jr., climbed to safety in the bomb bay. The X-1D was released and destroyed on impact with the ground.

As head of the U.S. Air Force’s Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service in the 1970s he had to adapt his thinking from fighter planes and experimental aircraft to helicopters. “At first,” he said, “my heart stayed with the fighter groups. But I’ve begun to change. The things that the rescue birds and men have done and are doing are – in one word — fantastic.”

Flew 94 combat missions during World War II in Africa, Sicily and Italy.

Commanded the 17th Fighter Squadron of the 5th Fighter Group in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II.

Was a Japanese POW from May 1945 to the end of World War II.

In 1951, he became chief Air Force test pilot at Edwards AFB where he tested the X-1, X-2, X-4, X-5, XF-92 and X-52. He also participated in testing the X-100, X-102, X-104, X-105, B-52, B-57 and B-66.

In August 1951 he established an unofficial world altitude record of 73,000 feet in the X-1.

On October 29, 1953, established a world’s speed record of 755.149 mph in a XF-100.

Test flew the X-1B to a speed of Mach 2.3 in December, 1954 and then the Bell X-2 rocket plane at 1,957 mph (Mach 2.9) making him the “fastest man alive” at the time.

Won the Harmon Trophy and Octave Chanute Trophy in 1957.

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