Knight remembers 50th anniversary of his father’s flight record

Flyover by the vintage planes of the Condor Squadron at the 2016 Memorial Day celebration at Eternal Valley in Newhall. Bill Reynolds/The Signal

Tuesday marks 50 years since the world’s speed record for a winged powered aircraft was set in an X-15 plane.

Colonel William J. “Pete” Knight of the United States Air Force was the one flying the plane, setting the half-century record at 4,520 mph, reaching Mach 6.7. Mach 1 is equal to the speed of sound.

The record has remained unchallenged as of October 2017, according to NASA.

His son, Congressman Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), honored his father and his record on a social media post to mark the anniversary.

“I am so proud of my father and his achievements, but I am most proud of his willingness to take a risk and try to push and understand that the sky is no limit,” Knight wrote on Facebook. “The resolve of the American people is burning bright and our thirst for new records and new challenges has to be quenched.”

In his career, Pete Knight was an aeronautical engineer, Vietnam War combat pilot, test pilot and astronaut in the X-20 Dyna-Soar and North American X-15 programs.

Colonel Knight represented the Antelope Valley in various capacities as an elected official, first as a councilmember for Palmdale in 1984 and then as the city’s first elected mayor in 1988.

He was elected to the California State Assembly’s 36th district in 1992 before being elected to the State Senate’s 17th district in 1996. He served in the Senate until his death in 2004.

Congressman Knight previously held the same Assembly seat his father did before moving onto the Senate and to Congress.

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