Pete Quesada during his military days.
Elwood "Pete" Quesada being sworn in as first administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration by President Dwight Eisenhower, November 1, 1958.
|Elwood R. ("Pete") Quesada
Elwood R. ("Pete") Quesada's father was a Spanish businessman, his mother an Irish-American. Born in Washington, D.C. in 1904, he entered the Army Air Service in 1924. He went through flight school and earned his wings at what became Brooks Air Force Base, Texas (then called Brooks Field) and attended advanced training at neighboring Kelly Air Force Base.
Having only a reserve commission, Quesada temporarily returned to civilian life, playing baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1927, he returned to the Air Service and received a Regular Army commission.
Quesada was stationed at Bolling Air Force Base, and while there, he joined then-Maj. Carl "Tooey" Spaatz and then-Capt. Ira Eaker in developing air-to-air refueling. On January 1, 1929, the three pilots took off in a three-engine Fokker C-2A named the Question Mark on a record-setting five days aloft during which the crew took in fuel from a Douglas C-1C plane that passed a hose in flight-as well as oil, water, and food. The Question Mark did not land again until January 6 after having flown a total of more than 11,000 nonstop miles and making a total of 37 mid-air transfers.
Quesada, a strong believer in tactical air support, served with distinction during World War II. In December 1942, he was promoted to brigadier general and sent to North Africa to command the 12th Fighter Command. In October 1943, Quesada went to England and assumed command of the 9th Fighter Command, preparing that unit for the Normandy invasion. By the end of the war he had become a major general and was widely recognized as a tactical air expert. After the war he took over Tactical Air Command and received a third star.
Quesada retired from the Air Force in 1951. He subsequently served as manager at Olin Industries, organized and directed Lockheed's Missile Systems Division, and was the controversial but successful first administrator of the Federal Aviation Agency from November 1958 to January 1961. He also served as President Eisenhower's special aviation advisor and headed a temporary Airways Modernization Board. One of his actions in that position was to establish the National Aviation Facilities Experimental Center (NAFEC) at a former military base in New Jersey.
Quesada died in Washington in 1993.