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PLANT 42 MAY BE NAMED FOR KNIGHT.

Byline: Jim Skeen Staff Writer

PALMDALE - Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich wants to honor late state Sen. W.J. ``Pete'' Knight by having Air Force Plant 42 named after him.

Antonovich has sent letters to President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Air Force Secretary James Roche, and Rep. Howard ``Buck'' McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, suggesting the name change.

``Senator Knight excelled as an astronaut, a war hero, a community leader and a state legislator,'' Antonovich said. ``He leaves a legacy of patriotism, public service and defense of families. Renaming Plant 42 in his name is a worthy tribute to an American patriot who served his nation and dedicated his life to serving our Antelope Valley community.''

Knight died May 7, three weeks after he was diagnosed with leukemia. His funeral service drew hundreds of admirers, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, moon walker Buzz Aldrin, and Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier.

Air Force officials said they could not immediately comment on the proposal.

Renaming Plant 42 would have to be approved by the installation's parent command, Air Force Materiel Command, and by the Air Force Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Air Force.

Air Force naming criteria starts with national military heroes, defined as those whose gallantry and heroism was above and beyond the call of duty, such as Medal of Honor recipients; individuals who performed highly responsible duties for the Air Force in an outstanding manner; and those who have made significant contributions to the development or mission of the Air Force.

Knight has been honored once before with Antelope Valley Union High School District naming its new east Palmdale high school after him.

Knight had a distinguished 32-year Air Force career as both a test pilot and as a fighter pilot. Knight logged more than 6,000 hours of flying time in more than 100 types of aircraft. He earned three Distinguished Flying Crosses in Vietnam.

At Edwards Air Force Base in 1967, Knight set a speed record of 4,520 mph in an X-15 rocket plane. Knight was one of eight X-15 pilots to earn astronaut wings by flying the aircraft higher than 280,000 feet, considered the edge of space.

Following his military career, Knight entered politics, serving as Palmdale's mayor in the late 1980s and later representing the Antelope Valley in the legislature, first as an assemblyman and then later as a senator. Knight was in the final year of his last term as senator when he died.

Jim Skeen, (661) 267-5743

james.skeen(at)dailynews.com

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(color -- in AV edition only; ran in AV and SAC edition only) KNIGHT
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 20, 2004
Words:444
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