Born Nov. 7, 1919, in Erie, Pa., Pete Weber II’s life has included decades dedicated to aviation, moves to 68 different homes and completion of a Guinness World Record.
Weber reached 100 years old Thursday.
Aviation has been a consistent focal point in Weber’s life. He took the Aviation Cadet Qualifying Exam in 1942, which allowed him to be accepted as an aviation cadet and train at Randolph and Moore fields in Texas. He would go on to become a flight instructor at Moore Field and later fly P-38s in the Philippines.
On the morning of his wedding day to wife, Ruthie, in March 1943, Weber was flying a plane when his engine failed while upside down in a loop. He deadsticked the plane to a landing in a cornfield and was four hours late to his wedding.
After World War II, he moved to California with Ruthie, where he settled into the insurance business before being recalled into active duty in 1953 during the Korean War. He remained in the U.S. Air Force until his retirement as a lieutenant colonel with 30 years of service in 1970.
Even in retirement, planes were still central to his interests. He flew private aircraft, one he shared with his son, after taking a two-decade break from flying to build homes. Weber took his last flight on his 97th birthday. Two years prior, he held the title for “World’s Oldest Active Pilot” for the Guinness Book of World Records in 2015.
“I was the oldest living qualified pilot March 10, 2015, aged 95 years and 143 days,” Weber said. “It was a big deal because they wanted a lot of qualifications. They’re in England, Guinness, and they did this long distance. So, I applied, and (Guinness) sent me applications, and I had to fill this out and I had to have to two reputable witnesses.”
He had an epiphany that his long-lasting flight career might be something no one else had done.
“It was a funny thing,” Weber said. “I was flying, renting airplanes from this man. … One day after I landed, we got to talking, and he knew I was 95. He said, ‘You think you’re the oldest pilot in California?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I might be.’ Then I got to thinking, ‘Hell, maybe I’m the oldest pilot in the world.’ That’s what stimulated me.
“It only lasted a short while, so as soon as I did it, somebody was a little bit older than me and that was about six months later, so I was the oldest pilot for six months,” he added.
There had been talk of Weber being a pilot for a day to celebrate a century of life.
“He’s a good pilot,” Pete Weber III, his son, said. “I wouldn’t mind if he went and flew again. I’m a flight instructor and the last couple of times — you have to have what they call a bi-annual flight review every two years, and the last couple times I gave him his bi-annual flight review because I was concerned, and he did a great job. I would rather fly with him than ride with him, which is what my wife says about me.
“We have talked to some of the guys down at Monroe County Airport, and they really like him,” Weber III said. “I took him down there a couple of times when I flew from Rockwood, and he got to know some of the guys there, and they were all encouraging him, and they were going to get him out and get him going solo again. He hasn’t flown in a while, but he’d pick it right back up again. He’d do fine.”
Weber III said his father did not express immediate interest in flying for his birthday. Instead, Weber’s 100th birthday celebration was met with a dentist appointment and a dinner celebration at Lakeside Tavern.
In hindsight, Weber believes an adventurous spirit has led to his long life.
“I had a very happy marriage,” he said. “She was a good cook. She’d just cook plain foods. We didn’t use anything fancy. We always ate healthy, and we took our vitamins. We were married 74 years, and she died at 96, and I’m past that. I don’t understand it myself. I’m the oldest one in my family. My mother died in her 80s. My dad was 63. My sister was in her 80s. All my uncles and aunts were in their 60s and 70s. One aunt died when she was 23.
“I’ve been a student of everything, you might say,” he added. “I learned how to do things. Rather than hire to have something done, I’d check it out and figure out how to do it myself, so I was very good with my hands. I could do all kinds of things. I worked on my cars. I built houses. I did painting. I did cement work. I did concrete work. I kept active.”
Darlene Weber said her father-in-law renovated the couple’s bathroom at age 83.
“He has always stayed interested in learning new things and trying new things,” she said.
Looking forward, Weber yearns to do more and might get back in the cockpit.
“I’d like to make it a couple more years,” he said. “If I get to be 105, I’ll fly another record. Maybe I can be older than the oldest guy, and I’ll be the oldest record.”