Bob Hoover : biography
Robert A. "Bob" Hoover (born January 24, 1922) is a former air show pilot and United States Air Force test pilot, known for his wide-brimmed straw hat and wide smile. In aviation circles, he is often referred to as "The pilots' pilot."
Honors and recognition
Bob Hoover is considered one of the founding fathers of modern aerobatics, and was described by Jimmy Doolittle as, "... the greatest stick-and-rudder man who ever lived." In the Centennial of Flight edition of the Air & Space Smithsonian, he was named the third greatest aviator in history.
During his illustrious career, he was awarded the following military medals: Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldier's Medal for Valor, Air Medal with Clusters, Purple Heart and the French Croix de Guerre. He was also made an honorary member of the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, RCAF Snowbirds, American Fighter Aces Association, Original Eagle squadron and received an Award of Merit from the American Fighter Pilots Association. In 1992, he was inducted into the Aerospace Walk of Honor. In 2007, he received the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Trophy.
On 18 May 2010, R.A. "Bob" Hoover delivered the 2010 Charles A. Lindbergh Memorial Lecture at the Smithsonian Institute's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School conferred an honorary doctorate on Hoover at the school's December 2010 graduation ceremony.
Now that his air show career is over, his Shrike Commander is on display at the National Air and Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Center, in Dulles, Virginia.
Bob Hoover learned to fly at Nashville's Berry Field while working at a local grocery store to pay for the flight training. He enlisted in the Tennessee National Guard and was sent for pilot training with the Army. During World War II, he was sent to Casablanca where his first major assignment was test flying the assembled aircraft ready for service. He was later assigned to the Spitfire-equipped 52nd Fighter Group in Sicily. In 1944, on his 59th mission, his malfunctioning Mark V Spitfire was shot down by a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 off the coast of Southern France and he was taken prisoner. He spent 16 months at the German prison camp Stalag Luft 1 in Barth, Germany.
Hoover managed to escape from the prison camp, stole an Fw 190, and flew to safety in the Netherlands. He was assigned to flight-test duty at Wright Field after the war. There he impressed and befriended Chuck Yeager. When Yeager was later asked who he wanted for flight crew for the supersonic Bell X-1 flight he named Bob Hoover. Hoover was Yeager's backup pilot in the Bell X-1 program and flew chase for Yeager in a Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star during the Mach 1 flight. He also flew chase for the 50th anniversary in an F-16 Fighting Falcon.
He left the Air Force for civilian jobs in 1948. This included a brief time with Allison Engine Company and finally test/demonstration pilot with North American Aviation where he went on to Korea teaching the pilots in Korean war how to dive-bomb with the F-86 Sabre, and visited many active-duty, reserve and air national guard units to demonstrate the plane's capabilities to their pilots. Hoover flew flight tests on the FJ "Fury," F-86 "Sabre," and the F-100 "Supersabre."
In the early 1960s, Hoover proposed the idea of promoting the North American name by demonstrating one of North American's most famous products, the P-51 Mustang fighter, at airshows around the country. The Hoover Mustang (N2251D) was purchased by North American Aviation from Dave Lindsay's Cavalier Aircraft Corp. in 1962. A second Mustang (N51RH), later named "Ole Yeller," was purchased by North American Rockwell from Cavalier in 1971 to replace the earlier aircraft that was destroyed in a ground accident when an oxygen bottle exploded after being overfilled. Hoover demonstrated the Mustang and later the Aero Commander at hundreds of airshows until his retirement in the 1990s. In 1997 Hoover sold Ole Yeller to his good friend John Bagley of Rexburg, Idaho. Ole Yeller still flies frequently and is based out of the Legacy Flight Museum in Rexburg, Idaho.
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