Bob Hoover, the "Pilot’s Pilot"
Robert “Bob” Anderson Hoover
was a US Army Air Force fighter pilot, USAF and civilian test pilot, CFI, famous air show pilot and aviation record-setter. Known as the “pilot's pilot”, Hoover transformed aerobatic flying and will always be regarded as one of the greatest pilots who ever lived.
Hoover grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, worked at a grocery store to pay for flying lessons at age 15 and joined the Tennessee Air National Guard at age 18. He served in both World War II and the Korean War, winning numerous military honors including the Purple Heart, the Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
On February 9, 1944, on his 59th mission, Hoover was shot down off the coast of Southern France, and was taken prisoner. He spent 16 months in a German prison camp before he successfully escaped by stealing a German fighter plane. The renowned World War II airman General Jimmy Doolittle called Hoover “the greatest stick-and-rudder man who ever lived.”
In 1947, Hoover was a test pilot flying alongside Chuck Yeager when Yeager broke the sound barrier. Hoover taught dive-bombing maneuvers to Air Force pilots during the Korean War. He flew more than 300 varieties of airplanes and knew virtually every significant figure in the history of aviation, from Orville Wright to Charles Lindbergh to Neil Armstrong.
Hoover handled a plane so smoothly he could pour a cup of tea while executing a 360-degree roll. In Moscow in 1966, he was briefly detained because he outshone Soviet pilots while flying a Russian-built plane. In 1994, federal officials threatened to ground Hoover for failing medical tests; outpouring from flying fans was so great he was reexamined, and his pilot’s license was reinstated.
In 2007, he received the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Trophy and was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame. Hoover retired from aerobatics in his late 70s and piloted his last plane when he was 85 years old. Bob Hoover died surrounded by family on October 25th, 2016 at the age of 94. Hoover was a kind, unassuming gentleman who inspired multiple generations of aviators.
Have a aviation fact or story that you would like to share? Post it on our blog!