Bob Hoover: 1922-2016

Robert A. “Bob” Hoover, WWII Army Air Forces pilot, test pilot, and legendary airshow performer, died Oct. 25 at the age of 94. Hoover, a young “flying sergeant” in WWII, was shot down in 1944 and interned at Stalag Luft 1 in Germany. Sixteen months later, he escaped, stealing a German FW 190 fighter and crash-landing it in the Netherlands. After the war, Hoover was a test pilot, chosen as the backup for the X-1 flight that broke the sound barrier; he flew chase on Chuck Yeager in a P-80 during the mission. He continued test flying after leaving the Air Force, working for the Allison Engine Company and then North American Aviation. During the Korean war, he taught US pilots deployed to Korea how to better handle the North American’s F-86; particularly how to dive-bomb with the jet, and later tested the F-100 Super Sabre. He became famous in the flying community for his ability to recover aircraft that had suffered midair calamities, once landing dead-stick in fog after his engine blew up. After he left North American, he began to fly a P-51 Mustang and an Aero Commander at airshows, winning fame and accolades for performances that others did not attempt to copy, such as engine-out aerobatic maneuvers. Hoover continued to perform into the 1990s and wrote an autobiography, Forever Flying. During his career he amassed an impressive number of records for time-to-climb, speed, and transcontinental speed, and accumulated an extensive list of awards, some of which were later named for him. The Air Force Association bestowed its Lifetime Achievement Award on Hoover in 2015.