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Badass Aviator Bob Hoover Has Passed Away at 94

Badass Aviator Bob Hoover Has Passed Away at 94

Bob Hoover might not be a household name in the way that Charles Lindbergh or Chuck Yeager has become in the world of aviation, but many will tell you that Hoover was the greatest who ever lived. And now legendary aviator Bob Hoover has left the earth one final time, having died at age 94 on October 25.

To call Hoover “accomplished” would be a gross understatement; he was a fighter pilot in World War II who, after being shot down and imprisoned, stole a German Focke-Wolfe FW190 near the war’s end and escaped to Holland, where he crash-landed. He went on to serve as a United States Air Force test pilot after the war, including service as Chuck Yeager’s backup in the Bell X-1 program. Hoover flew in the chase plane, a P-80 Shooting Star, during the Yeager’s first supersonic flight.

He left military service eventually and began a long career as a civilian test pilot and a regular on the air show circuit. For a number of years, he flew P-51 Mustangs in air shows as part of his employment with North American Aviation. That later turned into a some of the most breathtaking demonstration flights ever in a twin-engined Rockwell Aero Commander, where Hoover would demonstrate beautifully the preservation of momentum by gliding the 5,000-pound plane with the engine shut off like a sailplane. He eventually retired from air shows in 1999 at the age of 77, still sharp as ever but boondoggled by flight insurance rates.

Hoover’s innovations as a test and aerobatic pilot are too numerous to list in a short story here, though you can read a couple of great anecdotes from the Minnesota Public Radio story right here about his escape from POW camp and helping a P-51 pilot in 2012. General Jimmy Doolittle famously called Hoover the “the greatest stick-and-rudder man who ever lived” and what better way could we appreciate that than by watching this absolutely inimitable video of Hoover doing what he did best in the twin-engined Aero Commander.

You should also watch this discussion with Bob Hoover at the Smithsonian as part of the Charles A. Lindbergh Memorial Lecture in May 2010.

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3 thoughts on “Badass Aviator Bob Hoover Has Passed Away at 94

  1. Gary Smrtic

    A true gentleman, humble, funny, and genuine. I knew Bob. He was Chuck Yeager’s best friend, pretty much all their adult lives. If you’ve never seen the video of him doing a roll in the AeroCommander while pouring a glass of Iced tea, back-handed (!) you should look it up. For all you video addicted folks, try picking up a book once in a while, and read his autobiography, “Forever Flying”. The man lived a life well lived and full. He’ll be missed.

  2. john

    Eric Brown, Alvin “Tex” Johnston and now Bob Hoover join a small circle of test pilots who had ” the right stuff”.

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