Robert A. "Bob" Hoover
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you Bob Hoover, the greatest stick-and-rudder
pilot who ever lived." That airshow introduction from General "Jimmy"
Doolittle only scratches the surface of the military and civilian career of someone whom
Brigadier General "Chuck" Yeager calls the "greatest pilot I ever saw.
" Hoover learned to fly at Berry Field, just minutes from his hometown of
Nashville, Tennessee. Sacking groceries for twelve and a half cents an hour, Hoover paid
for his flying lessons at the age of 15 dreaming of his heroes Charles Lindbergh and
While beginning his military career as a tail-gunner trainee in the
Tennessee ANG, Hoover transitioned to pilot training in time for the winds of war to
draw him to Europe during WWII. There, he tested every front-line fighter and many
bombers before they were released to combat crews. But combat burned in Hoover's heart,
so he requested a transfer to the 52d Fighter Group flying Supermarine Mk V
Spitfires. During his 59th mission and first aerial engagement, the external fuel
tank jettison handle came off in his hand. Pressing his attack with the Focke-Wulf 190s,
Hoover was fighting with "one hand tied behind his back." He traded gunfire
until the weight-laden Spitfire's engine exploded.
Captured, he spent a cruel
16 months in Stalag I, repeatedly attempting escapes. His final effort brought
freedom-unbelievably commandeering a German FW-190 and flying at tree-top level to
Holland. Once he returned stateside, Hoover was hired by the North American Aviation
Corporation to test and demonstrate numerous aircraft, including the F-86 Sabre
and F-100 Super Sabre. During the Korean War, Hoover flew to Korea to show
inexperienced combat pilots what the Sabre could really do. His flight and
combat demonstrations earned accolades from commanders as pilot morale soared at the
spectacle of an F-86 being flown to design limits.
Similarly, Hoover is recognized by
millions as the premier air show performer in the world. He is renowned for the Energy
Management Maneuver, where he shuts down both engines of his Rockwell Shrike
Commander and performs a loop, eight-point roll, a 180-degree turn to a landing,
then taxis to showcenter without ever restarting the engines! To date, Hoover has flown
over 20,000 flight hours in over 300 types of aircraft. In nearly 3,000 airshows, he has
flown before more people, in more countries, in more aircraft than anyone in history. He
has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and numerous civilian awards including
the Lindbergh Medal for lifetime achievement. Hoover currently resides in Los Angeles,
California, with his wife, Colleen.
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Robert A. "Bob" Hoover's final public performance was in April 2000, at
Lakeland, Florida's EAA Sun 'n Fun Fly-In with his famed North American
Rockwell Shrike Commander (N500RA). In December 2003, he personally
delivered the Shrike Commander to the Smithsonian National Air and Space
Museum. After taxiing the Shrike Commander into the Museum's new Steven F.
Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport, Hoover parked the aircraft under the
belly of the Air France Concorde. It sits there today inspiring future
generations of aviation enthusiasts.