The Passing Of Bob Hoover, American Aeronautics Legend Who Stole German Plane To Escape A POW Camp In WW2

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Robert A. “Bob” Hoover was a World War II fighter pilot. He became a legend for his flying skills while testing airplanes and pushing them to their limits in air shows. He has passed away at age 94.

Hoover lived in Palos Verdes Estates. He died recently, according to Bill Fanning, a close family friend and also a pilot.

Fanning said that Hoover tested everything during his time as a test pilot in the 50s and 60s. He was known as one of the top test pilots of the era.

The National Air and Space Museum gave him their highest honor in 2007. They noted that Jimmy Doolittle, the famous leader of the 1942 bomber raid in Japan, called Hoover “the greatest stick-and-rudder man of all time.”

Buzz Aldrin said that Hoover could do magical things with an airplane. He called Hoover “the best.”

Hoover began flying at Berry Field in Nashville in 1937. He served in the Army’s 52nd Fighter Group in Sicily, Italy, during World War II. He flew over 50 missions before being shot down. He spent months in a POW camp before escaping in a stolen German fighter plane, which he flew to safety in the Netherlands.

He tested early jet-powered warplanes like the P-80 and F-84. He was a backup pilot in the Bell X-1 program. He flew the chase plane in 1947 when Chuck Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier.

Hoover tested the XFJ-2 Fury, the F-86 Sabre, and over 300 other aircraft types in his career.

Later, he used his skills to entertain the public in air shows piloting planes like the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang and Aero Commanders.

He flew a business-style prop Shrike Commander 500s that became an aerobatic star under his deft piloting. He would turn both engines off and then do a loop, roll, 180-degree turn and then land.

Following a performance at the Aerospace America show in Oklahoma City in the early 1990s, the Federal Aviation Administration pulled his medical certificate after he failed a neurological exam. He fought the decision, taking it to court, and received a restricted medical certificate in 1995.

He went out that year and performed at Daytona Beach, Florida.

He stated that he was just glad to be back to performing in front of the public again.

He received numerous awards, but the biggest may have been being selected from among the 100 heroes of aviation in 2003 and the First Flight Centennial Celebration, LA Times reported.

Andrew Broom, the executive director of the Citation Jet Pilots Association said that anyone who met Hoover or saw him perform came away incredibly moved by the experience.

The association provides scholarships in Hoover’s name to students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in association with the Bob Hoover Legacy.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE