R. A. “Bob” Hoover, is considered by his peers as the “pilot’s pilot”, a man who has served his country in war and peace as a fighter pilot, test pilot and as a master of aerobatics. His famous yellow P51 Mustang has been one of the main attractions at the Reno National Air Races for many years. His demonstrations in the Shrike Commander performing his energy management maneuvers with both engines shut down is nothing short of spectacular. Pilots and aviation buffs travel far and wide to see him fly.
Accolades hail from America’s leading flight personalities including Chuck Yeager, who calls Hoover the best pilot flying today. General Jimmy Doolittle acknowledged the pre-eminence of this aviator. During his career, Hoover has flown in thousands of shows and has flown over 300 types of aircraft and flight tested or flown just about every type of fighter aircraft. Many of his test flights have been described as “flying the feathered edge of the envelope”.
Hoover learned to fly at Nashville’s Berry Field. He worked at a grocery store to earn the money required for flight instruction. Almost immediately he began to try his hand at rolls and loops and taught himself aerobatics. The young pilot enlisted in the Tennessee National Guard and was later sent to Army Pilot Training during World War II. After Hoover graduated he was sent to England. After the invasion of North Africa by the Allies he was sent to Casablanca where he tested all types of airplanes that had been transported overseas then assembled. Bob was 21 years old at the time. He then obtained an assignment with the 52nd Fighter Group stationed in Sicily, one of two Spitfire outfits in the Army’s air forces. He flew 58 successful missions, but was shot down on the 59th off the coast of Southern France.
Hoover spent 16 months in Stalag Luft 1, a German prison camp. Upon returning to the US following the war’s end in Europe, Bob was assigned to the Flight Test Division at Wright Field, where he test flew for evaluation many of the captured Japanese and German airplanes. He also flew the latest aircraft being tested for our own Air Force. In 1948 he accepted a position with General Motors as a test pilot for high altitude performance testing of Allison jet engines and the development of propellers. In 1950 Hoover was hired by North American Aviation to do experimental flight testing on all models of the F-86 Sabrejet and the Navy FJ-2 jet fighter and later on, the famous F-100. During these early days with North American, he demonstrated safe handling and flying qualities on the F-86 and F-100 series fighters to pilots all over the world
Beyond the normal call of duty, he also flew combat dive bombing missions with Air Force squadrons in Korea, demonstrating the capabilities of the F-86 over enemy territory. He was the first man to fly the XFJ-2 Fury Jet and the Navy’s T-28 trainer. He has also set a number of world aviation records including three climb to altitude records of a turbo prop Commander performed at the Hanover Air Show in West Germany in 1978. Another coast-to-coast record was set in a P51 in five hours and 20 minutes from Los Angeles, California to Daytona Beach, Florida in 1985. Hoover also holds a number of world records in jet aircraft. Hoover was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Soldier’s Medal, Air Medal and Purple Heart. He was presented the Aviation Pioneer Award as the world’s most notable decorated and respected living pilot by Parks College in St. Louis. In over fifty years of flying, Bob Hoover has performed many thousands of times in more different types of aircraft, in more countries and before many more millions of people than any other pilot in the history of aviation.