Some say he is a legend in his own time. Others call him the "pilot's pilot." Yet,
Robert A. "Bob" Hoover could not be more humble about his life and experiences in almost every kind of aircraft imaginable.
Hoover's name seems most recognizable today because of his past air show performances in aircraft that would hardly seem capable of aerobatic maneuvers. Whether he's flying loops and rolls in the Shrike Commander with both engines shut down, point rolls in the Sabreliner, or graceful aerobatics in the P-51, T-28, or F-86, it does not take a fellow pilot realize that what the man is doing with the airplane is nothing short of spectacular.
Throughout his career, Hoover has flown thousands of demonstration flights at air shows and other events around the world, flight tested over 300 different types of aircraft, and piloted almost every type of fighter aircraft. Many of his test flights have been described as "flying the feathered edge of the envelope."
Hoover was born in 1922 and learned to fly at Nashville's Berry Field with the money he earned working at a grocery store. He enlisted at a young age in the Tennessee National Guard and was quickly sent to Army Pilot Training during World War II.
Upon completion of his pilot training he was sent to England and soon after that to Casablanca following the Allied invasion of North Africa. It was there that he began flight testing all the different types of aircraft that were shipped from overseas and assembled on site. He then obtained an assignment with the 52nd Fighter Group stationed in Sicily, one of only two Spitfire units in the entire Army Air Corps. Hoover completed 58 missions before being shot down off the coast of Southern France. He spent the remaining 16 months of the war in Stalag Luft 1, a German prison camp, as a prisoner of war.
When Hoover returned to the US at war's end, he was assigned to the Flight Test Division at Wright Field. It was there that he flew captured enemy aircraft as well as some of the latest aircraft being tested by the now US 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 new, developmental propellers.
In 1950, Hoover was hired by North American Aviation to conduct experimental testing on all models of the F-86 Sabre, FJ-2 Fury, and F-100 Super Sabre. During his early days with North American, he demonstrated safe handling and flying qualities of the F-86 and F-100 to front-line American pilots all over the world. Furthermore, Hoover flew combat dive-bombing missions with the Air Force squadrons in Korea, demonstrating the F-86's combat capabilities over enemy territory.
Bob Hoover was the first man to fly the Navy's XFJ-2 Fury and T-28 Trojan. He also set a number of world aviation records including three climb to altitude records in a Turbo-Commander which was performed at the Hanover Air Show in West Germany, 1978. Another coast-to-coast record was set by Bob in a P-51 Mustang in five hours and twenty minutes from Los Angeles, California to Daytona Beach, Florida in 1985. Hoover also holds a number of world records in jet aircraft.
Bob Hoover has received 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 more than 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.