Bob Hoover has died at 94.

Minnesota Public Radio reporting that legendary pilot and bad-ass Bob Hoover has died.

Aviation buffs will know who he was. For those of you not nerdy in that way, Hoover was a WWII fighter pilot who, after being shot down and captured, escaped Stalag Luft 1, stole a German fighter, and flew it to the Netherlands. He was a friend of Chuck Yeager’s, and backup (and chase plane) pilot for the X-1 project that broke the speed of sound. He was a test pilot, an aerobat, and one of few people truly deserving of the term “legend.”

In his later years, he performed at air shows in a Shrike Commander, a decidedly non-aerobatic aircraft. The end of his routine (after doing some maneuvers with one of the two engines shut down) consisted of Hoover shutting off both engines, performing a loop, an eight-point hesitation roll, and then deadstick landing the plane. If the airfield was large enough, he would sometimes land right on the ramp and coast to his parking spot.

Godspeed, Mr. Hoover. Go dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings.


I flew with Bob Hoover, at Oshkosh EAA back in the 70’s. In his specially modified P-51 Mustang.

He was a HELL of a pilot.

I still have the hat he gave my dad.

That is terrible although I have been expecting this news for a while now. At least Chuck Yeager is still left for now at least.

Chuck has been looking a bit infirm lately. I grew up watching Bob Hoover performing in his Shrike Aero Commander. One helluva pilot. I thought of him a couple of days ago, and the thought crossed my mind that he would not be with us much longer. I wish people like him and Yeager could be with us forever.

I saw him at Oshkosh this year. He was very frail. He talked about the POW camp escape. He said it was the stupidest thing he ever did. The war was basically over and he was weeks away from being released.

Per Hoover, he was supposed to fly the X-1 but he buzzed my local airport tower with a jet from a nearby airbase and that didn’t go over very well.

obligatory video of him pouring ice tea.

Bob Hoover was probably the best test pilot to every fly. To say he was legendary is a gross understatement. He brought planes back from test flights that were unflyable.

Only saw him once, but damn, he was one of the best.

He knew what he could do and he knew what the aircraft could do.

But together, they could do so much more.

Stories I could tell; but this thread is for Bob Hoover.

I feel Bob Hoover is/was the personification of “High Flight.”

He was so good he landed a stricken plane somebody else was flying:

In 2012, a pilot in a P-51 ran out of options when his landing gear malfunctioned. He’d tried everything to deploy it but nothing worked.

Officials tracked down Hoover by telephone, then patched him in to the pilot of the stricken pilot.

“Boot enough rudder there at landing gear down speeds, get a side load on it, it would force it out and into the locked position,” Hoover said. “I’ve been there, I’ve done that a couple of times.”

Jeanes, on the phone from Dallas to Hoover in Los Angeles, encouraged Gardner to keep trying the maneuvers over Mobile Bay. “Just slip it, skid it, yaw it, whatever you have to do to get some air under the door.”

It worked. The landing gear deployed and the pilot landed the P-51 safely.

He could cuss a blue streak, too. On our final approach to the runway at the EAA convention, some guy in a beechcraft disregarded the pattern and flew right in front of him, causing him to hit the throttle and go around again. Bob meticulously described the pilot’s parentage, personal failings, grooming habits and sexual practices in great detail.

I’m looking at his hat and a pic of me with him in his Mustang right now. What a life he had!

I picture him showing Benjamin Franklin the finer points of kite flying.

The Reno Air Races have never been as good as when he was still flying. And now he won’t even be there on the ground. :frowning:

I’ve been rereading The Right Stuff for the past few weeks. Hoover and Yeager’s test pilot days are fascinating.

The early test pilots took incredible risks to make jet flight safe and routine today.

As they say in countries where cricket is popular, he had a good innings. We shall celebrate and be happy for the life he lived rather than be saddened by his passing. Though not nearly as publicly well known as Chuck Yeager, he inspired many a young pilot. And speaking as someone who has a a bit of time in a Shrike Commander, I can say he picked a damned fine airplane to dance with.

Hoover and Chuck Yeager are two of the least likely people in modern history to die of old age, and they’re both going to do it. Well, unfortunately Hoover has.

My uncle used to work with him at North American Aviation. When I got into flying he offhandedly asked me if I’d ever heard of him. I reacted as if he were asking a basketball fan if he had heard of Michael Jordan. Uncle said Hoover was a real southern gentleman.

Reading Hoover and Yeager’s memoirs side by side one comes away with an interesting observation - Hoover sounded like he enjoyed the hell out of life, and Yeager sounds like an angry, spiteful prick.

Good tailwinds, Bob. You were the pilot’s Pilot.

I recall a story from a few years back that he had an in flight emergency that he handled perfectly and landed safely, and the FAA pulled his license anyway due to his advanced age (at least according to Hoover). He was appealing it because the incident was not at all related to his age or his skills, and because his resolving the issue was pretty clear evidence that he still retained the necessary skills to be a competent pilot.

I never heard whether that was resolved. I certainly hope it was, in his favor.

That was my impression when I met him briefly some 30 years ago.

Possibly not quite that bad, but definitely ungracious, egotistical, demanding and difficult - not a gentleman. (This based not on my experience, but that of some friends who dealt with him at some length - and who will be at pains to avoid any need to do so in future.)

As I recall, an FAA official at an air show had a chip on his shoulder, and decided Hoover ‘looked funny’ (‘infirm’, ‘not with it’, whatever). This individual initiated proceedings that resulted in the revocation of Hoover’s medical certificate. There was an in-flight emergency a short time before the air show, and Hoover handled the situation perfectly. He used the incident to demonstrate he was not incapable of flying and handling emergencies, so he should have his medical reinstated. In the meantime, Hoover obtained an Australian pilot’s certificate and medical, and he could perform down there. Shortly after that, his FAA medical certificate was reinstated and he flew in air shows in the U.S. until his retirement.

Some folks got a Douglas A-26 in flying shape but due to it’s weight, they needed to be typed rated in it and only one of them had ever flown one. No one in the FAA at that time had either so they asked HB, the guy who could and had flown them to bring it to OKC and show them how to fly it so they could sign off others as they learned to fly it.

So HB took it down there and showed them what was needed. Then the guy he had taught said he was not qualified to fly it. He flunked the check ride and could not take it back to Tulsa. They kept it over two months with all of the FAA guys who wanted too to fly it and use government $$$ to pay for fuel. They did not do any maintenance, just flew the heck out of it. When they got it back in Tulsa, it took a long time and much $$$ to get the airframe & engines back to acceptable conditions.
Early 1960’s.
Always interesting stuff going on back then.

Damn. RIP, Bob. :frowning: