Bob Hoover, one of history’s greatest pilots, dead at 94

Photo: Chris Holloman Chris Holloman Photography

One of the greatest pilots in the history of aviation died Tuesday morning, according to reports.

Bob Hoover, a World War II fighter pilot, a former Air Force test pilot, and the chase plane pilot for Chuck Yeager when he broke the sound barrier for the first time, was 94.

A lot of the greatest pilots who ever lived will tell you that Hoover was the greatest pilot who ever lived.

Having been shot down over Nice, France during his 59th mission in World War II, Hoover spent 16 months as a POW, spending much of the time in solitary confinement as punishment for two dozen escape attempts. Finally, he succeeded just before the end of the war by stealing a German fighter.

Had he remained at the POW camp a few days longer, the Allies likely would have reached him. But now he faced possible extinction at the hands of any friendly pilot who would presume his Focke Wulf was manned by the enemy.

Hoover said he hugged a cloud ceiling at about 4,000 feet, figuring he would duck up into it if he was spotted by any Allied aircraft. He planned on flying west until he saw signs of Allied territory. “I wanted to see windmills to be sure,” he explained. That would signal friendly Holland.

By the time he reached Holland, Hoover said, “My gas tank was registering close to zero.” He chose to land while he still had full control of the fighter, and selected an open field. Hoover dropped the fighter’s landing gear and settled in.

A ditch suddenly loomed ahead, and Hoover said he did not want to end up trapped in a German fighter on its back, where the Allies might not realize an American was inside. He said he “just reached down and sucked up the gear” to get the fighter to stop before tipping into the ditch.

Hoover said he wondered, “What the heck are you going to do now?” He didn’t have to wait long. “All of a sudden pitchforks came at me from every direction,” Hoover said. Dutch farmers who spoke no English were understandably angry with the man who emerged from the German fighter.

Providence intervened in the form of a British Army truck approaching. Hoover queried the truck’s occupants: “I hope you can help me. I’m a Yank; they think I’m a Kraut!” With perfect British aplomb, the soldiers whisked Hoover to safety.

Hoover said he did not consider his actions in escaping to be heroic. “I was no hero. I didn’t do anything but be stupid,” he chuckled. Hoover said, “It’s a stupid story. For about a year and a half I wouldn’t tell anyone that story.” But word got out years later at an air show, and Hoover acknowledged his feat, albeit with disarming self-criticism.

A few years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration tried to ground Hoover, saying he was too old to fly.

“Possibly in the entire history of the conduct of the airman medical certification program, no one decision has created more controversy,” federal air surgeon Jon L. Jordan wrote later.

Aviators throughout the world shrieked with outrage until the FAA relented. Many of them had seen his famous air show act, which he performed with both engines on his plane turned off.

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.

In 2010, Hoover delivered the Charles Lindbergh lecture at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

With his death, it’s safe to say the nation will likely never hear first-hand stories like this again.

Years before I learned how to fly, I remember we were driving back East — probably 1992 — and as my wife drove I was reading the Star Tribune account of the big Oshkosh air show, which I’d never attended.

I recall reading aloud to her the description of Bob Hoover’s performance, in which he shut off both engines to his plane and then spent the next — I don’t know — what seemed like 10 or 15 minutes flying close to the ground, pulling up, rolling, diving, and eventually landing and rolling to a stop exactly at show center.

It is the first and only time in my life I’ve read a dispatch in a newspaper, or anywhere else, and couldn’t believe the wonder of it all. I was like a kid from 50 years earlier, reading about the exploits of larger-than-life people like Lindbergh.

In a 2010 tribute in Smithsonian’s Air & Space Magazine, air show pilot Debbie Gary provided a more accurate description:

The first time I saw Bob Hoover fly I was a new show pilot standing next to the great Curtis Pitts and hoping for words of wisdom. It was March 1972, and Pitts and I were watching the airplane he created perform at Miami’s Tamiami Airport. The sky was a frenzy of tiny Pitts Specials panting through snap rolls and outside loops.

It was noisy, and Pitts said nothing during the performance. Even after the airplanes landed and Hoover taxied out, Pitts was quiet—until Hoover, on takeoff, rolled the twin-engine Shrike Commander. It was as graceful and fluid as a cat stretching its back. The show tempo shifted from salsa to whipped cream. Pitts turned and grinned at me. “Have you ever seen anything so smooth?” he asked.

For the next 20 minutes, we watched North American Rockwell’s big, beautiful cross-country transport flow through giant loops and vertical climbs, four-point rolls and half Cuban eights. Two engines roared, then only one, but the airplane kept dancing.

When the second engine stopped, the roar became a glider’s whoosh. The airplane swept past in a deadstick loop, followed by an eight-point roll, then waltzed down to the landing: LEFT two-three, RIGHT two-three, LEFT two-three—the wings banked steeply as one tire kissed the runway, skated, rolled, then lifted as the wings banked the other way, and that wheel skated, rolled.

“Now that’s flying,” Pitts said to me as Hoover, still without power, maneuvered up the runway and onto the taxiway, stopped precisely at show center, then climbed out in his business suit and waved his straw hat at the cheering crowd.

Hoover once demonstrated how to pour iced tea while he rolled his airplane, spilling not a drop and inspiring other aviators to try the same thing with varying results.

“We lost a true, one-of-a-kind aviation hero today,” Jack Pelton, the CEO of EAA said today. “We all knew of Bob’s incredible aviation career and witnessed his unmatched flying skills. It was Bob Hoover as a person that also made him legendary. He was a true gentleman and unfailingly gracious and generous, as well as a good friend of EAA through the years. We can only hope to use his lifelong example as a pilot and a person as a standard for all of us to achieve.”

“Bob Hoover brought great richness to the aviation experience, and he leaves behind a legacy of heroic caring and sharing with the general aviation community,” Mark Baker, the president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, said.

The first time I met Bob, I was seated next to him at an aviation event, my 8-year-old son by my side. Bob both spoke and listened to his aviation dreams.

He offered encouragement and some great stories. And though my son is long since grown, neither he nor I have ever forgotten that an aviation legend gave a child who dreamed of flying his full attention and encouraged him to dream even bigger.

Bob Hoover was so much more than a great pilot. He was a great man and a model for what our community can and should be.”

In his 94 years, Hoover met Orville Wright, Eddie Rickenbacker, Charles Lindbergh, Jimmy Doolittle, Chuck Yeager, Jacqueline Cochran, and Neil Armstrong, spanning the golden age of flight.

His plane resides in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space museum.

Related: Bob Hoover: A Calm Voice In The Face Of Disaster (Airport Journals)

  • guest

    THIS is why old folks deserve some respect. You never know their full story and most have some great ones.

  • Captain John Wampler

    On silent wings as Bob makes his final flight west. “So long. So long you ancient pelican.”

  • Greatest Aviator ever. #RiP

  • RH

    Saw him fly Ole Yeller & the Strike as a kid. Probably one of the best PILOTS of energy management ever. God bless! Fly high “Pard”, you’ve earned your eternal wings.

    • aceydoozy

      “Energy management,” absolutely, he could deadstick a twin and park it on a spot.

  • theo j. williams

    I met Mr. Hoover at numerous airshows, marveled at his skillful aerobatic performances…and got to hear inside stories from my Dad (who was a senior tool-and-diemaker at North American Aviation, for which they both worked). Bob’s P-51 Mustang had to have occasional cosmetic repairs to the wingtips, which scraped the runway as he waggled the wings during low passes; somebody, and I suspect it was Dad, got sufficiently irked with the chore that he fitted the wingtips with automobile curb feelers—remember those?—which alleviated the problem…

    • >>Dad, got sufficiently irked with the chore that he fitted the wingtips with automobile curb feelers<<

      Ha! That's awesome!

      /RIP Mr. Hoover

    • tboom

      Off-the-charts creative. Kudos to your Dad.

    • Tri-motor

      I love those anecdotal stories as they add so much color and dimension to the stories.

  • John Hassenflu

    To one of the best pilots ever! MAY you soar with God and touch his face as he touched your soul. FOREVER flying.

    • Mike

      Dear Captain Hoover, You talked me into following my dreams in the early 70’s at Tamiami Airport. I took your words to heart and pulled through the passage of aviation and earn my wings. Thanks to you, my Dad and a few special other individuals, I am now a B777 Captain with a major airline. How does one repay the honor and trust given to one buy you? Please remember to teach the angles what aviation is and may the hand of God guide you in your new challenge in teaching the angles how to really fly. M.R.D.

      • Dick Ryan

        I was a part of a small group of people who organized an airshow at the Redlands Ca. airport in 1996. My part in the airshow was the air boss. On the first day of the two-day event, air temperatures were in the 100’s. At the conclusion of the pilots briefing I urged everyone to keep hydrated as we had an adequate supply of water.
        After the meeting had concluded, Mr. Hoover came up to me and more or less congratulated me on including this important detail in the briefing.
        He was the air show feature and he performed flawlessly to everyone’s delight for two days in ungodly hot temps as did the other performers. I’ll never forget my personal conversations with Mr. Hoover He was such a down to earth guy when you talked with him. RIP great one.

      • Tri-motor

        Mike… I posted Cody Welch’s note above but here it is if you missed it… a very similar story of Bob Hoover’s gentle hand.

        Cody Welch: I changed the course of my life after a chance lunch with Bob at NBAA ’82. The third member of our hour long visit asked Bob what he would do if he could “do it all over again”. Bob’s answer says volumes about the man: “Not a damn thing-just more of it”. Honest direct and unpretentious. I was wrestling with a major career decision at the time and after I absorbed what Bob said to us, made a right turn in my career. Years later I had the opportunity to say thanks. RIP Bob. Thanks for paving the way.

  • crystals

    My grandfather-in-law is 93 and a WWII pilot of some renown. I hope he’s with us for a lot longer, but admit to wondering what will be written of him when he’s gone.

    The greatest generation, indeed.

    • Bob Yarmey


      • crystals

        Sorry – that was not my intent (it’s a sad thing that virtually any comment invoking the names of politicians is seen as politicized these days). You can keep the shaming to yourself, but I’ll delete the reference nonetheless. Also ironic given you’re using your post above to slam your ex-wife, but hey – you do you.

        • Bob Yarmey

          Smart girl. To his memory, THANKS.

          • Laurie K.

            Smart “girl”? Really? I am pretty sure we’re all adults here [at least in years].

          • Bob Yarmey

            Lauri K from Minnesota, At what age should a woman not be called a girl? Do you know her age? What makes YOU so hypersensitive? Why hide your last name? At least Crystal was honorable to apologize. I also revised my initial post at her suggestion. What do you know of Bob Hoover as this thread is to his memory?

    • Tri-motor

      The best thing to do is record those memories now.

  • Cookie123

    RIP Bob Hoover. A great pilot, a true patriot, and a wonderful showman. Thank you for your service to our country, and for the great entertainment you gave us. Westward ho!

  • Mike

    That’s ONE report from “someone on Facebook”. Is there another source for this? AOPA has no article about it, EAA doesn’t have an article about it. Only Tom Haines, who every that is, stated it, and he referenced a 2 year old AOPA article ABOUT Bob Hoover. Nothing about his death from any other source than this one person.

    • The Sheriff

      Why don’t you look up who Tom Haines is?

    • Tom Haines is the editor in chief of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and confirmed the death by speaking with the family. He’s a news guy; he knows what he’s doing. The nations newsrooms are full of people who don’t fly, and can barely remember the name of the first people who did. It’s not at all surprising they don’t recognize the significance. Which is a whole ‘nothr story.

  • Bob Yarmey

    I’m sure Bob will be teaching the angels some new tricks. I am personally indebted to Bob for helping me retain all my flying licenses despite several significant life challenges.

    • Bill Brut

      He will have a lot to teach them. Adios Bob, and make heaven your playground..

  • Scott Roberts

    Sad to hear this Legend has passed… Godspeed, Bob!

  • waldon

    Hoover did not fly the commander 10-15 minutes with both engines out.

  • Flyn_Bryan

    RIP Bob Hoover. You will be missed.

  • formertcresident

    As the saying goes, when a person like Hoover leaves us… it’s like a library burning to the ground. We’ll never get all of the knowledge from him. I find it very interesting that last night I bought and watched his biography, Flying the Feathered Edge. I’ve also read his book too…. There will never be another Bob Hoover again. Fly west my friend!

  • kevin bender

    Many of us who grew up in Palos Verdes, CA during the 70’s
    can remember the familiar sight and sound of a yellow P-51 Mustang on a Sunday
    afternoon as Mr. Hoover returned from a weekend airshow and circled the
    peninsula. Some were also fortunate enough to be friends with the gracious and
    generous Hoover family. Like me, some of us were even lucky enough to
    experience our first flight in an airplane with Mr. Hoover at the controls.
    Even more exciting was having the privilege of sitting in the right seat while
    Mr. Hoover performed a “Tennessee Waltz” on final approach in the Shrike. Mr.
    Hoover was instrumental in influencing me and many of my generation’s decision
    to pursue careers in aviation as well as serve our country in the military. I
    am sure all of us fortunate enough to experience Mr. Hoover and his family’s
    kindness would agree that words cannot describe the exhilaration and excitement
    that came from being introduced to aviation through such a fantastic gentleman.
    Thank You Mr. Hoover for your service to our Great Nation, You will be missed
    but reunited with your beloved wife Colleen. God Speed and a good tailwind on
    your travel Westbound.

    Kevin Bender

    CW4, AV, USAR
    On behalf of the whole Bender Family

  • Doug Packer

    Not only a great pilot, but a genuinely humble and nice guy! The world has lost one of the great icons! Enjoy Heaven and clear skies…..we will see you again!

  • aceydoozy

    Saw him many times back in late ’60s and 70’s as a SNA and NA(USMC variety), including deadsticking the Sabreliner and Aerocommander, amazing. He deserves the “greatest” label, RIP. Hard to believe, but he was only 45ish back then.

  • Larry

    The Skyline High School aviation students who had the privilege of meeting you at your tribute a couple of years ago will always remember you fondly, Mr. Hoover. Now you’re off to earn yet another set of wings. God love you.

  • Max Kohnke

    The greatest of the great ones has gone west.

  • Patty Haley

    The first time I ever saw Bob was in 1982, at a military airshow in Newberg. Bob flew both the Mustang and the Shrike. He was the show. It was an overcast day and their were the Thunderbirds flying a low and several C-130s doing fly bys. It was a hot humid summer day. A bunch of up parked vans on the grass between the runway and taxiway. Then we put chairs on top of the vans while the rest of the crowd stood on the hot taxiway to enjoy the show. Thank goodness for them, it was thickly overcast. I saw him at nearly every airshow i attended afterwards, until he was grounded by tje FAA. I finally got to meet Bob and his wife at a SETP symposium, ( Society of Experimental Test Pilots ) here in San Diego. What a treat that was.

  • S.D.Roberts

    As a lifelong aviation enthusiast I felt like I’d stumbled onto a gold nugget when I discovered Mr.Hoover’s biography in a dollar book bin a few years ago. I devoured it in one day. We’re unlikely to ever see another one like him. I dare say he got more out of his 94 yrs. than countless others ever will. God bless him in his eternal flights.

    • Tri-motor

      To your point, a good friend of mine, Cody Welch, posted this note about an encounter with Bob Hoover that changed his life. He is not alone I am sure:

      I changed the course of my life after a chance lunch with Bob at NBAA ’82. The third member of our hour long visit asked Bob what he would do if he could “do it all over again”. Bob’s answer says volumes about the man: “Not a damn thing-just more of it”. Honest direct and unpretentious. I was wrestling with a major career decision at the time and after I absorbed what Bob said to us, made a right turn in my career. Years later I had the opportunity to say thanks. RIP Bob. Thanks for paving the way.

  • Kahn_Tango

    CAVU, Bob.

  • Frank Okolo

    Saw him do his routine with the Shrike back in 1984/85 in Springfield Illinois. Alongside Leo Loudenslager and the late great Art Scholl. Without doubt Bob Hoover was the greatest stick and rudder man that ever lived. How else do you loop and roll a powerless off-the-shelf twin not once, not twice, and then land it on each wheel first, then coast to a stop in front of the podium? I don’t think anyone remotely like him will be seen in this planet. Rest in peace, Bob.

  • Paul Ofer

    A truly great aviator that under stood aeronautics like no other. I had the great fortune to share a few new year’s eves with Bob and his wife Colleen. New Years of 2008 my wife and I shared a condo with them. After having left the party and returning to the condo, we began a discussion about Steve Fossett.(You may remember, The great record setting adventure who had soloed nonstop around the world.) Fossett had disappeared in a borrowed plane several months before. I questioned Bob about the event as he was present at the ranch, had flown the plane, and knew the skies. He explained the characteristics of the small stunt plane. And the effects of the winds. Using his arms and hands for visual effect. He explained to me that Fossett had probably flown that plane into the side of a mountain at full throttle trying to escape the force of the winds and down drafts. Sure enough almost a year after he had disappeared the wreckage was found. The FAA report surmised exactly what Bob Hover had explained to me. The man knew airplanes and the sky’s in which they flew. He was a wonderful person. I feel proud for just having known both of them.. NO ONE HAS EVER COLLIDED WITH THE SKY Keep your wings dry Bob Hover

    • Tri-motor

      Bob was the greatest. Who can take his place… I don’t think anyone really can. Just the second in line.

  • Are you sure?

    Most people knew bob hover from airshows, but this man had a lot more history than most know. He was a WW-II pilot and POW. He was co-pilot in the first plane to break the sound barrier. He set several new speed records in his time.

    • Joe Wolfe

      Not co-pilot..flew chase. The Bell X-1 was a single seater and only Chuck Yeager was at the controls.

  • Joe Wolfe

    Bob Hoover and my Dad, who was killed flight testing an XB-47 at Edwards AFB in 1951, flew together during and after WWII. As I was only 7 when my Dad died, I had to rely on the stories that men like Yeager and Hoover told me. Bob and I (And my oldest son) would spend lots of time in Bob’s motorhome at the Reno National Championship Air Races, listening to tales of daring-do he and my Dad, with others, would engage in. One story comes to mind. Soon after the war, My Dad and Bob were stationed at Wright Pat. They got tanked up one night and went out to the field and commandeered a pair of P-51’s and went for a joy flight. (Chuck, if you are reading this, seems to me Bob said you were one of the other pilots in on this..correct me if I am wrong!) During the flight, they terrorized numerous cattle, buzzed milk cows, and caused 1000’s of hens, to fail to lay any eggs that night and the milk cows to not produce any milk. At least, that is what the irate farmers were telling the base C.O. As Bob and my Dad were the ‘Whose Who’ at Wright, nothing was ever done to them..well..except my Dad was sorta permanently exiled to Muroc Flight Test Center (Now Edwards) and assigned to do whatever Howard Hughes wanted to do with any military aircraft. Don’t remember what punitive punishment (sic) Bob was delightfully assigned, but you can bet he enjoyed every last minute of it. I know my Dad did.

    I’ll miss those stories, as that was how I learned about my Dad. I do hope Bob and my Dad are wreaking havoc with the angels, whose wings are nothing like those, those two men have. <> RIP Bob, my son and I (And everyone else) will miss you.

    • There’s a Dan Wolfe in the Living Legend of Aviation club. Any relation?

      • No…I’m sorry. I beg your pardon. Your dad was Joe Wolfe Jr., I presume. 7500 hours to his name and a hell of a pilot himself.

        These folks in the Greatest Generation, man, just incredible nerve. We can only imagine.

        • Joe Wolfe

          Yep..That was my Dad.

      • Joe Wolfe


  • aveteran2

    I was taking ground school back in OH in 1970. The district sales manager for Aero Commander landed in a snow storm and came in with baggage and film of a demo pilot flying a Mustang and a Shrike. We as a group preferred to see the film and it was about Bob Hoover. Watching him I learned the tail wheel technique for landing in cross winds by watching Bob Hoover. We met at Reno, in the Midwest and in CA several times later on. I helped him get his Buick rental from the flight line to the sand box after several show routines over the yeas. He would always give me the thumbs up. He knew I could anticipate his needs without talking. Hope you have winds on your tail and the shade overhead. God speed to you sir.

  • Gordon near Two Harbors

    This is an AMAZING story!! Patriots like Mr. Hoover make me deeply proud to be an American. RIP, great man.

  • ziggypop

    This man could handle an aircraft like nothing you have ever seen before. He was kind and gentle, and he treated everyone exactly the same. Nothing fake or false about him.

    So glad to have been privileged to be around aviation at the same time as this pilot extraordinaire.

    Blue skies and tail winds, Mr. Hoover. There will not be another like him.

  • donaldvincent

    Mr.Hoover! RIP Sir. Truly the greatest Pilot in Aviation History.

  • charliebrown737

    I had only one experience with Bob. I was coming out of LAX in a BN2 Islander going to SFO. I was talking to LAX gnd and on the South side early morning no one else around. I was told to taxi to the holding point and contact twr.

    Suddenly here comes a yellow P51 so fast he probably could have lifted his tail. Cuts me off and I had to slam on my brakes to keep from having a collision. I had gone over to twr and he says XXX ready for take off.

    He was cleared for T/O and away he went. I ask twr who the f*** that was and they told me Bob Hoover. I ask if he was talking to gnd and they said no, he never does.

    He was a total jerk as far as I was concerned.

    Best stick and rudder man ever my ass.

    • Joe Wolfe

      Not wanting to sully Bob’s good name, but this story (heard from *many* different sources!) always struck me as funny. Bob, in his ‘flying everything with wings’ days, ‘broke’ more than a few of the planes he was tasked with ‘checking out’. so many, in fact, the gentle rib came into existence: “Bob Hoover destroyed more allied planes, than the enemy.” CB737’s comment brought this one to the forefront of my memory. (Which, at my age, is not very ‘fore’ any longer!)

    • Wait. Back up a sec. You’re in the aviation field, you saw a YELLOW P-51 and you DIDN’T know it was Bob Hoover?

      • Joe Wolfe

        <<>> <<>>

    • Joe Wolfe

      Everyone has ‘days’! I have some wonderful pictures of Bob, after he ‘drove’ through a new Black pickup truck with the Evergreen Yellow P-51. One in particular of him climbing out of the cockpit with the look of “What in the hell just happened?” look on his face. Priceless! (No one was hurt that day, just Bob’s pride a smidge! [sic] )

  • Twister51

    I actually had the privilege of meeting Bob Hoover once. So, in about 2011, I’m standing in a bathroom, doing my business, in a hotel just north of OSH while at AirVenture and I look up and who do I see standing in front of a urinal just to my right? Bob Hoover! I think to myself, “Hey, that’s Bob Hoover! No friggin’ way!” Thin, loose white slacks (so thin you could tell that Mr. Hoover was wearing white-striped boxers underneath) and his famous straw hat. I wanted to introduce myself, but not like that. We both finished and as he stepped outside the bathroom I introduced myself to him as an Air Force pilot and he then graciously posed for a few pictures. Makes me laugh whenever I think about it. A consummate gentleman and the “ultimate” pilot’s pilot. RIP!

  • Freddy Merks

    Thanks for all you did for aviation and the world, Lord thank you for Bob

  • Terry C.

    In 1967 I attended Northrop Institute of Technology, 3 blocks from LAX and the home of NAA. We’d walk to the airport after dinner each night and watch the airplanes takeoff and land.

    One evening we (my roommate and me) saw a man walk out of the NAA building and climb into a yellow P-51, fire it up, taxi to the east end of the runway (where we were standing) roll out onto the runway and takeoff with no stopping or pausing for a runup. Less than a quarter way down the runway he turned x-wind to downwind to final, did his Tennessee waltz, gun the engine and do it again, 3 times before rolling out and angling directly from the runway back to his parking spot underneath the “North American Aviation – Home of the X-15” neon sign, shut down, hop out and casually walk back into the building.

    Never did see it again but sure wasted a lot of evenings waiting for it to happen again. Us newbys certainly did appreciate our own private Bob Hoover exhibition. He truely was the best of the best.

    Here’s to you Bob and thank you for the private air show.

    • Ryan Wallace

      A true American hero of the greatest generation has left us. May we all learn and strive to be 1/10 the pilot he Is. RIP Mr. Bob Hoover. The aviation community can never thank you enough for what great things you accomplished and contributed as well as the inspiration you gave to all pilots. We can only try to be like you but there is no replacement for you as you are the best..,period. thanks for your service sir. My grandfather is 93 and the last P-38 pilot living from his squadron. Thanks for the inspiration and acts of heroism. Sad to say that your generation is irreplaceable in today’s world.

    • Craig Walker

      Oh my! My father was at Northrop about the same time. His name was Milton Walker. Came back to Kansas City to work for TWA.

      • Terry C.

        Sorry, didn’t know him. I was in the engineering side of the school, not the A&P side.

  • King Lear

    I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Hoover at an air show in Lincoln, CA during the late 80’s. He was a humble man and a great pilot. RIP.


    As a much younger man I had a drinking buddy, Joe Mueller. Joe was a United check pilot and also a member of the US Aerobatics Team. About 1968 or 69 we flew down to Cleveland in Joe’s old biplane for the air show. Saw Bob Hoover’s fantastic performance, & then sat up all night listening to stories he and other pilots swapped. Wish I hadn’t had so much to drink, cause I don’t remember many of the stories. Certainly remember, however, the respect given Mr Hoover by the pilots at our table, & the twenty or more who stopped to meet him. I also remember his kindness in accepting & including a non pilot.

  • Tri-motor

    What great stories. What great men.

  • TellTheTruth-2

    Going to the EAA fly-in in at Rockford, Illinois and seeing Bob Hoover fly was always the highlight of the trip. Hopefully Bob will join me during eternity and we’ll both have super fast UFO’s and get to explore the universe.

  • Tom D

    Many think Bob was one of the best. BOB Was Thee Very BEST! God Speed, to my icon, a very interesting human. He was truly an irreplaceable piece of history, that most will never fully appreciate. His life should be researched, and admired by all. You have the Left Seat in Heaven, my Friend, and you have Earned it. Deeply Missed, by the entire aviation community… :(.

  • Sam Weigel

    Was lucky to see one of Bob’s last performances in the Shrike Commander at OSH ’99. My dad and I heard him speak several times at OSH ’11, and Dawn and I at OSH ’12 and ’14. Never met him personally, to my regret. Such a neat guy…so adamant that every pilot could do what he did, if they merely flew their airplanes enough (and close enough to the edge of the envelope) to truly know their machine. When you consider his history from WWII to the X-programs to North American test programs to Korea to demonstration and airshow flying…there’s no question in my mind that we’ll never see his like again. But here and there we see flashes of brilliance that have Bob’s original spark in them. Matt Younkin’s routine with the Beech 18 comes to mind.

  • Gordyn

    I saw Bob fly at the Confederate Air Force airshow in 1977. It was just as amazing the first time this rookie pilot (got my license the month before) saw it as it was the last time. Rest easy Bob Hoover!