Bob Hoover attends the 12th annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on Jan. 16, 2015. Hoover, a World War II fighter pilot who became an aviation legend for his skills in testing aircraft and demonstrating their capabilities in air shows, died Tuesday at age 94 in Southern California. (Photo by Rob Latour/Invision/AP, File)

Bob Hoover attends the 12th annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on Jan. 16, 2015. Hoover, a World War II fighter pilot who became an aviation legend for his skills in testing aircraft and demonstrating their capabilities in air shows, died Tuesday at age 94 in Southern California. (Photo by Rob Latour/Invision/AP, File)

Legendary pilot, air show performer Bob Hoover dies at 94

By John Antczak, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Robert A. “Bob” Hoover, a World War II fighter pilot who became an aviation legend for his flying skills in testing aircraft and demonstrating their capabilities in air shows, has died at age 94.

Hoover, who lived in Palos Verdes Estates, California, died early Tuesday, said Bill Fanning, a close family friend for many years and fellow pilot.

“He was every pilot’s icon,” Fanning said, recalling his friend as one of the premier test pilots of the 1950s and ’60s. “Bob tested everything. He flew them all.”

When the National Air and Space Museum conferred its highest honor on Hoover in 2007, the museum noted that Jimmy Doolittle, leader of the famed 1942 bomber raid on Japan, had once described Hoover as “the greatest stick-and-rudder man that ever lived.”

“We lost an aviation pioneer today,” Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, said in a Twitter post. “He could do magical things with an airplane. He was the best.”

Hoover, who began flying in 1937 at Berry Field in Nashville, Tennessee, almost came to an early end. While serving in the Army’s 52nd Fighter Group in Sicily during World War II, he flew more than 50 missions before being shot down. He survived and spent months in a prisoner-of-war camp before he escaped, stole a German fighter plane and flew to safety in The Netherlands.

Early U.S. jet-powered warplanes such as the P-80 and F-84 were tested by Hoover, who then became a backup pilot in the Bell X-1 program and flew the chase plane when Chuck Yeager became the first to break the sound barrier in 1947.

Hoover also tested the XFJ-2 Fury, which was developed for the Navy and Marine Corps, and the F-86 Sabre, an Air Force fighter, among more than 300 types of aircraft he flew in his career, according to the National Air and Space Museum.

He later brought his flying prowess to the public in aerobatic performances using such aircraft as North American Aviation’s P-51 Mustang and Aero Commanders.

His Shrike Commander 500S, now ensconced in the Air and Space Museum, changed from an ordinary business-style propeller plane into an aerobatic star with Hoover at the controls during a so-called energy management routine. With both engines off he would do a loop, roll, 180-degree turn and land.

In the early 1990s, the Federal Aviation Administration pulled Hoover’s medical certificate for failing a neurological exam that followed a performance at Aerospace America air show in Oklahoma City. Hoover fought the decision, and even went to court, and in 1995 he received a restricted medical certificate.

That year he returned to the skies and delivered his signature performance at Daytona Beach, Florida.

“It felt good to be performing in front of my countrymen again,” he said at the time. “I’m just glad all that is behind me and that justice and fairness prevailed.”

A recipient of numerous honors, Hoover was among the 100 heroes of aviation honored in 2003 at the First Flight Centennial celebration.

“It’s fair to say that anyone who ever had the privilege of flying with Bob, saw him perform at an airshow, or who heard him speak, was affected tremendously by the experience,” said Andrew Broom, executive director of the Citation Jets Pilots Association.

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

Talk to us

More in Local News

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee speaks with special ed Pre-K teacher Michelle Ling in her classroom at Phantom Lake Elementary School in Bellevue, Wash. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP, Pool)
Governor: Educators are now eligible for coronavirus vaccine

“This should give educators more confidence,” Jay Inslee said. Other frontline workers could soon be next.

A view of the courtyard leading to the main entrance of the new Stanwood High building on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020 in Stanwood, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Law gives Washington high school seniors leeway to graduate

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that can waive some requirements for students who were on track before the pandemic.

About a dozen metal dinosaurs sit in the front yard of a home owned by Burt Mason and Mary Saltwick on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021 in Freeland, Washington. The couple are used to finding strangers in their yard and taking photos. Every year on their trip to Tucson, Burt and Mary bring home another figure  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Dinos on Whidbey? This Freeland yard is a Jurassic Park

These creatures from long ago won’t chomp or chase you, and you’re welcome to visit.

Maryville Getchell High School students Madison Dawson, left, Kaden Vongsa and Jenasis Lee, who made a presentation to their school board discussing mental health, lack of resources and personal stories of their peers mental health struggles. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Students plead for better mental health support from schools

Three Marysville Getchell seniors want more counselors and improved training for staff.

Parked tractor-trailers line the side of 40th Avenue NE on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021 in Marysville, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Worker wonders why dead end Marysville road is rough and rutty

A stretch of 40th Avenue NE is mostly used for heavy trucking and isn’t in line for repairs soon.

Camano Island shooting leaves father dead; son arrested

Dominic Wagstaff, 21, was taken into custody late Sunday for investigation of the murder of Dean Wagstaff, 41.

Jean Shumate (left), seen here during a February 2019 school board meeting, will retire June 30 after 20 years at the Stanwood-Camano School District superintendent. (Skagit Valley Herald)
Stanwood-Camano superintendent to retire after 20 years

Jean Shumate has been at the helm longer than any other superintendent in Snohomish County.

A boy raises his hand during a lesson at Starbright Early Learning Center on Friday, June 5, 2020 in Everett. The Snohomish County Council is expected to vote Wednesday on a measure that would add early learning centers to a spending plan for the Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)
County Council proposes to address a big pre-K learning gap

Members are rethinking how to spend earmarked education money to “make a real difference.”

Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Sunset Falls cascades down past the existing fish ladder along the Skykomish River east of Index, February 4, 2014.
Photo taken 20140214
New hatchery on Skykomish to end practice of importing fish

A plan to capture fish from Sunset Falls near Index and release them in the river is open for public comment.

Most Read