Hoover, Robert “Bob”
Promoter/Test PilotEnshrined 1988 1922-2016
After three failed attempts to flee from his German captors, World War II fighter pilot and prisoner-of-war Bob Hoover was running out of escape options. When a staged fight among the other prisoners diverted the attention of the prison guards, the former Stalag Luft I resident hopped a barbwire fence and went looking for the refuge of Allied territory. While he didn’t quite make it to Allied land on foot, Hoover did manage to find an abandoned FW-190, which he cautiously flew to the then-recently-liberated Holland.
- Learned to fly at Nashville’s Berry Field and taught himself aerobatics.
- First World War II assignment was in Casablanca testing planes before going into combat.
- Assigned to the 52nd Fighter Group in Corsica.
- Flew 58 missions before being shot down and spent 16 months as a POW.
- After the war, was in the Flight Evaluation Group at Wright Field, Ohio where he flew captured aircraft and the latest USAF aircraft.
- Alternate pilot for the Bell X-1, Hoover flew the chase plane as close friend Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, October 14th, 1947.
- In 1950 he began a 36 year association with North Aviation and Rockwell International.
- Experimental flight tested the Navy FJ-2 jet fighter and the USAF F-86 and F-100.
- Only person to serve two terms as president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
- Captain of the 1966 U.S. Acrobatic Team at the international competition in Moscow.
- World renown aerobatic pilot and his P-51 in a main attraction at the Reno Air Races.
- In 1985 established a coast-to-coast record flying a P-51 form Daytona Beach to Los Angeles in 5 hours and 20 minutes.
Robert A. Hoover has thrilled millions of men, women and children over the last five decades with his acrobatic flying maneuvers. In addition, he has flown over 300 types of aircraft and flight tested or flown nearly every type of fighter aircraft.
Hoover was born in Nashville, Tennessee on January 24th, 1922. He learned to fly at Nashville’s Berry Field and worked at a grocery store to earn the money required for flight instructions. Almost immediately, Hoover began to try his hand at rolls and loops and taught himself aerobatics. The young pilot then enlisted in the Tennessee National Guard and was later received orders to Army Pilot Training School.
At the time that Hoover graduated, World War II was in full swing and the Allied invasion of North Africa had begun. Hoover’s first assignment was in Casablanca, Morocco, where he tested planes before they were sent into combat. Hoover’s next assignment was in Corsica with the 52nd Fighter Group, one of two Spitfire outfits in the Army’s Air Forces. After flying 58 missions, he was shot down off the coast of southern France and spent sixteen months in a German prison camp.
Upon his return to the United States after the war, Hoover was assigned to the Flight Evaluation Group at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. There he flew Japanese and German airplanes captured during the war. He also flew the latest aircraft being tested by the United States Air Force.
Hoover accepted a position with General Motors in 1948 as a test pilot for high altitude performance testing of Allison jet engines and the development of propellers. In 1950, Hoover would begin a 36-year association with North American Aviation and Rockwell International. He performed experimental flight test work on the Navy FJ-2 jet fighter and then the F-86D and the F-100. Hoover demonstrated the safe handling and flying qualities of the F-86 and F-100 series fighters to pilots all over the world.
Bob Hoover was the first man to fly the XFJ-2 Fury Jet and the Navy’s T-28 trainer. He is also the holder of several aviation records. In 1978, he set three climb-to-altitude records at Hannover Air Show in West Germany. And in 1985, he set a coast-to-coast record flying a P-51 from Daytona Beach to Los Angeles in five hours and twenty minutes.
During his career, Hoover was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldiers Medal, Air Medal and Purple Heart. He was the only person to serve two terms as president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and was captain of the United States Aerobatic Team in the 1966 International Competition in Moscow.
His famous yellow P-51 was one of the main attractions at the Reno Air Races. His performances in the Shrike Commander thrilled audiences as he swooped, rolled, looped and finally maneuvered the aircraft to a landing following his famed energy management sequence with no engines running.
Crowds were awed at Hoover’s performance in his Sabreliner, flying the standard or stock jet aircraft through a beautiful acrobatic routine. He served as Vice President of Special Projects for Evergreen International Aviation, Inc., and was also a member of the company’s Board of Directors.
Bob Hoover passed away on October 25, 2016. If there is such a thing as aviation royalty, Robert A. “Bob” Hoover was our beloved and benevolent king.