Robert Anderson “Bob” Hoover (1922-2016) is known as “the Pilot’s Pilot”. He was a fighter pilot, test pilot, flight instructor, and thrilling audiences for 50 years with his air show displays of daring flight maneuvers.
Bob taught himself to fly and do acrobatics at Berry’s Field in Nashville, before joining the Tennessee National Guard and attending pilot training
During WWII, he was assigned as a test pilot in Morocco before going into combat with the 52nd Fighter Group stationed in Corsica. Bob flew 58 missions in his Spitfire before he was shot down over southern France and taken to a German POW camp. He spent 16 months as a POW before escaping in a stolen Focke-Wulf FW-190 which he flew to the Netherlands.
After returning to the U.S. he was assigned as a test pilot with the Flight Evaluation Group at Wright Field. He flew captured aircraft from Japan and Germany and the latest aircraft being tested by the USAF.
While at Wright, Hoover caught the attention of Chuck Yeager and they became friends. Bob was designated as an alternate pilot for the Bell X-1. He flew the chase plane as Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947.
In 1950 he began working with North American Aviation and Rockwell International and spent 36 years testing experimental aircraft.
He had a few close calls during his aviation career, one notable event in the F-100. In the early 1950s as the United States was entering the Jet Age Hoover flew the F-100 Super Sabre. When Bob got behind the wheel and all went as planned until the landing when the Super Sabre experienced a malfunction.
“I didn’t have enough time to flare and get it down ok. So, I crossed the edge of the lakebed and I set up my landing. And I said it’s working out fine, they said they got the equipment rolling and I said we aren’t gonna need it. About that time, I started to flare, to land, and no flare. I had run out of hydraulic pressure.”– Bob Hoover
The malfunction caused the F-100 to crash and Hoover ended up in a body cast for six weeks. After he healed he got right back into the Super Sabres testing them again, claiming that experimental aircraft was just too addictive.(1)
See the video clip here(1): https://youtu.be/cYNVOyR_FPo
Bob was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988. “He is famous for his “civil air show career, which started when he was hired to demonstrate the capabilities of Aero Commander’s Shrike Commander, a twin piston-engine business aircraft that had developed a staid reputation due to its bulky shape. Hoover showed the strength of the aircraft as he put it through rolls, loops and other maneuvers, which most people would not associate with executive aircraft. As a grand finale, he would shut down both engines and execute a loop and an eight-point hesitation slow roll as he headed back to the runway. Upon landing, he would touch down on one tire followed gradually by the other. After pulling off the runway, he would restart the engines to taxi back to the parking area. On airfields with large enough parking ramps, such as the Reno-Stead Airport, where the Reno Air Races take place, Hoover would sometimes land directly on the ramp and coast all the way back to his parking spot in front of the grandstand without restarting the engines.
He was also known for creating the stunt of successfully pouring a cup of tea while performing a 1G barrel roll. “(2)
See Bob in action in the Shrike: https://youtu.be/g7R7jZmliGc
Bob was a Charter Member of the Super Sabre Society. See more about Bob here: https://supersabresociety.com/headed_west/honorary-modt-esteemed-f-100-test-pilot-bob-hoover-headed-west/