R.A. “Bob” Hoover passed away peacefully early this morning near his home in southern California. He was 94 years old.
Recognized throughout the world as “the best stick and rudder man” who ever lived, Hoover was the personification of the air show industry for many years. Whether he was flying his P-51 Mustang “Ole Yeller” or the Shrike Commander (which is now displayed in the Smithsonian Institution’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia), Hoover entertained tens of millions during an air show career that lasted nearly 50 years. Tens of thousands of current pilots were inspired to learn how to fly after watching Hoover fly at an air show.
During his legendary career as an aviator, he stole an Fw-190 and flew it to freedom after escaping from a Nazi POW camp, he flew a chase plane behind the Bell X-1 on the day that Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, and he flew as a test pilot for the North American F-86 and F-100. He lived during a time when he was fortunate to have known Orville Wright, Charles Lindbergh, Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Neil Armstrong and Yuri Gagarin; he was a living bridge between aviation’s Golden Age and today’s modern aerospace community.
Hoover is a member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the ICAS Foundation Air Show Hall of Fame. He is a past recipient of both the ICAS Sword of Excellence and the ICAS Art Scholl Memorial Showmanship Award. He received the prestigious National Aeronautic Association’s Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy in 2014. He is an honorary member of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the RCAF Snowbirds and the American Fighter Aces Association. For his service during World War II, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Soldier’s Medal of Valor and the French Croix to Guerre.