The aviation world will assemble Feb. 21 at Paramount Studios in Hollywood to honor Bob Hoover, the legendary pilot who was called the “greatest stick and rudder pilot who ever lived,” by Jimmy Doolittle.
Some individual tickets are still available for the celebration of Hoover’s legacy, according to organizers.
Known as the “Gentleman Pilot,” Hoover was a World War II combat aviator and Prisoner of War, test pilot, one of the airshow community’s all-time performers and the legendary airborne starter of the Reno Air Races, in his P51 Mustang “Ole Yeller.”
The celebration consists of a movie premier, a gala dinner and Bob Hoover Hall of Honor Induction.
Hoover was born in Nashville, Tenn., Jan. 24, 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, he began to try his hand at rolls and loops and taught himself aerobatics. The young pilot enlisted in the Tennessee National Guard and 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 16 months in a German prison camp. He escaped by “pirating” a German FW 190, flying to freedom.
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.
Alternate pilot for the Bell X-1, Hoover flew the chase plane as close friend Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, Oct. 14, 1947.
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.
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 20 minutes.
Hoover has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldiers Medal, Air Medal and Purple Heart. He is 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 has been one of the main attractions at the Reno Air Races. His performances in the Shrike Commander thrilled audiences as he swooped, rolled and looped the airplane to a dead engine landing.
For more information: HooverHallofHonor.com