In the latest eMentor from the National Association of Flight Instructors, NAFI Board Chair Bob Meder wrote eloquently about the time he met legendary Bob Hoover. It’s a great read:
“I became a flight instructor in January of 2001. Even though I had a fair amount of life experience by then, I was concerned, not about the “what,” but about the “how” I was going to teach pilots of varying skill levels, from beginner to expert, about flying. For the beginners, I was concerned that I wouldn’t give them what they needed. For the experienced, I was concerned that I’d be wasting their time and money.
“That summer, I attended EAA AirVenture Oshkosh (I think it was still called the “EAA Fly In” at the time). I wandered the exhibits and flight line admiring aircraft. I also attended many forums and sought out experienced instructors to gain insight into being an instructor myself. This is how I started forming many of the aviation friendships that I am privileged to have today.
“My strongest memory of that particular show is one that is very special to me, and is now even more dear. I’d seen R.A. “Bob” Hoover at one of the forums and decided that he was as impressive a person as he was a pilot. In particular, during his talk, the pre-airshow flag drop was being performed and he heard the national anthem being played. Hoover stopped his presentation, put his hat over his heart, and stood at attention facing the direction of the flight line. We naturally all followed suit.
“After that, I purchased Hoover’s book ‘Forever Flying’ at his booth. As many authors at Oshkosh do, he was autographing his book for attendees. As popular as he was, you can imagine the line of people waiting their turn.
When I finally got to the front, he asked me to whom he should dedicate the inscription and what my rating was. I introduced myself and told him that I had just gotten my CFI in January of that year and was working on my CFII.
With that, Hoover said, “Sit down, there are some things I need to teach you.”
My response was “Sir, you have a lot of people waiting and I don’t want to take your time.”
“Oh, I can sign books and talk to you at the same time. There are things you need to know as a new flight instructor,” came his response.
“With that, I spent close to an hour learning from the master how to get out of, and more importantly, how to teach other pilots to deal with a variety of emergency situations. One that comes to mind as I write this is how to land on the side of a steep hill — I hope I never need it, and I hope none of my students will, but it’s in the mental database, waiting.
“When I had the privilege of meeting him again at the AOPA tent in Oshkosh this year, I told him that I still remembered his kindness and generosity, and that one meeting both inspired me and helped me be a better instructor. He thanked me, and congratulated me on the success that I’ve had. He did try to remember the conversation, but he admitted that a lot of time had gone by and he’d met a lot of people since then.
“The point of this, as always, is that we never know who we will touch and in what way. Hoover met thousands of people in his life, and I was just another face in the crowd. But, because of the kindness and attention he gave me, I think I’m the better for it.
“Something to consider as we walk through life meeting other pilots, and non-pilots alike.”