Bob Hoover’s life began to be chronicled in the last Doctor Aviation blog: https://www.doctoraviation.com/bob-hoover-chuck-yeager-friend-legend/ We left Bob’s story just after World War II as he was stationed at Wright Field and began to befriend Chuck Yeager. Chuck Yeager not only admired Bob Hoover’s sense of humor, but his stick and rudder abilities as well. If they wrapped up a test flight early in 1947 they would break off in their jets and begin mock dogfights. They were a friendly, but heated rivalry in the sky.
When Colonel Albert Boyd selected Yeager as the chief test pilot for the supersonic attempt in the Bell X-1, he asked Yeager who he desired to be his backup pilot. There were over 100 pilots in the Pilot Section to choose from. However, the answer for Yeager was an easy one: Bob Hoover.
Hoover was instrumental in assisting Yeager through tough situations in the air. Late in the testing of the Bell X-1, atmospheric conditions led to Yeager’s already small canopy freezing over at altitude. There was no way to de-ice or de-fog the canopy. Hoover was flying on Yeager’s wing in a P-80 Shooting Star. Using instruments on board Yeager entered a slight descent. As he neared the ground, Hoover talked him into the round out and flare phases of a blind landing on Muroc Dry Lake Bed. Yeager and the X-1 landed without a scratch. Yeager now owed Hoover (who he called “pard”, short for partner). https://www.doctoraviation.com/chuck-yeager-team-broke-sound-barrier/
Following the celebrations of the supersonic flight in October 1947, Hoover left the military in 1948 to become a civilian test pilot. In a short time he became one of North American Aviation’s key test pilots. North American was led at this time by Dutch Kindelberger, our innovator in Session 10 of DoctorAviation.com
Hoover (1st row 2nd from right) with other North American test pilots
The first of his roles was to instruct military pilots serving in the Korean Conflict on how to dive bomb with the North American F-86. Throughout the remainder of the 1950s he traveled to Air National Guard units to demonstrate the capabilities of such North American aircraft as the F-100 Super Sabre.
Hoover’s real fame in aviation circles began to build in the early 1960s when he started an air show career that lasted nearly four decades. His most prominent aircraft was a P-51D purchased by North American Aviation. The yellow bird was dubbed “Old Yeller”. Much like Roy Rogers become inseparably linked to the horse Trigger, Bob Hoover was synonymous with “Old Yeller”. Bob Hoover and Old Yeller were a fixture on the air show circuit
Hoover often ended his air show routines by cutting the engines in flight and gliding in for a landing. He would touch down on just one wheel (demonstrating his excellent hands on the stick) and roll out to the end of the runway and onto the taxiway. From there he would re-start the engine and taxi back to parking. See footage of his air show exploits at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7R7jZmliGc Jimmy Doolittle called him, “the greatest stick and rudder man who ever lived”.
Hoover had a gentle a genuine touch with fans across the country. He particularly was loved at Oshkosh, where he would spent countless hours (even after retiring from flying) chatting with fans and taking pictures. He also found plenty of time to hob knob with other aviation legends. This link contains an unbelievable photo. https://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/simply-the-best-10490510/ Sitting left to right are Chuck Yeager, Bob Hoover and Bud Anderson (Yeager’s best flying friend during World War II).
Bob Hoover passed from this earth on October 25, 2016. He died in Torrance California, not far from the childhood home of Louis Zamperini (of Unbroken fame). He was 94 years old. Air & Space/Smithsonian named him the third greatest aviator who ever lived. At an outdoor memorial service, three separate fly bys occurred. The last featured “The Missing Man” formation, with Old Yeller pulling up as the missing man.
I recommend the documentary done on Bob’s life in 2014. It is entitled: Flying the Feathered Edge: The Bob Hoover Project. I also recommend the following article giving further details on this legendary aviator’s life. https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2016/october/26/aviation-legend-bob-hoover-dies-at-94 Bob Hoover was much more than just, “Chuck Yeager’s friend”.