October 26, 2016

"Bob Hoover, a pilot who escaped Nazi captivity in a stolen plane, tested supersonic jets with his friend Chuck Yeager, barnstormed the world...."

"... as a breathtaking stunt performer and became, by wide consensus, an American aviation legend, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 94.... Even General Yeager, perhaps the most famous test pilot of his generation, was humbled by Mr. Hoover, describing him... as 'the greatest pilot I ever saw.' The World War II hero Jimmy Doolittle, an aviation pioneer of an earlier generation, called Mr. Hoover 'the greatest stick-and-rudder man that ever lived.'... Mr. Hoover’s trademark maneuver on the show circuit was a death-defying plunge with both engines cut off; he would use the hurtling momentum to pull the plane up into a loop at the last possible moment."



Full NYT obituary here.

53 comments:

Michael K said...

""Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds -
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of -
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I've chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.
"Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God."

David said...

A man who did not die doing what he loved. How refreshing.

rhhardin said...

It's not death-defying. It requires competence but the airplane isn't going to fall from the sky.

The engines don't hold the airplane up.

Patrick said...

The dude knew Orville Wright and Neil Armstrong. Wow.

mockturtle said...

Magee's High Flight came to my mind, as well, Michael. RIP, Mr. Hoover!

JPS said...

I'm remembering an anecdote from Yeager's autobiography about their friend "Pancho" Barnes. At the end of WWII Yeager was a 22-year-old captain, his friend Bud Anderson was a 23-year-old major. Somehow Hoover's timing was off, he came home from the war a first lieutenant, and he stayed one for quite awhile.

One day at her bar, Barnes confronts Hoover: "Hoover, why in hell are you only a lieutenant?" Hoover shrugged and said something about a freeze in promotions. "Bullshit," she says, and calls up her old friend General Carl Spaatz. "Tooey? It's Pancho. I've got a young lieutenant here named Bob Hoover who's being f^&*ed over royally."

A remarkable man. Rest in peace.

traditionalguy said...

Back when men were men.

mockturtle said...

Thanks for sharing the anecdote about 'Pancho' Barnes, JPS! She is one of my all-time favorite characters. Still waiting for a biography.

Rob said...

He may have been the greatest rudder man. I'm the greatest stick man.

GRW3 said...

I met him at the EAA show in Oshkosh back in '91. I was working the company booth at the show and he stopped by to chat because he knew the company owner, another aviation pioneer in his own right. Like most of the truly great fliers I've met, he gladly shared the fellowship of flight with all those who fly. I suppose it was at least in part because we, the lesser fliers of world, could at least hold a cogent conversation about what he did.

The Drill SGT said...

Here's to a guy who broke the rule about there not being any "Old, bold Pilots"

dreams said...

"He may have been the greatest rudder man. I'm the greatest stick man."

And who wouldn't rudder be the greatest stick man!

dreams said...

Being a real man seems to enhance longevity, Chuck Yeager is 93 years old.

coupe said...

Yeager and Hoover joked, that they were inspired to be the best at what they did, by not having the disgrace of some dirt road at Muroc being named after them.

Every time some pilot killed himself, they would name a road after him. In the case of Glen Edwards, he crashed the biggest plane (a flying wing), so they named the base after him.

SayAahh said...

I was fortunate enough to have seen him fly several times at Oshkosh.
I loved his routine of starting from a marked spot on the tarmac doing his complex and fantastic routine then cutting the engine, gliding back and landing at the exact same spot he started from. He was a master!
Even when he could still out-fly others he was controversially grounded for age related issues.

Big Mike said...

I wish I knew more about his escape from the Nazi Stalag. How'd he manage to steal a plane? How'd he fly it with the instruments calibrated in meters of altitude and mph? How'd he avoid getting shot down by American flyers? Anybody got a link?

The Drill SGT said...

Big Mike said...
I wish I knew more about his escape from the Nazi Stalag. How'd he manage to steal a plane? How'd he fly it with the instruments calibrated in meters of altitude and mph? How'd he avoid getting shot down by American flyers? Anybody got a link?


near end of the war, guards flee camp.

he heads to local airbase, steals unguarded plane

flies German plane to Holland, lands in field.

gets chased by angry Dutch farmers with pitchforks :)

SayAahh said...

Thank you for a non political, non presidential campaign, non Dylan post.
A nice respite....even if an obituary. Hoover lived his many years to the max which lessens the sorrow of his death.

mockturtle said...

BTW, Hoover's autobiography is entitled: Forever Flying: Fifty Years of High-flying Adventures, From Barnstorming in Prop Planes to Dogfighting Germans to Testing Supersonic Jets, An Autobiography.

Roughcoat said...

I'm sitting on a manuscript I wrote with World War II aviator who escaped from a POW in Yugoslavia and, along with several others -- including two German Luftwaffe guards -- stole a Junkers Tri-motor and escaped in it. Unfortunately they didn't have enough fuel to reach Italy and crashed landed, safely, on the Adriatic coast. They were rescued by Yugoslav partisans. Well, the Americans were rescued -- the partisans executed the two Germans. It's all a true story! The guy was a member of my church. He passed a few years ago. I spent many, many hours interviewing him on tape. I guess I should write up his story and publish it.

bagoh20 said...

"The engines don't hold the airplane up."

C'mon Hardin, you know that's some amazing flying. The engines do in fact hold the thing up, proven by the fact that as long as they're running it stays up, and when they stop it soon comes down. They're just capable of supplying extra energy in the form of altitude and momentum which he shows incredible skill at managing with uncommon courage and confidence, but if it was just balls, he'd already be dead. He's like a machine. I like the very certain and purposeful way he tasks. It's the automatic doing the right thing at the right time without hesitation that makes a weak pilot like me swoon.

The Drill SGT said...

"The engines don't hold the airplane up."

As someone who has seen an F-15 in a vertical climb, I'm willing to make an exception for planes whose thrust exceeds their weight :)

Fred Drinkwater said...

One of the very few things my father ever griped about was his failure to get his hands on one of the so-called "Streak Eagles" (F-15s used for the world time-to-climb record). He had put together a proposal to use one for high altitude air sampling, but for some reason they turned up their noses at this idea.
Also recently deceased: George Cooper http://history.arc.nasa.gov/hist_pdfs/bio_cooper.pdf

Fred Drinkwater said...

bagoh20 writes: "if it was just balls, he'd already be dead. He's like a machine. I like the very certain and purposeful way he tasks. It's the automatic doing the right thing at the right time without hesitation that makes a weak pilot like me swoon."
This is so true. I was right-seat observing, or at least in the cockpit, with a number of these guys, and the planning, level of skill, and instant reactions, are mind-boggling.

320Busdriver said...

Enjoyed many of Bobs shows when he flew the Shrike Commander. Amazing showman.
Most pilots I know who met him described him as a class act. Most who were unfortunate enough to have met Yeager said the opposite.

RIP Bob.

"To fly west, my friend, is the one final check we all must take"
Author unknown

coupe said...

The future of transportation is sans driver.

A funny story, which builds on the animosity of bomber pilots versus fighter pilots, was when Curtis LeMay (a bomber pilot) was asked what the best fighter was in the Air Force, and he said "The best fighter we have right now is a rocket out of Montana."

320Busdriver said...

Energy management.......at its best!

Fred Drinkwater said...

Planning.
A thing people may not understand about the business Hoover et al. were in is the precision and definitiveness of the planning involved.
Trivial but telling example: We were in the north SF Bay area somewhere (Gnoss field?) pre-flighting, when we discovered that one of the two Nav-Com radios was dead. The minimum equipment list for the plane/route combination required two.
No flight. The family is not getting home tonight. OK, but the thing I remember (I was 14) was the simple fact of it. There was no discussion, you know, "Is it really unsafe to go with one?", "The weather is probably going to stay clear, right?" or any of that BS.
That's the attitude that keeps flying safe.

coupe said...

320Busdriver said......Most who were unfortunate enough to have met Yeager said the opposite.

Hoover was folksy. He went out of his way to meet people and chum around. Most people had no clue who he was.

Yeager had the problem of fame. He was surrounded by people he hated, because all they wanted was a picture or an autograph, or just to be seen with him in a crowd. They had nothing in common.

320Busdriver said...

This seems apt:

Flying West

I hope there's a place, way up in the sky,
Where pilots can go, when they have to die-
A place where a guy can go and buy a cold beer
For a friend and comrade, whose memory is dear;
A place where no doctor or lawyer can tread,
Nor management type would ere be caught dead;
Just a quaint little place, kinda dark and full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud, and love a good joke;
The kind of place where a lady could go
And feel safe and protected, by the men she would know.

There must be a place where old pilots go,
When their paining is finished, and their airspeed gets low,
Where the whiskey is old, and the women are young,
And the songs about flying and dying are sung,
Where you'd see all the fellows who'd flown west before.
And they'd call out your name, as you came through the door;
Who would buy you a drink if your thirst should be bad,
And relate to the others, "He was quite a good lad!"

And then through the mist, you'd spot an old guy
You had not seen for years, though he taught you how to fly.
He'd nod his old head, and grin ear to ear,
And say, "Welcome, my son, I'm pleased that you're here.
For this is the place where true flyers come,
When the journey is over, and the war has been won
They've come here to at last to be safe and alone
From the government clerk and the management clone,
Politicians and lawyers, the Feds and the noise
Where the hours are happy, and these good ol'boys
Can relax with a cool one, and a well-deserved rest;
This is Heaven, my son -- you've passed your last test!"

Author: Capt. Michael J. Larkin

larry labeck said...

When I was 8 or 9 in 1963 or 64 he came to the Hillsboro Airport (my mother was secretary to Bert Zimmerly who sold and flew Aero Commanders) to visit and perform.

He was friends with a local hero named Swede Ralston who owned Aero Air. I met Mr Hoover and saw him fly. The pleasure that all of the aviators took in his company was palpable, even to a boy. Mira Slovak was there that year, too.

Bert's dad started Empire Airlines, later merged with West Coast, and in 1968 through another merger, became Air West. This was briefly Hughes Air West, then became part of Republic, and now is merged into Northwest Airlines. He died in a Hell's Canyon crash.

My first heros were mail pilots.
Bob Hoover R.I.P.

Darrell said...

Hoover didn't need instruments. He tested every plane assembled overseas in the first two-thirds of the war. Since a lot of assembly was in Iran with indigenous workers that didn't speak English, he encountered every problem with a plane that can be found. He was the first man to work out the solutions and get the planes back to the ground. He wrote a good portion of the book about dealing with problems in flight.

n.n said...

Tags: Hypersonic Life.

Alan said...

Perhaps worth noting that when Hoover was in his 70s and still doing airshows the FAA (Motto: "We're not happy until you're not happy") tried to stop him from flying by yanking his medical, apparently on the ground that doing aerobatics at that age showed you were nuts. And ther3e are still people who think regulators don't have enough power.

Larry J said...

I was also fortunate to see Bob Hoover perform several times at Oshkosh. It's wonderful to watch people who are true masters of their craft, be it Yo Yo Ma playing the cello or Bob Hoover flying. His performances were things of beauty. His flying and grace were seldom matched and never exceeded. Although I never had the good fortunate of conversing with him, it feels like I've lost a friend. My brother-in-law used to fly for Mr. Hoover at Rockwell. He loved him. Bob Hoover was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Remarkable guy; inspiring.

Patrick said...The dude knew Orville Wright and Neil Armstrong. Wow.

First flight in 1903, sound barrier in 1947, walked on the moon in 1969. Pretty damn impressive.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

[It would be petty to add a cheap political angle like "not bad for an undiverse group of mostly cisgender white men" or something. Good thing I'm not petty.]

HoodlumDoodlum said...

mockturtle said...BTW, Hoover's autobiography is entitled: Forever Flying: Fifty Years of High-flying Adventures, From Barnstorming in Prop Planes to Dogfighting Germans to Testing Supersonic Jets, An Autobiography.

Here is a link to the book on Amazon (fwd by Yeager) - Prof. Althouse should delete my post & put up a link with her affiliate code for this in case anyone wants to buy it.

Amazon: Forever Flying

(There was one signed copy at Abebooks but I bought it. They've got a first edition, unsigned, for $56.)

mockturtle said...

Aviation is one of the most thrilling of man's achievements. I almost took up flying but my kids and husband talked me out of it. My grandson, though, started flying at the age of 12, bless his heart.

Another really good aviation read [my favorite, in fact] is Harmon Helmericks' The Last of the Bush Pilots, an old book but republished. I re-read it about every other year.

Humperdink said...

Fred Drinkwater said: ".....We were in the north SF Bay area somewhere (Gnoss field?) pre-flighting, when we discovered that one of the two Nav-Com radios was dead. The minimum equipment list for the plane/route combination required two.
No flight. The family is not getting home tonight. OK, but the thing I remember (I was 14) was the simple fact of it. There was no discussion, you know, "Is it really unsafe to go with one?"

In 1988, I took my Cessna 172 from Pa to Florida to visit my dad. Along the way one of two Nav-Coms crapped out. Cessna radios were famously unreliable back then. As I landed, I mentioned this to my dad. He said don't return home until you fix it. Good advice. On the return flight to Pa, the other Nav-Com died.

coupe said...

bagoh20 said...The engines do in fact hold the thing up, proven by the fact that as long as they're running it stays up, and when they stop it soon comes down.

If you think of a glider, then you can see where this doesn't follow.

The throttle is used to climb and descend. It's a little more complicated if the aircraft is not already flying. In which case, it performs a second function of moving a static weight to a velocity in which the wings provide lift. This can be a rocket, propeller, or jet, or some combination.

In a glider it could be a tow plane. No engine required - just thermals and lift :-)

Kinda off-topic I guess...

mockturtle said...

In a glider it could be a tow plane. No engine required - just thermals and lift :-)

I'm no aerophysicist but isn't momentum provided by the tow plane's engine?

bagoh20 said...

Coupe, I fly hang gliders, so I understand the concept. We can fly all day if the conditions are right, but that metal plane cannot get up or stay up for long without engine power. In the words of Woody after watching Buzz Lightyear gliding: "That wasn't flying, it was falling with style."

virgil xenophon said...

Remember that old childhood trick of taking a pail full of water and swinging it in an overhead loop w.o. spilling any water by keeping constant g forces? Hoover used to do it in his Aero Commander. He'd put a glass of beer on the cockpit dashboard, t.o., perform a loop and land w,o, spilling a drop. One smooth stick and rudder man.. He is also famous for taking an F-100, doing a touch and go, opening the cockpit, standing up and walking his ac down the runway (then a famously unstable aircraft at that airspeed and angle of attack ------AOA) from alternatively touching left gear to right back and forth all the way down runway before he cleaned up the ac, sat down, closed the canopy, raised the gear and went around the pattern again to a final full stop landing.

RIP Indeed..

Fred Drinkwater said...

Mockturtle: "Bax Seat" by Gordon Baxter, a collection of his last-page essays written for "Flying" magazine. Romantic, but great. I especially loved "Hawk Lips" and the one where we learn the proper way for a young southern girl to pronounce "shit" when the fan stops turning in a thunderstorm. (It started again before terrain contact occurred.)

Fred Drinkwater said...

Michael K: At my father's service we sang Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar" set to music by my sister and niece and nephew. It ends:

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

A year earlier that nephew's brother, a Marine 2Lt, had been killed along with 8 others in a collision between an Apache and a C-130 off San Diego.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_California_mid-air_collision

An unforgiving profession.

coupe said...
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Kirk Parker said...

Alan @ 1:09pm,

I saw Hoover do his Aero Commander routine at Abbotsford RCAF base in 1980; that was still during the time when the FAA had grounded him, or so I was told.


Fred D/Humperdink,

Another community with the same fail-safe approach is the climbing community (at least as practiced by the Mountaineers.) For example, I've never been to the summit of Mt. Baker because every climb I've been on has turned back--the most disappointing one we were really only about 200' below the summit in elevation, but we were at the drop-dead turnaround time, so turn around we did.


Virgil,

" walking his ac down the runway"

He even did a bit of that with his Aero Commander at the 1980 Abbotsford show (yes, during the dead-stick landing.)

mockturtle said...

Kirk said: Another community with the same fail-safe approach is the climbing community (at least as practiced by the Mountaineers.) For example, I've never been to the summit of Mt. Baker because every climb I've been on has turned back--the most disappointing one we were really only about 200' below the summit in elevation, but we were at the drop-dead turnaround time, so turn around we did.


As Ed Viesturs famously said, 'Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.' BTW, you must live in WA, too.

Kirk Parker said...

Yes I do--and in fact in the county that has the highest elevation differential of any county in the US. (Hence the sailing + mountain climbing.)

mockturtle said...

Yes I do--and in fact in the county that has the highest elevation differential of any county in the US. (Hence the sailing + mountain climbing.)

Pierce?