Bob Hoover a Pilots Pilot

By: Richard E Nygaard

I saw Bob Hoover flying his Shrike Commander and his personal P-51 maintained in perfect condition for him on every occasion. I was anywhere he was performing. From the tmi I was a fledgling pilot in the early fifties until many years later. I considered him the very best of the best. I will not try to tell any stories about his exploits they are too numerous and interesting but I will relate one show that he starred in at Dulles air show way back in the 70s I believe. He went through his routines with the Commander and P-51 and as I recall just before a hellacious thunderstorm swept across Dulles airport and the parking lots where people were rushing to escape thworst and largest hailstorm I ever saw in the area up until that time. The ice crystals were not round they were chunks of ice sharp and some jagged and pointed. Many folks were screaming and trying to get to their cars but since the wind was blowing up the ice so hard, the safest thing to do was get behind the left side of a car below the hood line and hope for the best. The storm passed and as I recall, Bob Hoover was right back the next day doing his miracles with his planes. It was a notion after that, that two smart mouthed FAA officials raised a Spector that he was too old to be flying before crowds of adoring fans and this began the battle of his career just to keep doing what only he could do.

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Sgt Grit wants to hear from you! Leave your comments below or submit your own story!

6 comments


  • Jack Waldvogel

    R.I.P. Robert ……………….JRW


  • Lewis

    I knew and liked this cantankerous and lovable pilot, Bob Hover but I do not understand why this subject matter is appearing on A US Marine blog site.


  • Gresham, C.E. SSGT of Marines

    Bob Hoover performed choreographed maneuvers, not “stunts;” highlighting the capabilites of control and flight coordination between an accomplished, well trained pilot and any aircraft, whether aerobatic or standard category. His masterful performances were visual proof that you can fly and control an aircraft under many adverse conditions, up to and including loss of engine power.
    Watch his WHOLE performance, from “dancing” on one wheel then the other, shutting down one engine during his maneuvers, then the other, all the while under full control; landing and rolling to the spot from where he was parked to start with!
    Add to all that the roll he does in his Shrike Commander while pouring a glass of tea from an open pitcher!
    The loss of and the reestablishment of Mr Hoover’s medical certificate would take longer than necessary here, but suffice to say that in 1992 it was “noted” by a couple of FAA field reps at an airshow (not at Dulles) that “he wasn’t what he once was.” He voluntarily sent in his medical, then when he requested it be returned, they refused. Thus, the battle ensued.
    Long story, but he got his special medical cert reestablished, flew aerobatics another 8 years and continued to fly til age 85!
    RIP Bob Hoover, and although not a Marine, certainly embodied all that would be necessary with class and style unequaled in flight performance history.


  • Roger Schoenfelder

    I was at the Dulles Air Show. One of Bob Hoovers stunts was to simulate a main gear failure landing. Only on the day I was there the left main failed to extend at the end of his show and he had to do it for real. He touched down on the right main and when it lost lift the left wing tip gently struck the pavement. The only damage was a little sheet metal damage to the wing tip and the belly air scoop. The P-51 was in the air for the next days performance with a bare metal wing tip and air scoop on the bright yellow plane. He was truly a great pilot.


  • Timothy J. Crabb

    Yesterday we honored Bob Hoover at the Woodstock Harley-Davidson Veterans Memorial at our one year anniversary of the dedication for this memorial site. Woodstock Harley-Davidson is the only Harley-Davidson dealership in the nation to have such a site on the grounds of the dealership. A 50′ x 50′ permanent site with an 80′ flag pole in the center of the site that flies a garrison flag 24/7. In front on the flag pole is a black granite monument dedicated to “Those who serve and have served” our nation. This monument is surrounded by a sea of personalized bricks. We also have a Gold Star section to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives serving our great nation. Bob was one of two WWII Army Air Corps veterans honored who have recently passed away. You can go to YouTube and see our dedication ceremony. Put in the search box: Veterans Memorial – Woodstock Harley-Davidson. It runs 4:25 minutes. Semper Fi


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