LOS ANGELES (AP) — Robert A. “Bob” Hoover, a World War II fighter pilot who became an aviation legend for his skills in testing aircraft and demonstrating their capabilities in air shows, has died at age 94.
Bill Fanning, a close family friend and a fellow pilot, says Hoover died early Tuesday in Southern California.
Hoover attended the EAA AirVenture convention every year, according to the EAA, and thrilled fans flying his P-51 in the air show.
Earlier this year, a Ford Mustang painted in the colors of his P-51 Ole Yeller was auctioned by the EAA. In 2014, EAA AirVenture premiered “Flying the Feathered Edge,” a documentary about Hoover’s battle with the FAA when his medical certificate was revoked in the 1990s.
EAA CEO and chairman Jack Pelton is quoted saying, “We lost a true, one-of-a-kind aviation hero today… We all knew of Bob’s incredible aviation career and witnessed his unmatched flying skills. It was Bob Hoover as a person that also made him legendary. He was a true gentleman and unfailingly gracious and generous, as well as a true friend of EAA through the years. We can only hope to use his lifelong example as a pilot and a person as a standard for all of us to achieve.”
When the National Air and Space Museum conferred its highest honor on Hoover in 2007, the museum noted that Jimmy Doolittle, leader of the famed 1942 bomber raid on Japan, once described Hoover as “the greatest stick-and-rudder man that ever lived.”
Hoover flew more than 300 types of aircraft in his career, including serving as backup pilot in the Bell X-1 program, flying the chase plane when Chuck Yeager became the first to break the sound barrier in 1947.
WBAY contributed to this report.