California Dreaming – Wish I Could be There

I usually dream of getting to the USA to visit aviation museums (Fantasy of Flight, Udvar Hazy Centre, etc) or recurring events (Oshkosh, Reno, etc). Today I learned of a one-off event that has trumped every other reason for me to get over there: Bob Hoover is being honoured for his aviation legacy!

R A "Bob" Hoover, The Gentleman Pilot

R A “Bob” Hoover, The Gentleman Pilot

Known as “The Gentleman Pilot,” Bob Hoover is a living legend in the aviation scene and if you’ve not already read his autobiography “Forever Flying” you owe it to yourself to do so. His feats range from exploits during World War II through to test piloting advanced aircraft and performing amazing displays for adoring crowds at airshows.

To honour Bob, there will be a tribute evening on February 21st at the Paramount Studios Theatre in Los Angeles with dinner under the Paramount Gate. In addition to the big names from aviation who will be attending (Harrison Ford,
James Lovell, Eugene Cernan, Sean D. Tucker, Herb Kelleher, Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger and any more) there will be those who can afford the US$950 tickets. They’ve already sold almost all of the tickets (the indicator on the site is showing 81.6%) and it promises to be quite the event as they’ll also be screening the premier of a documentary on Bob’s life.

An interesting point I noted while reading the tribute website: the contact person if you have any questions is Lesley Poberezny, grand-daughter of Paul Poberezny, the founder of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). Quite an auspicious name to be associated with the event and rather appropriate given Bob’s long association with the EAA & his frequent appearances at Oshkosh.

You can get a good summary of some of Bob’s achievements at the bottom of this post as supplied in the press release distributed about the event. You can also see some of Bob’s classic airshow display maneuvers in the video below, including his famous “pouring iced tea while flying a barrel roll” :)

Would that I could afford the airline ticket and some spending money to be there as I suspect it will be a fantastic night. Sadly, it’s not to be as my cunning plan for world domination by winning the lottery still hasn’t come to fruition :(

Short collection of Bob Hoover highlights
Robert A. Hoover has thrilled millions of men, women and children over the last five decades with his acrobatic flying maneuvers. In addition, he has flown over 300 types of aircraft and flight tested or flown nearly every type of fighter aircraft.

Hoover was born in Nashville, Tennessee January 24th, 1922. He learned to fly at Nashville’s Berry Field and worked at a grocery store to earn the money required for flight instructions. Almost immediately, Hoover began to try his hand at rolls and loops and taught himself aerobatics. The young pilot enlisted in the Tennessee National Guard and later received orders to Army Pilot Training School.

At the time that Hoover graduated, World War II was in full swing and the Allied invasion of North Africa had begun. Hoover’s first assignment was in Casablanca, Morocco, where he tested planes before they were sent into combat. Hoover’s next assignment was in Corsica with the 52nd Fighter Group, one of two Spitfire outfits in the Army’s Air Forces. After flying 58 missions, he was shot down off the coast of southern France and spent sixteen months in a German prison camp. He escaped by ‘pirating’ a German FW 190, flying to freedom.

Upon his return to the United States after the war, Hoover was assigned to the Flight Evaluation Group at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. There he flew Japanese and German airplanes captured during the war. He also flew the latest aircraft being tested by the United States Air Force.

Alternate pilot for the Bell X-1, Hoover flew the chase plane as close friend Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, October 14th, 1947.

Only person to serve two terms as president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

Hoover accepted a position with General Motors in 1948 as a test pilot for high altitude performance testing of Allison jet engines and the development of propellers. In 1950, Hoover would begin a 36-year association with North American Aviation and Rockwell International. He performed experimental flight test work on the Navy FJ-2 jet fighter and then the F-86D and the F-100. Hoover demonstrated the safe handling and flying qualities of the F-86 and F-100 series fighters to pilots all over the world.

Bob Hoover was the first man to fly the XFJ-2 Fury Jet and the Navy’s T-28 trainer. He is also the holder of several aviation records. In 1978, he set three climb-to-altitude records at Hannover Air Show in West Germany. And in 1985, he set a coast-to-coast record flying a P-51 from Daytona Beach to Los Angeles in five hours and twenty minutes.

During his career, Hoover has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldiers Medal, Air Medal and Purple Heart. He is the only person to serve two terms as president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and was captain of the United States Aerobatic Team in the 1966 International Competition in Moscow.

His famous yellow P-51 has been one of the main attractions at the Reno Air Races. His well-known “Gentleman You Have a Race” guided the finest air racers in the world! His performances in the Shrike Commander thrilled audiences as he swooped, rolled and looped the airplane to a dead engine landing. His energy management is unmatched in the air show world to this day.

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