Lessons from the master, Bob Hoover

July 28, 2011

Bob Hoover“Know your capabilities, and those of the airplane, and don’t exceed either one.” That’s the advice of famed war hero, test pilot, and airshow performer given during a press conference at EAA AirVenture 2011.

Hoover spoke of the obstacles he faced to realize his dream of becoming a pilot and fighter pilot. First came airsickness, but Hoover did self-taught aerobatics until the symptoms went away. Next came the eye chart, but a friendly doctor helped him memorize the eye chart. After World War II, the doctor contacted Hoover and said, “That’s the best thing I ever did.”

Because of learning aerobatics, he was the best primary flight training student the military had ever seen, and he ended up training the instructors in what he had learned.

Next came a colonel who found Hoover’s training and test pilot capability so valuable he refused to let him go into combat—his dream. So Hoover contacted a general and got his own orders cut. When the colonel shelved the orders, Hoover proceeded to his new assignment as though the orders had come through.

The most terrifying flight he ever had as a test pilot was when the control stick of a North American F-86 Sabre became unattached from the ailerons and elevator. He brought the aircraft down safely, at 240 KIAS, using a combination of flaps, speed brakes, and the rudder. Controllers on the ground urged him to parachute to safety, but he ignored them.

After all, he’s Bob Hoover.

Al Marsh

Alton K. Marsh | AOPA Pilot Senior Editor, AOPA

AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.