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Aero Club Of Southern California Recognizes Legendary Pilot

Bob Hoover To Receive 2009 Howard Hughes Memorial Award

Robert A. “Bob” Hoover, World War II fighter hero, postwar U. S. Air Force and civilian test pilot, and for many years a popular air show star, has been chosen by the Aero Club of Southern California to be the 31st recipient of its Howard Hughes Memorial Award.

Bob Hoover

The annual award, to be presented at a banquet in Los Angeles on Feb. 4, 2010, recognizes aerospace leaders who have made significant contributions to the advancement of aviation and space technology, said Aero Club president Nissen Davis.

“Hoover’s exciting demonstration flights at air shows around the world inspired countless thousands to take an interest in aircraft and aviation,” said Davis.

Hoover worked at a grocery store in Nashville, Tennessee to pay for flying lessons in the 1930s before enlisting in the National Guard. During the war he was sent to North Africa, to flight test fighters assembled there, before being assigned to the Spitfire-equipped 52nd Fighter Group in Sicily. On his 59th mission, his malfunctioning aircraft was shot down and he was taken prisoner. After 16 months in a German POW camp, he escaped, stole a Focke-Wulf FW 190 fighter from a German airfield and flew to freedom.

After the war he was assigned to flight test duty and became Chuck Yeager’s back-up pilot for the Bell X-1 rocket plane, which, in 1947, became the first aircraft to exceed the speed of sound.

Hoover left the USAF in 1948 and became a test/demonstration pilot for North American Aviation (which later became North American Rockwell) where he went on bombing missions with the F-86 Sabrejet over Korea.

In the 1960s he began demonstrating one of his company’s most famous products, the P-51 Mustang fighter, at air shows around the country. He is best known for his demonstrations of the twin piston-engine business aircraft, the Aero Commander. To show the plane’s strength, he would roll and loop it, with a grand finale that involved shutting down both engines and executing a loop and an eight-point slow roll before making a “dead stick” landing.

Bob Hoover With Aero Commander

Following an accident when both of his piston engines shut down on take-off due to a refueler putting jet fuel in his tank instead of aviation gas, Hoover invented a nozzle for use on jet fuel pumps that insured that such mix-ups could not occur.

Throughout his career, he flew 300 different types of aircraft.

Hoover’s awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Soldier’s Medal for Valor, the Air Medal with Clusters, the Purple Heart and France’s Croix de Guerre.

Founded in 1925, the Aero Club of Southern California, also known as the Southern California Aeronautic Association, increases public awareness of the new and expanding uses of aviation, awards scholarships to students pursuing careers in aviation and aerospace, and is credited with saving the famed Hughes HK-1 Flying Boat, now the centerpiece of the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, OR.

FMI: www.aeroclubsocal.org

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