Hundreds Honor Life of R.A. Bob Hoover

Bob Hoover with his P-51, Ole Yeller. Courtesy EAA

At an event hosted at Clay Lacy Aviation’s brand new facility at the Van Nuys Airport in Van Nuys, California, a crowd of hundreds of aviation enthusiasts gathered to celebrate the life of famed military, test and airshow pilot R. A. Bob Hoover.

Masters of ceremonies Sean D. Tucker and Danny Clisham encouraged the crowd and speakers to celebrate the event with joy, smiles and unmitigated happiness. And as anyone who met the legend that was Hoover knows, that is how he lived his life — always encouraging, always smiling, always with a positive outlook no matter the challenges he was presented with. Hoover was extremely generous in sharing his vast aviation knowledge to anyone he met, from student pilots to the most highly skilled pilots in the world, helping to save the lives of the military, test and airshow pilots who followed in his footsteps.

“There are so many people in this room today that wouldn’t be alive today without R. A. Bob Hoover,” Tucker said. “Every single one of us in this room he inspired, he empowered, and we have a part of him in our DNA now. And we take that and we celebrate that, and if we’re all a little bit like Bob Hoover this world is going to be a better place.”

After a video showing some of Hoover’s many accomplishments, Tucker introduced a long list of speakers who told short stories of how Hoover touched their lives and what his legacy had meant to them, whether as friends or professionals. Speakers included Hoover’s long-time friend, accomplished pilot and businessman Clay Lacy; acclaimed actor and pilot Harrison Ford; Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum curator Dorothy Cochrane; Fry’s Electronics founder Randy Fry; Boeing chief pilot and experimental test pilot Rich Lee; U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Walter Dan Druen; documentarian Kim Furst; and several friends of Hoover and his wife Colleen, including Jonna Doolittle Hoppes, the granddaughter of Gen. Jimmy Doolittle who knew Hoover since she was a young girl.

Hoover’s pilot Mike Herman shared a touching story of his last conversation with Hoover only hours before he passed, a speech that left few dry eyes in the crowd.

The event concluded with a fly-by of some of Hoover's favorite airplanes. The fly-by was broken into three groups. The first included the North American Sabreliner, two General Dynamics F-16s from the Thunderbirds and a Canadair CT-114 Tutor jet from the Snowbirds. The second formation featured a Lockheed Martin F-22 and two North American F-86s. The final grouping was a missing man formation with a Curtis P-40, a Grumman F6F Hellcat, a P-51 Mustang and a Supermarine Spitfire. As the formation passed the event site, the P-51, none other than Hoover's old airplane Ole Yeller, departed the formation into the sun.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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