The National Aeronautics Association and the Aero Club of Washington annually award the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy , having been doing so since 1949. This year the prestigious selection committee (a current who’s who in aviation) selected Bob Hoover as the recipient.
As NAA Chair and Selection Committee Jim Albaugh, NAA Chairman and a member of the Selection Committee, said
“There are very few people in the world that capture the history, progress, importance, and sheer excitement of aviation and aerospace like Bob Hoover. For 70 years he has set the standard for skill, leadership, and bravery which may last forever.”
The National Aviation Hall of Fame, which enshrined Mr. Hoover years ago, summarized his career as follows:
· “Learned to fly at Nashville’s Berry Field and taught himself aerobatics.
· First World War II assignment was in Casablanca testing planes before going into combat.
· Assigned to the 52nd Fighter Group in Corsica.
· Flew 58 missions before being shot down and spent 16 months as a POW.
· After the war, was in the Flight Evaluation Group at Wright Field, Ohio where he flew captured aircraft and the latest USAF aircraft.
· Alternate pilot for the Bell X-1, Hoover flew the chase plane as close friend Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, October 14th, 1947.
· In 1950 he began a 36 year association with North Aviation and Rockwell International.
· Experimental flight tested the Navy FJ-2 jet fighter and the USAF F-86 and F-100.
· Only person to serve two terms as president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
· Captain of the 1966 U.S. Acrobatic Team at the international competition in Moscow.
· World renown aerobatic pilot and his P-51 in a main attraction at the Reno Air Races.
· In 1985 established a coast-to-coast record flying a P-51 from Daytona Beach to Los Angeles in 5 hours and 20 minutes.”
The above photograph, at the inclusion of his plane at the National Air & Space Museum at the Udvar-Hazy Center, is emblematic of his Air Show career flying in his Shrike Commander N500RA. His mastery of the Shrike Commander in exhibitions was thrilling to the crowds “as he swooped, rolled, looped, and finally maneuvered the aircraft to a landing with no engines running, following his famed “energy management sequence.” What is most compelling about Hoover’s flying is that he did not use a specially designed aerobatic airplane, but that his aircraft of choice was a standard business plane.
The list of aviation luminaries who have received the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy could be the heading for a book on aviation history—pioneers, engineers/designers, scientists, military pilots, manufacturing executives, airline CEOs, Congressional aviation leaders, astronauts, DoT/ FAA/NTSB/NASA leaders, association presidents, an actor/advocate/pilot and the like. It is indeed fitting to include a fighter, test and aerobatic aviator in that pantheon.
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