What Can't We Learn From Bob Hoover?

I was saddened to hear about the passing of Bob Hoover last week. AOPA's Tom Haines wrote a wonderful tribute to Mr. Hoover. I'm disappointed to say that I didn't follow his exploits as closely as I could have. (And I presume to write an aviation blog!?) However, in reflection, I find that I've learned a lot more than I realized from Mr. Hoover.

I have seen him fly an airshow. I watched as he flew maneuvers in a Twin Commander that many people wouldn't attempt in an Extra 300. Here's a great YouTube video of him flying:

Before I'd started learning to fly, his performance taught me that even a "non-aerobatic" business aircraft could do some amazing things if flown properly, while paying proper respect to the laws of physics. I also saw how it's possible to attain a true mastery of an aircraft with enough practice and attention. A few times in my flying career, I've attained the kind of mastery that Mr. Hoover first demonstrated for me. Flying in those circumstances is a pleasure beyond description. I've also used some of the principles he demonstrates to get out of tight spots.

One of my favorite Bob Hoover tricks is his demonstration of pouring a glass of iced tea while performing a 1-G barrel roll. Here's the video:

Before this, I used to think that all aerobatics had to be high-g maneuvers with abrupt control inputs. His example showed me that this isn't always necessary. It's possible to fly a great airplane while still being smooth.

I also love this picture:

I'm not sure if Mr. Hoover put together this graphic himself, but I believe it is him flying the airplane. He's known for talking about how to properly land an airplane in a crosswind and was a fan of demonstrating 1-wheel landings. I can't tell you how many experienced aviators I've flown with who are apparently incapable of landing an airplane in a crosswind without any drift rate and with the longitudinal axis of the aircraft aligned with the runway. It astounds me. Mr. Hoover always demonstrated this so well. He had a way of explaining aviation concepts simply and succinctly.

I think if I were to look deeper at aviation knowledge that I've gained from Mr. Hoover I'd probably find that it's not so much a question of, "What have I learned from him?" as "What haven't I learned from him?"

For a final tribute, I refer you to the words of some of the people who knew him. The following clip starts with tributes from some of the most famous fighter pilots in history. The fact that they call Bob Hoover the best fighter pilot in the world is something special.

If you enjoyed this clip and you'd like to watch more, you can buy the DVD of a film called Flying the Feathered Edge from The Bob Hoover Project.

Thanks to Mr. Hoover for teaching and inspiring us all to be better aviators. Here's a toast....