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5 Life Lessons I learned from Bob Hoover October 25, 2016

Posted by Abingdon in Flight, Uncategorized.
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Today a legend in the aviation world passed away. He was known as the greatest pilot that ever lived. He was also a standup human being. I had the pleasure of knowing Bob for the last four years. Through every interaction with him, I came away a better person. He was a leader in life, not only for his flying skills, but also his character. The world has lost a true gentleman. 

Bob, Colleen, and I at the Opening Ceremony of the Santa Monica Museum of Flying

Bob, his lovely wife Colleen, and I at the Opening Ceremony of the Santa Monica Museum of Flying

Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from knowing Bob Hoover that have helped me be a better person. 

1. Always be learning. I remember coming back to Los Angeles from ferrying a Twin Commander to Australia. I was going to an event at the Jonathan Club in downtown LA to honor Clay Lacy (another living aviation legend). It was a formal event. When I arrived, a few friends of mine were asking me how my ferry trip had gone. Word got around the party that there was a young girl who just flew an airplane to Australia. Bob asked to speak to me privately. I went over to his table and sat down with him. He recognized me right away and asked how I was. Then he wanted to know all about my trip. How did I transfer fuel? How was the HF radio hooked up? What was my speed and how long did it take to fly such a slow plane from California to Hawaii? He loved learning, and though he was clearly the better pilot in the conversation, he was learning something from me. I don’t know if I taught him anything that night, but it was such an amazing thing to have such a great aviator eager to learn something new. 

2. No matter how great the world thinks you are, be gracious. Bob Hoover is known as the greatest pilot to have ever lived. And after seeing countless videos on YouTube of his air show performances and hearing him tell the stories that he’s had in his flying career, I agree. Aviation lost a legend – nobody will deny that. But he wasn’t just a legend for his skills in an airplane. He was a legend because he kept it classy. Always kind and gracious, I would see him at different events throughout the years from private functions to the famous Oshkosh AirVenture and he always had people coming up to him asking for photos or wanting to tell him how they were influenced by him. He would always lend his ear to them. He would always pause and gave them time. He probably heard the same stories over and over and over from thousands of people young and old, and yet he still smiled, still listened, and still engaged with them. It didn’t matter how amazing everybody told him he was, he still kept it down to earth and was one of the most gracious celebrities I have ever met.

3. Write your own rules. This is a man who, in World War II stole a German airplane and flew back to Holland to get back to safety. This is a man who picked up a fellow soldier who had crashed his plane in Northern Africa.  He put his friend behind him in the same seat in a tiny cockpit and flew hours back to the base, saving the soldier’s life. This is a man who helped another pilot get his stuck landing gear down by talking to him over the phone and giving him tips on how to manipulate the airplane to force the gear down. There was never a rule book for Bob. Throughout his life, he wrote his own rulebook.

4. Tell stories. I never had a chance to see Bob fly at an airshow, but I did hear dozens of stories from him. Entertaining, exciting, thoughtful, and valuable, I could listen to him talk for hours. What made Bob so magnetic is that he brought you into his world. He was passionate about the way he spoke. He always spoke from the heart. It is through his stories that people connected with him. We lived with a legend that was still alive, and through him sharing his life stories with us, we felt connected to greatness. 

5. You can pour a glass of iced tea while doing barrel rolls. The video tells 1000 words. Rest in peace Bob. Bob Hoover pouring tea in a barrel roll