Bob Hoover, a World War II fighter pilot who escaped a POW camp and flew to freedom by stealing a German airplane and who spent decades testing aircraft, thrilling spectators at air shows and training military aviators, died Oct. 25 at a hospital in Torrance, Calif. He was 94.
Mr. Hoover, who learned to fly as a teenager in Tennessee, was among the country’s most revered pilots. The renowned World War II airman Gen. Jimmy Doolittle once called Mr. Hoover “the greatest stick-and-rudder man who ever lived.”
In 1947, Mr. Hoover was a test pilot flying alongside Chuck Yeager when Yeager broke the sound barrier. Mr. Hoover taught dive-bombing maneuvers to Air Force pilots during the Korean War.
He flew more than 300 varieties of airplanes and knew virtually every significant figure in the history of aviation, from Orville Wright to Charles Lindbergh to Neil Armstrong, the first astronaut to walk on the moon. During his decades as a stunt pilot, Mr. Hoover handled his plane so smoothly that he could pour a cup of tea while executing a 360-degree roll. One of the airplanes he used for aerobatics, a North American Rockwell Shrike Commander 500S, is housed in the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.