21 December 2014 (Updated 12 March 2015) | In 1974 an impressionable young man in his early teens stood eagerly among the throngs in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. A yellow ‘Rockwell International’ North American P-51D Mustang was taxiing toward the air show runway. The Packard Merlin powerplant roared to full life and the Mustang charged down the runway, lifting into the air and immediately into a roll with undercarriage still extended.
Later that afternoon the man took the controls of a North American F-86 Sabre and stood the Korean War fighter onto its tail until raw jet fuel exited the tailpipe and the fighter slid tail-first after a deliberate stall. A quick recovery followed and the jet accelerated to another equally impressive feat.
Subsequently the same aviator took up a Shrike Commander and demonstrated superlative and unequaled abilities to fly beyond the aircraft’s recommended performance envelope.
The aforementioned demonstrations brought breathtaking sights and sounds that the young man, and undoubtedly many of the other spectators, would never forget. The incredible aerial displays were provided by pilot extraordinaire Robert Anderson (Bob) Hoover. The images of Mr. Hoover causing the aircraft to seemingly and effortlessly defy rules of aerodynamics with ease and grace became etched into memories. “How can anyone fly like that?” asked more than one person who had just witnessed the impossible.
The review of Bob Hoover’s life begins with his descriptions of entering cadet training and becoming a sanctioned instructor to his instructors. Mr. Hoover tells of flying Bell P-39 Airacobras and being shot down by a fellow pilot during gunnery exercise.
Bob explains how a physician, who was impressed with his piloting skills, enabled him to attain the goal of earning U.S. Army Air Force wings and become a sergeant pilot. Mr. Hoover also relates how being assigned as a depot pilot assigned to Lockheed P-38 Lightnings in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations helped him gain invaluable knowledge as a test pilot.
One is further treated to Bob’s personal recollections of flying Supermarine Spitfires as a Flight Lieutenant with the Royal Air Force and being shot down, due to drag produced by overload tank that could not be jettisoned, by a Luftwaffe ace.
Details of his internment in Stalag Luft I are included and Hoover’s ensuing escape, during which he stole a Focke-Wulf Fw-190 and flew the German machine to sanctuary, is thoroughly discussed.
Furthermore, viewers learn of Bob Hoover’s military test pilot days at Wright Field and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and his ensuing civilian career. Commentaries are provided by such luminaries as Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan, noted aircraft designers Dick and Burt Rutan, actor Harrison Ford and others.
A 2014 Napa Valley Film Festival Official Selection, and winner of the Breckenridge Festival of Film’s Audience Award and 2014 Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival Soldiers and Sacrifice Award, The Bob Hoover Project‘s Flying the Feathered Edge is excellent viewing. The product holds one’s attention for every one of its 86 minutes. This documentary is highly recommended due to educational content, and production and entertainment values.
This reviewer (John Stemple) thanks The Bob Hoover Project for their cooperation during the preparation of this film review.
Sources Suggested Readings and Viewings
Bob Hoover flying Philippine Air Force F-86F in 1961
The Bob Hoover Project