US Aviation Hero Who Escaped Nazis in Their Own Plane Dies

Bob Hoover went on to test-flight glory, was Chuck Yeager's wingman
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2016 7:27 AM CDT

One of America's greatest aviation heroes has died, reports Yahoo. Bob Hoover, a World War II fighter pilot who escaped the Nazis by stealing one of their planes, died of congestive heart failure Tuesday near Los Angeles, reports the Washington Post. He was 94. Born in Tennessee, Hoover was flying by age 15 and soon learned how to perform loops and dives, reports CNNMoney. He put those skills to use in 58 combat missions during World War II before he was shot down in 1944 and spent 16 months in German POW camp Stalag Luft I. He eventually arranged for a mock fight to break out, scaled a barbed wire fence while guards were distracted, and jumped into a Nazi plane, which he flew to the Netherlands.

He didn't have a map, but "I knew that if I turned west and followed the shoreline, I would be safe when I saw windmills," he once said. His triumphs didn't end there. In 1947, he was Chuck Yeager's wingman as he broke the sound barrier for the first time. He then became a premier test pilot before flying in more than 2,500 air shows around the globe. Among his greatest tricks: pouring a glass of iced tea during a barrel roll. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle once described Hoover as the "greatest stick-and-rudder man who ever lived," but "he was every pilot's icon," a family friend tells "He has influenced more individuals than probably … any single person in aviation," a rep for the National Aviation Hall of Fame adds, per the Dayton Daily News. (This man survived the only mass escape from a Nazi death camp.)

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