There Isn’t a Man Alive Who Hasn’t Made a Mistake

In 1989 at an air show at Brown Field, San Diego; Bob Hoover took a couple of passengers up in his Shrike Commander.

Just after the aircraft left the runway, at approximately 300 feet, both engines simultaneously failed. Hoover managed to land the aircraft uphill onto the side of a ravine. The aircraft was severely damaged, but he and his two passengers walked away from the crash site.

While waiting on the hillside for the rescue vehicles, Hoover walked back to the aircraft and smelled the fuel... Kerosene! A member of the ground crew had mistaken the piston-engined plane for a turboprop and mis-fuelled it, directly causing the double engine failure, and the subsequent forced landing.

When Bob returned to the airfield, he walked directly over to the man who had nearly caused his death and, according to the California Fullerton News-Tribune, said:

“There isn’t a man alive who hasn’t made a mistake. But I’m positive you’ll never make this mistake again. That’s why I want to make sure that you’re the only one to refuel my plane tomorrow. I won’t let anyone else on the field touch it.”

Robert Anderson "Bob" Hoover (January 24, 1922 – October 25, 2016) was a USAF Fighter Pilot during both WW2 and the Korean war.  During WW2, Hoover was shot down in his Mark V Spitfire, ending up spending 16 months at Stalag Luft 1 as a Prisoner Of War.  He managed to steal a German Luftwaffe Focke Wulf FW 190 fighter from a nearby airfield, and flew it to safety in the Netherlands. Hoover was a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, Medal Of Valour, Purple Heart, Air Medal With Clusters, and the Criox De Guerre.

After the war, Hoover was assigned to Wilber Wright Field, where he befriended Chuck Yeager,  became backup test pilot for the Bell X-1 program, and flew as wingman during Chuck Yeager's famed 1st supersonic flight. Fighter Pilot, Civilian Test Pilot, Flight Instructor, and world-renowned Air Show pilot, Hoover was considered to be the father of modern aerobatics, the "pilot's pilot", and often referred to in most aviation circles as one of the greatest pilots ever to have lived.

 "I don't think I possess any skill that anyone else doesn't have. I've just had perhaps more of an opportunity, more of an exposure, and been fortunate to survive a lot of situations that many other weren't so lucky to make it. It's not how close can you get to the ground, but how precise can you fly the airplane. If you feel so careless with your life that you want to be the world's lowest flying aviator you might do it for a while. But there are a great many former friends of mine who are no longer with us simply because they cut their margins to close."

Bob Hoover







  • David Schearer

    I was attending the Reading, PA Airshow where Bob Hoover was about to demonstrate the capability of his Strike Commander. Before his incredible performance, he and I met in the facilities where I noticed how fastidious he was about having his hands free of any oils, etc. He washed his hands for minutes. Can’t have slippery hands if you want to fly again. Nice guy, a giant in my eyes.

  • Larry Lowe

    The airshow dual engine failure incident occurred on May 25 1978, not 1989, as erroneously reported in Hoover’s autobiography.

  • James Sheets

    Hoover visited Willy (67E) in an Aero Commander and rolled it right after takeoff. There was much “discussion” about that at the briefing table the next morning. It was the instructor’s opinion that if we ever tried that we would likely die and if we didn’t, he would kill us.

  • Blair Clifford

    God Bless him. Amen.

  • Mark morris

    Focke Wulf 190…..not Folker Wolf…..

Leave a comment