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Top pilot who stole plane to escape WWII prison camp dies

LOS ANGELES — Robert A. “Bob” Hoover, a World War II fighter pilot who became an aviation legend for his flying skills in testing aircraft and demonstrating their capabilities in air shows, has died at age 94.
Hoover, who lived in Palos Verdes Estates, California, died early Tuesday, said Bill Fanning, a close family friend for many years and fellow pilot.
“He was every pilot’s icon,” Fanning said, recalling his friend as one of the premier test pilots of the 1950s and ’60s. “Bob tested everything. He flew them all.”
When the National Air and Space Museum conferred its highest honor on Hoover in 2007, the museum noted that Jimmy Doolittle, leader of the famed 1942 bomber raid on Japan, had once described Hoover as “the greatest stick-and-rudder man that ever lived.”
“We lost an aviation pioneer today,” Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, said in a Twitter post. “He could do magical things with an airplane. He was the best.”
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