Inducted November 7, 2015
Robert Lee Gibson was born October 30, 1946 in Cooperstown, NY and grew up in Lakewood , California. His love of flying developed early because his Father was a test pilot for the Civil Aeronautics Administration and later, an Inspector for the FAA. He frequently accompanied his Dad on business and his Father was also his Flight Instructor. Gibson soloed on his 16th birthday and got his pilot’s license the next year.
Robert L. Gibson graduated from California Polytechnic State University with a BS in Aeronautical Engineering in 1969 and joined the Navy earning his Wings of Gold. He flew combat missions in the F-4 Phantom off the USS Coral Sea and USS Enterprise in Southeast Asia.
In 1972 he graduated from Navy Fighter Weapons TOP GUN School with the call sign “Hoot”. During three deployments in Southeast Asia the last of which was flying the new F-14, Gibson made over 300 carrier landings. In 1975 he returned to Miramar as an F-14A instructor and then attended U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. After graduation in 1977 he was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center’s Strike Aircraft Test Directorate, testing and evaluating improvements to the F-14. In 1978, Hoot was selected for the astronaut program, joining NASA’s eighth astronaut group, where he met fellow astronaut, Dr. Rhea Seddon. They were married in May 1981.
Astronaut Gibson’s first trip into space was as pilot on STS-41B, launched February 3, 1984. Its return to earth was the first shuttle runway landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Hoot commanded four of the five space shuttle missions he flew and carried satellites, DOD payloads and science laboratories aboard Space Shuttles Challenger, Columbia, Atlantis and Endeavor. After 18 years he left NASA in November 1996.
The next 10 years were spent flying as a Captain for Southwest Airlines, forced at age 60 to retire in October 2006.
Air & Space Magazine characterized Hoot Gibson as “The Man Who’s Flown Everything” and his log book with more than 14,000 hours of flying time just keeps climbing. Hoot’s insatiable need for speed in September 2015 earned him the “Gold” at The Reno Air Races piloting the P-51D Mustang “Strega” that covered the course at a speed of 488.983 mph.
For extraordinary achievement and service to aviation for Tennessee, our nation and the world, and for his service to our country, Robert Lee “Hoot” Gibson is honored by and inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this 7th day of November 2015.