Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2017
ARLINGTON, VA. – By unanimous agreement of the selection team, and as per the wish of the late Bob Hoover himself, the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA) presented the 2017 AOPA R.A. “Bob” Hoover Trophy to airshow performer and EAA Young Eagles Chairman, Sean D. Tucker, 64, of Salinas, Calif. The award was presented March 8, 2017 at ceremonies held at historic Terminal A at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va.
Tucker received the Hoover Trophy for demonstrating the airmanship, leadership and passion for aviation that Bob Hoover exhibited during his distinguished career and life as a pilot and aviation advocate. Tucker is the first person to receive the trophy other than Hoover himself, who received the award in 2016. Tucker also joined Hoover in being inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2008.
In his acceptance speech, Tucker felt extremely honored, humble and emotional at times in remembering his friend and mentor. He recalled the first time he performed at an airshow in which Hoover was also performing, and
how excited he was to finally meet him, and proud to be performing at the same airshow. Concerned for Tucker’s wellbeing as a young, but extremely gifted performer, Hoover told Tucker that he was flying too low in executing his inverted ribbon cut. After that show, Tucker raised his performance by 10 feet. Tucker said that Hoover was always interested in knowing how you were doing as a person, and cared less about himself.
Further into his acceptance speech, Tucker acknowledged the great work being done by all of the aviation organizations to get young people and adults involved in aviation, and said that with everyone working together, the industry can exemplify the standards set by Bob Hoover.
Robert A. “Bob” Hoover died on October 25, 2016 at the age of 94.
Among other prestigious awards Tucker has received include being inducted into the U.S. Air Force Gathering of Eagles in 2001, and being named one of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s 25 Living Legends of Flight in 2003.
In 2013, Tucker was appointed Chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles program, which has introduced over two million youth to flying to date. In 2014, Tucker and actor Harrison Ford were featured in the documentary “Flying the Feathered Edge: The Bob Hoover Project,” on the life of Bob Hoover.
Despite once having a fear of flying, Tucker has flown more than 1,000 performances at more than 425 airshows, before more than 80 million spectators.
Tucker’s favorite stunt is the “triple ribbon cut,” where he uses his biplane to cut three ribbons suspended between poles from three different angles. Tucker has also received great notoriety for his “Harrier” slow flight maneuver in which his aircraft appears suspended in midair as it flys down the showline. Tucker flys the 400 hp Oracle Challenger III biplane, which has been sponsored by Oracle Corporation since 2001.
In 1997, Tucker started the Sean D. Tucker School of Aerobatic Flight, which was renamed Tutima Academy of Aviation Safety in 2004. The school is located in King City, California.
Also honored that evening was Congressman Todd Rokita of Indiana who received AOPA’s Hartranft Award for his leadership and support of General Aviation. Last year, Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) were honored. Seventy-one members of Congress were also awarded the AOPA Freedom to Fly Award for their dedication to preserve general aviation. Pat Hartness received the Sharples Award for his work in opening and growing Triple Tree Aerodrome. The Sharples Award is given to individuals who do not work in aviation, but have made extraordinary contributions to GA. Woody Lesikar of Skyline Aviation and Lakeside Airport (now West Houston Airport), Houston, Texas, received the AOPA Presidential Citation. Presenting the awards was AOPA President and CEO Mark R. Baker.