R.D. “Hoot” Gibson

Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame
Enshrined 2003

Korean jet ace, leader of USAF Thunderbirds, Hoot Gibson is a hero’s hero.

R. D. “Hoot” Gibson, a resident of Tucson, Arizona since retiring from the U.S. Air Force as a colonel in 1974, was born in Illinois in 1924. He is a highly decorated veteran of three wars, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. During the Korean War, he became America’s third jet ace, shooting down five MiG-15s in his F-86 and probably destroying or damaging five others. Over his protest, he was recalled from combat to deliver motivational talks.

Hoot held numerous posts in the U.S., Europe, and Southeast Asia. At Nellis AFB, Nevada, he had several important assignments, first at the Fighter Weapons School, then flying F-100s with the USAF Thunderbirds. During a two year tour as the leader, Hoot took the team to 40 states and 14 Central and South American countries. His goodwill aerial demonstration tour is still recognized as one of the most successful in Air Force History.

Later, based in Thailand, Hoot commanded the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, flying 105 bombing and strafing missions in F-4s against North Vietnam. But his contributions in the service of his country go beyond his skill as a fighter pilot. As a member of the elite Doolittle Commission, he helped develop design criteria for advanced weapon systems. He also served on the Fogleman Air Board, formed to assess defense requirements in the Pacific.

Following his distinguished 31 year Air Force career, in which he won many awards for valor and honorable achievement, Hoot formed his own real estate agency and became active in civic affairs. His volunteer work has done much for community and military interests and relationships at all levels. And no one better exemplifies the true American spirit nor is more deserving of enshrinement in the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame than Ralph D. “Hoot” Gibson.

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