It is with heavy heart I report the following sad news, one of Tailhook's founding members, Captain Bob Elder has passed...
Captain Robert M. Elder, USN (Ret) passed way on 12 September 2008. He is survived by his wife Irene of Palos Verde Estates, CA.
Bob joined the Navy in June 1940, completed flight training in April 1941, and was commissioned Ensign on 15 May 1941. His first assignment was with Bombing Squadron 3 on board USS Saratoga (CV-3) out of San Diego. His combat experience during WWII began at the outbreak of hostilities on 7 December 1941 and included involvement in every major carrier engagement in the Pacific Theater through September 1943. He flew missions from USS Saratoga (CV-3), Yorktown (CV-5), and Enterprise (CV-6). Bob was back in combat during the Korean War as Commanding Officer of VF-191 in 1953, flying the F9F-6 Cougar from the USS Oriskany (CVA-34). For his combat missions flown in both wars, Bob Elder's awards included two Navy Crosses and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
From the F8F Bearcat era and into the 1960's, Bob Elder was recognized throughout Naval Aviation for his expertise in test and development of flying qualities, performance, carrier suitability, and in-flight refueling of Navy tactical aircraft. He was among the first Naval Aviators to fly jet aircraft, beginning with the Bell YP-80 and ME-262, and was a pioneer in the introduction of the first operational jet -- the FJ-1 Fury -- into Naval Aviation. Bob Elder's "firsts" in the test and development of naval aircraft were numerous. His contributions to the conception of the F/A-18 Hornet were his legacy to the United States Navy. Over his career as a Naval Aviator, Bob piloted 142 different types of aircraft, was carrier-landing qualified in 34 types, onboard 28 different aircraft carriers.
In 1964, Bob Elder was selected as the Tailhook Association's award as Tailhook Aviator of the Year. In 1973 he was elected as the President of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. In 1990, he was enshrined in the Carrier Aviation Test Pilot Hall of Honor.
During Captain Elder's 24 year Navy career, he served notably as Director of Flight Test, Patuxent River, and as commanding officer of a fighter squadron, an air group, and the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea (CV-43). He retired from active duty on 1 January 1964.
We have lost a true Naval Aviation hero and leader. He will be missed.
Harry Blot - Pilot
All at Tailhook, wish Bob's friends and family our deepest respects and sincerest thanks for having the opportunity to have Bob touch our lives and enrich our history. He will be missed... But NOT forgotten.
For more on Bob Elder's service I draw your attention to an earlier Tailhook article written for the pages of "The Hook" by the great Naval Aviation historian and writer Barrett Tillman (Click the page below to open the PDF)