Encyclopedia Astronautica
Hoover, George


Hoover, George W (1915-1998) American naval officer and early space enthusiast, who, at ONR, became a driving force behind the Skyhook, D-558-1, and a supporter of von Braun's Project Orbiter.

George W. Hoover was an early space enthusiast who had entered the Navy in 1944 and become a pilot. He moved to the Office of Naval Research to conduct a program in all-weather flight instrumentation. Later he helped originate the idea of high- altitude balloons that were used in a variety of projects like Skyhook, which supported cosmic-ray research and served as a research vehicle for obtaining environmental data relevant to supersonic flight, among other uses. In 1954 he was project officer in the field of high-speed, high-altitude flight, with involvement in the Douglas D558 project leading to the X-15. Hoover was also instrumental in establishing Project Orbiter with von Braun and others, resulting in the launch of Explorer I, the first American satellite.

Let George Do It!
From Naval Aviation News
December 1971

Survivors say it went right down the stack. Some claim to have seen it. A 500-pounder. they figured. The crew's mess and the bridge disintegrated. Official accounts claim three bombs of at least 550 pounds apiece, released at 1.000 feet of altitude from level-fixing Type 97 Mark-3 Kates, struck simultaneously. Accurate bombing.

Twenty minutes later on that morning of December 7. 1941, heat and flames from burning fuel oil and wood ignited I he forward ammunition magazine of USS Shaw, then undergoing repairs in Floating Dry-dock YFD No. 2. An alert Navy photographer across the channel on Ford Island caught the explosion in one of the most dramatic and famous pictures of the Pearl Harbor holocaust.

As the forward half of the destroyer sank -- along with the entire dry-dock and a nearby tug -- a shock wave from the spectacular conflagration swept across the area, its tremendous blast engulfing personnel trying to board launches to take them from the Navy Yard out to the Island or to the ships on Battleship Row. One of the men, Aviation Pilot George Hoover, suddenly found himself relocated 40 feet. His eardrums were injured, a piece of shrapnel had ripped through a fold in his jumper and he was bruised from head to foot from concussion.

Hoover remembers. "It was early, for a Sunday morning, but we were getting ready to go on a picnic. My neighbors next door were playing their radio loud, as usual, and I kept hearing announcements about an enemy air raid. Although they kept repeating, 'This is no drill.' I didn't really believe the broadcast at first. Not until I was on the way over to the naval base.

"My Ford convertible was making good time down the highway -- a rarity in the Islands because they were pretty tough on speeders. Traffic was being waved right through and for a while it was kind of fun. There was another car behind me and suddenly I saw it careen off the road and go sailing into the cane field. Then bullets began hitting around me and beyond, and I realized the road I was on was being strafed! Looking up, I saw those big red balls of fire under the wing of a plane as it roared by over my head.

"Well, my first reaction to all that dirt flying was: 'Boy, just like the movies!' But when I saw that airplane and realized it wasn't one of ours, I finally knew we were under actual attack. Up ahead, the amount of smoke and rumbling further convinced me this was really no drill.

"I went through the main gate of the base with the idea of catching a launch out to the air station on Ford Island. I was temporarily assigned there to Patrol Wing 2 utility unit. As I pulled up to park. I saw a sailor trying to crawl up the bank out of the water. He had been hit badly. His shoulder was in awful shape, so I put a blanket around him. got him into the car and drove him over to the hospital.

"It was after I got back, parked again and was running toward the boat that the Shaw went off. I wasn't too far from her when she blew. Although my legs were running, my feet weren't touching. After I landed, I realized something had happened to my ears because I couldn't hear anything. But I made it into a motor launch and we headed for the Island."

Ford Island was the focal point for the main Japanese attack. During the final phase, the naval air station and the adjacent line of battleships were subjected to savage dive bombing and low level assaults. Torpedo bombers went for the ships while Zekes and Type 99 Vals made a shambles of the airfield. Hoover stepped into the middle of the cataclysm,

"Stuff was flying all over the place," he recalls. "We had gone right through all the fire, debris and everything else and had beached at the seaplane ramps -- smack into the blast VP-23 was getting. I headed for the hangar, not knowing what to do except that I had to get to my station. Many of the aircraft were already wiped out and we realized it wouldn't have done much good to try to man what was left: we didn't have any guns in them. By the time we got the small arms going, the main attack had subsided. A few stragglers were making final passes and several were hit. There was so much going up and coming down at the same time, we didn't know who was shooting at whom. When it was over and we had a chance to look around, the scene was absolute chaos. And I began to think: 'What am 1 doing here?'"

Hoover's eyes squint up a little as he leans forward and says, "There's an important point in this. Up until that moment. I had never really understood why the Navy had such strict discipline and regulation. On that morning, I learned why. Because when 1 stood there and looked around in the midst of that wreckage and tragic disaster and considered the fact that I could have stayed at home -- remember, in the beginning I assumed it was just a realistic exercise -- the thought dawned on me that I had acted automatically. It was the same with everyone on the base. Other than the radio report to return to base, I had heard no order given by anyone. No orders were necessary. And for the first time. I understood the real reason for discipline and training. I thought a lot about it that night."

The Pacific Battle Force was decimated at Pearl Harbor. More than 2.400 men lost their lives. Incredibly, USS Shaw survived. Repaired, she was in action off Guadalcanal the following October and fought throughout the war. Hoover also survived -- to fight a different, unique kind of campaign. He never stopped asking that question: why? And he is still looking for answers.

Commander George W. Hoover. USN (Ret.), is difficult to condense. There is too much. A whole volume could be written on just his experiences as one of Halsey's enlisted pilots. Or, we could consider that every time we step into a cockpit that somewhere there is a Hoover brand. When an astronaut walks on the surface of the moon, does he know that this man from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) helped put him there?

At a press conference in 1958 following the successful launch of Explorer I. America's first satellite, Dr. Wernher von Braun assigned distinct credit for the achievement to Cdr. Hoover and insisted that he share in the accolades. Hence, there are those who feel this naval officer's progenitive ideas gave the United States' space effort its first real stimulus. At a recent ceremony for the formal presentation of a lunar module to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, key figures in the Manned Space Program went out of their way to shake Hoover's hand and say. "Maybe you weren't so crazy after all."

How do you define him? Naval Aviator, inventor, engineer, innovator? Study his "Methodology for Defining Man -- Environment Relationship Requirements." and you think he is a scientist. Discuss metaphysics with him and you may see him as a philosopher.

The first time I saw George Hoover was back in the Fifties when he made a presentation at the Safety Center in Norfolk. Not long afterwards, he received the Legion of Merit. The next time was in the spring of this year when he was on his way to England where he was awarded the Bronze Medal of the British Interplanetary Society. Both occasions were memorable.

George started off that Safety Center conference like this: "Our objective is to take a kid off Main Street. USA, and within six months have a pilot capable of flying a sophisticated weapons system anywhere in the world under any weather conditions, hitting a target accurately and getting back to his ship safely -- without ever having him look out of the cockpit!"

Now, that kind of a statement, made in the days when most Naval Aviators were still flying "needle, ball, airspeed" and relatively few of them were qualified "all weather" types, was pretty astonishing. Even among the minority group -- the ones with experience in night and advanced instrument work -- there was a bit of disbelief. But Hoover was used to this and he persisted. Unraveled before our eyes were such mysteries as miniature digital computers, integrated micro-circuits and a refreshing novelty called a contact analog -- essentially a windshield display that was actually a thin, flat, transparent cathode ray tube -- TV for the cockpit!

Cdr. Hoover described future operations where you would be able to punch information into an exotic-looking cockpit console which would tell the computer where it was. Then punch in more information telling it where you wanted to go. At low level, no less. The display system would respond; a "highway" would appear before your eyes. Just follow it. Or punch another button and sit back. The plane would do it by itself. Don't worry about such mundane things as wind drift. The little black boxes inside the craft would figure all that out before displaying the highway. Radar would provide your road map. Pick your target, set the cross-hairs, punch the button, and the computer would handle the bombing. You would get back home and land the same way.

It all sounded pretty weird and far out. Of course, we didn't know about the A-6* then. It was this kind of thinking from ONR and the Naval Air Systems Command that went into the Intruder's cockpit.

When Hoover got back from England last summer, we asked to see the medal. It had been a singular honor, bestowed only for distinguished achievement. In answer to our question about how he felt when he received ii, he said. "To tell the truth, a little strange. Most times recognition comes pretty long after the fact. When it happens, you find you are already in the middle of another project and that is what occupies your thinking.

"To be honored by one of our own societies is one thing, but to be recognized by a foreign society -- that's something else."

We had not seen a press release concerning the award. "I haven't been asked to give interviews," he said, "since Explorer. And. besides, many things I said are misunderstood or of little interest to other people."

Reminded that it is a 54-year tradition of the News to talk about the men and machines that make up Naval Aviation, he agreed to answer questions for a profile. "But. he stipulated. "with just one objective in mind. The Navy is a rugged outfit in which to innovate. I did. So have many others. We have a new crop of men coming up the line with a lot of good ideas. They will find it is not always easy to get others to listen or to understand at first. But you don't throw in the towel and go home. If you know you are right, you don't quit. You fall back, find another way to go, and try it again. Maybe some of my experiences will make the process a little easier for the next innovator that comes along.

"My concepts and ideas were brought to fruition through the efforts of a great many helpful people. The Navy provided a tremendous education. starting with my initial enlisted training which was based on a 'can do' attitude. I was fortunate, too, in having the opportunity to move up with aviation and space operations during the most exciting and advantageous years."

Hoover's interest in space goes back to 1932 when he associated with the Cleveland Rocket Society. Two years later, after graduating from Shaw High School -- a coincidence in view of the Pearl Harbor incident -- he was designing rockets in his spare time aboard USS Lexington fCV-2). This was not long before Navy rocket pioneer, Captain Robert Truax. was doing similar things at Annapolis and aboard Enterprise,

As an aviation machinist's mate striker aboard our second carrier, Hoover discovered the secret of Navy life. He smiles a bit in the telling. "An F4B landed hard, wiping out a wheel and shock strut. My leading chief ordered me to fix it. When I said I didn't know how, he told me to find out how. Which I did, promptly. I got the parts, and learned how to put them on. Starting off as a white hat in the Navy way was the best thing that ever happened to me."

In 1938, Hoover won his wings at Pensacola and became an enlisted pilot (AP) with VT-6. He eventually amassed almost 5,000 hours in fleet type aircraft, but it was during that first tour, aboard Enterprise, that he really learned about navigation. "I was on a single sector search one day in a TBD Devastator and had gone out about 150 miles. When I came back, Enterprise was nowhere in sight. Why? I checked my Murk 111 plotting board again and discovered I'd been using a pencil mark left there by the previous pilot. Believe me, I learned to navigate right then!"

In a day when not a few pilots considered instrument flying the ability to make a 180 turn if they entered a cloud. Hoover became an instrument instructor. "I spent many an hour." he concedes, "sitting at the table, watching the 'crab' crawl around a chart while some poor devil inside the Link Trainer tried to figure where he was. We were doing this one day in 1940 when I suddenly asked myself 'why?' I saw that the whole procedure was wrong. There I was. outside the trainer, getting all the information that the man under the hood wanted to know and had to sweat so hard to visualize. It was backwards: he should have been seeing what / was watching!"

Hoover put a plotting board inside the trainer to make things easier for the pilot, but he knew what was really needed was a dead reckoning tracker -- an automatic navigator. "In my spare time I built one in the shop. You could crank in information and it would show you how to get from here to there. It worked, but at that stage it was too big and heavy to put into a cockpit. Then a lucky thing happened.

"I had been making trips back and forth between Pearl and Kaneohe so often I could have plotted it in my sleep. Then one morning. Admiral Bellinger, who was CinCPacFIt, said he wanted to go over to Kaneohe. The weather was poor with a ceiling of about 100 feet. I checked the winds and off we went, the admiral in the back seat. We were in the soup all the way. After letting down right over Kaneohe and landing, the admiral said. 'How did you do that?' I showed him the plotting board and then the opportunity to explain the feasibility of my navigating machine which could have clone the same thing automatically. He listened and seemed to be impressed."

The result of the young aviator's inventiveness was a transfer to Washington in the fall of '42.

Upon reporting aboard the receiving station at Anacostia. Hoover tried to draw his pay but found his name was missing from the chiefs list. Instead, he discovered that he was now an officer. Several months before, he had been commissioned an ensign. Later. paper work on a previous promotion to warrant showed up, too. He had been officially attached to VCS-4. USS Chicago which sank, taking his records with her. As he found out later, he was classified as missing in action.

Added to this surprise was a welcome assignment: to the Special Devices Branch of the Bureau of Aeronautics. Hoover was to head up the Flight Section. His boss? Luis de Florez.

Commander (later Rear Admiral) de Florez. USNR. invented things -- the "cracking" process which revolutionized gasoline manufacture, antiaircraft gunsights. the flame thrower, automatic flight systems; and innumerable other devices and methods to aid a pilot in flying an airplane. Brought on active duty in 1940 by Rear Admiral John H. Towers, then Chief of BuAer. de Florez was soon creating "Project 610." so named because of its headquarters at 610 H Street N.E., in downtown Washington. There, de Florez and 125 men went to work in a remodeled garage. Each man had been hand-picked on the basis of skills and talent required to complete whatever job the indefatigable skipper had in mind. Ens. Hoover fitted right in.

"Luis de Florez." says Hoover today. "was an inspiring teacher. A fantastic dynamo. Nothing was 'impossible' -- Luis set the pace. We followed."

Money helped. To augment the brain, $1 million was initially appropriated to the Special Devices Division (SDD). By the end of the war, its annual budget was in excess of $57 million and the synthesists at the Navy's "Emporium of Ersatz." under the guidance of their "brilliant, benevolent dictator," de Florez. had turned out more than 450 different types of training aids.

Synthetic trainers was the name of the game and it took Hoover and 400 or so other incredible men of incredible ability into the fields of invention, research, engineering, ballistics, optics, mechanics, electronics, photography. hydraulics and even -medicine and psychology.

Simulation training in Naval Aviation was not a new idea. Rudimentary forms were in use at Pensacola in 1918. The Germans practiced with mock-ups too. But it is to the British (once again) that credit must go for the impetus of the modern evolution. Their methods were studied in England by de Florez in 1941 and his recommendation for U.S. Navy adaptation and expansion was quickly endorsed by Adm. Towers.

Realism was the keynote. Reportedly, certain parts of a de Florez device were even coated with oil to provide an accurate smell effect. The "610 Synthesists" also did their utmost to instill proper mental attitudes. For example. when it was discovered that students could master gunnery so quickly in the early trainers that their high scores led to boredom, a little spice was added. "The original problem." recalls Hoover, "was that it was too much like a game. Plenty of hits were registered but we weren't really rewarding the gunners.

"Device 3A2 was an improvement. If you could hit the little plane in that one. the target would appear to burst into flames before your eyes and you would even hear it explode."

The 610 Project paid off. By the war's end, more than three million pieces of training hardware were manufactured and delivered to ships, stations. training centers and advanced bases. In addition to Navy awards, de Florez received the Collier Trophy for his "contribution to the safe and rapid training of combat pilots and crews." And Lt. George Hoover was commended by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal. specifically for design and development of the instrument trainer known to thousands of aviators as the standard 45 Link -- the "Blue Box."

What Hoover learned from de Florez was. essentially, a way of looking at things -- a questioning of the status quo. Says Hoover, "You have to go to fundamentals, and not just keep modifying modifications. Over the years, for instance, a tremendous amount of work had gone into aircraft design. Higher performance was the criteria. But I would look at a new plane and think, "There is still one thing wrong: the cockpit. The WW II pilot was surrounded with stuff not much different from what the Germans had in WW I. There was just more of it. We had not done a great deal to make the job easier or more comfortable.

"The pilot was still using a stick and rudder pedals, and his instruments wore spread all over the cockpit. There was little standardization and. in some aircraft, the pilot would have to undo his straps to reach certain controls.

"I remember a problem that arose with jettisonable canopies. As soon as the thing was released, the front end would come down and hit the pilot on the head. One proposed solution was to determine how much of a head blow the pilot could stand, then design the helmet to take it!

"Actually, all it took was a little sliver of metal to catch in the air-stream and deflect the canopy up."

The primary concern of the flight section was suitable training commensurate with the rapidly expanding technology. Added to this was a philosophy of equal effort towards elimination of the need for such training. It was. and still is, a battle of aircraft speed versus reaction time. Although velocities were increasing, the pilot's capabilities remained fixed. Obviously, instruments and controls had to be carefully tailored to match man's limitations. Successful accomplishment of the pilot's mission was, of course, the goal. But what added impetus to the work of the flight section was a rising rate of aircraft accidents.

"Crashes," says Hoover, "are usually attributed to mechanical failure or pilot error. It was important to know why the pilot made an error.

"Confusion was the thing we had to beat. Simplification of those complex control arrangements was one method of increasing the pilot's efficiency by decreasing fatigue. We had to clean up the cockpit, make it functional. Controls and instruments had to be mounted in accordance with their function or operational requirement. To bring the flaps up, the control handle should look like a flap and be moved up. That sort of thing. It seems ridiculous now to remember how illogical some cockpits had been in the past."

During development of the 45 Link, the idea of duplicating specific aircraft characteristics was advanced. The F6F Hellcat was selected and SDD constructed the first overall operational (light simulator, complete with windshield fog, rough air, noise and assorted emergencies. The F8F Bearcat followed, and the original conception has continued to expand to the present time.

While progress was being made on cockpits and operational flight trainers. Hoover continued his work on the automatic navigator. He designed, built and patented the first cockpit instruments which automatically gave a pilot actual geographic position. His plotting machine, which was an electromechanical analog computer, was successfully flown in an SNB in late 1944 with no error greater than 11 nautical miles.

The following year SDD was relocated under the Office of Research and Inventions to new headquarters at the former Guggenheim Estate, Port Washington, NY "It was about this time." says Hoover, "that I realized our studies on cockpit simplification, which pointed at a complete overhaul of instrumentation, would require much more knowledge than was then available."

Subsequently, a human factors engineer was hired to find out how a pilot thinks and operates. Psychologists were asked what the ideal cockpit should look like. For a year. Hoover worked with scientists trying to find out about such things as how man actually gets information from the real world.

"Meanwhile, the planes were getting faster all the time. In spite of those who said we would never exceed the speed of sound, it was obvious that we would. The technology was moving and man was way behind. And, on one hand, there we were trying to put the pilot into a decent cockpit while. on the other hand, we had to figure how to get him out. The high speed bail-out fatality rate was alarming."

The ejection seat was one answer. Germany had conducted research and, in England. Martin-Baker Aircraft had a program going. Hence, on September 12. 1945, The Martin-Baker seat was used by Americans for the first time. Riding the rails that day at the plant in Middlesex were Hoover. Commander N. Richardson and Colonel R. Sheppard of the USAAF.

All three experienced back pain. (Col. Sheppard made the mistake of crossing his arms to pull the face curtain. A year later, resultant nerve damage to his spinal cord became evident and he was forced to end his practice as a surgeon.) What the trio had not known was that there had been only 11 live shots on the 75-foot experimental tower prior to theirs!

Nevertheless. Hoover had the seat brought to the United States and the first test in flight was made from a JD-1 near Lakehurst on October 30, 1946. Thereafter, the ejection seat became standard equipment on all high speed naval aircraft.

"But," he says, "we still had not solved that fundamental problem of the pilot. What we were seeking was the true relationship between man and machines. Information, of course, is the link. What the pilot wants are answers to three questions: Where am I and what am I doing? What should I do. and when? And, how am I doing? Somehow, we had to give him those answers."

More easily said than done. George Hoover sits in the NA News office and gazes at the pictures on the walls. He has given us something to think about and it is quiet. Then, almost contemplatively. he offers. "Sir Francis Bacon was [he father of scientific approach. Centuries ago he set down the aphorisms which are still valid. One of these, in Novum Organum, published in 1620, states: 'It would be madness and inconsistency to suppose that things which have never yet been performed can he performed without employing some hitherto untried means.' "There are those who disagree. That problem has always been with us. Man hasn't changed much in the last 350,-000 years and he isn't going to change much in the next 350.000 years. We have conformists and non-conformists; expertism versus uninhibited thinking; fundamentals versus brute force.

"New ideas, therefore, are not readily accepted. For example, in 1945, supersonic flight was still questionable; experimental projects were needed to validate our calculations. One of these was Project Helios. I worked out a plan with Otto Winzen to gather empirical data substantiating supersonic flight calculations by dropping a free-fall missile from 100.000 feet. We figured it would achieve Mach 1.5 or 1.6. To get it up there, we designed a vehicle consisting of a two-man gondola supported by a cluster of 100 thin-skinned, polyethylene balloons.

But hack then, the idea of using anything but rubberized fabric for balloons was considered sheer folly. The proposal was put up on a bulletin hoard -- as a joke."

The seemingly bizarre project nevertheless was approved and. to the surprise of many. Winzen's initial balloon launchings were a success. Later, the original Helios was transformed into other balloon projects such as Skyhook. for unmanned cosmic ray research. Stratolab. and the Air Force's Man-High. Before the Helios program ended, instrumented missiles were dropped and the telemetered data verified basic supersonic calculations on extreme environmental conditions.

If Helios was a joke, how about a two-gimbaled. rotationally free gondola on the end of a 50-foot arm. with speeds up to 45 rpm. which would subject an occupant to a rate of change of acceleration of 10 G per second and attain a maximum of 40 G? Such a machine could produce stresses similar to altitude changes, buffeting, and sound and thermal variations. Again, there were those who said it couldn't be done. The human centrifuge at NADC Johnsville was placed in operation m early 1950. In addition to numerous aeromedical experiments, it was used in support of such projects as the X-15, Dyna-Soar, Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. It is still the world's largest and most sophisticated man-rated centrifuge. Lt.Cdr. George Hoover was the original project officer.)

Although much of Hoover's work had gained ready acceptance -- such as the functional cockpits with shaped controls and safety features -- many of his proposals had thus been greeted with open skepticism. While persistence had proved its value, up to a point, something else might be useful to a non-engineer who wanted to tell engineers how to do new things with unheard-of methods. Therefore, in 1949. Hoover went to the University of Nebraska and, in two years, received his BS in physics.

With his extensive practical knowledge and experience now properly bolstered with theory, he became instrument officer at the Naval Air Test Center. Patuxent River, in 1951. and the following year returned to Washington as Manager. Weapons Systems, Air Branch, ONR.

Fortune smiled again for, in that same year, the Honorable John Floberg. Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air. completed flight training at Pensacola and expressed a desire not only for simplified cockpit instrumentation but for a true, all-weather flight capability. Hoover was given the personal assignment and directorship of what soon became the joint Army-Navy Instrumentation Program (ANIP).

In a sense. ANIP was to serve as a coalescing agent for the solution to several seemingly dissimilar problems. On one hand, there was concern over the increasingly complex aircraft instrument panel. Conversely, the requirement for all-weather flight operation would significantly add to cockpit confusion, especially when viewed in terms of sophisticated weapons delivery systems.

And. too, speeds and altitudes continued their relentless climb. One 1953 ONR-sponsored proposal, which Hoover initiated to determine man's performance outside the atmosphere, called for an aircraft capable of achieving 5.000 knots and an altitude of 700,000 feet. Originated as the rocket-powered Douglas D558-TII. the project was subsequently turned over to the Air Force and NACA*. later NASA, where it emerged as the X-15. Technology had suddenly thrust man out upon the threshold of space, a tenuous perch for the poorly prepared.

ANIP provided the platform for an integrated approach to aircraft design. The concepts and techniques identified under early ANIP programs generated new and more sophisticated efforts impacting all Navy and Army flight regimes. Under ONR leadership, the Joint Army Navy Aircraft Instrumentation Research Program (J AN AIR) resulted from ANIP in 1963. J AN AIR continues to conduct applied research using analytical and experimental investigations for identifying, defining and validating advanced concepts which may be applied to future, improved Navy and Army aircraft instrumentation systems.

If we examine the basis of the program in that light, we see that resolution of the instrumentation problem would have much broader application. Since design trends pointed to aircraft that would soon be beyond the physiological limit of man. it became apparent that the primary concern must be that limitation itself. Instead of placing man in the machine in the traditional manner, the system would have to be built around him.

Throughout his career Hoover had devoted his efforts towards the well-being of the man in the cockpit. Already, much had been accomplished by going to fundamentals. Hence, ANIP was directed on the same premise.

"We had to stop looking." he states, "at only one area (instrumentation) as .1 problem and instead consider a whole family of problems. We had to define our overall objective in its most fundamental terms. We had to recognize the basic requirements and make a clear, concise statement of what the pilot must do with the airplane.

"In order, then, to solve the complete problem, the entire man-machine system had to be treated. Logical organization of the various parts of the system had to be made in order to provide a smooth flow of information and control within a closed loop. Such a system called for a group of sensors. a central computer, a set of displays, controls and the necessary information and power distribution systems to permit smooth operation of the entire loop. Environment, escape and survival had to be integrated with the system. No one part was more important than another. Each was dependent upon the efficiency of the other. Man's requirements were the starting criteria."

By defining the goals of ANIP, the larger, more challenging prospect became obvious. In the abstract, what was really being sought was an integrated approach to the problem of determining under what conditions a man works most efficiently in a high performance vehicle, whether aircraft, submarine, ship, ground or space vehicle. As Hoover saw it, the requirement was for a man-machine system in which the machine or equipment was deliberately designed and adapted to fit the way in which man functions.

There was no precedent for such a system and some of the obstacles seemed insurmountable. Initial research indicated that the most efficient solution to the problem was to provide the pilot with a visual display -- a synthetic picture of his outside environment. The logical components were a television-type display and a small computer to generate data for it. Such a concept was new to aircraft designers and some insisted that it would be impossible to achieve a practical system.

However. Hoover's desire and determination to create such a system resulted in steady progress. Into the program were channeled the efforts of more than 60 companies. Both the transparent, flat-plate TV tube and a unique, small, compact, central control computer were developed.

There were still non-believers. "One engineer called me a charlatan. I had the TV tube in actual operation on my desk and he looked at it and got angry. He said it couldn't be done. I reminded him that he was looking at it! He said it had to be a fake -- a trick."

A development of ANIP was the "pathway in the sky" -- the display of a ribbon-like path on the screen, along which the pilot literally flies. The integrated panel, a radically simplified and accurate system of flight instrumentation, consisted of a contact analog mounted vertically in front of the pilot, a mechanically operated horizontal navigational map display and standby instruments.

The contact analog is, as the name implies, analogous or similar to contact flight. It reproduces, under all-weather conditions, the same basic visual cues as are seen during flight in clear weather. It was the development of the Kaiser-Aiken flat transparent TV tube which proved the feasibility of the "head-up" display -- and led to solid-state cathode ray tubes.

The Litton central control computer laid the groundwork for integration of individual computers and forced ANIP's move toward size and weight reduction of the units -- micro-circuitry. Consequently, an entire new American industry was created to provide the electronic components necessary to achieve greater computer capacity, faster processing rates and substantially reduced power requirements.

Many of the basic concepts developed under AN IP were to be incorporated into the design of modern aircraft and spacecraft. Not only were the Navy's operational capabilities greatly enhanced, but the number of accidents caused by weather and pilot error were materially reduced. Furthermore. the man-machine concept was applied to both the submarine and surface ship programs.

Cdr. Hoover's imagination and foresight took him down varied roads while he was directing ANIP. According to the authoritative Frederick C. Durant of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, George Hoover secured a place in history with Project Orbiter.

Durant is in a position to know, for not only has he written the articles on rockets, guided missiles and space exploration for the Encyclopaedia Britannica for the past 15 years, but it was he who arranged the first meeting at ONR in 1954 between Hoover. Dr. Wernher von Braun and other scientists to discuss the possibilities of a satellite project. Further meetings established the feasibility of the program and contracts were let.

However, when a subsequent proposal by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRI.) was given precedence by the Department of Defense, Orbiter fell by the sidelines and Vanguard took over. What happened after that has been reviewed many times. The sophistication of the Vanguard missile precluded a successful launch prior to the Russians' Sputnik. In an effort to catch up in the race for space. Dr. von Braun and his team were asked for an urgent assist. On relatively short no-lice. in January 1958, a face-saving orbit was achieved by Explorer I. It was essentially a modification of Orbiter. Because of the work previously done by Hoover and the others, it was a fairly simple matter. It could have been accomplished many months earlier. One little publicized feature of Orbiter and Explorer was that they were both based mainly on existing hardware.

Dr. von Braun relates it this way: "George called me in the summer of 1954 to come to his office. He had called a meeting there, and he opened the meeting with the statement. 'Everybody talks about satellites, then nobody does anything. So, maybe we should put to use the hardware we already have.' And at that time it wasn't very fashionable to even think or talk in the Department of Defense about satellites. George Hoover's contribution to really get the ball rolling should not be forgotten."

Captain Truax makes this observation: "At first I thought he was a crackpot. And when one crackpot thinks another fellow is a crackpot, that is really something! But after he explained what he had in mind and how he planned to do it, it made good sense."

Although Project Orbiter in its original configuration had been cancelled, the work that had gone into it triggered the events ultimately leading to the U.S. space program. In 1956. the American Astronautical Society's Space Flight Award was presented to Cdr. Hoover. The presentation, which was made in New York City by the Vice Chief of Naval Operations. Admiral Harry D. Felt, cited the ONR officer's pioneer work in sustained high speed and high altitude research, space medicine and instrumentation -- and the "driving spirit, organizing genius, imagination and foresight which set in motion the mighty effort toward the first man-made earth satellite. man's first great step toward space flight."

In 1958. after 25 years of service to Naval Aviation, Hoover retired from active duty. It would be something of an understatement to say he had pursued an interesting career. He would remember with pride flying with Torpedo Six off Enterprise. The feelings of accomplishment. The moments of terror. ("When I crashed at Williamsburg, I even worked hard at that!") The fantastic men he worked for. and with. He was Navy Helicopter Pilot #10-and he had worked in close association with Luis de Florez.

He was also controversial. In his search for truth stemming from fundamentals, he began to use a methodology that was not always understood or accepted. His vision of simplification was often at odds with conventional approach. And, when defending his concepts, he was seldom prone to spread smoothing oil on the waters of chronic skepticism.

He didn't have to. In the battle of ideas, he would enter the lists well armored with facts. He put truth on a spear and attacked without mercy: "Invention inhibits thinking. When you invent something, invariably you freeze. Invention should be a rake-off or by-product of a project, not the goal. If it isn't, you get the invention and end up modifying it for the next 20 years to try to make it work.

"Research and development has been closely associated with the 'ivory tower' concept or with the idea that there is something strange and mysterious about trying to solve a difficult problem. There is also the idea that only a chosen few are capable of solving problems and, that in order to belong to this 'society,' one must have a very extensive, formal education along with enough experience to be classified as an 'expert.' I am not suggesting that formal education is not good, but that we must be aware of the danger that many good ideas are often ignored because experts are certain that these new ideas won't work.

"The trouble was," he states emphatically, "that engineers and doctors speak different languages and relatively few of either discipline make a strong effort to bridge the gap. What was needed was a common denominator--a new language."

One of the lessons learned from the Pearl Harbor disaster was that too much planning had been based upon an enemy's probable intentions --it was assumed that an attack might come in the Philippines. In retrospect, the more proper approach would have been to prepare for everything an enemy could do. Because such an exploration often seems endless, history is littered with the failures of commanders to take the proper course.

It is in the utilization of a method for avoiding the traditional mistakes and. instead, covering every possibility that Hoover has, perhaps, made his greatest contribution. In his opinion, there were two major weaknesses in previous programs directed toward establishing adequate man-environment relationships:

1. The life-sciences effort was subservient to the physical sciences. (An oxygen system came after high altitude aircraft: the anti-G suit was designed after high performance capabilities were a reality; and so forth.)

2. The urgency to find solutions to problems created by the advancing technology forced the life-science effort to concentrate on how much man could withstand, rather than to define an optimal man-environment relationship.

The design approach of operational systems had generally been to select a power plant, design the vehicle and equipment--and then accommodate a crew. Hoover proposed a reversal of the process-- or, in other words, design of a system to meet man's requirements.

The new language employed was called matrix methodology, a system of approach based on uninhibited thinking wherein the problem (or requirement) is clearly defined within a framework of parameters which delineate all possible contributing factors. By establishing matrices in which the axes are represented by the sets of parameters, a "checklist" is provided. By using such an analytical approach, Hoover contends that virtually all things are possible. By thoroughly defining the problem, in all its terms, the difficulties can be overcome.

Going back to Francis Bacon again, Hoover quotes, "It is idle to expect any great advancement in science from the superinducing and engrafting of new things upon old. We must begin anew from the very foundation, unless we would revolve forever in a circle of mean and contemptible progress."

Therefore, he tackles a problem with two assumptions: (1) although there may be an infinite number of solutions, there is only one right answer; and (2) nothing exist* which will solve the problem--yet. The latter assumption prohibits a premature evaluation of the state of the art until after the problem requirements are stated.

The plan of attack is then broken down into five steps:

1. Establish an uninhibited approach. Coals are objectives, not deadlines.

2. State the problem in fundamental terms, not in terms of the present state of the art.

3. Build the program around a complete man-machine system rather than just improve a series of sub-systems.

4. Form a team rather than merely a group of sub-contractors.

5. Finally, utilize a methodology which will permit accurate prediction of success before actually designing hardware.

George Hoover says, "When the fundamental requirements of any problem are established, the solution becomes apparent," And over the years, a growing audience has come to believe him. Since his retirement from active duty, he has applied his methodology as consultant to a vast array of corporations--Bendix, McDonnell Douglas, Bell, Teledyne, LTV, General Dynamics, Fairchild/ Hiller, Curtiss Wright and many others. He was consultant to NASA for the development of human standards for the Apollo program, and he has been actively assisting in the planning and management of ONR research and development programs.

It becomes clear, in looking back over the years, that persistence was the keynote to his progress. Persistence coupled with uninhibited thinking led to his significant accomplishments: design of the standard Link trainer and first operational flight trainer; the integrated cockpit: leadership in human engineering and in the field of high performance Flight; the human centrifuge: Skyhook: and Project Orbiter.

He was fortunate in being in the right place at the right time. It was his involvement with so many varied experiences and his expanding curiosity and interest in diverse fields that led to his personal understanding of the simplicity of the universe. "Man," he maintains, "often complicates life because he specializes."

The work of men like Hoover and his many associates during the last third of a century has provided us with extensions previously only dreamt upon. The once visionary thresholds have become real, "Man's historic concerns have been local. He is now coming to see himself as a product of the universe and is extending his sights from the man-machine concept to the man-environment concept."

Ask him what busies him currently and he is likely to say he is doing independent research on a unified field theory and specific experimentation in unique forms of energy conversion. Twenty years ago: micro-circuitry. Today: amorphic systems. He will also admit to trying to put the universe on a piece of paper--"a large piece of paper but still the universe in all its simplicity. . . ."

It has been said that some men light fires: others just fan the flames. George Hoover is still lighting fires.

Birth Place: New Kensington, Pennsylvania.


Born: 1915.04.24.
Died: 1998.03.01.

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  • USN American agency overseeing development of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. USN Joint Task Force 7, USA. More...

Bibliography
  • Launius, Roger D, NASA Chief Historian, NASA History Office Home Page, Web Address when accessed: here.

Hoover, George Chronology


1998 March 1 - .
  • Death of George W Hoover - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Hoover, George. Summary: American naval officer and early space enthusiast, who, at ONR, became a driving force behind the Skyhook, D-558-1, and a supporter of von Braun's Project Orbiter..

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