Hoot Gibson

                   folded wings

Ralph D. "hoot" Gibson
Januay 2nd, 2009

by

On January 2nd, 2009, America and the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association lost one of its most famous and well-liked members, when Ralph D. "Hoot" Gibson suddenly passed away following a disastrous fall while selling real estate in Tucson, AZ. He was 84 and will be missed by everyone.

"Hoot" joined the Army Air Force in 1943, graduating from flight school in 1944. Following a tour in Japan flying P-51s, and Armament System School, he was assigned to the 56th FG at Selfridge flying P-80 Shooting Stars.

In 1950, the 56th Transitioned into F-86 Sabres and "Hoot" was lucky enough to be one of the pilots that delivered new F-86As to the veteran 4th Fighter Interceptor Group in November 1950 when that group was transferred to Korea to fight the MiG jets. He talked his way into joining the 4th and went with the unit to Korea.

Assigned to the 335th Squadron based at Suwon, South Korea, "Hoot" scored a `probable' on 20 May 1951. On 18 June 1951, he scored his first victory, or actually two, when he shot down a pair of MiG-15s near the Yalu River. On 9 September 1951, he scored his 5th victory, making him the third Jet Ace in Korea, after which he was sent home.

Following a good will tour, (now) Captain Gibson rejoined the 63rd FIS at Oscoda AFB, Michigan where he married Donna, his wife of 53 years. In 1954, he was assigned to the 36th Fighter Wing at Bitburg, Germany, where he transitioned into the F-100 Super Sabre. His next stop was back in the United States, at Nellis AFB.

It was at Nellis that he achieved even more fame than being an `ace'. While commanding the 21st Fighter Training Squadron at Nellis, Hoot became infatuated with the Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Team. In March 1961, he wrangled an assignment to the famous team, not just as a team pilot. Major Ralph "Hoot" Gibson was Team Leader, and remained so for two years. His comments regarding his time in the Thunderbirds, (very proudly) "Once a Thunderbird, always a Thunderbird!" The Gibson's next went to USAFE Headquarters where "Hoot" was Chief oof the Tactical Fighter Branch. In December 1967, Colonel Gibson went back to war, when he was assigned as Squadron Commander of the 433rd TFS at Ubon, flying 105 combat missions over North Vietnam. In 1974, Colonel Gibson retired from the US Air Force and moved to Tucson AZ, where he opened his own real estate company. He is survived by his wife Donna.


No portion of this article may be used or reprinted without permission from the President of the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association or the editor of Sabre Jet Classics magazine.


Return to Classics Page