Bob Hagan was born in Kansas City , Missouri
in September, 1924. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 and after training was assigned to the 9th
Air Force’s 365 Fighter Group, the Hell Hawks, flying the P-47 Thunderbolt.
He flew 91 missions over 337 combat flying hours, in the European Theatre supporting the Allied advance from fields in France, Belgium and Germany until the end of World War II. During this time his aircraft was shot down twice. His most harrowing mission was in October 1944 where, after experiencing engine trouble over Germany in a large dogfight, he turned back toward allied lines. After total engine failure, he elected to crash land vs. bail out over possible enemy territory. Avoiding trees during the wheels-up approach in the Ardennes region, his wingtip scraped the ground and the aircraft lost both wings, the engine and the tail in a cartwheel crash before the fuselage of the P-47 came to rest right side up. He was picked up by U.S. Army soldiers and told he had made the lines by about 400 yards. He sustained some bruises and sore ribs but returned to flying in a short time. Among many awards and decorations, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal (11 oak leaf clusters), and the Purple Heart.
After the war he returned to Kansas City and married Frances Collette , on October 7, 1945 . They had met when he was assigned to P-47 upgrade training at Harding Field in Baton Rouge Louisiana (His P-47 was named Fran).
In 1951 Bob was recalled to active duty and assigned to fly the F-84 Thunderstreak. His unit became a part of Operation Ivy, the first hydrogen bomb test at Eniwetok atoll in the South Pacific.
Following discharge from the Air Force after Operation Ivy, Bob learned that the Cessna aircraft company in Wichita, Kansas was competing to build the first jet trainer aircraft for the U.S. Air Force. He was hired by Cessna and became a test pilot. In October 1954 he piloted the XT-37 on its first flight. The T-37 became the primary jet trainer for U.S. Air Force pilots for more than 50 years. During spin testing for the T-37, Bob became the first pilot to test the ejection system after exiting and uncontrollable aircraft. He also flew the Model 31OG and the Model 411 as the "first flight" pilot before leaving Cessna in 1962.
Continuing his career with the Lear Jet Corporation, Mr. Hagan helped usher in the era of the "business jet" by piloting the "first flight" of the Model 23 - the first Lear Jet - on October 7, 1963 with Hank Beaird.
Mr. Hagan began joined Wichita's Beech Aircraft Corporation as Chief of Engineering Flight, beginning a 24-year association with Beech. His "first flights" at Beech include the Model 56TC Turbo Charged "Baron," the Model A88 "Queen Air" variant, and the Model 60 "Duke."
First light of the Beech 60 Duke
Bob Hagan retired from Beech Aircraft in 1989.