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Tigers: Tracking a Legend
Robert L. Hall
Robert L. Hall was born in Taunton, Massachusetts on August 22, 1905. Over a career spanning over 40 years, including 34 years with the Grumman Aircraft Company, he distinguished himself as an aircraft designer, test pilot and manager.
After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1927 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Hall went to work for the Fairchild Airplane Manufacturing Company in Farmingdale, New York. He decided that to have a complete knowledge of aircraft design, he must learn how to fly, and so he did. In 1929 Hall joined Granville Brothers Aviation. For two years, he was instrumental in designing, test flying and racing all of their products, including the famous "Gee Bee" aircraft, which is one of the most well-known and successful racing aircraft of that era.
In November, 1931, Hall left Granville Brothers and founded Springfield Aviation Corporation, an airplane manufacturing company and flight school. In early 1932, Hall received an order for a Thompson Trophy racer that would be sponsored by the Guggenheim family. In response, he designed the beautiful gull-winged Springfield Bulldog monoplane for the race. Unfortunately, the aircraft was plagued by engine problems and the then-new variable-pitch propeller could only manage a 6th place finish in Cleveland.
In 1933, Hall joined Stinson in Wayne, Michigan, where he was a test pilot in charge of their Experimental Division. While at Stinson, Hall participated in the design of the famous Gill-winged Stinson Reliant. He also continued to race, competing in a modified Gee Bee Model Y, logging almost four hours in August and September of 1933. He also won a race in Wayne County in August of that year.
In 1936, Grumman hired Hall as an engineering test pilot. During his career there, he first-flighted the F4F Wildcat Navy fighter, the TBF Avenger torpedo bomber, the XP-50 Army fighter, as well as the F6F Hellcat, F7F Tigercat and the F8F Bearcat Navy fighters. After his engineering test pilot days at Grumman, Hall was given responsibility for the F9F Panther (the first operational jet fighter for the Navy and Marines), the Gulfstream 1 turbo-prop executive aircraft and the XF-10F and F11F Tiger Navy jet fighters.
Hall served as chief engineer at Grumman from 1950 to 1954, as vice president of engineering from 1954 to 1959 and as vice president from 1959 until his retirement in 1970. Hall's 34 years of leadership in engineering and test flying played a great part in establishing Grumman's sterling reputation. He died on February 25, 1991.
Robert L. Hall was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on October 2, 2004.