Flying is a family affair
For someone whose roots are firmly planted in eastern Idaho soil, Bob Hoff has spent a lot of time in the clouds.
A 50-year veteran of flying, Hoff was honored Thursday for his contributions to ITD’s Aeronautics Advisory Board and his commitment to aviation in Idaho. He joined the advisory board in 1995, but after 14 years Hoff decided to step down and hand the controls to Chip Kemper.
To say flying is a family passion doesn’t do justice to the lineage of pilots that share the Hoff name.
Who’s left? Well, there are two granddaughters, one of whom is 13 and waiting in the wings, one grandson and another on the way.
Jane, who had been involved in aviation since saying “I do,” at the altar decided to join the rest of the family aviation tradition in 1990. “I finally bit the bullet,” she admits. Although capable behind the controls, she prefers to serve as Bob’s co-pilot on most of their flights.
If pressed, Bob could provide most of his family members with a plane and create his own Air Force. He has been collecting vintage airplanes since before some of them even became vintage, he explains.
Most of his collection resides within the expanse of his new 30,000 square foot hangar at the Idaho Falls Airport or on the family’s Century Farm.
“All of the aircraft I have flown would or could fly again,” Bob reportedly told Rodger Sorensen, chairman of the Aeronautics Advisory Board.
That means he hasn’t crashed very often, said Transportation board member Lee Gagner, who summarized Hoff’s aviation history during Thursday’s retirement ceremony.
Hoff’s roots run deep in eastern Idaho soil. His great grandfather purchased land and began farming near Idaho Falls in 1903. The diversified operation produces potatoes, wheat, alfalfa and peas. It was designated a Century Farm in 2003 in recognition of 100 years of continuous farming in the same family.
Oldest son James now operates the farm.
Bob branched out of the farming business in 1984 when he established Aero Mark Inc., an aviation business that later became a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) for the Idaho Falls Airport. Hoff also sold Aviat Husky airplanes that are well suited for backcountry flying and wildlife inventories.
He completed construction of a 30,000-square-foot FBO hangar about a year ago and recently opened an attached 12,000-square-foot lobby and office area. He rents hangar space and continues to serve large “transient” jet aircraft and private general aviation. The facility is Idaho’s largest FBO hangar.
Hoff’s service extends beyond aircraft and flying.
He has served on the Bonneville County Planning and Zoning Commission (nine years and one as chairman), the Idaho Farm Bureau, the Idaho Falls Museum board, and a number of other Bonneville County committees and boards. Hoff also continues as a member of the Staggerwing Museum Board (now Beechcraft Heritage Museum).
During his tenure on the Aeronautics Board, Hoff developed a sincere appreciation for the role aviation and airports play in Idaho’s economy.
“I’ve always said there’s an analogy between airports and communities. They go hand-in-hand. If you have a thriving airport, you have a thriving community,” he insists.
“The first and last view that investors have of Idaho often is from the air. “
Idaho is “very unique” because of its extensive network of state-owned backcountry airstrips, Hoff said. Only Alaska compares in terms of aviation related to tourism and recreation.
“We have the crown jewel in that box,” he says. “We’ve been very lucky in that virtually every (gubernatorial) administration has recognized the uniqueness of our airstrips and airports. We have to work all the time to keep that up.
“JV (DeThomas, Aeronautics Division administrator) and his staff are doing a great job. We’re pointed in the right direction and are flying at the same RPM.”
Photos: Top, retirement presentation to Bob Hoff, fourth from left. Also pictured are (left to right) are: Transportation Board Chairman Darrell Manning; Aeronautics Division administrator JV DeThomas; Bob's wife Jane; Rodger Sorensen, chairman of the Aeronautics Advisory Board; and Transportation Board member Lee Gagner. Middle, retirement gift, autographed airplane propeller; bottom, the Beechcraft Staggerwing similar to Hoff's aircraft.