Bob had a great enthusiasm for high-performance aircraft. It was not too long after he earned his pilot's license that he made the move to piston-powered fighters. Bob owned and partnered in a series of aircraft: a racing F4U Corsair called "Blue Max" (the Corsair with the longest racing history), an AD Skyraider, Spitfire, F8F Bearcat, P-51 Mustang, T-6, T-28, Hawker Sea Fury, Soko Galeb and the Hawker Hunter. Bob was the only FAA Authorized Instructor for the Hawker Hunter in the US. He was authorized to train pilots to fly this aircraft, recommend them to the FAA and to re-qualify pilots after a lapse of proficiency. He was also an authorized instructor for seven other aircraft.
Air shows were very much a part of Bob's life. He began turning the pylons with his Corsair at the 1970 California 1000 race held in Mojave. Then he participated in the Reno Air Races for 17 years and appeared at air shows across the country ever since, frequently with his wife Judy flying back seat. Bob has adorned aviation magazine covers and been featured in many articles and books about air sporting events, and has appeared on CNN as the subject of a piece on civilian pilot air safety.
Bob Guilford co-founded the Warbirds of America, one of the nation's leading vintage military aircraft organizations (now a division of the Experimental Aircraft Association.) He helped establish the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, California and was chairman of the board of the Classic Jet Aircraft Association (promoting private operation of surplus military jet aircraft) and Trustee, Chief Pilot, President, Vice-president and member of many aviation organizations.
A Cleveland native, Bob attended the University of Virginia and received a law degree from Harvard University. He was admitted to the bar in California in 1959, served for a year as an Assistant US Attorney in Los Angeles, and spent the last 14 years of his career with the Los Angeles-based law firm of Baum Hedlund. Bob had attained the highest rating given by the international legal resource and information directory, Martindale Hubbell. He is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in American Law, Southern California Super Lawyers and in Aviation Counsel Magazine's List of Recommended High Flyers. He was a member of the Lawyer-Pilots Bar Association and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
On July 16, 2006, Bob Guilford was flying his beloved Hawker Hunter Mk. 58, a swept-wing British Jet Fighter, when the airplane failed and crashed during an exit fly-by at an air show in Hillsboro, Oregon. Witnesses describe his efforts to control the plane as heroic, saying it appeared he did everything in his power to avoid injuring anyone on the ground. Though he could have ejected to save himself, instead he stayed with the airplane and tried to control it as long as possible.
In addition to his wife Judy and his son Steve from a previous marriage, Bob is survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Richard and Susan Guilford.
He will be sorely missed.