Born in Miami, Florida, Lieutenant General Robert E. Hails spent his teenage years in Montgomery, Alabama, and graduated from Auburn University. He completed basic flying school in Bainbridge, Georgia, and received his wings and commission in 1944 at Moody Field, Valdosta, Georgia. During his 35 years as a command pilot in the Air Force, General Hails flew more than 6,000 hours in 43 different aircraft including the F-15, SR-71, L-1011, and the 747. He served in World War II and participated in the Vietnam War. Under his leadership as USAF Systems Program Director for Research and Development, Test, and Engineering of the joint USAF-USN A-7D/E Attack Fighter Aircraft, the A-7D Corsair became the U.S. military’s first aircraft to incorporate three far-reaching engineering innovations: Heads-Up Display (HUD), Inertial Gyroscope Platform (IGP), and computerized control and integration of the HUD and IGP systems. HUD provides a greater safety margin for takeoffs and landings in marginal or bad weather conditions. IGP is used for automatic navigation and guidance of aircraft and bomb launch. His successful promotion of the HUD changed the course of aircraft avionics development in this country; today, it is incorporated in all of the latest military aircraft and is a valued addition to many private and commercial aircraft. He is considered the “Father of the HUD” in the United States Air Force.
General Hails made other significant contributions as Director of Maintenance Engineering of the Air Force Logistics Command, Commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistical Center, Vice Commander of the Tactical Air Command, and USAF Deputy Chief of Staff, Systems and Logistics for operations and support of the Blackbird program. Following retirement from active duty in 1977, he became a resident of Macon, Georgia. His many awards and decorations include the USAF Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and Air Medal. He served as Senior Vice President of LTV Corporation for 4 years and is an aerospace engineering consultant for major U.S. aerospace corporations. Presented the Auburn University Engineering Achievement Award in 1998, he was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in February 2001.
For his dedicated service in military aviation and significant contributions in military and commercial aircraft safety, Lieutenant General Robert E. Hails was enshrined in the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame on April 21, 2001.