Cliff Robertson, passionate about aviation and flying since his teenage years, died September 10 in Stony Brook, New York, a day after his 88th birthday. He was first attracted to aviation by watching aerobatic pilots when he was five years old in La Jolla, California, as he related to the Van Nuys Aviation and Business Journal in 2004. He later worked at a local airport in return for flying lessons as a teenager. He reprised that experience for others when, as an adult, he established a youth volunteer program at the Experimental Aircraft Association, the Cliff Robertson Work Experience Program. Teenagers are given room and board, and work at Oshkosh for several weeks, cleaning hangars and other tasks in return for free flying lessons. He won AOPA’s Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Award in 1981 for flying humanitarian relief supplies to Nigeria during the Biafra Civil War. The Oscar-winning actor (for “Charley”) was among those hand-picked by the late President John F. Kennedy, whom he had met, to portray him in the movie, “PT 109;” he ultimately won the part. He also appeared in “Spider-Man” (2002), “Spider-Man 2″ (2004), and Spider-Man 3 (2007), his last film appearance. On September 11, 2001, he was piloting his Beech Baron, looking down on a puff of smoke from the first strike on the World Trade Center, as he climbed through 7,000 feet on his way to California. He was later told to land at the nearest airport, which was Allentown, Pennsylvania.
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