Legendary Actor and Aviator Cliff Robertson Dies at 88

Pilot and friend to Flying leaves behind an extensive aviation and acting legacy.

Cliff Robertson

Cliff Robertson

Cliff Robertson died on Saturday, Sept. 10, at the age of 88. An accomplished actor with a passion for aviation, Robertson won the Academy Award (Oscar), Emmy Award (Television), Theater World Award (Stage) and Advertising Age Award (TV Commercial) during his acting career, which spanned about five decades. He also received several aviation honors, including the EAA Freedom of Flight Award, the Soaring Society of America Award and AOPA’s Sharples Award. He was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006.

He began his career as a writer, but it soon became clear that Robertson had a knack for acting. Over the years he starred in movies, theatrical performances, TV shows and commercials. He began his acting career in the 1950s and in 1963 he was personally selected by John F. Kennedy to portray the president in the movie “PT 109.” He also received an Oscar for his role as a mentally disabled man in “Charly” in 1968. More recently, he was cast as Uncle Ben in the popular “Spider-Man” movies.

Robertson also had a strong passion for aviation, which began at an early age. He was born in 1923 in La Jolla, California. In his early teens, he would ride his bike to Speer Airport (no longer in existence) in San Diego to work cleaning airplanes and engine parts in exchange for flights in a Piper Cub, according to Robertson’s official website.

Robertson became an instrument rated single- and multiengine commercial pilot, and also held seaplane, balloon and glider ratings. He collected single- and multiengine airplanes and owned several unique vintage airplanes such as a Mark IX Spitfire and a Messerschmitt ME-108.