Born 1895. Died 1954.
Bertrand (Bert) Blanchard Acosta was born in San
Diego, CA, on January 1,2020. In his resume to the Navy he wrote he had
been "learning to fly in 1910 - Personal research constructing
experimental and research work in heavier-than-air aircraft". In other
words, he built his own plane and at the age of 15 years flew it. From that
time on, flying was in his blood. He became Aviation's most gifted natural
pilot ever to come down the road. Elinor Smith, the record setting
Aviatrix, who knew Bert said, "Bert didn't fly an airplane, he wore it."
Such was his reputation as a pilot.
was a multi-task aviator; flew all of the light planes in the
1910's and 1920's - up to the first heavy Transport Planes; laid the first
Air Mail routes while carrying Air Mail; was considered to be the first
true light aircraft Test Pilot as well as the first heavy Air Transport
Test Pilot (as acknowledged by his peers); an aircraft mechanic; a record
setter; a barnstormer; an Aeronautical Engineer; a Flight Trainer; an
inventor; and a military and passenger aircraft demonstrator.
He was also the Chief
Pilot on Cmdr. Byrd’s 1927 “America’s” Transatlantic Flight.
It was a weight
record of a first time lift off and was what set Bert apart. Only his many
years of experience flying heavy Transport Aircraft, coupled with his
extraordinary ability, was he able to guide the heavy tri-motor on that
too short and too muddy runway until they were air borne. It was the
heaviest load (7-1/2 tons or15,000 lbs) of plane, cargo and crew any pilot
had ever lifted and part of that load was a piece of Betsy Ross’ flag and
150 pounds of mail; and was the first Transatlantic Transport Flight to
deliver Air Mail to Europe.
Other mail services:
1918 – After the Armistice, he was instructed to survey and map the
Airmail routes. He flew in and out of 60 American
towns and villages. His routes were implemented and Airmail was instituted
in this country. The Air Corp pilots took over and delivered the mail
after that. Acosta said, "Establishing Airmail routes was my most
outstanding accomplishment (at the time)."
1920 – 7/29 – With Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, he laid the first Airmail
NY to San Francisco. In September of that
year regular mail flights began.
1920 – 8/28 – With
S.C. Eaton, Bert flew from New York to Oakland, CA. They
first Transcontinental Airmail (100 letters delivered) in the record time
of 36 hours and 40 minutes. The first scheduled Transcontinental
Airmail Flight didn’t occur until the following September.
1921 – 1-23 – First Transcontinental Air
Mail Flight – Started San Francisco - arrived Hazelhurst Field, New York
– 2,629 miles – 33 hours 20 minutes avg. 104 mph.
Admiral Richard E.
Byrd wrote in a letter to Cmdr. G. O. Noville, Radio Operator on the 1927
“I had for him much affection as a friend, and great
admiration for him as one of the great fliers of all time. On the
Transatlantic Flight of 1927 he demonstrated his greatness in connection
with the most remarkable take-off in history, and at the controls of the
plane as we fought through three storms over the Atlantic.”
Bert's life was full
and interesting, if not tragic, replete with good times and bad times.
After his best years of flying were over and his alcoholism could not be
controlled, in a sanatorium in Spivak, CO, on September the 1st, 1954, at
1:15 p.m., cancer did what his restless heart never could, it took him
home to a well earned and everlasting rest.