Giving to Others
Robertson, a pilot of many thousands of hours, has accumulated various aviation awards. He’s a recipient of AOPA’s Sharples Award, given for “the year’s greatest, selfless commitment to general aviation by a private citizen,” for flying humanitarian relief into Nigeria during the Biafra Civil War. He was also presented the prestigious Heritage of Freedom Award, and in 1987, the Experimental Aircraft Association’s highest honor, the “Freedom of Flight Award,” for his role in the organization’s “In Pursuit of Dreams” presentation.
Robertson’s affiliation with EAA began a long time ago. “I pull a long bow, back over 30 years,” he said. “It was back in the days when it was at Hale’s Corners (Wisconsin). I had heard about this remarkable guy named Paul Poberezny and his lovely wife and their young son, Tom. So, I went back there. It was snowing. All we had was an indoor showroom, and she made us chili. It was a very simple operation. Now, you get almost a million people.”
Years after becoming involved with EAA, Robertson decided to give others the opportunity to feel the same way he did as a youth in La Jolla. Within EAA, he founded the Cliff Robertson Work Experience, in 1993.
” We have a contest where young people (at least age 16) submit their desires to come to Oshkosh and work for 12 weeks, in hangars, doing all the dirty work that we used to do as kids,” he said. “In exchange, they not only get their room and board and a little bit of allowance money, but they also get flying lessons. The work ethic is not dead yet. We’ve had wonderful success with it. Some of our ‘graduates’ have gone on to West Point and the Air Force Academy and some have gone on to fly with airlines. It’s been very productive.”
Robertson also helped launch EAA’s Young Eagles program, organized in 1992, serving as its first national honorary chairman, until 1995. At EAA AirVenture 2002, he was presented with the inaugural “Key to the City” Award, created by EAA and the City of Oshkosh to honor distinguished personalities for significant contributions to the promotion and support of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and the aviation community.