Geographically, Cuba is a wonderful place, truly a paradise. Politically, however, it is a mess.
Some of the recent news about Cuban politics includes Castro finally admitting socialism does not work and the Cuban economic situation is broke.
The Cuban government outlawed Michael Moore’s movie about the “wonderful” medical system from showing anywhere in Cuba. Apparently officials are worried the majority of the ordinary people may revolt if they were to view the movie and compare it to their reality.
There are other, graver, indicators things are not quite right in Paradise. If life were good in Cuba, citizens from all over the world would be trying to immigrate to the island. As it is, every week Cubans risk their lives trying to escape to America.
A mere 90 miles separates the two nations. Many Cubans look at the sea and know it is only 90 miles, a short boat trip or a long raft ride. Many get into trouble on the rafts in the Florida Straits. Who is there to look out for them? To give them aid?
The Brothers to the Rescue, El Hermanos Rescate.
Volunteer pilots and observers make up the organization; they spent time flying the Florida Straits looking for rafters. Their mission was humanitarian. They were devoted to helping rafters in trouble at sea survive.
The pilots and their crews dropped flotation gear and drinking water to rafting Cubans in need. They are there to help.
Who are these volunteer pilots and observers?
They are free Cubans; they are the sons and daughters of Cuban refugees who were born in the United States. They are human beings genuinely concerned for the safety and well-being of their fellow man.
They are young people like Carlos Costa.
Carlos Costa was born in the United States of Cuban heritage. As with many, he dreamed of flying and found himself attending college to learn to fly.
After graduation, Carlos began working in South Florida in airport management. While working, he continued to accrue flight time. He dreamed of flying professionally which meant he had to build his flight experience. One way in which he logged flight time was through volunteer flying with Hermanos Al Recate.
Costa was one of the more stalwart volunteer pilots. He was aggressive at flying his missions, always ready to fly.
He was good, as I remember. I had the opportunity to fly with him as a check pilot on one of his check rides. Carlos possessed a quiet confidence I knew would serve him well in his flying career.
Unfortunately, the Cuban government cut his flying career short 15 years ago today.
While searching for Cuban rafters who might be in trouble, Carlos was piloting one Cessna 337 Skymaster on a rescue mission with two other Skymasters, a Cuban MIG-29 shot down two of the three Skymasters. Carlos Alberto Costa was one of four victims lost at sea on the afternoon of February 24, 1996.
When word reached the school of the event and how one of the pilots was one of our graduates, we were all saddened. When I learned Carlos was one of the victims, I felt a particular loss; he was a bright young man, a talented pilot, and had a wonderful future.
Rest easy, young airman.
© 2011 J. Clark