Costa's Own Tale Of Flight to Brazil in 1936-37

Corning Pilot Tells Of Ship Being Bogged Down by Ice, of Being Jailed in West Indies and of Crack-Up

Ice Formed On Wings

IT was a bleak December day when Costa took his heavily-laden monoplane, spotless white, off the ground at Big Flats into the dawn. Thereafter his friends in Corning followed avidly the meagre reports of his progress until a week later he arrived at his first destination in Para. Later Costa tried a flight from Para to Rio De Janeiro, coming down in the mountains scarcely 100 miles from his goal.
While a circle of friends listened with bated breath, the young flier today told the full story of his amazing trip for the first time.
Danger trailed his silver plane from the moment it disappeared from the view of the friends who watched him take off from Big Flats. A mist formed over his plane that began to turn to ice after Costa had been half an hour in the air, he said. By the time he was nearing Williamsport, Pa., the plane was settling gradually, bogged down by the weight of ice.
In a ticklish spot already over the mountains of Pennsylvania, Costa found himself pushed down until close to the ground he finally found a current of warm air to deice his wings. Thereafter things went swimmingly as the plane slipped over the Atlantic states.
But toward afternoon fog gathered. Flying at 300 feet from the ground, Costa said he found himself going south on the very route, and at the same level, that planes were flying north from Florida Air races. Twice he harrowingly missed plowing head-on into big Douglas planes; so he decided to “sit down" in Jacksonville overnight. The next day he went on to Miami, his original destination.
Assured that his plane would be all set for him to leave at 8 a. m. the next day, he went to the airport in Miami to find not a soul around. Held up until mid-morning. he found night closing in on him as he skimmed the West Indies toward San Juan, Puerto Rico. Then, looking down, to his horror he said he saw that a gas line had sprung a leak. Airports are few and far between in the Indies, and so are good landing spots. Furthermore, Haiti and the Dominion Republic are two separate countries that occupy the island of Haiti, and Costa had permission to land in Haiti but not Santo Domingo.

Held In Jail

Being then, over Haiti, he looked for a place to land, finally spotted an open field beside a military outpost on the bank of a little stream. There he came to earth.
Soldiers trotted up. One clapped him on the back. He didn't know what they were asking him and he couldn't answer them. Finally, one man who knew a few English words took his passport and said he would have to check with the governor of the island to find out what sort of man had come into their midst. Meanwhile, Joe, consulting his maps, discovered to his sorrow that little stream separated Haiti from Santo Domingo, and that he was about 30 steps over the line into the latter country.
The end was not yet. The soldiers searched him and found ammunition in his jacket and a revolver in his plane. Then they saw his '“Vary gun," which shoots a signal something like a Roman candle, and the sight of the big barrel convinced them it was young cannon and their prisoner must be a dangerous man. So the Corning aviator ended up in jail.
Philosophically he went to bed. At 3 a. m. amid great excitement the soldiers woke him up, informed him he was free, and turned him out of the cell where he was just beginning to get comfortable. The officer who knew a little English offered to buy his gun. When the Corning flier refused and gave him the weapon instead, the day was thoroughly saved “I believe he would have bought me a new plane after that.” said Costa. They feasted him on pineapples, bananas, and oranges for breakfast and sent him on his way.

Lands At Trinidad

From Puerto Rico to Trinidad Costa had some 600 miles of blank ocean to fly. Watching his airspeed, his compass, and his watch, he aimed straight for Trinidad, and amid a fog, hit it "dead on the nose" just at the time he calculated. His course en route lay close to a little island with a military post, an island which he learned later is carefully circled to eastward by pilots. But Costa's beeline lay just off the west  coast.
About a mile from the Island he felt his plane shimmy, shake, tremble, crack, and jump as possessed of a demon. The young flier sald be had to hold fast to the side with one hand while trying to guide the plane with the other.
The plane began to settle even at top speed, Costa said. Deciding that if his ship was going to fall to pieces, there was no need of putting on the pressure, the pilot eased off the throttle. Then qw the ship dropped so it barely skimmed the ocean, it emerged from the turbulent winds that ringed the island and sailing was smooth again,
Not stopping at Trinidad, Costa went straight for Dutch Guiana and thence to Para, Brazil.
The aviator said he found the tropic weather highly disconcerting. One moment he would be drifting along under a bright and blazing sky, and the next a sudden storm would blot out all vision and force him to fly blind.
The storms passed in a few minutes as quickly as they came.
Fuel Pump Trouble
More sinister, Costa said was the constant trouble he experienced with his fuel pump. On each hop, about three hours away from port, a control pin in the pump snapped. The result was to drop a certain gear loose inside the mechanism. Every time that happened there was the threat that the loose gear would land in the engine. The result “The engine would have blown up”, Costa said with a shrug.
At Para, where Costa stayed with an untie also named Joseph Costa, the fuel pump was repaired.
Finally he decided he was ready for the most dangerous trip of all, non-stop across the mountainous jungles of Brazil into Rio de Janeiro. He was told, he said, that the peaks were a maximum of 3.000 feet high. Flying through lowering tropical rains and mountain fogs that kept him out of sight of the earth for all but two hours of his flight of more than 11 hours, Costa said he was all right at first while keeping 13,000 to 14,000 feet above the jungle.
But after a time he dropped closer to earth, though still keeping safely above the 3,000 mark specified to him as a minimum. Peaks began looming up in the fog 50 and 100 feet below him, he said. Meanwhile the ceiling was lowering fast, night was falling, gas was running low, and he was an hour's ride from Rio. Through a break in the clouds, he said, he  saw one narrow ridge that looked like a place for a forced landing.
It ran about 300 feet slightly downhill, then 300 feet upwards, enough of a grade to bring his plane to a safe halt.

Ship Crashed

 Gauging his landing perfectly, he came to earth near the upcurve and bumped over the ground at about 30 miles an hour. Just as he was congratulating himself at his success in making a forced landing undamaged, there came a rending crash, the plane rolled over on one wing, and his head smashed into the cowling glass.
His landing gear, he said, had struck a big ant hill, breaking off the wheels, The ant hill he said was hard as a-rock, ripped through the fuselage, His nose cut by the glass, his plane damaged, Costa said he got out amid a steady downpour of rain. The airship was on the edge of à steep hill. For six hours he lay under the shelter of one wing until villagers from Bicentarialo de Serro, six miles away, found him.
He had taken the precaution of circling over the village — incidentally frightening the natives so that, he says, one woman ran for an idol and prayed fervently to keep the world from coming to an end — and he used his Vary pistol to give sígnals. The hard going through the jungle held up the rescue party.
In Bicentenario, it seems, Costas was entertained like a conquering hero. He had his picture taken with the mayor and saw what sights there were to sea in the interior village. The pride of the little village is its museum of Indian relics. And amid these relics, Costa says, rests all that remains of the “Crystal City," his plane.

The crash, a 25 days of rain that warped the ship all out of shape, ended its usefulness as a flying machine, Costa said. So he presented it to the museum.
The engine was not damaged and he took it to Rio. That took over two months, he said. He said that six teams of oxen were needed to haul the engine from the ridge into Bicentenario, and the roundabout truck-train route thence into Rio took 30 days.
Meanwhile Costa went by military plane to Belle Horizonte, capita! of the state of  Minas Geraes, and into Rio on a mailplane. Me spent several weeks  in Ria arranging for getting his engine shipped through and trying to sell it. Salesmanship in the Latin countries, he found is not what it is up north “It takes them a long time to make Up their minds, he said. When the prospective purchasers did decide, it was against taking the engine, which he brought back with him to this country

 To Sell Engine

Costa was in Brazil in the season of street carnivals, and friends he made in Belle Horizonte looked out for the young aviator. In fact, he says, they had » “Joe Costa day'' at the carnival in order to get him to come down from Rio. The return trip by water took 14 days, Costa said. “It seems mighty good to be back in Corning," he declared, Costa says he expects to sell the engine. For the future? Costa says he has no immediate plans for getting a new plane, although he expects to have one some time. And the long deferred trip to Portugal? 

“Well, I've had enough excitement for one vear,” he answers. Costa brought back with him several thick packets of first-day covers sent with his plane by the Crystal City Stamp Society

Vote my Name to christen Everjets new Airbus A320!

Vote  My Name to christen Everjets new Airbus A320!

Full story:
The Portuguese Everjets airline wants to name its new Airbus, and they will take suggestions from the public:
Batize o novo avião da Everjets.
Seja original e ajude-nos a escolher um nome para o novo avião da Everjets.
Envie a sua sugestão com os motivos pelos quais acredita que o avião deve ser batizado com a sua escolha. Entre todas as sugestões enviadas, a Everjets escolherá 20 nomes que depois serão colocadas a votação na sua página do Facebook.Tem até dia 25 de Maio para enviar a sua sugestão, ajude a batizar o nosso futuro

Book a flight with Everjets

How to:
fill in:

My Story

Joseph Costa (Caniço, Santa Cruz, Madeira Island, Portugal, February 22, 1909 – Corning, New York, United States of America, November 11, 1998) was a distinguished Luso-American aviator, who achieved high international notoriety with his flight between the United States and Portugal, in 1936.

Commonly known as Joseph A. Costa or Joe Costa, he settled in Corning, New York, and was a pilot, flight instructor, FAA inspector, airplane mechanic and reseller. He founded an aviation company, the Costa Flying Service, operating in Corning–Painted Post Airport, until the early 2000s also owned by Costa and known as "Costa Airport" or "Costa Field".

José Costa made aviation history when in 1936 he attempted a transatlantic flight from the US to Portugal in his Lockheed Vega.

An early enthusiast of aviation, he dreamed about flying in his hometown in Madeira, thrilled by the seagulls' graceful flight. Costa was the first resident of Corning to get a pilot's licence, obtained at the Syracuse branch of the Curtiss Wright Flying Service when he was only 21 years old. His flight instructor was Fred. T. McGlynn. After a few hours he flew solo, over the Onondaga lake. After teaching Costa how to fly, McGlynn left Curtiss for the General Electric Company in Schenectady. He was assigned to test GEC beacon equipment and new altimeters. He had been the chief pilot of General Aviation Company, before the acquisition by Eastern Aeronautical Corporation, having then moving to Curtiss. He completed his pilot exam in Binghamton, with inspector Asbury B. Meadows of the Department of Commerce.

In 1930, José Costa had become determined to fly from New York to Madeira. At that time he owned an Brunner Winkle Bird A, registered NC834W, which was not capable of such a long flight. His father, John Costa, a railway worker, always provided support for his son's quest.

In the next few years he tried to raise money to buy a suitable airplane. The Lockheed Vega was the perfect aircraft for solo transatlantic flights, and was Amelia Earhart's preferred plane. Other models were coveted, like the Bellanca aircraft, the Lockheed Air Express.

On July 24, 1935 Joseph Costa finally acquired a Lockheed Vega in New Jersey, registered as NC105N. The Vega model 5, built in 1929, production number 117, was initially owned by Statoil and flown by the father of astronaut Buzz Aldrin. It was sold again on October 15, 1935 to Monroe T. Breed of Corning, NY. According to the NASM record, as of July 13, 1936, Mercury Aircraft, Inc. of Hammondsport, NY, installed additional gas tanks and heavy-duty landing gear from actor Art Goebel’s Vega and oil tanks from Amelia Earhart’s Vega (registration numbers not mentioned for either airplane).

The Christian cross symbol, the Portuguese military aircraft marking, was painted on the "Crystal City", despite the plane bearing an American registration.

By the middle of 1936 everything was set for take-off, but several setbacks made Costa postpone departure for a few months. The start of the Spanish Civil War caused the US government to block a direct flight to Portugal, due to the risk that a navigation error could lead to a landing in Spanish territory, thus forcing a trip via South America. Furthermore, concerns about flight safety from the authorities forced him to rebuild the engine, get approval for the additional fuel load, and undergo blind flying tests.

The flight departed on December 10, 1936 from the American Airlines Field (now Elmira-Corning Regional Airport) bound for San Juan, Puerto Rico, with a stopover in Miami.

Bad weather forced him to divert to Jacksonville (Florida), instead of Miami. On December 16 he sailed off to San Juan, Puerto Rico, departing Miami at 9:15 am assuming the risk of having to divert to Cuba or Haiti depending on weather conditions and fuel supply. He had six hours of autonomy, but at 5:30 pm the Pan-American Airways communication system was closed and there was no sign of him in any of the airports covered by Pan Am, Camp Columbia, outside of Havana (now Ciudad Libertad Airport), Santiago de Cuba, and in the Dominican Republic. Pan Am reported the day after that once more bad weather caused a diversion to Dajabón in the Dominican Republic amidst the border definition problems with Haiti. He was jailed immediately, but freed the next day, so he was able leave the country and avoid bureaucratic problems. He arrived in San Juan on December 17.

The subsequent legs were to Paramaribo in Suriname and Belém in Brazil. The most complicated part followed, a long flight over the jungle to Rio de Janeiro. Due to fuel exhaustion, gas having been pilfered from one of the tanks, he had to ditch in a field in Serro, state of Minas Gerais, on January 15, 1937. Although he sustained hardly any injuries, the Vega was damaged beyond repair, only the engine being salvaged. He still arrived in Rio at the controls of an airplane, a WACO having been provided by the Brazilian Military Aviation for him to complete the last leg, after taking off from Belo Horizonte.

Despite having to abort the journey, he received plenty of attention in Brazil, his feat being widely reported in the news. The local Portuguese community gave him honours,inviting him to visit cultural centres and participate in several events. He returned to the US in May. While in Brazil he had the opportunity to go the "Carnaval" in Belo Horizonte. He soon borrowed an airplane, a 90 hp Kreider-Reisner Challenger biplane, owned by Erwin Smith of Tioga and started flying. The Vega's engine, brought back to Corning, was sought by Howard Hughes who sent his representative to meet Costa.

The feat is mentioned in the book "Revolution in the Sky: The Lockheeds of Aviation's Golden Age" written by Richard Sanders Allen.

Later years
During WWII Costa was a CAA (later renamed FAA) examiner in Kansas and Iowa, evaluating young cadets seeking to enter the air force. His private licences had been suspended in 1941, and was restored only in December 1942.

After the war, starting in 1946, he dedicated his life to civil aviation. There was the option to become a test pilot for new aircraft, but he considered it to be a dangerous job and declined the opportunity, focusing instead on developing the Costa airport and flying services.

In 1993 the Empire State Aerosciences Museum gave him the Aviation Pioneer Award "in recognition of your outstanding contributions to the development and advancement of General Aviation."

In 1994 the Rochester Flight Standards District Office of the Federal Aviation Administration gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his 65 years in aviation.

Also in 1994, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Administration Administration, Eastern Region, gave him a Certificate of Appreciation in recognition of 65 years of distinction as an aviator.

José Costa with Jay Buxton record setting glider pilot, and his "Transporter".

José Costa with Jay Buxton, a record setting glider pilot, and his "Transporter".
The photo was taken on 1936-07-06, likely in Elmira NY, during a gliding contest where he proved his skill soaring through the air.

Jay is the third from left, after his (likely) daughter Lucretia herself an aviation pioneer.

JB set a DURATION class record in that year: Two SEATER-8 hours 48 minutes--Albert C. Slatter, Jay Buxton, Buxton "Transporter" sailplane, at Elmira, N. Y., July 4, 1936. 

His glider was used to set two other records:
DISTANCE: Two SEATER-25 miles, Albert C. Slatter, John Batterson, Buxton "Transporter" sailplane, Elmira, N. Y., June 28, 1936.
ALTITUDE: Two SEATER-5,967 feet, Albert C. Slatter, John Batterson, Buxton "Transporter" sailplane, Elmira, N. Y., June 28, 1936.

Jay B's records:

The Transporter:


Jay Buxton's daughter Lucretia, a pilot:

More on Jay B.

José Costa at New Bedford, Massachusetts

José Costa at New Bedford, Massachusetts, taken on 8/8/1931 for the Festa Madeirense.
From the book "Da Madeira a New Bedford: Um capítulo ignorado da emigração portuguesa nos Estados Unidos da América" a great tale of Madeira's diaspora written by history researcher Duarte Mendonça"

Author profile
A native of Funchal, Madeira, Duarte Mendonça holds a master's degree in English and American Culture and Literature from the University of Madeira, Portugal. He has written extensively on the history and culture of Madeira and about the Madeiran diaspora. Among his many publications are three books: João de Lemos Gomes (1906-1996): Vida e Obra (2006), Da Madeira a New Bedford: um capítulo ignorado da emigração portuguesa na América (2007), and Impressões de uma viagem à América (2009).

He is a regular contributor to the Portuguese Times, with a weekly column entitled "Fórum Madeirense." He is also co-organizer of the CD editions of the historical recordings of Lomelino Silva ("The Portuguese Caruso"), and the Camacha Folklore Group.
In Portuguese:
Natural do Funchal, Duarte Mendonça é licenciado em Letras e Literaturas Modernas, variante de Francês/Inglês pela Universidade da Madeira, onde também concluiu o Mestrado em Cultura e Literatura Anglo-americanas. Tem dois livros publicados, João de Lemos Gomes (1906-1996) - Vida e Obra (Funchal 500 Anos, 2006) e Da Madeira a New Bedford - Um capítulo ignorada da emigração portuguesa nos Estados Unidos da América (Drac, 2007). É colaborador regular da imprensa luso-americana nos Estados Unidos, nomeadamente no Portuguese Times, de New Bedford, Massachusetts, e na revista ComunidadesUSA, de Nova Iorque, tendo ainda inúmeros artigos publicados em jornais e revistas madeirenses. Fez ainda algumas breves incursões pelo campo musical, em estreita colaboração com a Tradisom, de que resultou a edição de dois discos "O Baile da Camacha" (2008) e "Lomelino Silva - O Caruso Português" (2009). Presentemente é funcionário da Biblioteca Municipal do Funchal.

This is the book, a must read:

José Costa: A Pessoa e o Intrépido Aviador

José Costa, nascido no Caniço, Concelho de Santa Cruz, Ilha da Madeira, Portugal a 22 de Fevereiro de 1909, foi um exemplar aviador luso-americano , que alcançou grande notoriedade internacional com o seu voo entre os Estados Unidos da América e Portugal, em 1936.

José Costa em frente do seu American Eagle A1 NC834W no início dos anos 30

José Costa era natural do Caniço (Concelho de Santa Cruz, Madeira), e emigrou para os EUA com 6 anos, mas falava português e nunca perdeu a ligação com a terra. Mais conhecido como Joseph A. Costa ou Joe Costa, radicou-se em Corning, no estado de Nova Iorque, foi piloto aviador, instrutor de voo, inspector da Administração Federal de Aviação americana, reparador e vendedor de aeronaves. Fundou uma empresa de aviação que ainda hoje tem o seu nome, Costa Flying Service, que opera no aeroporto Corning–Painted Post Airport. Este aeroporto chegou a ter o nome "Costa Airport" nos anos 40 e 50 do século XX. O seu filho, Joseph R. Costa ficou a gerir a empresa e é actualmente director do aeroporto.
Obteve a cidadania americana em Abril de 1936.
Faleceu Corning, Estado de Nova Iorque, Estados Unidos da América, 11 de Novembro de 1998. 
Foi casado e teve um filho e uma filha.

Voo Transatlântico Estados Unidos Portugal em 1936
José Costa ficou para a História como pioneiro da aviação quando em 1936, a bordo do seu Lockheed Vega tentou fazer um voo EUA-Portugal via Brasil. O Avião tinha o nome "Crystal City", e apesar de ter registo americano, ostentava a Cruz de Cristo pintada na fuselagem. Construído em 1929, este Vega foi inicialmente da Statoil, e pilotado pelo pai do astronauta Buzz Aldrin . O NC105N foi adquirido uma segunda vez por José Costa que o re-matriculou como NR105N para "testing and long-distance flying".

Já desde 1930 que José Costa vinha a anunciar a sua determinação em voar desde Nova Iorque para a Madeira (apesar de de que a primeira aterragem na Ilha fez-se apenas em 1957).

A meados de 1936 já tinha adquirido o Vega, e estava tudo preparado para descolar, mas vários contratempos fizeram-no adiar a partida vários meses. O início da Guerra Civil Espanhola fez com que o governo americano não autorizasse o voo directo para Portugal, desde modo forçando um viagem via América do Sul. Dúvidas em relação à segurança de voo por parte das autoridades obrigaram-no a fazer revisão ao motor do avião, aguardar parecer sobre quantidade de combustível permitida, e a testes de visão.

O voo começou a 10 de Dezembro de 1936 do American Airlines Field (agora Elmira-Corning Regional Airport) com destino a San Juan, Puerto Rico, fazendo escala em Miami. Mau tempo fez com que aterrasse em Jacksonville no estado da Flórida, e depois rumasse directamente a San Juan. Novamente o mau tempo obrigou-o a aterrar em Santo Domingo, na República Dominicana, a meio de mais um golpe de estado. Foi imediatamente preso, e libertado no dia a seguir para que seguisse viagem evitando problemas burocráticos.

As seguintes pernas foram para Paramaribo na Guiana Holandesa (actual Suriname) e Belém no Brasil. A parte mais complicada viria a seguir, um voo longo por cima da selva até ao Rio de Janeiro. Por falta de gasolina, roubada de um dos tanques, viria a aterrar de emergência num campo em Conceição do Serro (actualmente Conceição do Mato Dentro), Minas Gerais, a 15 de Janeiro de 1937 . Não tendo sofrido ferimentos de maior, infelizmente o Vega ficou destruído, salvando-se apenas o motor. Ainda chegou ao Rio aos comandos de um avião, tendo-lhe sido emprestado um WACO pela Aviação Militar Brasileira para que completasse a última perna.

Pese ao ter de abortar a empreendedora viagem, foi alvo de várias homenagens do Brasil, feito amplamente noticiado em jornais locais. A comunidade portuguesa fez-lhe diversas honras, tendo sido convidado para visitar centros culturais e a participar em vários eventos.

O feito é relatado no livro " Revolution in the Sky: The Lockheeds of Aviation's Golden Age" de Richard Sanders Allen.

Carreira na aviação
Durante a segunda guerra mundial José Costa foi examinador de cadetes em treino para ingressar nas forças aéreas dos vários ramos militares americanos, pela Civil Aeronautics Administration actualmente denominada de FAA. Esteve em vários centros de treino de pilotos, no estado do Kansas e Iowa.

Depois da guerra dedicou-se exclusivamente à aviação civil, tendo optado não ingressar nas companhias aéreas como piloto. Explorou o aeroporto, que tinha o seu nome (conhecido por "Costa Field" ou "Costa's Airport"), fazendo air shows, e outros eventos. Também estabeleceu a sua companhia de aviação, que oferecia formação e outros serviços de voo.

Em 1993 recebeu o "Aviation Pioneer Award" do Empire State Aerosciences Museum, em reconhecimento pela sua contribuição para o desenvolvimento e avanço da "general aviation"

Em 1994 recebeu o "Lifetime Achievement Award" do Rochester Flight Standards District Office da Federal Aviation Administration, em reconhecimento dos seus 65 anos na aviação.

Em 1994 recebeu também o "Certificate of Appreciation" do U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Administration Administration, Eastern Region, em reconhecimento dos 65 anos de distinção como aviador.