View Full Version : Marine pilot and Hialeah resident was born to fly

01-04-09, 06:53 AM
Marine pilot and Hialeah resident was born to fly

From the time he was a kid, Al Bencosme was obsessed with flying.

He built model airplanes. He ran around making engine noises. He memorized every word of Top Gun's dialogue, endlessly played carrier-landing video games and plastered his bedroom walls with Blue Angels posters.

While at Hialeah's American Senior High School, Bencosme took courses at George T. Baker Aviation School and then joined the U.S. Marines with one goal: flying military jets.

Capt. Alberto Noel Bencosme was doing just that about noon on Dec. 29, when his single-seat AV-8B Harrier crashed in the woods near the Cherry Point, N.C., Marine Air Station.

The Dominican-born Bencosme, attached to Marine Attack Training Squadron 203, was 28.

His death was the family's second tragedy in a matter of months. His father, Pastor A. Bencosme died of cancer in September.

''It was a rough year for us,'' said his brother and fellow Marine, Tobias Bencosme.

No one knows exactly what happened -- ''the investigation could take months,'' Tobias said -- but military sources reported that Bencosme was about a mile from base, returning from a training flight.

He apparently turned back soon after takeoff because a cockpit warning light indicated loose canopy latches.

It was the third Harrier crash since May. The pilots of a two-seater ejected safely in Arizona. Another Cherry Point pilot wasn't injured.

Tobias, 27, of Miami, isn't surprised that his brother didn't kill anyone else.

''He was selfless,'' he said. 'He wouldn't jeopardize others' lives. He'd rather risk his own than someone else's.''

Al Bencosme left the Dominican Republic as a preteen and lived for a time with his grandmother in Brooklyn, N.Y. He rejoined his parents in 1993 in Hialeah.

By the time he graduated from American in 1997, ''he was already flying in his mind,'' Tobias said.

He joined the Marine Reserves, got a scholarship to Miami Dade College's Eig-Watson School of Aviation and flew with the third-place team in the Region IX Southeast U.S. Flight Competition in Daytona Beach.

But the strapping marathon runner's dream was almost grounded -- by his height. He was 6-foot-4 which, Tobias said, disqualified him from flying certain training planes.

''He was heartbroken,'' Tobias said. He decided to leave the Marines, enter the police academy and fly helicopters for the Miami-Dade County police department.

Ultimately, the Marines found a way around the problem, and in August 2007, Bencosme landed a T-45 jet on the the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower, near Meridian, Miss.

The day of his brother's death, Tobias happened to be passing his commander's office. He overheard his brother's name, and something about a plane.

He, then, had to tell his mother.

His commanding officer and a staff sergeant accompanied him. At first, Cristina Fonseca, 56, didn't realize that he was not there on a social call.

When she sensed that something was wrong, she thought it was something with Tobias.

He called his brother a hero.

Tobias will escort his brother's body home from North Carolina, to lie next to their father at the Woodland West Park Cemetery in Miami.

In addition to his mother and brother, Alberto Bencosme is survived by sister, Yuddys, and brother Elencis. For information about the funeral, call 888-290-7005.