Aviation Historian 2
J.Pote - Anything, Anywhere, Anytime Professionally (1)
Curtiss C-46D N1383N (c/n 33641, built in 1945 as 44-78245) was acquired by Air America in 1963 and is seen here at Wattay, Vientiane, in 1966. This aircraft had been damaged in January 1965 when a nearby T-28 exploded, and in March 1970 one of its “kickers” fell out of the cargo door in flight - and survived.
Air America Douglas C-47B “147” prepares for one of the thrice-weekly “milk run” flights at Thakhek East in mid-1966. This aircraft went on to become one of the last to leave Saigon in April 1975 as the city fell to the North Vietnamese.
Air America Fairchild C-123B Provider N5005X has its engines run up to full throttle in the background as Royal Lao Air Force C-47s prepare to pull troops out of Thakhek West after the successful conclusion of the Battle for Thakhek in November 1965.
Passengers aboard C-47B “994” during a milk run flight from Vientiane to Thakhek in February 1966. The author recalls: “The seats were extremely uncomfortable, especially on the ground with the tail down”. Note the cargo packages roped together in the centre.
A Royal Lao Air Force T-28 over the author’s house at Thakhek after a strafing run on communist positions during the fighting there in November 1965. Note the black band on the undersurface of the wing, painted to make it harder to see if a bomb was still on the rack. Communist troops were bolder once the bombs had been dropped!
Sikorsky UH-34D Choctaw H-12 of Air America on the football field at Luang Prabang in north central Laos, until the communist takeover in 1975 the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos. Initially Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaws were used by Air America in Laos but, after the (non-fatal) loss of an H-19 at Na Nhom in May 1960, the type was withdrawn and replaced by the UH-34, which itself struggled in the hot and humid climate.
Dornier Do 28A XW-PCG (c/n 3026) at Thakhek West in November 1965. Note the dragon motif on the fuselage and a UH-34D, probably of the Royal Lao Air Force, in the background.
Air America C-123B Provider N5007X unloads at Luang Prabang in June 1966. Originally built as 55-4555, the aircraft was quickly incorporated into the Air America fleet as “555” and later N5007X. Note the low cloud on the hills in the background. Following its upgrade to C-123K standard with the addition of pod-mounted General Electric J85 jet engines on the wings, this aircraft was lost on August 27, 1972, when it hit a ridge in cloud near Vang Vieng, killing nine.
Seen here with the Civil Air Transport logo on the rear fuselage, de Havilland Canada DHC-4A c/n 52 was given the Taiwanese registration B-853, later shortened to just “853” in Air America service. Used as a commissary aircraft, it operated from Don Muang in Thailand in 1965 and was a regular visitor to Lima sites in Laos from 1966.
Caribou “392” at Thakhek West on April 18, 1966. The aircraft was serving as a stand-in on the milk run as the regular C-47 had hit a buffalo and was undergoing repair.
The interior of Caribou “392” en route to Vientiane in April 1966.
Air America Helio Courier XW-PEA (c/n 541) departs the typically primitive airstrip at Thakhek West in September 1966. In keeping with Air America’s deliberately confusing and obscure registration system, this identity was also applied to at least two other Couriers at the same time, while all three were based at the airport in the Lao capital, Vientiane.
Showing the often atrocious condition of the landing strips, or “Lima sites”, Air America’s fleet of STOL aircraft were required to to operate from, this photograph of Helio Courier XW-PEA was taken at Thakhek West on July 22, 1966. Air America’s Couriers in Laos were finished in bare metal with the registration in black midway up the fin and sported a black triangle under the port wing, the apex of which pointed towards the trailing edge.
The remarkable STOL performance of the Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter made it an ideal candidate for Air America service in Laos. This example, XW-PCL (c/n 583, formerly N13202), begins its take-off run down the slope of Lima Site 20 at Sam Thong in January 1966. It later served with CIA-sponsored Lao airline Boun Oum Airways.
Aero Commander “2714” at Lima Site 40 - Thakhek West - where it was based during operations against the Pathet Lao in November 1965.