Aviation Historian 3
J.Pote - Anything, Anywhere, Anytime Professionally (2)
Curtiss C-46 XW-PBW, bare metal apart from Lao Erawan insignia on the fuselage and upper port wing surface and Lao flag on the tail, prepares to take off on a sortie from Vientiane in June 1966. Note the Sikorsky UH-34D of the International Control Commission, used to fly officials around Laos and Vietnam, parked opposite.
Douglas C-47B “994” at Thakhek East in 1966. The aircraft was polished bare metal with its identity repeated on the nose and “Air America” painted on the rear fuselage - this aircraft, C-47 “147” and Caribou “392” were the only Air America aircraft to bear the company name in Laos.
Sikorsky UH-34D “H-F” of Air America lands at Sam Thong in January 1966. Most UH-34s used by Air America in Laos were serialled with the letter H followed by a number and it is probable that by the time the author arrived in country in 1965 “H-F” was a unique survivor of a previous identity system used by Air America in Laos.
A characteristically anonymous Air America de Havilland DHC-4 Caribou taxies in at Lima Site 20, Sam Thong, on January 9, 1966. Among many Air America aircraft at Sam Thong that day was Prestwick Pioneer XL665, on loan from No 209 Sqn, based at Singapore, for use by the British Embassy.
Caribou “393” was one of several C-7As bailed from the US Army, with which it was serialled 61-2393. Here it thunders down the runway at Sam Thong in January 1966. Sam Thong was typical of the primitive strips from which Air America aircraft operated, offering little margin for error and a requirement for superb airmanship.
In April 1965 Continental Air Services Inc (CASI) was formed as a subsidiary of Continental Airlines with a view to “helping” Air America with its commitments in Laos; in reality Continental wanted a share of the government’s subsidies for such work. CASI operated Lockheed L-382s into Laos for a brief period during 1965-66.
Bell 204B N8513F was one of the first examples of the type acquired by Air America, in September 1965. It would go on to see a great deal of action in Vietnam and Laos throughout the conflict before being evacuated from Saigon aboard the USS Denver on April 29, 1975.