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Thursday, 7 June 2007

The South Vietnamese Air Force. Air Vietnam. Saigon. Vietnam

The government of President Thieu was not popular. The continual struggle for power between the president and his vice-president Nguyen Kao Khy tended to de-stabilise the regime. I have no opinion on the ex air hostess wife of Khy, except that she did fit in with his flamboyant image.

When dancing had been banned in South Vietnam as being bad for the morale of the troops getting their legs blown off, the South Vietnamese Air Force declined to comply. The pilots though were very brave and their AIE Skyraiders rather helped this image. A job as mechanic on an airfield was a much sought after post by those obliged to do military service.

I had always been rather sympathetic to Air Vietnam, the Civil Airline, from the moment I arrived in Vietnam. A few days after my arrival a DC3 belonging to the company had crashed with the loss of all on board. One of the air hostesses, a member of the former royal household and a princess had been killed. Her rather beautiful and appealing photo had appeared in the press giving the right touch of quality to the personnel of this airline with a poignant sadness at the tragic loss of such young beauty. Travelling later in their old DC3's, once with water coming in through the door, another time with the hostess vomiting in her brown paper bag, was always an experience. At such moments I felt their nickname of Air Nuoc Mam well merited.

What I really liked about the old Dakotas was the feeling of actually flying. When the aircraft moved one felt it. One actually experienced all it's moods. It was the same flying in helicopters with no doors, or just above the trees with the cargo bay doors open in a Caribou. This feeling of motion. Being at five thousand feet in a chopper with the doors closed or ten thousand feet in some airliner always gave me the willys, my own form of vertigo come claustrophobia.

One of KC's inumerable cousins got himself a transfer from the military air force to the civil airline. He went out to celebrate, got drunk, smashed up about six cars, not counting his own. I forget if the transfer still went through.

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