Wednesday, 23 July 2008
Air Vietnam will not be arriving at Phan Thiet today.
The military airfield in Phan Thiet where I was based also served Air Vietnam.
The only time I took a flight Air Vietnam from Saigon instead of on a military one I was arrested for not having a weapons permit. Most irritating and time consuming. We used to refer to it as Air Nuoc Mam.
I usually flew up on Australian Caribous. Those Aussie pilots would fly at tree top height with the rear cargo doors open. I loved flying in the Caribous which I felt very safe despite the pilot’s best efforts to shatter my nerves.
The Vietnamese would come out to the airfield and then sit on their haunches and wait patiently for an aircraft to arrive. Mostly venerable old DC3s. I remember when I arrived in South Vietnam in July 1965 there had just been a crash of one of these aircraft with no survivors. There was a photo of an air hostess who had been aboard. A princess of which dynasty I forget. Very beautiful and oh, so sad.
Every time an aircraft appeared on the horizon their interest would quicken a little. When it turned out to be the inevitable military plane they would return to their waiting. At the end of the day they would get up and go back home. The patience of the east.
The end of the runway was at a cliff edge so it did not do to overshoot.
During the first part of 1968 the airfield was subject to many attacks by the Viet Cong.