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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Some Unusual Aircraft I Remember

Greetings and Salutations:

When I was a soldier in Viet Nam, I saw a couple of aircraft that I never see anymore, not even here in the United States of America.

I wonder why, since both of them look like they'd be fun to fly.

When I was in Saigon, stationed with the Phu Lam Signal Battalion, I frequently observed an odd looking airplane taking off from nearby Ton Son Nhut Air Force Base.

Since then, I've learned that it was called a "Porter", and was manufactured in Switzerland.

It was an Air America plane, not part of the United States Air Force, and at the time, guys told me that Air America was really a secret airline operated by our Central Intelligence Agency.

It was a single engine propeller-driven monoplane, with the wing above the cockpit cabin, and a nose which was extraordinarily long.

The tail of the airplane was not of a normal curved shape, but looked exactly like a rectangular board standing on end.

Since those long ago days, I've learned that the Air America "Porter" airplanes were designed to land and take off on VERY short mountainside airstrips, and they were flying in and out of Laos.

But since those bygone years, when I was a soldier in a far-off war, I've never seen another "Porter" airplane.

Someone told me that the Swiss manufactured "Porter" could not be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, and that's why we never see them flying in the United States.

I wonder if that's true, and if so, why?

Another unusual airplane I remember seeing in Viet Nam was a specially designed reconnaissance aircraft, used by the United States Army.

I don't remember what the plane was called, but it looked like a glider, with a single-seat cockpit and a low powered propeller engine, for it had really long wings, flew only at night, going very slow and very close to the ground, with the engine making almost no noise, and showing no lights.

I first read about the plane in the "PACIFIC STARS & STRIPES" newspaper, and one night, while I was on perimeter guard duty at Camp Eagle, one of those planes flew just above my head.

If I remember correctly, that plane flew just after sunset and just prior to sunrise.

When I left Viet Nam, I was assigned to the Combat Developments Experimentation Command at Hunter-Liggett Military Reservation, a very isolated location where experimental tactics and equipment could be tested and evaluated.

One of the items being tested was the Cheyenne attack helicopter.

It was like a Cobra, but bigger, noisier, and more heavily armed.

The first time I encountered one, I heard it long before I saw it, for it sounded like a Second World War fighter plane making a strafing run.

It was kind of spooky seeing it suddenly appear above the forest, but I did admire it.

However, the Army decided not to adopt it.

Thank you.

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