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Cessna Bird Dog Carrier Landing


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I was reading the post on the Auckland chopper crash ( http://theaussieaviator.net/threads/chopper-crash-auckland-viaduct.33811/ ) when Spin's comments on the energy in the rotor system reminded me of footage seen over the years of RVNAF chopper pilots ditching in the sea beside the US carriers & the resulting mayhem with the rotors striking the water . To cut a long story short, while looking for some of the photos, I dug up this story I hadn't heard before of RVNAF pilot Major Bung-Ly landing a Bird Dog on the USS Midway, during the fall of Saigon evacuations :

 

' On 29 April 1975, South Vietnamese Air Force Major Bung-Ly loaded his wife and five children into a two-seat Cessna O-1 Bird Dog and took off from Con Son Island. After evading enemy ground fire Major Bung-Ly headed out to sea and spotted the USS Midway. The Midway's crew attempted to contact the aircraft on emergency frequencies but the pilot continued to circle overhead with his landing lights turned on. When a spotter reported that there were at least four people in the two-place aircraft, all thoughts of forcing the pilot to ditch alongside were abandoned - it was unlikely the passengers of the overloaded Bird Dog could survive the ditching and safely egress before the plane sank.

 

After three tries, Major Bung-Ly managed to drop a note from a low pass over the deck: "Can you move the helicopter to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly for one hour more, we have enough time to move. Please rescue me! Major Bung (Ly), wife and 5 child." Rear Admiral Larry Chambers (then Captain) ordered that the arresting wires be removed and that any helicopters that could not be safely and quickly be relocated should be pushed over the side. To get the job done he called for volunteers, and soon every available seaman was on deck, regardless of rank or duty, to provide the manpower to get the job done. $10 million (US currency) worth of UH-1 Huey helicopters were pushed overboard into the South China Sea. With a 500-foot ceiling, five miles visibility, light rain, and 15 knots of surface wind, Chambers ordered the Midway to make 25 knots into the wind. Warnings about the dangerous downdrafts created behind a steaming carrier were transmitted blind in both Vietnamese and English. To make matters worse, five additional UH-1s landed and cluttered up the deck. Without hesitation, Chambers ordered them scuttled as well.

 

Captain Chambers recalled in an article in the Fall 1993 issue of the national Museum of Aviation History's "Foundation" magazine that "...the aircraft cleared the ramp and touched down on center line at the normal touchdown point. Had he been equipped with a tailhook he could have bagged a number 3 wire. He bounced once and came to a stop abeam of the island, amid a wildly cheering, arms-waving flight deck crew." Major Ly was escorted to the bridge where Captain Chambers congratulated him on his outstanding airmanship and his bravery in risking everything on a gamble beyond the point of no return without knowing for certain a carrier would be where he needed it. The crew of the Midway was so impressed that they established a fund to help him and his family get settled in the United States.The Bird Dog that Major Bung-Ly landed is now on display at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. '

 

http://www.navalaviationmuseum.org/AboutMuseum.aspx

 

I read somewhere that Major Ly had never laid eyes on a carrier before, so it was a good effort to land on pitching decks with the wife & 5 kids crammed in the back.

 

Cheers, Willie.

 

Short clip of the landing:

 

 

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645603778_birddog4.jpg.49cc1ac7590e1a2bdbe5c8d7130aa9fe.jpg

 

 

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Believe it or not there is a minor Aussie connection to that story - the aircraft concerned is one flown extensively by Garry Cooper, an Aussie attached to the US forces in Vietnam. He has a bit more about the story including a photo of the note dropped on the deck, in his book "Sock it to em Baby", which is well worth a read anyway.

 

Must have taken big ones on the Capt's part to order the equipment scuttled like that, far easier to say; "ok ditch alongside and we'll have choppers waiting to drop rescuers."

 

 

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Believe it or not there is a minor Aussie connection to that story - the aircraft concerned is one flown extensively by Garry Cooper, an Aussie attached to the US forces in Vietnam. He has a bit more about the story including a photo of the note dropped on the deck, in his book "Sock it to em Baby", which is well worth a read anyway.Must have taken big ones on the Capt's part to order the equipment scuttled like that, far easier to say; "ok ditch alongside and we'll have choppers waiting to drop rescuers."

Thanks, Spin, that Australian connection sounds interesting, will have to check the book out. It would be interesting also to know the US/RVN mix of helicopters that went overboard. I think the majority that went overboard around that time in general were RVNAF ones, so it would be an easier descision to make knowing someone else had paid for them .A lot that went overboard on the Midway that day may have been RVN choppers that hadn't been there all that long, as opposed to US owned gear. Fairly sure all that old footage of the ditchings were of South Vietnamese pilots.

Cheers, Willie.

 

 

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Yeah Willie, for my money it is one of the better Vietnam aviation based, war books available. Cooper is perhaps understandably bitter about his treatment by authorities in Aus after the fact and has his say about it, but there is plenty of meat there too.

 

Methinks we need to resurrect the good aviation book thread.......

 

Incidentally I think you're on the money re the source of the choppers and the thinking process involved. I'm not so sure though that anyone else actually paid for them, handouts to the South Vietnamese Govt. I suspect. Probably better they ended up on the seabed instead of in uncle Ho's grubby little mits.

 

 

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Yeah Willie, for my money it is one of the better Vietnam aviation based, war books available. Cooper is perhaps understandably bitter about his treatment by authorities in Aus after the fact and has his say about it, but there is plenty of meat there too.Methinks we need to resurrect the good aviation book thread.......

 

Incidentally I think you're on the money re the source of the choppers and the thinking process involved. I'm not so sure though that anyone else actually paid for them, handouts to the South Vietnamese Govt. I suspect. Probably better they ended up on the seabed instead of in uncle Ho's grubby little mits.

Quite right there, Spin. At the end of the day, I suppose whether they were lend-lease or donated along with the draw down, the US taxpayer had paid for them in one form or another, but they wouldn't have been on the USN or USAF's books at that time. That would make them a lot easier to dump overboard, as the Captain wouldn't have as much explaining to do to his bosses. I've seen comments on a foreign aviation forum where the poster said the pilot must have been a VIP to warrant ditching all that gear. I don't really see it that way, I think he was just another Air Force Major. There was a lot of politics at play back then, & the policy was to get all Americans off safely first & then hopefully as many of their friends as they could. This caused a lot of guilt & sadness among some serving US people, knowing they had to leave a lot of people behind, so I'd guess this incident would have been a big morale booster to them at the time. That's only my opinion, there'd be lots of others.

 

Regarding the aviation book thread, there's a sticky in hobbies & collectables for book & dvd reviews, discussions etc. It might be good to include the book there.

 

http://theaussieaviator.net/threads/book-dvd-reviews.33596/

 

Cheers, Willie.

 

 

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I'd seen the Herc landing footage before, but not the launch. Here's a link to a short clip that shows both:

 

 

Another link with some info, has photos showing the offset centreline painted on deck. Good effort considering the cat & trap wasn't used, unassisted t/o & landing, only the usual jet assist. I think the only mods were an anti skid braking system fitted.

 

http://www.theaviationzone.com/factsheets/c130_forrestal.asp

 

Cheers, Willie.

 

 

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That whole saga of proving that jet aircraft were suitable for carrier use, makes for fascinating reading. I believe one of the proposals was for a padded deck and no under carriage! Eric "Winkle" Brown wrote several books about his flying exploits, including testing captured German aircraft immediately after the war. There was a brief interview with him on SBS the other evening.

 

On the subject of unusual carrier operations, remember that the WW11 era carriers didn't use steam catapults and yet they were able to launch a variety of aircraft, including B-25 bombers successfully. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doolittle_Raid

 

 

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