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Jracule

One of the more interesting carrier landings.

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Alpha Tester
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1,233 battles

I imagine many of you are familiar with Operation Frequent Wind, the helicopter evacuation of civilians, American personnel, and other high risk targets during the close of the Vietnam War. This is the story of one of the more interesting arrivals to the carrier USS Midway. I found this information while researching for another postrecently. Thought you all might like to hear about it.

 

On 29 April 1975, Air Force Major Buang-Ly of South Vietnam began a daring escape with his family. Loading his wife and five children into a Cessna O-1 "Bird Dog", he took off from Con Son island south of mainland Vietnam. Under attack by enemy fire from the ground, Buang-Ly managed to make it out to sea where he began a search for the US Naval ships in the area. As luck would have it, he managed to spot the USS Midway as she was taking in the evacuating helicopters. Crewmembers on board the USS Midway spotted the small aircraft shortly after. Attempts to contact the aircraft failed and the plane only circled the carrier with his landing lights on. Because of the large number of helicopters, the carrier was having many craft ditch alongside the carrier after dropping the passengers off. Rescue boats would then pick up the survivors. However, a spotter onboard Midway reported seeing around four people in the Cessna. All thoughts of having the plane ditch were quickly abandoned as the craft was severely overloaded. It was thought unlikely that all passengers could be rescued from the plane quick enough.

 

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(Example of the helicopters being ditched into the ocean, the pilot survived and was picked up)

 

However, the Cessna began to swoop over the carrier. This occurred three times before Major Buang-Ly managed to drop a note on the fourth pass. The note simply read, "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 Buang, wife and 5 child." Captain Larry Chambers of the USS Midway quickly ordered all arresting cables to be stowed and the helicopters on deck to be moved, if they couldn't be moved fast enough, they were to be pushed over the side of the carrier. He ordered any and all volunteers to the deck to help with moving the choppers. Midway crewmembers of all ranks hurried to the deck and began to work.

 

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(The crew pushing a huey overboard in preparation for the landing, an estimated 10 million dollars of equipment was pushed overboard that day)

 

Once the task was finished and the deck clear, the Cessna lined up with the carrier. The ceiling was 500 feet, visibility reduced to 5 miles, and it began to rain. To make matters worse, the wind picked up to 15 knots and 5 additional helicopters landed on the Midway. Captain Chambers ordered those helicopters immediately pushed overboard and the ship to speed into the wind at 25 knots. Meanwhile, the ships radio crew broadcasted numerous messages in both English and Vietnamese about the downdrafts generated behind carriers. Crewmembers lined the deck, watching the Cessna make its final approach. Witnesses report that no one was breathing at that point.

 

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(The Major just prior to touch down)

 

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(The aircraft just came to a stop)

 

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(The Major surrounded by wildly cheering crewmembers)

 

However, Major Buang-Ly managed a perfect landing in the proper zone. The Cessna touched down, bounced once and came to a stop almost to the bridge of the Midway. The crewmembers on deck immediately broke into wild cheering and they swarmed the small Cessna, clapping and congratulating the Major. Buang-Ly was then escorted to the Bridge of the Midway where Captain Chambers himself congratulated the Major for, "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 crewmembers of the Midway actually set up a fund to help the Major and his family settle in the United States. The Cessna can still be seen today in the aircraft museum in Pensacola, Florida. Major Buang holds the honor of being the first VNAF fixed-wing pilot to ever land on a carrier. Reports state another Cessna O-1 was also recovered by the USS Midway that afternoon. But details on that event are vague.

 

(Footage of the landing, sorry for the music it is not mine)

 

According to the information I found, the last information regarding Major Buang-Ly show that he is living happily in Florida.

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A photo of Captain Chambers and Major Buang-Ly meeting at a Reunion onboard the USS Midway, 35 years after the landing.

 

Thanks for reading my latest topic, as always I hoped you all enjoyed it. Let me know what you think.  :Smile_honoring:

Edited by Jracule
  • Cool 15

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Awesome post. Much better than the traditional copy & paste from Wiki variety.

 

+1  :Smile_honoring:

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Alpha Tester, In AlfaTesters, Beta Testers
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Great reading..thanks!!

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Alpha Tester
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An interesting read. I don't think I've ever read about an incident in which aircraft had to be ditched from a carrier flight deck to make room for a landing.

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I've toured the USS Midway in San Diego, and seen the Bird Dog hanging in the Naval Museum in Pensacola.. it's awesome to put the two of them together..

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