Up Up and Away

Gerry LLoyd, 1968-1969

I remember leaving Mascot International Airport on board a Qantas 707 aircraft. It was Dec 1968. we were to stopover at Darwin then Singapore.

I had never been in any type of flying machine before, because, when 6 years old in my home town of Ipswich U. K., I had been very lucky to survive a crashing RAF Hawker Hunter exploding over my head; I did receive a wound to the crown of my head. I had this deep fear of anything airborne ever since.

In Singapore we changed to civilian shirts to apparently confuse the enemy spies. Why this shaven headed, polyester trousered, black shoe brigade didn't look like a military flight has always confused me.

At touchdown at Saigon Airport,we were sprayed with aerosols then given a sandwich lunch.

Next we were allocated to Caribou transport aircraft for the short flight to Nui Dat.

RAAF Caribou

Some got Aussie pilots; we got American. We did not take off in a conventional sense it was more like vertical.

On landing at the "Dat" everyone was picked up by a vehicle from their receiving units except me.

It was getting late in the afternoon by this stage and I could hear shooting in the distance and here I was sitting in a tin hut on an airfield with no weapon half expecting a horde of Vietcong to appear from the scrub.

Finally a vehicle went past and I asked for a ride.

Apparently the mix-up was due to the Armoured Workshops only recently being renamed 106 Field Workshops. My posting order was to 1 Armoured Regiment Workshops.So no one took responsibility.

After this initial flight, it became common flying to Vung Tau, Saigon or other destinations on Caribou; and many times going into Fire Support Bases and the Long Binh area by Iroquois or Chinook Helicopter.

After about six months of going up in fixed wing and rotary aircraft I felt more content about air travel but mechanical failure, on two occasions caused me to rethink.

On one trip back from Saigon, entertainers were aboard including "J.O'K": the legendary OZ rocker, Johnny O'Keefe.

Johnny O'Keefe Apparently the landing gear refused to engage properly even though we could see the wheels were down. The flight engineer on this American plane was feverishly working handles and alike while we circled for what seemed an eternity (I expect to discharge fuel) then landed without incident. We were always told to avoid American planes if we had the choice as their maintenance was supposed to be a bit lacking.

Another similiar incident occurred on a flight from Vung Tau in an Australian aircraft. As we circled Nui Dat, the landing gear would not deploy. As time passed everyone was getting agitated as it looked like a belly landing coming up. The flight engineer eventually managed to lower the gear manually and we came in for a pin point landing.

In my year in South Vietnam I realised that air travel and air supremacy were paramount in modern warfare
you just have to get accustomed to it.