Happened To Me
by Walt Darran as told to M.L.
SOF Contributing Aviation Editor
who flew Navy fighter planes from 1961-67 and piloted Air America and
Continental Air Services cargo planes from 1967-69, was present in Laos
when (for the only time in aviation history) a helicopter shot down a
fixed- wing aircraft - indeed, two of them. The victims
were two Polish-built PZL Mielex Antonov AN-2 biplanes, known as Colts,
of the North Vietnamese Air Force. The victor was an Air America Huey
whose only armament was an AK-47
assault rifle. As Darran tells it:
On 12 January 1968, an Air America Huey was
delivering 105mm ammo from a U.S. TACAN (navigational aids) station
perched on a high pinnacle deep in northern Laos to some artillery positions down
I was flying a Continental Air Services
Pilatus Porter (a single-engine turboprop transport capable of short
landings and takeoffs) making some rice drops in the area at the time. I
had just headed back for LS36 (a Royal Laotian Army base) to refuel when
the choppcr pilot, Ted Moore, screamed over the radio that two Colts
were strafing and bombing the artillery positions.
We were the only ones in VHF radio
contact with one another at the time and since I was higher, I
transmitted the message to CROWN (an orbiting C-130 with powerful radio
equipment capable of relaying messages from Laos and Vietnam to U.S. 7th
Fleet aircraft carriers) for fighters, all the while pissed as hell that
I was almost out of fuel.
I was familiar with the Colt. When I was
in the Navy, they'd send us out on "Dawn
Patrols," looking for the. rascals. They were used for aerial drops
to isolated outposts, usually right at dawn in order to avoid visual
sightings. To the best of my knowledge, the military never got
Nor did they this time, despite the fact
that all kinds of fighters were scrambled and sent to the area. By the
time they got there, it was all over.
I heard Ted say, "Shit, I'm faster
and can outmaneuver them." So off the Huey went in pursuit. Glen
Wood, the flight mechanic, had an AK-47 and shot the bastards down while
the Huey made a few passes.
One went down near the scene and the
other pancaked into a hill it couldn't outclimb, about 13 miles
I had to go to Vientiane the next day,
so I missed getting any of the real goodies like Russian pistols,
watches and so forth that were distributed when a Chinook brought one of
the wrecks into LS36. One of the guys did manage to save me some of the
canvas from the only fixed-wing aircraft ever shot down by a chopper.
USAF hauled wreckage of Colt to
LS36 for examination after unique
air battle. Photo: Ted Moore