Flag graphic on frame of a/c N1304X behind the pilot's door.


Air America


At the end of World War Two, Claire Chennault of Flying Tiger fame, and Whiting Willauer, began an airline to fly commercial routes in Asia. The airline was called Civil Air Transport (CAT). However, in addition to its commercial activities, the airline also provided assets for intelligence operations on behalf of the United States government. In 1950 the CIA bought the assets of CAT, but kept the legitimate commercial side of the business operating. Soon President Eisenhower made the decision to use CAT resources to assist the French effort to retain control of Indochina. CAT crews flew missions in Laos, and hundreds of air drop supply missions to Dien Bien Phu during the communist siege in 1954. One CAT plane was shot down with the loss of both pilots at Dien Bien Phu, and several other aircraft were heavily damaged by anti-aircraft fire.

With the growing involvement of US personnel in Laos and Vietnam, the CIA decided to split the commercial and covert operations of their airline, and created Air America on March 26, 1959. Air America provided direct support to US government and military personnel in Indochina throughout the Vietnam War. At times Air America flew med evac missions, search and rescue of downed airmen, and supply missions when military aviation assets weren't immediately available. Air America stayed to the bitter end in Vietnam. The famous 1975 photo of a Huey loading evacuees on a rooftop in Saigon just before the city's capture is of an Air America Huey and crew.

    photo taken by Hugh van Es, UPI  
      click on helicopter illustrations to see larger images, then click "back arrow" to return to this page    

1966 - Air America Bell model 204B   The Bell 204A, 204B and 204C models were the civilian designations of the UH-1A, B and Cs flown by the military. Air America identified their Hueys by their civilian designations. This Air America Huey - a B model - was photographed at Bong Son Special Forces camp in January, 1966.

Air America Hueys were painted white or silver and blue. As illustrated here, the early Vietnam War color scheme included the following details: the VHS antenna on the cabin roof was blue. There was a white or silver horizontal stripe across the blue engine cowling, and a blue horizontal stripe down the sides of the fuselage. This blue stripe began at the nose antennas/pitot tube, and ended underneath the horizontal tail plane. The skids were painted blue.  There is no visible a/c number on the photo of this aircraft.

  1968 - Air America Bell model 204B, a/c N1304X   This B model was photographed at the MACV helo pad at Hue in the summer of 1968.

By 1968 the Air America color scheme has been simplified. The horizontal stripes on the engine cowling and fuselage sides are gone. The VHS roof antenna is now white. The entire tail behind the horizontal tail plane is now blue (The horizontal tail plane remains white). There is an American flag graphic on the fuselage frame just behind the pilot's door. The aircraft registration number appears in blue on the pilot's door underneath the window. The black triangle-like lines above the pilot's door in the illustration is a high frequency radio antenna used to communicate with ground forces. There were four small lines of text on the lower tail in yellow. The top line, in a larger font size, reads "DANGER". The second line, in a smaller text size, reads "KEEP CLEAR". The third line, the same size as the top line, reads "NGUY HIEM" ("Danger-keep clear" in Vietnamese). The bottom line, the same size as the second line, isn't readable in the photo. I repeated the registration number N1304X here for lack of other information.

  1969 - Air America Bell 205, a/c XW-PFK   This H model Huey was photographed in 1969. The color scheme is similar to the B model above, with minor variations. The aircraft registration number is now painted in large blue letters on the rear cabin door. The registration number is repeated in smaller white letters on the tail. A triangle-like high frequency antenna also appears above the left side pilot door on this aircraft.
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