Engine Quit on a Flight to Phan Thiet Story
Some time is 1966 I was flying to Phan Thiet from Bao Loc. The first 2/3rd of the trip was in the mountains. The 2nd 1/3 of the trip was a few hundred feet above sea level. The flight was about a 30-minute flight. Phan Thiet was on the South China Sea, at sea Phan Thief level. The airport was about 300 feet above sea level and had a control tower. The runway was asphalt and was built by the French when they were in Vietnam. About 15 minutes into the flight the engine in the Birddog began to run rough. I searched for the RPM that the engine would run the least rough. I found that RPM, but found that RPM was not enough to maintain my altitude. I was going lower and lower. About the time that I reached the where the hills disappear and descended to the rice patty level, I was only a few hundred feet over the ground level. At that time I spotted one Vietcong soldier, on a trail and heading for Phan Thiet. We spotted each other about the same time. We actually made eye contact. We surprised each other. He then went to one knee. I’m sure he did not want me to see him? We let each other getaway! I then flew over the crest of the hills an descended to the lower ground. I then made radio contact with Phan Thiet tower an indicated that I had a rough running engine. I was glad to have someone to talk to. I told them I was heading for Highway one and would then fly South to the airport. I was relieved to fly over highway one because if the engine quit I could always put the airplane down on highway one. The best part was that the friendlys were always near highway one.
I reached the Phan Thiet airfield flying South and had to fly the pattern using the left base to land to the North. Surprise---the engine quit when I pulled off the power. I made a perfect landing power-off landing, under the circumstances. I then got out of the airplane and pushed it off the runway.
We had my second surprise? The crew chiefs started the engine and indicated the airplane was flyable. They called the Company headquarters in Dong Ba Thin and were told to have Kloppenburg fly the airplane to Dong Ba Thin for repairs. After the engine quit and they gave me NO reason that I had the problem. I told them “no way”, I was not going to fly the airplane in that condition. They then found a helicopter and transported a “new” engine to Phan Thiet.
Above is the asphalt runway in Phan Thiet. Note the white circle on a metal rod in the picture. That was the rocket sight used to shoot rockets. The idea was to position the white circle over the target. Above right is the control tower at Phan Thiet.