44-year ago On 29 April 1975, A Vietnam Air Force pilot Major Buang-Ly performed a historic O-1 Bird Dog landing aboard USS Midway to save his family.
Vietnamese Air Force Major Bung-Ly made the decision to load his family — his wife and five children — into a small two-seat Cessna O-1 Bird Dog aeroplane.
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
Related link: Video of VNAF Chinook’s Pilot who jumped out of a ditched helicopter after saving his family
As luck would have it, he managed to spot the USS Midway as she was taking in the evacuating helicopters. Without any radio communications, Captain Lawrence Chambers made the decision to allow Ly to land on the flight deck, even though the plane had no tail hook and it was an extremely risky landing.
In the following video, you can see Maj Ly Bung’s Bird Dog landing aboard USS Midway.
According to Naval Historical Foundation’s article, The Opportunity to Make History: Vietnam War Hero’s Flight to Freedom RememberedHere are details of the event
Around mid-morning, During this operation, a Vietnamese Air Force (the South Vietnamese Air Force or VNAF) O-1E Bird Dog appeared overhead and set up a holding pattern around the carrier.
Related link: Why the US sailors pushed helicopters off their ships?
The deck was full of helicopters working on the transfer. The initial decision was to deny landing and the carrier zigzagged to prevent an approach.
As explained by Albert Grandolini in his book Fall of the Flying Dragon, South Vietnamese Air Force 1973-75, when this failed to discourage the pilot, Maj Ly Bung of the 114th Observation Squadron, an attempt was made to convince him to ditch near the carrier and a smoke bomb was dropped in the water while a U.S. Navy rescue helicopter hovered overhead. Again unconvinced, the VNAF pilot tried to drop a message on the deck, failed, and then succeeded with a second. The message was clear:
“Can you move the Helicopter to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly 1 hour more, we have enough to move. Please rescue me.
Major Bung, wife and 5 child.”
He was going to land, even if the helicopters were in the way. The deck was cleared, the carrier’s course straightened, and the speed increased to 30kt.
Midway Commanding Officer Capt. Larry Chambers recollects only concern, besides the Admiral telling me not to do it, was whether or not Major Ly would carry enough power to get through the burble and down draft aft of the ship.
The high wind over the deck increases the downdraft and the turbulence. At Ly’s approach speed, my only worry was getting him across the ramp. His relative speed couldn’t have been more than 20 to 25 knots.”
Ly received the “green light” from the tower and had permission to land. Landing the Cessna on the deck of carrier without a tailhook was no easy task.
Flight deck crew ran out to grab him before he went over the angle deck, but he didn’t.
The major and his wife jumped out of the cockpit, pulled the backseat forward, and out tumbled all these little kids. Five little kids they had. She was holding a baby in her arms when he landed.
Maj Ly Bung’s aircraft, still in its VNAF markings, is now displayed in the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
Almost fifty years later, these events were commemorated in a small ceremony held at the 2014 Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In & Expo in Lakeland, Florida.
The Orlando resident came with his extended family to the event held outside the Florida Air Museum at Sun ‘n Fun. Major Ly was presented a special aircraft model in honour of the historic event.