Possums and Birddogs  




 

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Possums & Birddogs of 161 (Indep) Recce Flt

In 1967 the OC of 161 (Indep) Recce Flt, Major George Constable, organised the loan of an O-1 Cessna Birddog from the US Army, 54th Aviation Company, at Phu Loi. At that time the Flight was operating six Bell 47G-3B1 Sioux helicopters and three Cessna 180 fixed wing aircraft.

On 28 Aug 67, George Constable, Peter Robinson (EO) and John Wright (fixed wing pilot) flew to Phu Loi to pick up the "first" Birddog, serial number 56-2608.

George Constable and Peter Robinson returned to Nui Dat in the Birddog which was an "E" model aircraft which was manufactured in April 1957.

This aircraft began operations with 161 (Indep) Recce Flt on 29 Aug 67.

On 07 September, Capt O'Malley from the 54th Avn Co flew conversion flights with David McFerran, Tom Guivarra and Bernie Forrest in 56-2608. 

Tom Guivarra only had two flights in this aircraft. The first on 07 Sept and the second on 08 Sept when he flew the aircraft from Nui Dat to the airfield at Black Horse. During the landing phase the aircraft slid off the runway and nose dived into a large ditch on the side of the runway.

The aircraft was recovered to Vung Tau where it was repaired and returned to 161 (Indep) Recce Flt on 14 Oct 67 when George Constable with Peter Robinson as his passenger flew the aircraft back to Nui Dat.

On 27 Feb 68, Bernie Forrest with Mike Boland (EO) flew this Birddog back to Phu Loi and returned it to the US Army.

On 16 March, Bernie flew to Phu Loi where he picked up 51-11969 and flew it back to Nui Dat where it commenced operations with the Flight on 17 March.

Bernie was responsible for flying both Birddogs back to Phu Loi when they became due for their 100 hourly servicings or any special maintenance that was required.

Birddog 51-11969 was originally an "A" model aircraft, built in 1952 and modified up to a "G" model, post 1956, before being sent to Vietnam.

On 23 May 68, George Constable was flying 51-11969 when the aircraft was shot down and destroyed. George was killed in the crash. At the time he was shot down he was flying a vehicle convoy cover mission for an Australian convoy returning from Fire Support Base Coral.

The following pilots of 161 (Indep) Recce Flt are known to have flown one or both of the Birddogs on loan to the Flight:

George Constable, Bernie Forrest, Tom Guivarra, David McFerran, Steve Tizzard and Peter Garton.

From the records held in the 161 Recce Collection the two Birddogs on loan to the Flight, from 28 Aug 67 until 23 May 68 flew a total of 921.35 hours. 

These two Birddogs were used as required in support of 1 ATF and flew the same missions that the Cessna 180s flew including:

Visual Reconnaissance flights, night flying missions where the starlite scope was used, first and last light recce, search and rescue missions, AOP flights, transit flights and convoy cover missions, just to mention a few.

In August 1970 the remains of a crashed Birddog were delivered to 161 (Indep) Recce Flt at Nui Dat where it was rebuilt to flying configuration which was the birth of "Bunny II". But that's another story.

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Book Summary: Possums and Birddogs

Other aircraft: Bell 47G-3B1 Sioux Helicopter | Cessna 180 | Pilatus Porter | Bell OH58-A Kiowa Helicopter | Bunny II

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