Kham Manivanh “Fly till you die or blasted out of the sky”

The story how a short , skinny young Laotian became a  RLAF pilot.

In mid 1965, halfway around the globe from USA, Laos to be

exact, there were half a dozen young boys sitting on the DonChanh bridge

looking up north to Wattay airport, every evening T-28 would take off and

return to Udorn, one of them said “Those planes are very beautiful

and neat I will fly it someday” Laugh go on “You’re too small

and a bit too short to fly and airplane Shorty” the other said and

that’s they used to call me back then. “You’ll see, time will

tell” I reply. On a Sunday July 65 I was boarding a C-47 to

Savannakhet (L-39) home of the Royal Lao Air Force Base and Pilot

training School.

On Monday I was report to the School and there was 2 guys in their Khaki

uniform with the Warrant Officer bar on their shoulder which they’re my

senior from the same College who get here ahead of me and they were

washed out off T-28 Class from Udorn, compare to them my height was below

their chin, they look at me and ask “What you doing here kid”

“Be a pilot” I reply. With pity smile and shook their head they

said “You can’t be, you too small” that’s really pissed me off,

I stand straight my tiny chest stick out and reply ” I will be, size

doesn’t matter but the Will will” Among 38 pilot students who joined

at the same class I was the smallest and youngest, 17+, 5’2″ and 94

Lbs. but my entrance test score was among the top 5.

I spend about 4 months in L-39 learning the basic military and trained on

the O-1/L-19 I logged 14 Hrs and 2 Solo landings. By Sept. 65 10 of us

were send to Udorn to train on the T-28. Luck would be on my side I was

the only one who took English in College all my class mate knew only

French and hardly understand Thai even though Lao and Thai Language were

very similar, I came out on top of the class. By May 66 RLAF possess a

very young and daring T-28 Fighter Bomber Pilot. I was the fifth one who

bailed out off T-28 during training and 1st one who success and survived

the other 4 before my class didn’t have much luck. One of my classmate

was killed when he did aileron roll too low speed and altitude and can’t

recover from stall and spin crash to a big tree on his solo just 6 weeks

before graduate.

One thing in our war torn country we didn’t have limit or contract it

would be lifetime or you become disable, that where our motto come to

“Fly till you die or blasted out of the sky”

For me I just think some bad guys invaded my country and it’s my Duty to

Serve and Protect my Country.

CPK Red/Spooky-13., Kham Phiou Manivanh, O-1/L-19, T-28, C/AC-47, C-123K, Pilot. Royal Lao Air Force.

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