View Full Version : VC10 in Laos bombing incident?

28th Mar 2007, 09:31
A visitor on my site asked me if I knew anything about a VC10 having been involved in a bombing incident in Laos during the Vietnam war.
Currently researching cases of "friendly fire" incidents and came across a near miss from 1970 "somewhere near Laos". Apparently a VC-10 of B.Cal (yes I know does not correspond with the date) was merrily flying along when the crew notices a stick of bombs falling to one side. It would appear that a USAF B-52 had dropped them, obvioulsy the mission planning had not accounted for a civilian aircraft in the vicinity. Is it a myth? I do not think so as a well respected colleague's mother-in law was a crew member on the flight, alas she passed away in 2002 so I can not ask her directly. Has anyone else heard of this to confirm it? Any help much appreciated.See here for the original post: http://www.vc10.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=816

I had not heard of this before, but can anyone shed any more light on this perhaps?

Albert Driver
28th Mar 2007, 20:19
Certainly BOAC continued to overfly Vietnam with their VC10 Hong Kong service well into the War, in common with many other intercontinental airlines, and certainly there were many encounters with B52s and other aggressive types in the area during that period, some quite close and unexpected. It was one of those areas where all hands were on the (flight) deck and all eyes were outside during the transit. Claims were made about bombs being seen to be released but it would be necessary to be extremely close to observe that and I neither heard nor saw any really convincing evidence within BOAC. That doesn't mean to say it didn't happen, or that it was a sensible area for any civil aircraft to routinely operate within at the time - a point strongly made to the airline by some of the crews involved.

Edited to remove stray icon.

29th Mar 2007, 15:26
Twice a week I flew a Britannia from Kathmandu via Calcutta to Hong Kong during Jan/Feb/March 1973. Crossing Vietnam eastbound in the evening, between FL200 and 280, we often saw B52's trailing above us and on several trips we saw bombs exploding on the northern edge of the airway. Quite a bit of tension on the flight deck until we coasted out and headed for Hong Kong for a few well earned pints of San Miguel!

29th Mar 2007, 15:39
Given the intensity of B52 operations such as Linebacker II, http://members.aol.com/dpoole1272/home/day1.htm with 3000 sorties in 11 days, I imagine it would be difficult to avoid seeing B52's during this period.

19th Apr 2007, 18:02
Allright, let's see if I can get it straight now...

So the commercial airways crossing Laos and Vietnam airspace would've been in use throughout the war? Certainly some areas where large scale operations took place would've been off limits to airliners during those years?

Indeed there was of course a whole lot of flying and dumping of hardware going on as Speedpig points out, so the chances of an encounter wouldn't be as small as I originally thought.

Seeing as Laos and Vietnam airspace is quite close together (not that easy to cross one without getting close to the other) this means that the encounter described is very well possible. Factor in the fact that even though there was no official war in Laos, there were certainly a lot of military around the place and that only adds to the possibilities.

Anybody with some more additions to this?

Albert Driver
19th Apr 2007, 20:08
The airway crossed southern Laos and South Vietnam (at Da Nang, IIRC?) . The bombing was in the north initially, then it moved south with the VC advance until the airway was finally closed later in the war - can't remember the date.

In the absence of another eye witness coming forward, the story could perhaps best be commented on thus:

Did BOAC VC10s encounter fully laden B52s? - Certainly.

Did some crews see evidence of war on the ground including shell bursts and low level bombing? - Probably.

Did any crew ever see high level bombs falling from B52s in the far distance off the airway? - Possibly.

Did any VC10 crew ever see a stick of bombs pass by out of a clear blue sky within the airway (as the story told to you implies)? - Highly unlikely!

I suspect the story is an (understandably) slightly exaggerated account of scenario number three. Whatever the truth of this particular account there is no doubt that civil airliners passed too close to the action for too long.

Edited with an addition.

19th Apr 2007, 20:38
Well, a B-52D pilot I once met admitted to releasing 3 x Buffs' worth of bombs 15 minutes early in 'Nam after a RT cockup, so anything is possible.....

Captain Airclues
19th Apr 2007, 23:04
I flew BOAC VC10s over Vietnam in the early 70's. We often saw formations of B-52s heading north. Fortunately none of them released their bombs early.


20th Apr 2007, 10:45
Similair to 'airclues' - but I flew 707's for BOAC in the late '60's early 70's - initially we flew almost due east from BKK across S.Vietnam and later up over Da Nang . Usually I think we flew across at FL290 or even 280 and apart from the view of the countryside looking like the UK on Bonfire night, never recall seeing anything military - and we were looking!