View Full Version : "Earthquake Mcgoon"/Air America

6th Dec 2002, 11:59
Air America, if you're not aware, was a CIA "proprietary" airline that started in the '50's and lasted until the '70's (?).

I found out about Air America through a book called "Air America" written by a brit named Christopher Robins (no relation). The book is a great read and is about the history of the company and some the characters that worked for it. One of the people mentioned was a pilot called James B. Mcgovern. His nickname was "Earthquake Mcgoon" and, evidently, they've found his remains:


For more info about Air America you can take a peek here:


Incidentally, the movie "Air America" was supposedly based on the book but I didn't see any resemblance and found it disappointing. There's a good movie to be made about this company and the people who worked for it but they haven't done it yet.

6th Dec 2002, 18:15
Air America lived on in many guises, including St Lucia Airways, operating out of Brussels in mid 80s with at least one 707F (vintage 64-65) and a C130. Friend of mine (woman) was a First Officer on the 707 for three years, the only Brit pilot (others were mainly German with Brit Flight Engineers). Company registered in Switzerland, a/c in St Lucia.

She believes she was the first Brit woman to get four engine jet rating and earn her living with it, but is naturally reluctant to talk about it given some of the destinations! But she will tell you about the weight of the controls (although not as heavy as the millionaire's converted B26 she had been flying in Texas previously).

Now there is a story for Jacko - are you reading this?

Cornish Jack
7th Dec 2002, 14:40
I used to operate in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam in the early 60s and viewed some of their ops at close quarters. A whole different world of flying and some 'larger than life' characters. I recall one of the C46 captains whose 'uniform' was totally black denim shirt and jeans, black cowboy boots and hat and the 'de rigueur' gunbelt with pearl handled 45s .... :cool: ex Zantop Airways and supposedly with 20,000 plus flying hours. I suspect that those were 'proper' flying hours 'down among the boulders' rather than cruising at 30+k too! Their Vientiane operation was a plane spotter's dream with a most extraordinary collection of unlikely machines, from Helio Couriers to Lockheed Venturas - occasionally registered to some equally unlikely owners ;) High rates of pay but low life expectancy for a lot of their work.

Lu Zuckerman
7th Dec 2002, 15:24
Bell Helicopter International hired a lot of Ex Air America pilots as instructors. All were highly qualified if you looked at their accumulated hours handling helicopters but their previous flying environment did not play well as to teaching individuals how to fly according to the rules. Many of the pilots adapted to the new environment. Some did not. There were drinking and discipline problems and some were sent home at the request of the Iranian Government. The one thing that identified these Ex Air America pilots was to a man they wore 22-karat Gold bracelets or watchbands or possibly a solid gold belt buckle.

By the way, Earthquake McGoon was a character in the Lil Abner comic strip.


7th Dec 2002, 17:41
Other CIA airlines (agency proprietaries, they called them) included Bird Brothers, Continental Air Services (CASI) and Intermountain Airways. A google search turns up some good yarns. At one time there was a strong connection with Marana airport in Arizona, but this has now been 'cleansed' and is one of the major desert airliner storage sites. Still very heavy on security though.

Prince of Dzun
9th Dec 2002, 10:17

Read what Captain Felix Smith said about his best friend and flying colleague Earthquake Magoon. This is an extract from the book " China Pilot " (by Felix Smith) which is a must for anyone who flies, dreams and thinks.

Quote: " The guys said Bill Welk cried a long time when he heard of Earthquake's death. I had just come from Korea when I heard. I wanted to cry but couldn't. Just a long-term ache that returns as I write. Once in a lifetime you know someone who deserves special dispensation from the Fates to live forever. Earthquake Magoon was my candidate, but he didn't live half the span of an ordinary mortal. " End of quote.

" China Pilot" is a classic, the life story of a Winged Gipsy who refused to live in the flatlands. May I recommend it to you.

Prince of Dzun

9th Dec 2002, 16:55
If I remember correctly, a character based on McGovern appeared in one or two other comic strips as "Earthquake Magoon". These were "Terry and the Pirates" and, I think, "Steve Canyon".