Bill Bird (left)
Bird & Sons, Inc was a San Francisco heavy construction company operating in Vietnam and Laos. Bird & Sons, Inc maintained its own air division. William H. Bird had been operating an aviation division of his construction company Bird & Son in Laos since 1960. Bird later sold the air division and its aircraft to Continental, $4.5 million cash, in 1964 to form CASI. When Bird sold that division there was a non-compete clause in his contract with Continental that precluded Bird from operating another aviation company in Laos for a certain number of years. When that time expired, Bird got back into the air charter business and created BirdAir.
BirdAir operated Lockheed C-130s on loan from the United States Air Force and participated in the evacuation of former Hmong guerrilla troops in Laos. BirdAir also helped maintain the air bridge to Phnom Penh flying from U-Tapao to Phnom Penh daily in February and March 1975 until the day before the country fell
Six C-130Es were assigned to ‘E’ Flight of the 374th Tactical Airlift Wing at Ching Chuan Kang AB, Taiwan for unspecified flights into Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. During the course of these missions they often operated from secret airfields in Thailand. All six aircraft were painted grey overall until at least 1972 and the serials were 62-1854, 62-1859, 63-7868. 63-7879, 64-0497 and 64-0515. 62-1854 was destroyed at Kontum City Airstrip in May 1972 but during 1975 the five survivors were absorbed into the 21st TAS and relocated to Clark AB in the Philippines. Whereas the remainder of the 21 st TAS aircraft carried a wing badge and MAC band, these five did not.
During 1973 four C-130Es from the 317th Tactical Airlift Wing at Pope AFB, North Carolina were sent on temporary duty (TDY) to U-Tapao RTAFB, Thailand to perform All Weather Aerial Delivery System (AWADS) missions over Laos and Cambodia. These flights were at first performed by crews from Pope but they were replaced by personnel from Little Rock AFB, Arkansas after just two months. The four aircraft, serials 70-1270, 70-1271, 70-1272 and 70-1274 remained at U-Tapao with the Pope tail code ‘PB’ until the Little Rock crews took over. The tail code was then removed and replaced by a Playboy bunny emblem which was retained whilst crews from Pope and Little Rock periodically rotated until August 1974 when the AWADS flights ceased and the C-130s returned to Pope. Although the USAF had officially terminated Indo-China resupply flights, during August 1974 a joint civilian/military company known as Thaiam was established and assigned to BirdAir which was essentially an Air America type organisation. Five aircraft, serialled 63-7885, 64-0496, 64-0499, 64-17681 and 64-18240 left Pope on 5 August 1974 for South-East Asia. Both civilian and military aircrews flew these AWADS missions but when crewed by civilians these aircraft carried no external markings or serial whatsoever. These could, however, be applied by the use of small screw-on plates when volunteer military personnel performed the missions. The size of the plate containing the serial was 10 inches long by three inches high! All five aircraft left South-East Asia during July 1975.
Bird and Sons Aviation Division
The aviation division of Bird and Sons, Inc. included 22 aircraft and 350 employees, with some of Bird and Son’s aircraft continuing to be registered to Bird & Sons Inc. even after the take-over by CASI. Note: Not all the following listed aircraft were operated at the same time.
Beech 18 x1
Beech D50C Twin Bonanza x1
Bell 47G-3B-1 Sioux x1
Bell 205 x3
Bell 206 JetRangers x3 206As and x3 206Bs
Camair 480 – a Ryan Navion converted to twin engines by Cameron Aircraft Co.
Cessna 180 x2
Cessna 206 x1
Curtiss C-46 Commando x9
Dornier Do 28 x12 (inc x11 A1s and x1 B1)
Douglas DC-3/C-47 Skytrain x8
Douglas DC-6A/B x3 (leased from Concare)
Helio 395 Super Courier x5
Lockheed PV-2 Ventura x2
Pilatus PC-6 Porter & Turbo Porter x33
Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer Series 2 x6
Bird Air was later reported to be operating DC-6s and USAF C-130s in 1975 in support of the Cambodian government.