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North Vietnam Flights In The 1960s And 1970s  
User currently offlinerolypolyman From United States of America, joined Mar 2009, 160 posts, RR: 0
Posted (5 years 10 months 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 3510 times:

Having read a lot about the Vietnam War I always wondered how North Vietnam was connected to the world, so I researched some old newspapers and I figured I'd share what I found.

There appears to have been a service established from Vientiane, Laos to Hanoi Gia Lam starting in 1954 by the International Control Commission, a Canada-India-Poland diplomatic team. It used old Boeing 307s. Service was about 1-2x per week and continued until the mid-1970s.

Meanwhile Aeroflot had been operating a long-standing route from Moscow to Hanoi with IL-18s. The route went directly through China, but I was not able to figure out what the routing was. In 1967 the Sino-Soviet rift unfolded and Aeroflot began frantically looking at ways of bypassing China.

In 1969 the USSR negotiated landing rights with India. This allowed them to operate the new route DME-TAS-CCU-VTE-VVGL (with variations). This was a somewhat controversial arrangement since the deal was done under the table, so under the terms of this agreement the plane was supposed to do a tech stop at Kolkata and be inspected for any contraband military hardware. The flights were actually a hot button for the Nixon administration, which tried to put pressure on India to cease the overflight rights. The State Department believed the Russians were indeed staging military hardware through India, but the talks went nowhere. The IL-18 flights were running about 6x a week by late 1969.

In May 1972 India took the measure of significantly easing restrictions on the Soviet flights, presumably as a gesture for Soviet help during the 1970 East Pakistan invasion. This effectively gave the USSR carte blanche over flights through India and what was on board. I was not able to figure out though whether they had any sort of "Berlin Airlift" in the runup to the massive Linebacker attacks. Jane Fonda was on one of the IL-18 Aeroflot flights during her July 1972 visit, having taken the long way all the way from Paris and Moscow. As of 1973 with the Paris Peace Talks underway there was at least one weekly IL-18 flight that arrived every Saturday at Hanoi Gia Lam, and 2 flights to Beijing by an unknown operator (either Aeroflot or maybe even CAAC with its new IL-62s). I was not able to find out any details after 1973.

So.... what details do any of you know about civil aviation and international flights in North Vietnam? Was the IL-62, Tu-154, or Tu-114 ever used regularly? If not, I'm kind of surprised considering the distance and political/economic links the USSR and North Vietnam had. Everywhere I looked they were using that same old IL-18 service, year in and year out.

I guess the other question is what kind of routing was there on the BKK-HKG flights? Obviously they couldn't traverse North Vietnam, but how far north did the east-west corridors exist? Presumably some of those routes went right over war zones in South Vietnam. I do know in one US Army war autobiography I read, set in 1969 about 50 miles north of Saigon, the soldier looked up one evening around dusk and saw an airliner contrail, and he reflected on how starkly different the existence must have been between him down there in the mud and the people up there probably enroute to Bangkok. I also recall seeing a photo somewhere from a commercial jet high over South Vietnam and you could see a smoke column down at the ground, so there must have been some routings over the country. I don't have any enroute charts from that era though.

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