Holder of the ONA Super Wings Award for magnificent contributions to the ONA Crew Web


AMAZING ONA CREW!




CAPTAIN KEN HEALY



Captain Kenneth Healy, ONA Chief Pilot
for the DC-7 Pacific Division based in
Oakland, Ca. 1959 through 1961. Ken
left ONA to complete his career with
World Airways as a senior executive
and flying the B-707, 727, 747, DC-8
and DC-10.

CAPTAIN KENNETH HEALY
INGRID (BAKKER) & WARREN VEST
HERB & USCHI ECKARDT

Celebrating Ken Healy´s 96th birthday!

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LAST PLANE OUT OF DANANG

by Paul Vogle
Journalists can work a lifetime and 
never get that elusive "BIG story," 
the one that splashes your byline across 
the front page, "top fold," of the 
New York TIMES or leads every evening 
broadcast on television network news. 
But Paul Vogle did, and it nearly cost 
him his life.

It was March 1975. The final victorious 
Communist offensive was sweeping down the 
length and breadth of South Vietnam. 

Da Nang, the country's second-largest city, 
was about to fall, and UPI sent Vogle to 
cover the final moments. Ed Daly, the 
pistol-packing, tough-talking president 
of World Airways, was sending two of his 
727 airliners north to pick up refugees 
from the terror-stricken Vietnamese port 
city. 

The scene at the former U.S. air base 
there was one of utter chaos. Thousands 
of panicked civilians as well as deserting 
South Vietnamese troops lined the 10,000-
foot asphalt strip. 

World Airways chief pilot Ken Healy 
first made a low-level pass over the runway, 
then decided to set the bird down while the 
other aircraft circled overhead. That's when 
all hell broke loose. The plane taxied 
toward the old Air Vietnam ramp where 
civilians were anxiously waiting. But 
suddenly, jeeps and other vehicles full of 
angry South Vietnamese soldiers, chased the 
plane, it's ramp open to the tarmac. The 
deserting troops tried to fight their way 
aboard, ahead of screaming Vietnamese women 
and children. They knew this was the 
"last flight" out of Da Nang.

Vogle described the frenzy into his cassette 
tape recorder:MOBS OF PEOPLE ARE PUSHING AND 
SHOVING, THOUSANDS TRYING TO GET ABOARD. THE 
PLANE IS TAXIING AWAY FROM THE MOB.THE CREW 
IS SCARED. THE MOB IS PANIC-STRIKEN. THERE'S 
A MAN WITH AN M-16 (RIFLE) POINTED AT US, 
TRYING TO GET US TO STOP.

WE'RE LOADING MORE PEOPLE. THE PANICKED 
CROWDS ARE RUNNING AFTER US. WE JUST PASSED
A POTHOLE IN THE RUNWAY. A JEEP, A PICK-UP 
TRUCK, JUST CRUMPLED UNDER AN ENGINE . . .
THEY'RE IGNORING THE ENGINES ... PEOPLE ARE 
GRABBING AT THE STAIRS. SOLDIERS ARE RUSHING 
THE PLANE RIGHT NOW. DALY IS AT THE BOTTOM 
OF THE RAMP. HE'S TRYING TO PUSH THE 
SOLDIERS BACK. WE'RE BEING MOBBED!"

[At this point, Vogle's humanity shines. 
He stopped being a newsman long enough to 
shout to the wild crowd in Vietnamese: IT'S 
ALL RIGHT. IT'S ALL RIGHT. WE'VE GOT ROOM 
FOR EVERYBODY. DON'T PANIC." But the mob 
is crazed with fear. They continue to claw 
at the ramp. The huge mass of people weigh 
heavily on the stairs, and the plane is in 
danger of being over-whelmed and unable to 
take-off.]

MEN WITH GUNS ARE FIGHTING EACH OTHER. 
THE PILOT GOOSES THE ENGINE. [The roar of 
screeching jets in the background can be 
heard as Healy keeps the plane moving.] 

PEOPLE ARE STORMING ABOARD, SHOUTING . . . 
PUSHING . . . SOLDIERS, CIVILIANS. PEOPLE 
ARE CLIMBING UP ON THE WINGS NOW . . . 
THEY'RE FALLING OFF!
SOLDIERS ARE FIRING INTO THE AIR TO SCARE 
OTHERS AWAY . . . WOMEN AND CHILDREN ARE 
LYING ON THE GROUND. SOME ARE TRYINGTO LIE 
IN FRONT OF THE WHEELS!

[The engine noise picks up, and Vogle is 
now screaming into his recorder:] A MAN 
JUST FELL OFF THE RAMP . . . I SEE A BODY, 
COVERED IN BLOOD. THEY'RE (THE VIETNAMESE) 
HANGING ONTO THE STAIRS, BUT ARE FALLING 
OFF AS WE TRY TO GET AIRBORNE."

Healy threw the throttle, and the over-
loaded jet surged into the air, headed for 
the temporary safety of Saigon.



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DISARMING THE SOLDIERS

In his superb book - "55 DAYS: THE FALL OF 
SOUTH VIETNAM" - former UPI Saigon Bureau 
Chief Al Dawson described what happened next. 
"The soldiers were armed. Vogle and Daly 
moved up and down the rows of people, 
stepping over the troops. Vogle asked a man 
for his rifle. The soldier looked at him 
with a blank face. Vogle realized he was 
stunned, virtually comatose. The newsman 
reached down and plucked the rifle away. 
He made his way from man to man, taking 
rifles, pistols, grenades, ammunition." 
Somehow the stricken aircraft landed at 
Saigon's Tan Son Nhut Airport, the body of 
a South Vietnamese soldier, hanging from one 
of the plane's wheel wells.

EYEWITNESS TO HISTORY

So dramatic and vivid was Vogle's UPI wire story that made PAGE ONE across the world, that - for those who were not privileged to know him or to read it then - we reproduce here, in part, his words, as Paul described one of the most momentous stories of the Vietnam war. By PAUL VOGLE

DA NANG, MARCH 29 (UPI)

- Only the fastest, the strongest, and the meanest of a huge mob got a ride on the last plane from Da Nang Saturday. People died trying to get aboard and others died when they fell thousands of feet into the sea because even desperation could no longer keep those fingers welded to the undercarriage. It was a flight into hell, and only a good, tough American pilot and a lot of prayers got us back to Tan Son Nhut air base alive - with the Boeing 727 flaps jammed and the wheels fully extended. . . When we touched down, the troops who had stormed us were offloaded and put under arrest. They deserved it. A mangled body of one soldier, M16 rifle still strapped to his shoulder, was retrieved from the undercarriage. He got his ride to Saigon, but being dead in Saigon is just the same as being dead in Da Nang. Over a score of others came out of the baggage compartment, cold but alive. Somebody told me that four soldiers crawled out of the wheel wells alive. One died. The last plane from Da Nang was one hell of a ride. For me. For Ed Daly. For Ken Healy. For the soldiers. And for two women and a baby. But the face that most remains in my memory is that of an old woman lying flat on the tarmac seeing hope, seeing life itself, just off the end of her fingertips and rolling the other way.




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