This article is from The Kansas City Star, 7 February 1962


FT. RILEY UNITS IN BATTLE ZONE Two Companies, With Canadian-Made Planes, Land in Vietnam.


Total In U. S. Military Advisory Group There Now Is About 4,000. Saigon, South Vietnam, Feb. 7.(AP)—

The U. S. Navy aircraft ferry Core docked here today with two U. S. companies and 21 large single-engine liaison planes. The planes soon will be flying missions against the Communist Viet Cong rebels. The companies were identified as the 18th aviation company (fixed wing, light), and the 399th transportation maintenance company, (direct support), both from Ft. Riley, KS.

Stationed on Coast

The new units, equipped with Canadian-made U-lA Otters, will be stationed at the coastal town of Nha Trang, about 180 miles northeast of Saigon. (The two companies left Ft. Riley in January, a headquarters spokesman there said.

The 18th aviation company, commanded by Capt. Robert L. Felix departed January17 on a temporary duty basis.

The 339th, commanded by Capt. R. E. Allwine, left during the last week of the month. Its move is a permanent change of station.

[Families of members of the 18th generally retained their quarters assignments on the post.]

The Otter is capable of carrying 11 soldiers and has [STOL TACTICS anger shoup] short, poor runways, is useful | for observation and even can be used to drop paratroopers. It is not armed. The Otters will be flown and controlled by the U. S. military advisory assistance group here, but will be used in support of Vietnamese government ground forces. They will work with the three U. S. Army combat helicopter companies already in Vietnam, combined with which they comprise a complete aviation battalion.

Other Planes Aboard

On the Core’s flight deck were four Navy SA16 flying boats and five jet fighters with U. S. Navy markings. However, these were reported on the way to Japan.

The two new companies bring the total of U. S. service personnel now in South Vietnam to near the 4,000 mark.

This article was first published in The Fort Riley Post, 10 May 1960

18th Aviation Company Is Only One of Its Kind in 5th Army

1LT Carl C. Yoder

The lieutenant opened the door on the deserted barracks that first day of May 1959.  He entered a room furnished only with two slightly dusty desks and matching chairs.  To the right were two small offices which could be entered through either of two doors.  A door on the left opened to a larger room containing two long tables, a desk and a chair. The officer strode through the room and peered through a not-too- window onto the expanses of Marshall Army Air Field.

This barracks was to be the home of a unique flying unit and the officer would be the lone member of the new group for about six weeks. The aircraft around which the new company would build is a amazing addition to the Army stable of planes with the dubious nickname "Otter".

On May 1, 1959 the Continental Army Command activated the 18th Aviation Company and assigned it to the Fifth Army with the home base to be at Fort Riley, Kan.  The lone officer assigned was 1st Lt. C. C. Yoder, a veteran of Korea with the 7th Infantry Division and a former pilot with the 1st Aviation Company, 1st Infantry Division.

Lt. Yoder had been a standardization instructor pilot for the 1st Aviation Company and his duties were to remain the same with the new unit.  However, since he was the only soldier in the new unit, he had to assume all off the duties of a complete company staff. By the middle of June, Lt. Yoder duties were somewhat relieved by the assignment of a company commander, Maj. Robert D. McClanahan.

A perfectionist in flight, it was the duty of Lt. Yoder to arrange for, direct, and conduct a training program aimed at the transition of Army pilots from various aircraft to the unique "Otter".  He was the lone instructor in the transition program until mid August when three other pilots became qualified as instructor. He now holds the position of supervisor of instructors and Standardization Instructor for the 18th Aviation Company.

The story of the 18th Aviation Company is not a run-of-mill tale of a newly activated group.  From its minute beginning as a one-man company to the pre-strength of 22 officers and 48 enlisted men, there has been a succession of long, tedious hours of work, study and practice.

The "Otter"- officially designated as the U1A-is a fixed high wing cargo and troop transport.  It is of such unusual heritage that a complete familiarization program is necessary to convert a pilot into a proficient-AND-apt-navigator of the craft.  Presently the largest fixed-wing Army plane of its type, the ship is built by De-Haviland of Canada exclusively for the Army.  Statistically, the "Otter" cruises at 130 miles per hour and has a range of about 500 miles; it can carry a total of 3000 pounds of cargo, fuel and passengers; it will cruise for 7 hours on 213 gallons of gas.

Unit recently, the largest plane authorize for Army use was limited to a total of 8000 pounds, plane and cargo.  The "Otter" nearly reached that limit including the 4900 pound weight of the plane.

 The amazing characteristics of the "Otter" become evident in the practical use of the craft.  Under full load it can take off in less than 300 feet and land in less distance.  Although it is a large plane, it can hop over hedges and drop into small valleys in a manner reminiscent of the "Barnstormers" of old or the crop sprayers of today.

Tactically the value of the ship is demonstrated by comparison with the Army's largest helicopter.  The 'Otter" has a much greater range than the helicopter and it is able to carry more cargo.

The special type of pilots demanded by the versatile 'Otter" can only be produced by an intense training program.  Pilots who are assigned to the company may, at the outset of the training, be either a pilot fresh from flight school or seasoned liaison flyers. Regardless of their background, the new pilots undergo a rigorous transition program.

The training program consists of both classroom study and practical application.  A prospective "Otter" pilot spends 40 hours in the classroom studying the construction, capabilities and tactical employment of the U1A. In addition the practical application and training-transition flying-involves 50 hours of flight time including 10 hours of solo flight.

The flight training is more than mere familiarization with the craft. It consists of detail studies of cargo loads distribution; practice in power approaches over barriers; choosing landing strips in rough terrain, and night proficiency flying.

The training program is wrapped up with an orientation on instrument navigation before the final test.  Upon completion of the training, a pilot is checked out by the Standardization Instructor Pilot and approved as a qualified "Otter" pilot.

The qualification as a specialized pilot is not the end of training for the new pilot. Before he can be qualified to carry passengers on his ship he must have 300 hours of first pilot time in an aircraft.  And even after that tallying that much time, continuous proficiency flights are made to insure that the pilots will always be ready for a mission in peace and war.

The 18th Aviation Company is the only unit of its kind in the 5th Army area. Its primary mission is training and equipping a company of combat-ready Army pilots for utilization and transportation of supplies and men and evacuation support for the Fifth Army and the 1st Infantry Division.

In peacetime the mission is similar and the company has a long record of flights in support of Army activities over the whole nation. The 16 "Otters" aircraft have been lending assistance to the First and Second Armies in addition to their regular duties in this area.

Under the command of Capt. Richard Murray, the 18th Aviation Company is growing both in resources and value.  Activated to fill a need in the new concept of highly mobile fighting Army, the company continues preparing itself should the day come when defense of our country is the foremost concern in our minds.

Such a flying unit with an aircraft of such versatile value is further proof that minds, men and materials are always prepared to protect the freedom we prize.

This page contains stories about the 18th & 54th Aviation Companies and their assigned, attached or support units.

18th 54th 18th CAC Aviation Association