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History of Air America

Air America was supposedly a civilian transport airline operating in SE Asia. In reality, it was a front for a CIA air support operation.

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The agency objectives were to stem the spread of communism in the region, and Air America provided critical air support in many ways. There is more detailed info here:

Many people know of Air America from the movie of the same name. This movie implies that the war was really a cover up of the drug trade, and that the CIA was involved. This is probably a stretch of the truth, but the movie is still great fun for the aviation fan. If you'd like to see a list of great movies featuring airplanes, check out our Airplanes in the Movies guide.

Air America used Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft because these were well suited to the mountain-jungle terrain of Laos. These planes included the Helio Courier and the Pilatus Turbo Porter. The Turbo version of the Porter had a turbo-prop engine and a slightly elongated nose compared to the regular Porter. After designing the Pilatus Porter Plans and building the airplane, we decided we had to have an Air America color scheme, and chose the design of this specific aircraft, as shown here:

Lesson to learn: Decide on your color scheme before cutting any balsa wood. Hopefully the history buffs will forgive us for using a "turbo" scheme on a "regular" Porter :)