Podcast Episode #5 Flying for the CIA’s Secret Airline with Neil Hansen
Neil Hansen spent years working in southeast Asia as a pilot for Air America, the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine air force during its secret war in Laos. He was rated on all manner of fixed wing aircraft and would sometimes make dozens of “hops” in a single day, touching down at landing strips both big and small all over the region. He flew everything from explosives to rice to spoiled milk, and never turned down a single mission, no matter how dangerous.
Neil worked with some of the legendary figures of the era, including Jim Rhyne, Berl King, Eugene Hasenfus, General Vang Pao, and Anthony “Tony Po” Poshepny. And along the way he lost more than a few good friends to crashes, accidents, and enemy action. Neil loved flying but he loved the rush of adrenaline even more.
After years flying covert operations for the CIA, he went all over the world, always looking for the next adventure. He wound up in South Florida in the late 1970s, where a very particular kind of pilot was in high demand, pilots exactly like Neil. That’s when he “took a walk on the wild side” as he would put it.
For episode five of the Spycraft 101 podcast I talked to Neil about his adventures before, during, and after the secret war in Laos and he shared some unforgettable stories from a life of incredible highs and lows. From the skies over Southeast Asia to the inside of a prison cell, Neil has experienced a life few of us can imagine.
Get Neil’s book here: Flight by Neil Hansen.