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Phinal Phlight!

Eeek!

Paul Hughes tells the tale of this picture.

Traditionally, on leaving overhaul at Saint Athan, aircraft would do a fly-by for the benefit of the groundcrew who had worked on it. The pilot of this particular Phantom FG1, a retiring Wing Commander, was chatting to a member of the ground crew the day before the departure flight. He said he was going to fly between the hangars and that the guy should be ready with a camera to record the event. It was due to be his last flight, so he was going to do something 'special'. The groundcrew weren't too convinced of the pilot's claim, but stood around as usual anyway watching as the F4 took off, destination Leuchars. As the photo shows, the pilot was not joking, you can see the afterburner diamonds quite clearly in front of the hangar. You can also see personnel standing underneath it. The recently tuned Speys allegedly shook a man working in the roof of one of the hangars enough for him to fall and break his leg. These hangars are set east to west, about 75 yards apart, and you can estimate the height from the length of the Phantom. Immediately after the event, the pilot was contacted by the tower and was instructed in no uncertain terms to 'return and land immediately'. As I am told, he did so and was given a severe rollicking. I don't know what action was taken, but it was his last flight in any case. What a way to go out, I wonder if it ranks as one of the shortest logged emergency-free Phantom flights?

This story is not exaggerated  - I don't know the original photographer, but the picture was taken on an ordinary instamatic camera, and then a blow-up was made. The original is, as a favour, temporarily in the possession of the current Station Commander at St Athan who is an ex-F4 jockey. From the enlargement I have made the Phantom as XV575. The aircraft was scrapped in September 1991, but its legacy has to be this photograph.

 

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