After 40 years in service with the German Air Force, the service is retiring the last of their McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs. Reflecting the central role these warbirds have played in the defense of the country, the air force crreated the F-4F “Heritage Flight”, refinishing four F-4Fs in paint schemes reflecting each of the decades that the plane was in service as well as has organizing the intentionally misspelled Phantom Pharewell send-off that was held last weekend. We’ll give you a complete report from our man at the event, but first some background:
As we previously stated, The German Air Force’s F4F Heritage Flight has refinished four Phantoms:
38+10 – Wears the’Norm 72′ green and grey camouflage pattern of the early 1970s and large serial number emblazoned on the fuselage sides. Phantoms used these schemes during their first two decades of service when they were air to ground attack craft. This particular plane has 6,900 hours of flight time in service.
38+33 – Wears the ‘Norm 81’ grey colour scheme better suited to the type’s air-to-air combat of the craft’s later duties. This plane has 6,500 flight hours on it.
37+22 – Wears the most recent and current ‘Norm 90’ color scheme that works for air-to-air and was applied to the line in conjunction with ICE upgrades in the 1990s. This plane has accumulated nearly 7,100 flight hours in its years of service.
37+01 – The very first F-4F to be rolled out of the McDonnell Douglas factory in St. Louis, Missouri, it has racked up nearly 7,400 hours in its extraordinarily long career. This plane has been painted in a special commemorative ‘Phinal Pharewell’ blue and gold livery and will serve as a gate guardian at Wittmundhafen Air Base now that it and its mates are officially retired.
Now that you have the back-story, here’s our man on the ground’s report from Phantom Pharewell, and please phorgive all the “ph” puns, it’s been a bit of an epidemic of late:
Andreas Zeitler Reports:
The sky was crying tears for the Phantom Pharewell event at Wittmund airbase. With initially nearly-winter weather, the last weekend in June was the date for the official last day of Luftwaffe F-4F Phantom operations and was celebrated with an Base Open Hangar Day.
Several months of preparation showed well all the efforts that went into these celebrations: “retro scheme” Phantoms in Norm 72 and Norm 81 camouflage were revealed in the months preceding this event, and the specially-painted Phantom in blue/gold was also ready early enough to make appearances at some other earlier events. In a final “victory lap”, about two weeks ago the two retro-schemed warbirds did a tour, visiting the former Phantom bases all around Germany.
For the Pharewell event itself, a Spotters Day was organized on Friday afternoon. The attendence of around 3000 enthusiasts clearly showed the huge interest in these planes, and despite the awful weather the atmosphere was actually quite pleasant. Many special schemes of the air force and foreign nations were present as well as the main acts for the flying display the next day, fortunately they were well-placed in front of the hangers without any barriers disturbing the view.
Despite the phour Phantoms of JG71 “Richthofen” the Phinal Phantom of WTD61 was the highlight on the ground, sporting an elegant scheme combining the “orange” test colour with black, the colour of mourning. Furthermore there were special tail-liveried Belgian F-16s, a Spanish F/A-18, the Luftwaffe AG51 “Tiger” Tornado, JG73 “Steinhoff” Eurofighter and an A-4 Skyhawk along the hangar areas were great to see. But what a shame the weather did not cooperate!
During the show day itself on June 29th it was more about the atmosphere, we were able to do some shopping and catchup with old friends from the Phantom community. The cloud layer was still hanging very low, all the aircraft were fenced off tightly, and strong winds prevented some of the older aircraft from even taking off. Apart from some biplanes, only the BAe Systems A-4 Skyhawk – usually used as a target towing aircraft and somehow the biggest rarity in the air – made many people rush towards the fence.
Fortunately around midday the weather gods finally sympathized with the crowd and it cleared up. Just in time for the final minutes of German Air Force Phantom action. The flying consisted of some formation fly-bys, a pass together with two Eurofighters of JaboG31 “Boelcke”, which will join with JG71 “Richthofen” for the Eurofighter operations, and towards the end low passes and touch and go’s thrilled the crowed. After the final landing of 37+01, which was the first Phantom of the Luftwaffe and the last to land at Wittmund, all aircraft taxied in front of the crowd to make sure that everyone on the airfield was able to hear and feel this charismatic aircraft for a last time.
What remains to say? Of course the variety of the flying display cannot be compared with other major airshows, but on the other side the event was centred on the Phantom and the final low passes will stay in our memories phorever. It was good to be there, thanks for all setting up this great show. It was a fitting tribute to the last smoker on the European sky,
Phantom … Pharewell!!
Phinally, some phootage phrom Phantom Pharewell: