British Phantom Aviation Group

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BPAG
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British Phantom Aviation Group

Post by BPAG »

Hello everyone. After communicating with the Scramble moderators- and receiving no objections- the British Phantom Aviation Group (BPAG) have started this thread in order to keep you all informed about the group, its ongoing restoration work and the events and activities we participate in to support our projects and spread knowledge of the history of the F-4 Phantom in service with the UK's Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm. Hopefully you will find the material that we have to share with you of interest.

Firstly, a bit about the Group. We are a volunteer organisation dedicated to preserving F-4 airframes in the UK. The group management is comprised of a collection of ex-F4 groundcrew, aircrew and aviation enthusiasts who are supported by a growing band of volunteers, many of whom are ex-services. The Group's first project was the restoration of the cockpit section of XV490, an ex-RAF Phantom FGR.2, which is now on public display at Newark Air Museum in Nottinghamshire, UK. On completion of the work in 2016, XV490 was awarded the Grand Champion Award at that year's Cockpit Fest, beating some stiff competition from a number of other restored cockpits. Together with XV490's owner, Mike Davey, the BPAG now regularly exhibit the cockpit at events around the UK, conducting tours and performing meet and greets with aircrew, some of whom operated XV490 in service.

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XV490, at home at Newark Air Museum.

The Group's next project was more ambitious and turned out to have a much higher profile due, in part, to the RAF itself. XV582 (aka 'Black Mike') is an ex-RAF Phantom FG.1 with an illustrious past. It was the first Phantom in UK service to pass 5000 flying hours and was also the aircraft that set the Airspeed Record between the two furthest points in the UK (John 'O' Groats in Scotland and Land's End in Cornwall) in 1988. Also, while in service with 111 Squadron toward the end of it's career, it gained a striking all black paint scheme in tribute to the Squadron's display team (The Black Arrows) who had been the RAF's premier display team during the 1950's and 1960's. Retired to RAF Leuchars, Scotland, in the early 1990's, XV582 was a popular static display item at the annual airshow until these events came to an end in 2013. When RAF Leuchars itself was transferred to the Army in 2015, XV582 was one of three Phantoms offered for disposal. The aircraft was purchased by a private buyer and- starting in 2016- the BPAG began the process of stripping down and disassembling it in order to move to a new location. This was completed in October 2017 when, at the request of the Royal Air Force, the aircraft was transported to RAF Cosford, Shropshire, in order to take part in the RAF100 static display at the 2018 Cosford Airshow. The BPAG restored the aircraft to display standard and it proved to be a popular attraction once again and drew attention from national press and TV during it's year long tenure. XV582 went back into the care of its owner in October 2018 and is now on display at the South Wales Aircraft Museum.

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XV582 'Black Mike' at the 2018 RAF Cosford Airshow.

The BPAG currently has two new projects, both of which are notable aircraft in their own right. Firstly, F-4J (UK) ZE360 is one of only two remaining examples of the UK specific version of the J model and is the only one still in RAF colours (the second UK F-4J is on display at the IWM Duxford in US Marine Corps markings). Restoration of this aircraft is a joint venture between the BPAG and the 74 Squadron Association, who are a veterans organisation comprised of former members of 74 (F) Sqn, as they were the only unit to operate the F-4J (UK) in service. ZE360 has been kept in open air storage since its retirement in 1991 and has suffered serious deterioration due to the ravages of the UK weather and its use as a training aid for a fire fighting school. Luckily the aircraft has not been subject to any actual burning (unlike other airframes at the same site) so although it is in poor condition, it certainly not beyond saving. However, the BPAG and 74SA are under no illusions that the preservation work will be anything but long, difficult and expensive. The first step in this process was taken in September 2019 when a group of volunteers washed and cleaned 25 years worth of accumulated dirt, moss, salt and fire foam residue from the airframe, made close up inspections of the underside, wing fold areas and undercarriage as well as partially disassembling the tailcone to assess the stabilator pivot mechanism. The final duty was an application of PX-32 preservative to all non-stainless outer surfaces (including underside where accessible) to protect against further damage from weather. Conclusions from the day’s work were that- as far as has been seen- corrosion of the airframe and parts has not been found to be any worse than expected. Some areas are visibly bad and will require extra attention and the worst affected will involve refabricating. However, nothing seen so far is terminal or should jeopardize moving the aircraft. Detailed inspections have also helped in clarifying potential course of actions for final disassembly.

Plans are in place to move the aircraft to a safer, more accessible location before the end of the year. So, to that end, the next steps will be the removal of tailcone and stabilator, first stage of removing outer wing sections, leading edges, BLC ducts and wiring, plus removal of centreline tank and replacement of wheels and this work will be scheduled in the forthcoming weeks.

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Cleaning the exterior of the aircraft.

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Original paintwork emerges from under the grime.

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Disassembling the tailcone area.

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Before.

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After.

A fundraising campaign is ongoing to support the work on ZE360 and anyone who wishes to contribute is very welcome. The details are below-

Account Name – Tiger360
Sort Code – 30-96-26
Acct. Number – 53212368
IBAN- GB06 LOYD 3098 9771 9963 68

Alternatively, donations can be sent via the BPAG PayPal account- phantomerchandise@outlook.com (please note that there is only one 'm' in that address).

The second of our new projects is XT597, which is one of the three FG.1 prototypes built at the beginning of the UK Phantom program in the mid-1960's. XT597 never went into active service in the RAF or FAA, instead spending its whole career as a test and evaluation airframe, firstly in the USA, which included periods conducting deck trails onboard the USS Coral Sea, USS John F Kennedy and USS Alabama and in the UK as part of the Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Boscombe Down. It was also the last British Phantom to fly, eventually retiring to the Boscombe Down Museum in January 1994. However, with the closure of the museum in 2012, the aircraft was put up for disposal and resided at a private airfield while awaiting a buyer. So, we are therefore delighted to report that XT597 has now been purchased by Mr Mark Abbott, a senior member of the BPAG management team. Mark has naturally appointed the BPAG to manage the aircraft on his behalf and as it is private property- not a BPAG group asset- all the costs of transport and restoration will be met by the owner. The BPAG will be providing the workforce and the facilities for the preservation work on XT597 to be carried out and in return the aircraft will, when ready, be on display as part of the BPAG collection.

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XT597 at Everett Aero during 2019.

The long term aim for the BPAG is the establishment of a permanent indoor display facility and for a couple of years we have been in talks with a major landowner in the East Midlands of the UK, who just happens to own an airfield too. He is also a pilot and aviation enthusiast. The airfield itself, a former WW2 bomber base, has been partly developed for industrial use but some of the infrastructure, including hardstandings, taxiway and much of the runway are still extant. Plans are in place for further expansion of the entertainment and conference facilities already at this location and the owner is very keen to include an aviation presence on the site. This is a long-term vision that still has a long way to go but in the interim, while these plans are in development, we have been offered a former agricultural building of around 4500 square feet for use as both workshops and storage facility. There will be costs associated with developing this building for our uses and details of this will be forthcoming.

Many thanks to you all for reading this far, hopefully you have found the info and photos we have shared of interest and will agree with us that these projects are an exciting and significant contribution to the worldwide historic preservation effort. We will keep this thread updated as progress is made and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask.
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Re: British Phantom Aviation Group

Post by Alpha Kilo One »

Wow. Thanks for the story in first place! A lot of work is waiting for you.
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Re: British Phantom Aviation Group

Post by wvanbel »

Wow! Great story!! :respect:

I wish that one day, you could also show the Phantoms outside of the UK. There's plenty of interest in Phantoms on this side of the Channel as well!

Best regards,

Walter
Best regards/vriendelijke groeten,
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Re: British Phantom Aviation Group

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Alpha Kilo One wrote:Wow. Thanks for the story in first place! A lot of work is waiting for you.
wvanbel wrote:Wow! Great story!! :respect:

I wish that one day, you could also show the Phantoms outside of the UK. There's plenty of interest in Phantoms on this side of the Channel as well!

Best regards,

Walter
Thank you both for your interest, it is much appreciated.

We are at the beginning of a long road to restoration, and that process will be measured in years rather than months unfortunately. However, we would rather be cautious and thorough so we are happy to take the long view and proceed at a suitable pace.

Also, we would love to show our work outside the UK but there would be enormous financial and bureaucratic obstacles to be overcome for that to happen. You are very welcome to come to us when we are open to visitors though!
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Re: British Phantom Aviation Group

Post by Alpha Kilo One »

"Nix bliev wie it es"
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Re: British Phantom Aviation Group

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The BPAG were honoured to have a VIP guest visit XV490 at JetFest'19 last weekend. Former Red Arrow & Tornado Display Team member and current Aero Legend and BBMF pilot Flt Lt Antony Parkinson MBE, who is also ex- F4 aircrew with over 1000 hours on type. 'Parky' tells us that he is almost certain that he has time on XV490 in his log book. We await confirmation with great interest but, in the meantime, many thanks to him for taking half an hour out of his busy day to talk all things Phantom with us.

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Re: British Phantom Aviation Group

Post by GerritsFinest »

:respect:
what a marvellous story this is, great restorations plans for these Phantoms which roared the European Skies for decades! And what a historical sense of military heritage there is in the UK, no hassles but just getting started...
The XV490 was a wellknown Phantom with RAFG in the eighties based at EDUW Wildenrath 92SQ, and we (ATC Centre Dutch Mil) handled these aircraft on daily basis, great spotting era as well!
some photos : viewtopic.php?f=80&t=147516
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Re: British Phantom Aviation Group

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Alpha Kilo One wrote:Some movies at:
https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCwyo0sjP ... TSg/videos
Yep, that's us!

We also have hours of footage of the engineering work on XV582, that we must get around to dealing with at some point. There is also some short clips of the work on ZE360 to upload too. Its a busy couple of weeks here, but we'll get round to it when we can.
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Re: British Phantom Aviation Group

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At 5am on 2nd October 2019, XT597 left Bentwaters Park, in the UK, at the start of a 200 mile journey to a new home in the East Midlands. The aircraft has sat, unclaimed and unwanted, at the Suffolk site for seven years but has been on the BPAG’s wish list since 2017. We are therefore delighted that this wish has finally become a reality.

XT597 is now proudly owned by Mark Abbot, a senior member of the BPAG management, and due to his commitment the first step in preserving this historically important aircraft is complete. We would like to thank Mark for his faith in the BPAG in appointing us to undertake the restoration work. The aircraft is now safe, at a private airfield, and an announcement will be made regarding the location and access for visitors and supporters as soon as the arrangements are in place.

This project has been a long time coming, but we are looking forward to making a start on the preservation work at the earliest possible opportunity. More news to come as and when we can. Thank you all for your interest.

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Re: British Phantom Aviation Group

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An unusual and rare recent donation to the BPAG was an original McDonnell Douglas press kit from 1966 featuring shots from the rollout ceremony of the F4-K. Here's an a few examples. Many thanks to Andy Morris for passing these on to us.

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Re: British Phantom Aviation Group

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XV490 recently played host to authors Philip Keeble and Dave Gledhill at the launch of Per Ardua:Training An RAF Phantom Crew. This new book describes how Cold War aircrew assimilated the skills needed to fly and fight the F-4 Phantom and follows every stage of a process that was long, arduous and beset with obstacles. Available now from Fonthill Media. More details here- https://www.fonthill.media/products/per-ardua

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Re: British Phantom Aviation Group

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The second Manston work party had a busy time over the weekend- vegetation cut back from under and around the aircraft to facilitate access to underside of fuselage and wing areas, then inspection and assessment of both, including centre line tank. Progress made on tailcone area (despite corroded fasteners being a major headache) including disconnecting the brake parachute operating cable- a awkward job with limited access- and aileron removal started. Finally, all hinges treated with penetrating oil.

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Re: British Phantom Aviation Group

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74 Squadron two-ship, during the 1980s. Our very own ZE360 in the rear. A good comparison of the original 'duck egg' blue colour scheme of the F-4J(UK) and the standard air defence grey.

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These two aircraft were the only two full F-4J(UK) airframes to avoid scrapping.
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Re: British Phantom Aviation Group

Post by jp 74 »

What a great efford, always loved the F4J (uk)!
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Re: British Phantom Aviation Group

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A few selected images from the 74 Squadron Association archives of the British F-4J`s going through NARF (Naval Air Rework Facility) at NORIS (North Island) San Diego, California during the 1980s.

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